Cut Line: Shaky start to 2013 season

By Rex HoggardJanuary 4, 2013, 4:58 pm

For the 27th time in the last 28 seasons, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions opens the PGA Tour calendar on Friday yet there is a very real sense of aloha (it means hello, and goodbye) to this week’s proceedings.

Next season will begin at October’s Open as the circuit transitions to a split-calendar schedule pushing the winners-only event deeper into the annual run and prompting some to wonder about the TOC’s place in the new order.

Made Cut

Good faith. Labor disputes have a nasty way of chasing the innocence from sports (see: NHL, 2012-13 season), but Cut Line was warmed this week to find the high road occupied amid what is turning into a difficult situation for the PGA Tour and its rules officials.

The circuit and the rules officials union failed to reach a new agreement when the old one expired last month, but officials showed up for work at this week’s opener in Kapaula and plan to continue to work despite the unrest.

Although the attorney for the rules officials’ union did not rule out the possibility of a strike, or a lockout, it is an encouraging sign that the show goes on despite the dispute.

“We would never do that (strike) to the players or the fans,” one rules official told Cut Line this week. “We love what we do.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tournament of (missing) Champions. In fairness, this week’s TOC boasts nearly an 80-percent participation rate. That’s better than nearly any other event outside the majors and World Golf Championships, yet the inevitable focus at Kapalua is on who is not there.

Of the 37 different winners last year on Tour, 30 are at the opener. That it is world No. 1 Rory McIlory, No. 2 Luke Donald and No. 3 Tiger Woods who are among the no-shows, however, is a body blow that is difficult from which to recover.

Maybe it’s the venue or the Kona winds or simply the timing of the TOC so close to the holidays, but the event continues to have the feel of an All-Star game that is missing a couple MVPs.

Captain’s call. The PGA of America’s move to name Tom Watson captain of the next U.S. Ryder Cup team has created an interesting chess match for the Europeans, who will name the 2014 skipper for the Continent later this month in Abu Dhabi.

In December, Darren Clarke, one of the leading candidates for the ’14 gig, suggested Europe would need a “big presence” captain to match Watson and some considered that a call for Colin Montgomerie to have another turn at the big chair.

The idea is that the Scot, who never lost a singles match in eight Ryder Cups, would somehow mitigate Watson’s popularity with the Scottish galleries at Gleneagles. But Cut Line spent some time at the ’14 Ryder Cup venue last year and it should be pointed out that Monty is not as popular of a pick at home as one would think.

Missed Cut

Let the Games begin. It is concerning that the first headline of 2013 regarding McIlroy was a report that he may skip the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil in an attempt to not “upset” anyone with his decision to play for either Ireland or Great Britain.

In a new BBC documentary, the 23-year-old said, “I just think being from where we’re from, we’re placed in a very difficult position. I feel Northern Irish and obviously being from Northern Ireland you have a connection to Ireland and a connection to the UK. If I could and there was a Northern Irish team, I’d play for Northern Ireland.”

It seems returning golf to the Olympics was the easy part. Keeping politics out of the game is the real challenge.

Shark bait. That the membership at Medalist Club didn’t want Greg Norman involved in the redesign of the South Florida layout is understandable (the Shark’s design philosophy isn’t for everyone).

That Norman would have his feelings hurt, and even ask that his and co-designer Pete Dye’s name be removed from the course, is also understandable.

What stretches the boundaries of acceptable behavior, however, is news that Norman has requested that the clubhouse be cleared of any of his memorabilia, including the signature shark above the bar in the men's locker room, according to Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte.

Someone seems to need a timeout, or a hug.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.