Cut Line: Spieth-Day rivalry fizzles; Rory retakes No. 1

By Rex HoggardAugust 28, 2015, 10:38 pm

EDISON, N.J. – Playoff fever has been supplanted this week by all manner of background noise, from Martin Kaymer’s membership miscalculation to the madness of the Official World Golf Ranking math it’s all added up to an eventful week.

Made Cut

Remembering Butch. A little over a week after his father, Butch, died in a car crash, Ryan Palmer was back at work and doing what Butch would have wanted – playing golf.

Palmer, who moved into the hunt on Friday at Plainfield Country Club with a second-round 67, said he never considered skipping this week’s Barclays after Butch died on Aug. 18 when his car rolled over on a highway near his home in Amarillo, Texas.

“Inside the ropes it's been a little easier because I'm able to kind of get away and play with some ease and some peace,” Palmer said. “At night, it's tough sometimes when I'm alone. But you know, you try to just think about the good times and knowing he's peaceful and happy.”

It also didn’t escape Palmer that his 3-under 67 on Friday would have made Butch happy as well.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Continental divide. It’s quite likely that Martin Kaymer’s PGA Tour membership dilemma is more of a concern for others than it is for the German.

Kaymer failed to advance to the playoffs and finished the season with 13 starts, two short of the circuit’s 15-event minimum. Because last year’s U.S. Open and Players champion is a dual member in the United States and on the European circuit he will lose his PGA Tour membership next season, which means he will be limited to 12 starts and cannot play the playoffs.

For all the uproar, however, playing a limited schedule in the United States will be a curious benefit next year, allowing more time for Kaymer to focus on the European Tour and his quest to make another Ryder Cup team as well as the Olympics.

“I’m not saying he planned it this way, but considering everything that is going on next year it will give him a chance to pick his schedule and stay rested,” Paul Casey said. “It’s brilliant, really.”

Well, maybe not brilliant, but it’s certainly a better situation than some are making it out to be.

A rivalry, a realization. Just when golf was prepared to settle into a few decades of prolonged excitement reality set in to bring us all back to earth.

Just two weeks after watching Jordan Spieth and Jason Day go head-to-head down the stretch at the PGA Championship, the two set out this week paired together for Rounds 1 and 2 at The Barclays with no shortage of expectations.

In order, Day caused a small panic on Wednesday when he withdrew from the pro-am with an ailing back and Spieth missed the cut for the first time since The Players in May after rounds of 74 and 73.

Day rebounded and is 4 under and three shots off the lead but it’s all another reminder of why a true rivalry is so special, because it’s so rare.

Tweet of the week: @ErikCompton3 (Erik Compton) “Not how I wanted to end a season. No amount of determination was going to get me healthy, but I had to try. I am down, I will get up. Fact!”

The two-time heart transplant recipient reluctantly withdrew from last week’s Wyndham Championship because of lingering issues with the gout and played just eight holes on Thursday at The Barclays before his season ended for good.

Although Compton will not advance to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, he told Cut Line that an extended break, however untimely, might not be a bad thing.

Missed Cut

A curious compromise. Following months of backroom give and take between Presidents Cup captains Jay Haas and Nick Price, the Tour unveiled what could only be described as a compromise this week.

For this year’s matches the Tour has reduced the number of total points from 34 to 30, dropping the number of four-ball matches on Thursday and Friday from six to five.

Price had been lobbying for changes to the format for months and had wanted to mirror what they do at the Ryder Cup, which features 28 total points, but it turns out Haas is a tough negotiator.

“After numerous meetings and discussions, it was apparent that both captains felt passionate about their respective positions, as did their potential team members,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “But with no clear consensus between the two sides, it was up to me to make a decision that would be best for the event overall.”

While some see the move as progress, Adam Scott didn’t exactly sound thrilled when asked about the changes on Friday at Plainfield Country Club.

“I hope it makes it closer, but I don’t know if we should be hoping,” Scott said. “The best thing for that event moving forward would be to set it at the same number of points as the Ryder Cup.

“There’s nothing to suggest it’s going to be for sure a close competition, when evidence shows over the last 30 years with the Ryder Cup a lot have been close at 28 points.”

Although Scott’s comments may sound like sour grapes to some, after eight losses in the 10 matches that have been played his appeal for parity should be embraced for what it is – constructive criticism.

Missing the points. Just when the golf world was starting to make sense, the number crunchers at the Official World Golf Ranking once again stepped in to muddy the waters.

After overtaking Rory McIlroy for the top spot in the world ranking with his runner-up finish at Whistling Straits, Spieth didn’t have long to savor the accomplishment.

Although McIlroy didn’t play The Barclays his divisor dropped to 44 this week and effectively gave him a larger ranking average. Combined with Spieth’s missed cut in New Jersey it added up to a new (old) world No. 1 in McIlroy and another awkward moment.

Following his loss to Day at the PGA Championship earlier this month, Spieth figured it was “as easy a loss as I've ever had,” because he’d overtaken McIlroy atop the world ranking. Following logic, his abbreviated week at The Barclays must rank as his worst missed cut.

Getty Images

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.  

Getty Images

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.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.