Cut Line: On rivalries, the King and team play

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2015, 6:12 pm

In this week’s Cut Line, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day prove that rivalry dreams really do come true, Arnold Palmer shows that he’s still the King and Europe demonstrates, again, that the United States still has room for improvement in team play.

Made Cut

Must see TV. In the four-hole stretch just after the turn on Thursday at Conway Farms, Jordan Spieth made a hole-in-one, chipped in for birdie and added another birdie to go 4 under par for the day at the BMW Championship.

During that same stretch, Jason Day – who was paired with Spieth and Rickie Fowler – holed out from a fairway bunker at the par-4 first for eagle and added two additional birdies to remain four strokes clear of Spieth.

“I'm enjoying it so much that I wish I could play another 18 holes today,” said Day, who finished his round of 61 on Friday morning. “These next few days are going to be exciting.”

The bad news: the PGA of America cancelled this year’s Grand Slam of Golf, which would have included Spieth, Day and Zach Johnson. The good news: Presidents Cup captains Jay Haas and Nick Price should already have penciled in a Spieth vs. Day singles match next month in Korea.

Still the King. On Monday, Arnold Palmer hosted 120 players at his course in Latrobe, Pa., to benefit his Champions for Arnold’s Kids foundation.

At 86 years old, Palmer is still the charismatic champion many grew up idolizing, greeting each player as they exited a chartered flight from central Florida, and lingering on the first tee long enough to tease his grandson Sam Saunders, who carded a 63 at the Latrobe Classic.

Asked what the Latrobe course record is, Palmer smiled, “It’s well below that [63].”

More than four decades after his last PGA Tour victory, Palmer continues to prove that he is still one of the game’s biggest draws.

Playing tough. At first blush, Saunders’ tie for fourth place last week at the Hotel Fitness Championship, the first of four Finals events on the Tour, is notable only because of his lineage, but it turns out some top-5 finishes are better than others.

Saunders, who failed to advance to the FedEx Cup Playoffs in his first year on the PGA Tour this season, fell while riding a Segway last month near his home in Colorado and was rushed to the hospital. He suffered a cracked skull in the fall and a hematoma.

After spending two nights in the intensive care unit, doctors released Saunders but advised the 28-year-old not to play the upcoming Tour Finals. With his job for next season on the line, however, he did play, and play well, last week.

“It was scary and I was a little out of it but otherwise I felt fine,” Saunders told Golf Channel.

Saunders will take this week’s Small Business Connection Championship off but plans to play the last two Finals events.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Spoiler alert. The Europeans are pretty good at golf.

That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has watched the United States drop six of the last seven Ryder Cup matches, or – more recently – the European grab a Day 1 lead at this week’s Solheim Cup.

Last week’s Walker Cup was another reminder that the ancient game wasn’t born in the United States and there is no preordained requirement that the Red, White and Blue dominate the modern version.

Although there are plenty of reasons why the U.S. has struggled in recent years to keep pace with the players across the pond, there is one simple fix that doesn’t require a task force to conjure up a solution – play better.

Tweet of the week.


Missed Cut

A half-empty cup. As compelling as this week’s Solheim Cup may be, there is no ignoring the missing . . . eh, elements in the room.

Not in the field this week in Germany are the world Nos. 1 and 2, Korea’s Inbee Park and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, respectively.

It’s a geographic reality that isn’t a new problem, nor does there seem to be a straightforward fix considering that the men's Presidents Cup, now in it’s 21st year, is still searching for its own identity.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the LPGA has a problem when its top two players are watching one of its most high-profile events.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.