Cut Line: Sawgrass Sights Sounds

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2011, 9:42 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If The Players Championship is the best field in golf then why is Tiger Woods’ second-consecutive WD all anyone wants to talk about?

The “fifth major” will, of course, carry on without Woods, not to mention world No. 1 Lee Westwood, but as Grand Slams go this one still appears to be searching for an identity.

Made Cut

Tim Clark. The wee defending champion put aside an elbow injury to play this week – though he did have to withdraw Friday after 10 holes – and offered the ultimate gesture of respect when he had Tour officials replace the South African flag flying in the “Circle of Champions” at TPC Sawgrass with Spain’s flag in honor of the late Seve Ballesteros.

“To have his flag up there is just a small little tribute to him. Obviously he deserves a whole lot more,” Clark said. “It went beyond just Spanish golf, it was world golf.”

As if all that wasn’t enough, Clark purchased cupcakes that were served on Thursday in the Sawgrass media center. In honor of Champagne Tony Lema, “Cut Line” would like to suggest a new, however misleading, nickname – “Cupcake Timmy Clark.”

17th Heaven. “Gimmick or good hole?” Lucas Glover was asked during his Wednesday practice round at the famed island hole, sparking a debate that Johnson Wagner seemed to end with a surprising testimonial.

“(In 2008) during the playoff (between Sergio Garcia and Paul Goydos) I came out here and watched,” Wagner said. “I think it’s a great hole. It makes you hit a shot and everybody has to play it.”

Pete Dye’s contrived circus may not be universally admired, but it is always on the players’ minds and maybe that’s the best any architect can hope for.

Quail Hollow. For the second consecutive year the Carolina gem delivered another Sunday slam without the aid of anyone named Tiger or Phil, which is no easy task for any event.

The bonafide mid-major gave us Rory McIlroy’s closing masterpiece last year and Lucas Glover’s short-game clinic last Sunday, but the Tour’s status in Charlotte seemed to be put on the clock last year when Quail Hollow was named the site of the 2017 PGA and became the leader in the clubhouse for the 2024 Ryder Cup.

Word around the caddie barn last week was the event will take a hiatus from Quail Hollow in 2015, ’16 and ’17 to retool for the PGA – during which time the Wells Fargo would rotate to another Carolina course, say Pinehurst – and return to Charlotte in 2018.

Seems about right. In NASCAR country four lefts always bring you home.

Tweet of the Week: @McIlroyRory “If I’m too young to know if I like a course or not Butch (Harmon) is too old to coach . . .”

It was the Northern Irishman’s response to criticism that he skipped The Players for all the wrong reasons.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger Woods. The results may have been unsightly, but you can’t fault the man for trying. At worst, Woods’ nine-hole 42 was a rehab start that simply didn’t go well. At best, it may have convinced him to take the time needed to heal a particularly concerning Achilles injury.

Recovery time for an Achilles injury is about eight weeks, which means June’s U.S. Open may be questionable. But this is the same man who won a U.S. Open on a broken leg against doctor’s orders so it’s impossible to bet against Woods at Congressional, healthy or otherwise.

Golf needs Woods, but what it really needs is the former alpha male on two good legs.

Phil Mickelson. Lefty is no stranger to arm chair architecture, and Thursday’s indictment of TPC Sawgrass’ par-3 13th green, which he double bogeyed with an 8-iron in his hands, was anything but subtle.

“When I design courses I try not to screw the player like that,” Mickelson said. “I try to keep it a little fair.”

Outspoken assessments are certainly part of Mickelson’s charm, but it must be pointed out that this is the same player who is on record saying, “(Nos.) 16, 17 and 18 (at TPC Sawgrass) combine for the greatest risk-reward opportunity in all of golf.”

Sometimes a bad bounce is just a bad bounce, not the byproduct of a bad golf course.


Missed Cut

May day. Five years into the experiment, The Players' move to the drier confines of May seems to be a relative success, but – as usual – unintended consequences have cropped up.

Conflicts with the European Tour schedule, which is heading into an important stretch, cost the event Westwood and McIlroy this year and the fields at the Byron Nelson and Colonial have been impacted by a seven-week run that includes the Wells Fargo, Players, Memorial and the U.S. Open.

Warmer temperatures may also be having an impact on the fans. The grandstands around the Stadium Course’s 18th hole were removed this year because, according to one official, it is simply too hot to sit and watch.

“I’m cynical, I know, but it feels non-major-esque,” said one Tour player.

Rory Sabbatini. We may never know what, if any, action is taken against the Tour’s bad boy for his reported misbehavior in New Orleans last month but this much is certain, without a more transparent system no amount of fines or suspensions are going to do much good.

Sabbo told Golfweek magazine: “I heard it all. Supposedly I had a fight with (Sean) O’Hair and I told the Tour to ‘F-off.’ Hearsay is hearsay.”

Although the facts remain unconfirmed, there is little doubt something happened at TPC Louisiana. Memo to Sabbo: misleading denials do no one any good, just ask Barry Bonds.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.