Cut Line: Rickie, Fight Club and haircuts

By Rex HoggardJanuary 29, 2016, 4:23 pm

In this week’s learning experience edition of Cut Line, the European Tour shows the world that there are answers for slow play, freshly minted professional Ryan Ruffels learns that some things are better left unsaid, and world No. 1 Jordan Spieth is discovering that being well-traveled is not necessarily a good thing.

Made Cut

On the move. Following his one-stroke victory in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, Rickie Fowler boarded his flight bound for SoCal at 2:30 a.m. and arrived in time to co-host a clinic on Monday.

It was all part of whirlwind journey for Fowler, but it’s been his climb up the Official World Golf Ranking that is even more impressive.

His victory in Abu Dhabi over the likes of Spieth and Rory McIlroy vaulted Fowler to fourth in the world, his highest career ranking, and squarely into a conversation that had been largely focused on a new “Big 3.”

“It’s amazing, about how much talk there is,” said Fowler, who has four worldwide victories since last May, including the Players Championship. “Whether it’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re talking about it.”

It’s 8,456 miles from Abu Dhabi to San Diego, but that’s nothing compared to the ground Fowler has covered since being voted the PGA Tour’s most overrated player last spring.

On the clock. The European Tour unveiled its new pace of play policy last week and immediately drew equal amounts of compliments and criticism when Spieth was the first player issued a “monitoring” penalty.

Although it’s probably a bit early to claim complete success, there were anecdotal improvements last week that would suggest the policy has the potential to legitimately impact slow play.

A total of 18 groups were monitored on Day 1 in Abu Dhabi, but by Sunday officials had only put six groups on the clock after two additional players (England’s Daniel Brooks in Round 2, and France’s Benjamin Hebert during Sunday’s final round) were issued penalties.

When European Tour officials announced the new policy, they conceded that it is nothing more then a first step. After seeing the new rule in action, it appears to be the first meaningful step taken against slow play in decades.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The first rule of fight club. Ryan Ruffels has plenty to learn as he begins his professional career, starting with this week’s Farmers Insurance Open.

For example, the 17-year-old will likely avoid further discussion of his match with Phil Mickelson last month.

According to a story in the Sydney News Herald, Ruffels had a $2,500 bet at 2-to-1 odds with Mickelson last month and birdied six of his last seven holes to beat Lefty.

On Wednesday at Torrey Pines, Mickelson had a different spin on the match, saying, “He’s young and he’s got some things to learn.

“One of them is you don’t discuss certain things. You don’t discuss specifics of what you play for,” Mickelson continued. “And you certainly don’t embellish and create a false amount just for your own benefit. So those things right there are – that’s high school stuff, and he’s going to have to stop doing that now that he’s out on the PGA Tour.”

You know the deal - the first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club.

Jet-setback. Dating to November’s WGC-HSBC Champions, Jordan Spieth’s frequent flyer account has received an impressive boost considering his last six events have been played in six countries.

There were stops in China (HSBC Champions), Australia (Emirates Open), the Bahamas (Hero World Challenge), Maui (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship) and this week at the Singapore Open.

It’s a run that has taken its toll, as Spieth admitted last week, and it's something he won’t likely duplicate next year.

“It won't be something that I do in the future, to bounce back and forth from Asia as much as we did or Australia,” he said. “I'm very tired right now. As a team, we are kind of beat up mentally. Physically, we're not 100 percent right now.”

In Spieth’s defense, he’s not exactly showing any signs of jet lag, winning by eight strokes in Maui and tying for fifth last week in Abu Dhabi. But when it comes to scheduling, less is almost always more.

Missed Cut

Nip/tuck. Paired with Fowler on Sunday in Abu Dhabi many golf fans got a glimpse of Thomas Pieters, another Belgium bomber who appears destined to find his way onto a PGA Tour leaderboard this year.

At 6-foot-,5 Pieters is an imposing figure, but it was his hair that caused a stir on this side of the Atlantic when it was discovered the PGA Tour had tinkered with his headshot to make the 23-year-old look a little more clean cut.

“In the standard process of prepping new headshots for broadcast TV, electronic scoreboards and other uses – which always requires a bit of retouching and color-correction – our vendor was a bit too heavy-handed in the editing of Thomas Pieters’ photo,” a Tour spokesman said.

“The image has been returned more closely to the original photo – although some editing is always required – and reissued to our database. We regret this sequence of events and meant no disrespect to Thomas. We think he has a great head of hair.”

While Pieters seemed to be fine with the alteration, Cut Line can’t help but be curious as to why no one ever thought to give Miguel Angel Jimenez an electronic trim?

Tweet Facebook post of the week:

Guess the PGA Tour doesn't like my curly hair, so they gave me a photoshop haircut...The pic on the left is the...

Posted by Thomas Pieters on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Getty Images

McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Getty Images

Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.