Cut Line: Season in review

By Rex HoggardDecember 23, 2011, 4:30 pm

There were 1.019 million strokes taken this season by PGA Tour members, 50,841 birdies, 39,014 bogeys and more than enough heroics, hashtags and hyperbole to qualify 2011 as a happening.

This was the year words with friends became, well, less friendly, greatness was given a new benchmark in the form of a wildly understated 22-year-old from Taiwan and a new generation took a giant leap forward.

Made Cut

Rory McIlroy. In a recent interview in The Guardian the Ulsterman called 2011 “the year I grew up,” and the calendar featured miscues (Masters) and masterpieces (U.S. Open) all there for the world to diagnose and digest.

McIlroy recovered from his Masters meltdown, a closing nine of 43 that dropped him from four strokes clear of the field to begin the day to 10 shots behind eventual champion Charl Schwartzel, with a commanding performance at Congressional.

Along the way McIlroy moved to No. 2 in the World Golf Ranking, started dating No. 1 in the tennis world, tweeted before he thought when announcer Jay Townsend criticized his caddie and ran afoul of the U.K. press when he admitted “Open weather” was not his thing – as if anyone likes playing in a freezing rain.

It was hardly a flawless card, but not bad for a 22-year-old from Holywood, Northern Ireland.

Yani Tseng. Speaking of 22-year-olds, imagine the cachet a player would have following a record-breaking season of two major victories and an even dozen worldwide triumphs? An international icon, right?

Maybe not, but Tseng’s season was historic by almost every measure sans an appropriate “Q rating.” She now has five career majors and won seven LPGA events in 2011. By comparison, Tiger Woods has won seven or more PGA Tour events in a season just four times in his career.

The native of Taiwan seems poised to turn down a sponsor exemption into the Tour’s Puerto Rico Open but she may want to consider the increased competition, not to mention the additional exposure.

Tee it forward. Traditionalists can decry the evils of the long putter and juiced-up golf balls all they want, the real threat to the game is a languid pace that has trickled down from the Tour to the local tee sheet.

In July the PGA of America and U.S. Golf Association launched the “Tee it Forward” campaign with tees based on a player’s driving distance that should, in theory, speed up play.

Tierra Rejada, a Bob Cupp design north of Los Angeles, went a step further with its “Players Course,” a 5,600-yard version of the longer layout. The two biggest obstacles to growing the game are cost and pace of play. “We’re working on both,” Tierra Rejada co-owner Ted Kruger told “Cut Line.”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger Woods. To be fair, the body of work rates an “incomplete,” but red shirt will have to settle for a “MDF.” For the second consecutive year the former world No. 1 lost large portions of his season to injury, was forced to withdraw from The Players Championship and failed to win an official-money PGA Tour event.

Yet there were also signs of progress by way of a cup-clinching performance at Royal Melbourne (2-3-0) and drought-busting victory at the Chevron World Challenge.

It was a solid finish, but not even Woods was getting caught up in the hyperbole: “I think if I have a good year I should be on the ballot for Comeback Player of the Year,” he deadpanned at Sherwood.

Glad to see he didn’t misplace his sense of humor along the way.

Andrew “Chubby” Chandler. The affable player manager may have come within a tree root of completing the “Chubby Slam” at the PGA Championship, yet he suffered his share of slings and arrows in 2011.

Following Grand Slam victories for International Sports Management clients Schwartzel (Masters), McIlroy (U.S. Open) and Darren Clarke (British Open), Chandler’s year turned in September when Ernie Els, who had been with ISM since 2004, decided it was time for a management change.

Rock bottom for the former European Tour player may have come a month later in a lounge at Kennedy Airport in New York when McIlroy informed him “I’ve decided to move on.” Given the season’s extremes, Chandler may be thinking the same thing about 2011.

The Year of the Beard. Lucas Glover wasn’t the first Tour type to misplace his razor, but in 2011 “G-Lover’s” best Grizzly Adams beard became a bona fide trend among the play-for-pay set.

