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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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.