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 Frys.com 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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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”