Whether it was Hunter Mahan and Kyle Stanley joining Glover with “playoff beards,” or Geoff Ogilvy and Rickie Fowler sporting 1970s-era mustaches for “Movember,' it took more than a “5 o’clock shadow” to register in 2011.

It was all enough to make Paul Azinger pine for more fresh-faced days: “In the '70s it was a $500 fine on the PGA Tour for playing with a beard,” he tweeted.

Tweet of the Year. @JustinRose99 “Winning the U.S. Open, so easy a caveman can do it.” Complete with a picture of 2009 Open champion Lucas Glover.


Missed Cut

LPGA. The way the circuit meat-handed the Lexi Thompson affair one would think the tour is overrun with world-beaters in waiting, but the truth is the LPGA needs Thompson more than the teen needed a tour card.

Whether it was simply a case of bad timing or an administrative snafu, the LPGA missed what could have amounted to a “Hello, world” moment when the 16-year-old won the Navistar LPGA Classic by five strokes. Instead, commissioner Mike Whan was on a plane to the Solheim Cup and two weeks of paperwork and posturing ensued.

The tour eventually waived its age requirement for membership (18), but the entire affair had the feel of a missed opportunity. This wasn’t about paperwork or potential. This was about a proven commodity.

Stevie Williams. First the New Zealander ran through one too many stop signs with his former boss Tiger Woods and was downsized, then he seemed to make the transition from victim to vindictive when he called his new boss Adam Scott’s victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational “the greatest week of my life caddying and I sincerely mean that.”

He completed the evolution to villain in November when he sparked a controversy with racially insensitive remarks directed at Woods during an awards dinner at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

Woods, in his own subtle way, put the entire affair in context when he was asked if Williams was a racist or just stupid? “Stevie's certainly not a racist, there's no doubt about that,” said Woods, leaving the rest of his answer open to interpretation.

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Veteran Golf Journalist Bradley S. Klein Joins Golf Channel Editorial Team

By Golf Channel Public RelationsFebruary 20, 2018, 4:15 pm

Klein to Lend 30-Plus Years in Golf Architecture, History and Travel Journalism to Golf Advisor, Golf Channel’s Digital Travel and Lifestyle Brand

Read Klein’s first column here

Veteran golf travel, history and architecture journalist Bradley S. Klein has joined Golf Channel’s editorial team as senior writer for Golf Advisor, the company’s ever-expanding digital destination for the traveling golfer, featuring more than 700,000 reviews of nearly 15,000 golf courses in 80 countries worldwide. Klein’s first column appears today and provides eight simple tips for becoming a golf course architecture junkie – how architecture can be more relevant to everyday golfers and design aspects to observe that can make a round of golf a more fulfilling experience.

With more than 40 years of varied experiences within the game of golf – a career that began as a caddie on the PGA Tour – Klein most recently served as the long-time architecture editor for Golfweek magazine and the founding editor of Superintendent News.

"I've been in love with golf course design since I was 11 years old and have been lucky over the years to find a platform where I can share that fascination with fellow golfers,” Klein said. “It's an amazing opportunity now for me to bring that passion and commitment to Golf Channel and its travel and lifestyle brand, Golf Advisor."

"We are extremely excited to have Brad join the Golf Advisor team. His unique contributions covering history and architecture will be an excellent complement to the travel content Matt Ginella brings to Golf Advisor and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive,” said Mike Lowe, vice president and general manager, Golf Advisor. “Brad’s reputation and experience in the industry make him a wonderful addition to our expanding golf travel and course design editorial team.”

Other members of Golf Advisor’s editorial team include: Brandon Tucker, Mike Bailey, Jason Deegan, Bill Irwin and Tim Gavrich.

Including assignments for Golfweek, Klein has written more than 1,500 feature articles on course architecture, resort travel, golf course development, golf history and the media for such other publications as Golf Digest, Financial Times, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015, Klein won the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He is well known within the golf industry and has served as a consultant on numerous golf course development and restoration projects, most recently the Old Macdonald course at acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

Golf Advisor now includes the integration of Golf Vacation Insider and Golf Odyssey, two leading travel newsletters with a combined reach of more than a half million subscribers. Both newsletters joined Golf Channel’s portfolio of businesses in 2017 as part of the acquisition of Revolution Golf, golf’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform offering video-based instruction and integrated e-commerce.

