Cut Line: Rookies, rules and Rory

By Rex HoggardOctober 30, 2015, 8:36 pm

This week’s Cut Line is all about extremes, with the rule makers keeping it simple with the most recent edition of the Rules of Golf, while things have gotten far too complicated for officials trying to bring an East Lake-like revival to New Orleans.

Made Cut

Young and restless. There are those who will attempt to characterize rookies winning the first two events on the PGA Tour schedule as a recent trend, but in truth it’s all part of a larger narrative that’s been building for some time.

Before we dub the 2015-16 season Gen Next’s turn, consider that the average age of the top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking is 25 and the last two Player of the Year award winners were in their 20s.

Emiliano Grillo, winner of the season-opening Open, and Smylie Kaufman, last week’s champion in Las Vegas, are extremely talented, fearless, young and all part of a larger move in professional golf that has become a reality – 25 is the new 35.

Favorable rulings. With the exception of the impending ban on anchoring, this week’s release of the 2016 edition of the Rules of Golf was a victory for common sense.

The R&A and USGA adjusted the rules for signing an incorrect scorecard, the movement of a golf ball at address and the use of a training aid or artificial device during a round, all with an eye toward equity and general fairness.

It’s all part of a movement among the game’s rule makers to simplify a game that is, at least to your average fan, undermined by the small print of the rulebook.

“The stated objective is to find a way to simplify the rules, that’s our primary focus moving forward,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf. “It’s a balancing act of inserting fairness, but also the ultimate goal of making it more simple.”

Count this as unsolicited advice, but Cut Line would like to see the powers that be take a hard look at “stroke and distance” penalties and something called a “match adjustment.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rory resurfaces. There have been concerns about his putting and doubts he has completely recovered from the ankle injury that caused him to miss the Open Championship, but all along Rory McIlroy has remained at ease with his comeback.

So far this week at the Turkish Airlines Open he’s shown why pundits and couch potatoes alike should stay away from the panic button, opening his week with back-to-back 67s for a spot inside the top 10.

In a relatively short amount of time McIlroy has proven himself adept at enduring the ebb and flow of the game; whether one chooses to acknowledge his track record doesn’t change the facts.

Missed Cut

Park place. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina officials in New Orleans moved to turn City Park, a sprawling public park with multiple golf courses adjacent gto a public housing development, into an East Lake-like project complete with an 18-hole championship golf course.

The $13 million course is being designed by Rees Jones and has been cited as a possible host of the Zurich Classic by 2020, but ongoing resistance to the project, including local opposition to green fees that will range between $45 and $125, has again slowed the project.

Tom Cousins, who led the restoration of East Lake in Atlanta and the surrounding area and has now turned his attention to bringing the concept to other cities, once told Cut Line that City Park was perfectly positioned for an East Lake-like transformation, but the politics of the Crescent City has proven to be a formidable opponent.

Even if you don’t play golf, or see the need for an 18-hole championship course, anyone who has ever marveled at the state-of-the-art Charles R. Drew Charter School adjacent to East Lake can attest to what golf can do for a community.

Turf wars. Although not exactly a cold war, the gulf between the PGA Tour and European Tour has become much more chilly in recent months.

The rift began when the Tour released its crowded 2015-16 schedule which included the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational played opposite the European Tour’s French Open, which is one of that circuit’s premier events.

The European Tour responded by removing the World Golf Championship event from its schedule and declaring that any earnings won at the Bridgestone by European players wouldn’t count toward the Ryder Cup points list or Race to Dubai.

“Europe had to take the position they couldn’t sanction it, which was unfortunate,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “It was a ripple effect of the Olympics and hopefully we’ll figure out a solution for next time.”

The transatlantic turf war seems to have escalated in recent weeks, with players such as Ian Poulter and Paul Casey wedged between the two circuits.

Some have even suggested the European Tour should yield to this pressure and reduce its minimum number of events (which is now 13), but many of the circuit’s core players see no need, including Poulter.

“You can’t expect the European Tour to roll over and allow all their guys to disappear,” Poulter said this week in Turkey. “It really is the one thing that’s kept the European Tour together, the Ryder Cup.”

Perhaps a global tour, a Darwinian amalgamation of the game’s top tournaments, is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean the European Tour shouldn’t have a say in what that future looks like.

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry

Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.