Cut Line: Saluting St. Andrews and booing Bubba

By Rex HoggardFebruary 5, 2016, 4:00 pm

Golf, like real estate, is all about location, location, location. The over-50 set, for example, enjoyed a dramatic upgrade this week with news that the Senior Open Championship is bound for the Old Course; while Bubba Watson would rather be, well, anywhere that’s not TPC Scottsdale.

Made Cut

Seniors to St. Andrews. With apologies to Augusta National, Pinehurst and Pebble Beach, there is no better place to hold a tournament, be it a major or otherwise, than the Home of Golf and news this week that the R&A will bring the Senior Open Championship to the Old Course for the first time qualifies as a major victory.

“They have allowed not just me, but many other great champions, an opportunity to return to a venue that means so much to everyone who plays the game,” said Tom Watson, who thought he’d taken his final stroll down the Old Course’s 18th fairway at last year’s Open.

From the quirky, ancient links to the Auld Grey Toon, everything about St. Andrews makes championships special and the 2018 Senior Open will be no different.

Looping legend. There are no caddies in the World Golf Hall of Fame, but if there were, Dave Renwick would be a first-ballot addition.

Renwick died on Feb. 4 after a lengthy battle with cancer. The 62-year-old was on the bag when three different players won major championships, starting with Jose Maria Olazabal at the 1994 Masters.

The next year he caddied for Steve Elkington when the Australian won the 1995 PGA Championship, but he enjoyed the most success while working for Vijay Singh, who he teamed with in June 1997.

Renwick worked for Singh when the Fijian won the 1998 PGA Championship, ’00 Masters and ’04 PGA Championship, the latter a season that included nine victories on the PGA Tour and Singh ascending to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Players, caddies and officials wore black ribbons on Thursday at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic to honor Renwick; and Golf Digest’s John Huggan deftly described a life fully lived: “Renwick fit a variety of Caledonian stereotypes: Tough and uncompromising, an occasional hard drinker, honest to a fault.”

Tweet of the week: @thomaslevetgolf (Thomas Levet) “RIP Dave [Renwick]. You will be missed on tour, one of the top caddies if not the best.  #daverenwick”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

“Gimmegate” revisited. You know the deal: if the headline is big enough, the news is big enough; and the LPGA’s decision to pair Suzann Pettersen and Alison Lee on Day 1 at the Coates Golf Championship was an example of this axiom.

“What happened back five months ago, I can barely remember,” Pettersen said.

To refresh Pettersen’s memory, Lee was a little too quick to rake a putt during her fourball match against Pettersen at last September’s Solheim Cup. The American thought the putt had been conceded and the incident led to a furor over sportsmanship.

The reunion went off without incident after Lee was able to get a pre-round nosebleed under control and both players dismissed the notion there are any unresolved issues.

As for the pairing it seemed a tad forced – that is, of course, unless you subscribe to the notion that the computer “randomly” spit out that pairing – but people are talking, which is never a bad thing.

Wheels of justice. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the lawsuit filed by a group of caddies – which has ballooned to more than 160 plaintiffs – against the PGA Tour for what they claim are unpaid endorsement fees.

Little has changed since the original complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, with the majority of work in recent months focused on a request for a venue change (which was denied) and the Tour’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit (which is pending).

Both sides are currently in a holding pattern while judge Vince Chhabria considers the motion to dismiss, and the next management conference is scheduled for later this month.

In short, the court doesn’t appear to be in any rush to decide this case. As Sun Tzu once famously wrote, “The wheels of justice grind slow, but grind fine.”


Missed Cut

Being Bubba. By any measure, TPC Scottsdale is a bomber’s golf course. Look no further than the list of champions at the Waste Management Phoenix Open – Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes, Phil Mickelson, et al – to prove the point.

That, however, didn’t stop Bubba Watson, the poster child for the bombing set, from venting this week that the new and improved TPC Scottsdale isn’t to his liking.

“I don't like it. I'm not going to PC it. I don't like it at all. I just mentioned why I'm here. I've got three beautiful sponsors that love it here,” Watson said.

Despite having finished runner-up twice at TPC Scottsdale, which underwent a renovation before last year’s event, it’s Bubba’s Phoenix-area sponsors – Ping, Stance Socks and Oakley – that drew him to the Valley of the Sun, not a wide open golf course that favors the long ball.

The media should celebrate honest, unfiltered answers, but in the case of Bubba an “honest take” shouldn’t be an excuse for fundamentally flawed logic.

Follow the money. Late last year at the Hero World Challenge Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked his thoughts on appearance fees, which are not allowed in the United States but regularly lure top players to overseas events like last month’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

“There isn't anything happening out there that would say the guidelines are starting to get pushed by players in typically unique situations,” Finchem said. “Certain places have a fair amount of appearance money and it can, in turn, go to the player’s head.”

Appearance fees have become a talking point in recent days following world No. 1 Jordan Spieth’s jet-setting schedule to start the year with events in Maui (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi) and the Singapore Open.

But it’s the thinly veiled appearance fees that have been largely overlooked by the Tour. Rickie Fowler won the Abu Dhabi stop and flew directly to San Diego to play last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, where he missed the cut.

It’s safe to say Fowler wouldn’t have played Torrey Pines if Farmers Insurance weren’t one of his sponsors. To be fair to Fowler, there are dozens of Tour players with similar sponsorship deals that influence schedules.

It’s become a common practice driven by a competitive marketplace, the free market at work. What seems out of place, however, is Finchem’s decision to take such a high-minded approach to traditional appearance fees while ignoring the more nuanced version here in the United States.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.