Cut Line: A slow news week

By Rex HoggardMay 5, 2017, 6:26 pm

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The LPGA continues to be slow to the dance with its uninspired playoff policy, while slow play takes center stage this week for all the wrong reasons.

Made Cut

Dustin off the rust. Everyone except Dustin Johnson began this week unsure how the world No. 1 would rebound from five weeks of competitive inactivity.

After Johnson withdrew from the Masters with a lower back injury last month there was an understandable level of anxiety given recent history (see Woods, Tiger), but Johnson's play on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship seemed to answer most of those questions.

The bomber hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and didn’t miss a beat off the tee, averaging 307 yards on Day 1. DJ may not make it four straight victories at Eagle Point, but he certainly doesn’t seem interested in a rehab start.

On Point. It was never going to be easy leaving the plush confines of Quail Hollow Club, and the Wells Fargo Championship’s relocation to Eagle Point Golf Club has had its share of logistical snafus, but considering the inevitable comparisons the layout has exceeded expectations.

Quail Hollow, which will host this year’s PGA Championship, is regularly one of the Tour’s most popular stops, and this week’s event was always going to be considered a step back, but instead the assembled field has offered nothing but praise.

“Flawless,” Adam Scott said of the Tom Fazio design.

“Spectacular,” Phil Mickelson offered.

“Compare it to Augusta,” Ben Martin added.

Eagle Point will likely be a one-and-done stop on the Tour schedule, but it's a good one.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Reading material. The USGA and R&A have been busy of late. Earlier this year the rule makers unveiled a sweeping set of potential changes to the Rules of Golf that has been dubbed a modernization, and last week they announced changes to how video replay is used to determine potential rule violations.

On Monday, the powers that be revealed they would be taking a closer look at green-reading material, pointing out in a joint statement, “We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.”

While the move was widely applauded by a large portion of the play-for-pay set, the idea that doing away with these books will somehow speed up play seems misguided.

“There's so much information out there, it's one of the small contributing factors to slow play,” Scott said. “If you want to address slow play, then you can take away one little part of it there, but it's not going to solve slow play.”

Speaking of slow play. It’s taken 20 years but Glen Day has finally been removed from the list of bizarre trivia answers.

Day had been the last player to receive a stroke penalty in a non-major Tour event for slow play at the 1995 Honda Classic, but last week at the Zurich Classic, Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo took over that dubious distinction.

Campbell and Carballo were given a stroke penalty in the team event after receiving the duo’s second bad time on the 14th hole at TPC Louisiana on Thursday.

Although slow play has been an issue without answer for decades on the Tour and a penalty, any penalty, is a step in the right direction, this had the feel of the wrong execution of the right idea.

Campbell and Carballo were paired with two club pros, who were struggling, and the windy conditions and unique format of foursomes factored into what could only be considered a unique situation.

Getting tough on slow play should be applauded but let’s not make common sense a victim along the way.

Alternate arguments. While the Tour’s push to rework the schedule appears to be in full swing, with the biggest pieces of the new puzzle a schedule that ends on Labor Day and a move back to March for The Players and May for the PGA Championship, there is reason to pause and consider exactly what all that could mean.

The high next Thursday in St. Louis, where the PGA will be played in 2018, is 63 degrees; and 56 degrees in Pittsford, N.Y., site of the 2022 PGA.

To be fair, forecasts change, but is the Tour’s desire to avoid going head-to-head with football season worth removing some of the nation’s best courses from the major championship rotation?

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. It was like a bad song on a constant loop, with Haru Nomura and Cristie Kerr marching back to the 18th tee at Las Colinas six times before the deadlock was mercifully broken.

Nomura went on to win the Volunteers of America Shootout playoff and Kerr was left to suffer the slings and arrows of fans unimpressed with her languid pace (which later prompted an apology from the runner-up).

The real mea culpa, however, should have come from the LPGA, which has been down this road before with other monotonous playoffs on the same hole. Count this under unsolicited advice, but the tour should consider there’s a reason that some don’t like vanilla.

Tweet (actually, Instagram) of the week: @ianjamespoulter (Ian Poulter) “How do you mark your Titleist practice balls . . .”

Although Cut Line can sympathize with the Englishman’s aversion to the darker side of social media and the item seemed innocent enough, this is the same player who drew the ire of the Twitter-verse in 2014 when he complained that his wife had to look after their four children because his nanny had been downgraded on a long flight.

Poulter fired back at his detractors, later tweeting: “I’m extremely happy to block any negative comments. I actually enjoy blocking the sad individuals.”

We appreciate Poulter’s position, and his honesty, but this seems like a case of knowing your audience.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x