Cut Line: Speaking about the unwritten rules

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2013, 3:01 pm

So much for the concept of the insular American. In the same news cycle, Brooks Koepka proved that there are boundless opportunities abroad for those inclined and the PGA of America revealed it is considering the road less traveled for the year’s final major. Both headline this week’s edition of a global Cut Line.

Made Cut

Have major, will travel. Give credit to PGA president Ted Bishop and his refreshing willingness to color outside the lines – from the association’s selection of Tom Watson to captain next year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team to its hard line against this year’s ban on anchoring.

This week, however, the trailblazer revealed that the PGA is conducting an internal study to determine the viability of playing the year’s final major outside the United States.

“This is an exercise we are going through, an analysis. It is far from a fait accompli that we are going to take the PGA Championship international,” PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua told Golf World.

“We need to push ourselves to think outside the box. What I have said internally is, ‘Shame on us if we don't consider it and go through the exercise.’”

Growing the game has become golf’s primary talking point in recent years, yet the PGA Tour has been largely indifferent to take the greatest show on grass outside the Lower 48 – just one of the four World Golf Championships (WGC-HSBC Champions) is played outside the United States.

Whether you like the concept of a passport PGA or not really doesn’t matter, Bishop & Co. deserve credit for recognizing the importance of an atlas.

The path less traveled. Koepka never set out to be a trailblazer, but last Sunday at the Open he certainly had the look of a man who had bolted through his share of stop signs, not to mention a few stereotypes.

Last year, when Koepka left Florida State, he didn’t settle into a mini-tour routine with an eye toward Tour Q-School like most young American players. Instead, he burned through more pages in his passport than most people do in a lifetime on his way to earning status on the European Tour.

After nearly a year of grooming from the Czech Republic to Kenya, Koepka came within nine holes of his first Tour title last week in northern California. Koepka will get plenty of chances to secure his status in the U.S. – he’s playing this week thanks to his top-10 finish at CordeValle and the OHL Classic at Mayakoba on a sponsor exemption (word is the folks at The McGladrey Classic are also considering an exemption).

And if his Tour cameo doesn’t work out, he has the rest of the world to ply his trade next year.

Who says Americans can’t travel?

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Masters matters. There has been a lot handwringing over the move this year to offer invitations to next year’s Masters to winners of what were fall series events.

After job security – a two-year exemption is worth its weight in prize money and FedEx Cup points to most players – a ticket down Magnolia Lane is the most coveted carat in professional golf, but some say the addition of the fall events to the list of automatic Masters qualifiers will somehow water down the field next spring in Georgia.

Consider, however, that this year’s field at the Open was deeper than last year, 28 world ranking points to the winner compared to the mandated minimum of 24 last year, and the fact that the winner, Jimmy Walker, has quietly been among the most consistent players on Tour over the last calendar.

And if all that isn’t enough to convince you, also consider that Walker moved to 45th in the world ranking with his victory and would likely have finished inside the top 50 in the world on the year-ending list, which would have exempted him into the Masters as well.

Unruly. This just in from the “Left Field” department. It seems Fox Sports baseball analyst Tim McCarver took exception to a tweet sent by Hunter Mahan earlier this week.

“If players are so upset at (Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel) Puig celebrating a triple or clutch hit then get him out. I’m tired of hearing about baseball’s unwritten rules,” Mahan opined.

Which prompted McCarver to offer his own list of golf’s unwritten rules, which isn’t worth repeating because the game has just two unwritten rules – no automatic press and no “traveling handicaps.”

As anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds on Twitter has learned, McCarver needs to understand the most important rule of social media – don’t be thin-skinned.

Tweet of the week: @gfcgolf (Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano) “Message to anybody who likes scuba diving: my putter is lying at the bottom of the pond of the 18th green (at the Portugal Masters). You might like it. I didn’t.”

Missed Cut

Fall follies. As if things haven’t been hard enough for players on the fringes of Tour membership this fall – just 37 of the 48 players from the Finals category played the Open and only half (26 of 48) are playing this week’s stop in Las Vegas – Monday’s qualifying site for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open was in less than mint condition.

The field of 98 players at the Coyote Springs Golf Club “four-spotter” were greeted with greens that looked more like browns and several players lashed out at the poor conditioning.

With full FedEx Cup points and a Masters invitation (see above) come higher expectations. A Monday qualifying venue doesn’t have to look like Augusta National, but not having grass on the greens is a deal breaker.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''