Cut Line: Sizing up the biggest events in 2015

By Rex HoggardJanuary 9, 2015, 7:19 pm

To welcome in the New Year, and the 2015 portion of the PGA Tour schedule that gets underway Friday in Hawaii, we offer a new twist to Cut Line with a breakdown of which tournaments will be must see and which stops are shaping up as potential major misses this year.

Made Cut

Masters. Augusta National will be the epicenter of the golf universe because, well, it’s Augusta National.

By the time the first tee shot goes in the air on April 9, it will have been nearly seven months since Rory McIlroy put the last major to bed and the level of intrigue will only grow as the circuit inches toward Magnolia Lane.

McIlroy will be looking to complete the career Grand Slam with a victory at Augusta National; Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will draw plenty of attention as they attempt to add to their Masters legacy; and newcomers like last year’s runner-up Jordan Spieth and Jason Day seem poised to join the Grand Slam club.

And if all that wasn’t enough then consider the prelude to the main event will be Ben Crenshaw making his swansong laps around a layout that defined his Hall of Fame career.

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Nothing beats a Nor’easter in January like the thought of Georgia in April.

Open Championship. St. Andrews is always a spectacle because, well, it’s St. Andrews.

Although the Old Course didn’t exactly hit for the cycle the last time the ancient links hosted the game’s oldest major when Louis Oosthuizen cruised to a seven-stroke victory, the birthplace of golf has a penchant for memorable finishes.

Fifteen years ago, Woods completed the career Grand Slam in Fife and he added a second Old Course Open to his resume five years later.

This year’s championship will also mark the first since the Royal & Ancient voted last year to include women in the club’s membership and considering the year’s other major venues (see Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay) the Old Course promises to be the most user-friendly Grand Slam venue in 2015.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

U.S. Open. New-look West Coast major venues have largely received boffo reviews, but this year’s move by the USGA to the Pacific Northwest is riddled with risk.

Some contend the USGA went overboard with its setup of Chambers Bay during the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the untested layout, which is dotted with dunes, promises to be a challenging walk for the large galleries the championship is expected to attract.

Still, with sweeping views of Puget Sound and a rare chance for Pacific Northwest fans to enjoy major championship golf, the reward will likely be worth the risk for the USGA.

Waste Management Phoenix Open. Woods making his 2015 debut, galleries that could exceed 600,000 for the week and the final round coinciding with Super Bowl XLIX just a few miles down the road – what could go wrong?

While Woods’ decision to add the Phoenix-area stop to his dance card was not a surprise after his limited schedule last season, it was curious considering his history at TPC Scottsdale. In 1999, officials discovered a heckler who was following Woods was carrying a gun and two years later another fan hurled an orange in the direction of the former world No. 1.

There’s also Tom Weiskopf’s redesign of TPC Scottsdale, which has been characterized by some as dramatic. Early reviews suggest players will appreciate the alterations, but as a rule Tour types aren’t huge fans of change.

PGA Championship. The year’s final major returns to Whistling Straits, home to what is arguably the worst spectator viewing (unless you’re a mountain goat), ubiquitous beer gardens and endless acres of bunkers/waste areas that promise to keep every rules official and Dustin Johnson on the verge of a breakdown.

And don’t expect dramatic changes since Johnson infamously grounded his club on the 72nd hole in what turned out to be a hazard. In the moments following the 2010 PGA your scribe asked course designer Pete Dye his thoughts on what had just happened. “It was what was supposed to happen,” Dye said.

So, what should we expect to happen this time?


Missed Cut

Presidents Cup. Unless International captain Nick Price is successful in convincing Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to alter the team format of the event, specifically reducing the number of team matches from 22 to 16, the 11th edition of the biennial global game will play out similar to eight of the first 10 editions.

That is to say the U.S. team will roll to an easy victory with little Sunday drama.

It’s been more than a decade since the International side made a game of it and although the move to the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in South Korea may help even the odds, without a little help from Finchem the event seems destined to be another rout.

WGC-Match Play. While Harding Park is an inspired choice, it has been made clear the San Francisco-area gem is only a temporary fix.

Nor is the dramatically overhauled format sure to be popular with either players or the fans, although the changes do assure everyone at least three days of round robin-type play.

What is guaranteed not to sit well with the rank-and-file players, however, is the mandatory Saturday pro-am that will include the highest ranked players who do not advance to the event’s Final 16.

That the Match Play will be followed by The Players, some 2,700 miles to the east in Florida, also won’t help morale or the sustainability of an event still searching for an identity.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.