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Stock Watch: Fans getting louder, rowdier

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 3:01 pm

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

RISING

Bubba (+9%): Half of his 10 Tour titles have come at Augusta National and Riviera – that’s pretty stout. Though he can be maddening to cover because of his personality quirks, an in-form Watson is a must-watch.

Phil (+5%): For the first time in 11 years, Mickelson put together three consecutive top-6 finishes on Tour. Suddenly, another green jacket or that elusive U.S. Open title doesn’t seem so far away.

Kevin Na (+3%): How much fun would this guy be on a Ryder Cup team? He hits it dead straight – which will be important at Le Golf National, where the home team will narrow the fairways – and would drive the Europeans absolutely bonkers.

West Coast swing (+2%): From Jason Day to Gary Woodland to Ted Potter to Watson, the best coast produced a series of memorable comeback stories. And that’s always good news for those of us who get paid to write about the game.

South Korean talent (+1%): They already represent nine of the top 16 players in the world, and that doesn’t even include Jin Young Ko, who just won in her first start as an LPGA member.



FALLING

Steve Stricker Domination (-1%): Those predicting that he would come out and mop up on the PGA Tour Champions – hi there! – will be surprised to learn that he’s now 0-for-7 on the senior circuit (with five top-3s), after Joe Durant sped past him on the final day in Naples. The quality of golf out there is strong.

Patrick Cantlay’s routine (-2%): Never really noticed it before, but Cantlay ground to a halt during the final round, often looking at the cup six or seven times before finally stroking his putt. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his final-round scoring average is nearly four strokes higher than his openers.

Lydia Ko (-3%): Another wholesale change? Whatever is going on here – and it reeks of too much parental involvement – it’s not good for her short- or long-term future.

Tiger (-4%): It’s early, and he’s obviously savvy enough to figure it out, but nothing else in this comeback will matter if Woods can’t start driving it on the planet.

Fan behavior (-8%): Kudos to Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for taking the Riviera spectators to task for their tiresome (and increasingly aggressive) calls after a player hits a shot. The only problem? PGA National’s par-3 17th could be even worse – the drunk fans are closer to the action, and the hole is infinitely more difficult than TPC Scottsdale’s 16th. Buckle up.

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USGA, R&A detail World Handicap System

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2018, 2:00 pm

The USGA and the R&A released details Tuesday of a proposed new World Handicap System.

The WHS takes the six handicapping systems that exist worldwide and aligns them under a new single system.

The USGA and the R&A will govern the WHS with the six existing handicap authorities administering them locally. A two-year transition will begin to fully implement the new system in 2020.

The unified alignment is designed to make it easier to obtain and maintain a handicap and to make the handicap more equitable among golfers of differing abilities and genders around the world.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap,’” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game.”

Davis said the effort is designed to both simplify and unify the handicap system.

“We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play,” he said.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the new handicap system should make the game more inviting.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers,” Slumbers said. “Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

The new WHS system aims to more accurately gauge the score a golfer is “reasonably capable of achieving” on any course around the world under normal conditions.

Key features of the WHS include:

*Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.

*A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with “some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.”

*A consistent handicap that “is portable” from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA course and slope rating system, already used in more than 80 countries.

*An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and “factoring in memory of previous demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.”

*A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.  

*Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.

*A limit of net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). 

*A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

The USGA and the R&A devised the WHS after a review of the handicap systems currently administered by six authorities around the world: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA. Those authorities, plus the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada, collaborated in helping develop the new system.

The six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.  

“While the six existing handicap systems have generally worked very well locally, on a global basis, their different characteristics have sometimes resulted in inconsistency, with players of the same ability ending up with slightly different handicaps,” the USGA and the R&A stated in a joint release. “This has sometimes resulted in unnecessary difficulties and challenges for golfers competing in handicap events or for tournament administrators. A single WHS will pave the way to consistency and portability.”

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 11:44 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13).