Cut Line: Ryder Cup talk dominates in Boston

By Rex HoggardSeptember 2, 2016, 10:55 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Our cup is firmly half full this week, with the Ryder Cup comings and goings dominating the first part of the week followed by a return to the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Made Cut

Team USA. Davis Love III stayed on point this week, explaining how this Ryder Cup will be different and that it’s the team, not the captain, who will change America’s fortunes in the matches.

“Now it’s time for this top 8 [the automatic qualifiers] to take ownership of this team," Love said Monday. "These eight guys need to pick four more. From No. 1 to No. 8 they need to take ownership of this team."

The new selection system, which will save the final captain’s pick until after the Tour Championship, was designed to give Love the best chance to win, and the U.S. players who have already qualified seemed genuinely inspired by the prospect of ending the side’s swoon.

Soon the picks and pairings will be made and the outcome will rest entirely with the players, but until then the U.S. team is at least saying all the right things.

Case-y in point. It’s been seven years since Paul Casey won a PGA Tour event, a reality that despite the Englishman’s easygoing nature is not always easy to hide.

On Friday at TPC Boston following a first-round 66 that propelled him into a share of third place, Casey was asked if he was hungry for a win.

Casey’s response was not verbal, but perfectly clear as he smiled and nodded his head.

“I've been working hard with [caddie Johnny McLaren] on things like distance control and working on some different shots and on the putting, but it's very much time to try and make that hard work pay off if we can,” he said.

There’s always a fine line between patiently wanting something and applying too much internal pressure. To Casey’s credit, he seems perfectly positioned.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Team Europe. It’s always best to keep the second-guessing to a minimum until after the matches, but Darren Clarke’s captain’s picks this week have left some room for early criticism.

Clarke went heavy on veteran leadership with his first two choices of Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, which is understandable considering the Europeans already have five rookies on the team, but his third choice, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, drew a few raised eyebrows.

Pieters certainly earned consideration considering his victory last week in Denmark and a runner-up showing a week before at the Czech Masters, but the decision left Scotland’s Russell Knox off the team and could end up haunting the captain.

Knox has had a breakout season this year on Tour, winning the WGC-HSBC Champions last fall and the Travelers Championship two weeks ago.

Captain’s picks are always a judgment call, but the choice to bypass Knox is curious, particularly if the Europeans don’t win next month.

Some things are better Left unsaid. The Ryder Cup team assembled this week at Gillette Stadium for a team bonding dinner, but the event had an interesting undertone.

Officials held a closest-to-the-pin contest from 78 yards on the field at Gillette Stadium, an event which was reportedly won by Phil Mickelson . . . using right-handed clubs.

“Honestly, it's just not that hard to play golf right-handed,” Mickelson jokingly told “I think the real challenge and enjoyment I get is from trying to play the game left-handed.”

Mickelson, who is a notorious trash-talker, appeared to leave out a few details.

“Phil hit more balls than anyone else, so that’s why,” Brandt Snedeker smiled.

There is also some debate over who really won the contest, with Jimmy Walker telling reporters on Friday, “Davis [Love] hit it closest.”

Lefty’s competitive nature, and the occasional needle, is what makes him so special, but maybe he should save some of his barbs for the Europeans next month for the sake of team chemistry.

Missed Cut

Playing to the crowd. News surfaced this week that the Tour will not renew the top 125 money list exemption, which in itself is not entirely surprising or overly newsworthy, but word also circulated this week that the circuit has floated the idea of reducing the total number of members.

This week the player advisory council debated whether the circuit should consider reducing the number of exemptions from the FedEx Cup points list - the top 125 are currently exempt heading into the following season - and from the Tour’s Finals Series.

The move, which according to various sources was widely dismissed by the PAC, is an attempt to assure those who do get their Tour cards that they have plenty of playing opportunities.

Although the pressure to give every member a chance to play has been mounting in recent years, taking away playing opportunities seems counterintuitive.

Woe is Rory. It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Rory McIlroy and things haven’t gotten much better in the playoffs.

McIlroy switched to a new putting coach last week at The Barclays, Englishman Phil Kenyon, and explained this week that the makeover isn’t a complete overhaul, but it’s close.

On Friday at TPC Boston, the conversation took another poor turn when the Northern Irishman played his first three holes in 4 over par – which included a three-putt at his second hole – and McIlroy’s plan to have his putting game back on track in time for next year’s Masters likely doesn’t bode well for Europe’s Ryder Cup chances.

McIlroy – who did rebound on Friday to shoot an even-par 71 – also has the added pressure of trying to play his way into the Tour Championship. He’s currently 38th in FedEx Cup points. He will figure out his putting woes eventually, he always does, but it’s clear this will take some time.

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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.