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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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.