Cut Line: Rumor has it

By Rex HoggardNovember 2, 2012, 11:53 pm

It was a tough week for anyone with a long putter in the bag, be they professionals or amateurs, deep-pocketed sponsors of World Golf Championships and PGA Tour types who hope to play more than a half dozen times next year. Who says the Tour doesn’t have a “hot stove” season?

Made Cut

To sue, or not to sue. Although it’s not exactly clear what type of action Keegan Bradley would take, the emotional core of this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team seemed to suggest that any action the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews would take against long putters, and specifically anchoring, would be met by some sort of challenge.

“I’m going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on Tour,” Bradley told Golf Channel contributor Alex Miceli.

While it doesn’t seem likely a legal challenge would be very successful, Bradley’s push back seemed to spark a larger debate. Would banning anchoring, and by definition long putters, have an impact on the larger game, just not the 1 percent who play for pay?

“They've got to look beyond professional golf,” Adam Scott told Sports Illustrated. “The governing bodies don't run the Tour; they run golf. Some recreational golfers can't play the game without a long putter. I think that would be a shame if they're going to take people away from the game. I'm sure that's not their intention, but it'll be interesting to see what they come up with.”

In July, USGA executive director Mike Davis told Cut Line the ruling bodies were concerned that the long putter was becoming the norm at all levels, and that seems to be the motivation for what appears to be an impending ban. Tour players will adjust, they always do. But as Scott pointed out, it remains to be seen how the other 99 percent are impacted.

Tweet of the Week. @xHandedbandit (Josh Broadaway, who plays every shot cross-handed) “Blake Shelton winning (CMA) entertainer of the year is like me winning regular grip of the year! Give me a break! This is rigged, has to be.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Swoosh-ed. Rumors inched toward reality this week when Titleist confirmed it was letting Rory McIlroy out of his endorsement contract early, presumably to sign a mega-deal with Nike Golf.

The reported 10-year, $200 million deal would guarantee long-term financial stability for the Ulsterman, but at what cost?

The 22-year-old, who reportedly has already shot a Nike commercial with Woods, has largely avoided any major missteps during his rise to the top of the world order, but equipment changes are always risky and the golf landscape is riddled with well-intentioned, financially-motivated moves.

“He has to be very cautious. It’s going to be a dangerous time,” six-time major champion Nick Faldo told Cut Line. “The equipment is part of your golf DNA. I would be really careful about that. He’s young and saying to himself he can adapt, but I promise you it will be different.”

Net loss. The PGA Tour has, as best it could, taken steps to mitigate the impact of next year’s transition to a split-calendar schedule. The reality of the situation is that the dramatic loss of playing opportunities is a one-off anomaly, but that won’t make it any easier for players scrambling to retain their cards and fulfill endorsement contracts next season.

The Tour anticipates next year’s Q-School and Tour graduates will have about five fewer starts because of the loss of the four fall series events, which will transition to the start of the 2013-14 schedule, and the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which will move from February to the fall.

To mitigate that loss the Tour had eight events expand their field sizes in 2013 (adding 88 playing opportunities) and limited the number of unrestricted sponsor exemptions tournament directors can dole out, but that still leaves roughly a 400-spot gap in playing opportunities.

“Play better” is the commonly held battle cry for those jilted by administrative small print. But given next year’s condensed schedule, that will have to be adjusted to “play better, when you can.”

Missed Cut

When less is less. Officials at this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions blasted Tiger Woods and McIlroy for skipping the event in China, questioning how the two found time to play the two-man “Duel at Jinsha Lake” on Monday in China, where they received appearance fees, but not the $7 million World Golf Championship.

But on Monday Woods was heard during the exhibition with the Ulsterman saying he may scale back his schedule in 2013, leaving many to wonder if events like the HSBC should get used to disappointment.

“I've got four more rounds at my tournament in L.A. (World Challenge) and I'm done until Abu Dhabi next year, so I'm looking forward to having this extended break,” Woods said this week.

And if you think the folks at the HSBC Champions are sideways because of Woods’ no-show, imagine how officials at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions must feel? If the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the European Tour is Woods’ first start of 2013, that means he will skip Kapalua, again. He hasn’t played the Tour opener since 2005.

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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.