Cut Line: Spieth, McIlroy filling void left by Woods

By Rex HoggardJune 26, 2015, 1:47 pm

If Chambers Bay’s lone fir were to fall into Puget Sound would anyone hear it? No, because the complaining about the layout’s greens is too loud.

Cut Line takes a final look back at what was a historic and heated U.S. Open.

Made Cut

Summer Slam. In a world where Tiger Woods continues to struggle to break 80, it’s a compelling development that a 21-year-old would step in to fill the void.

With his victory at the U.S. Open, Jordan Spieth will become just the sixth player to head across the Atlantic Ocean looking to win the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam next month.

While the oddsmakers still have Rory McIlroy as the favorite at St. Andrews (4 to 1), and the mathematicians have estimated Spieth has a 1 percent chance of becoming the first player to complete the modern single-season Grand Slam, the mere possibility has made the Open Championship one of the most highly-anticipated events in recent memory.

Comparisons with Woods have never been healthy and Spieth, as well as McIlroy, still have plenty of ground to cover if they are going to catch the guy in red and black, but there is no ignoring the buzz both young players have created.

Watson & Watson. Neither Bubba nor Tom have been enjoying the best of times lately.

Bubba Watson missed the cut last week at the U.S. Open and doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since March, while Tom Watson is still being haunted by last year’s Ryder Cup and his best finish on the Champions Tour this season is a tie for 13th place.

Both Watsons, however, got off to a good start this week, with Bubba scorching TPC River Highlands with an opening-round 62 for the lead at the Travelers Championship and Old Tom firing a 66 in Round 1 to move atop the U.S. Senior Open leaderboard.

The duo’s start also sets up an intriguing head-to-head competition – who will be this week’s low Watson?

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Torture Chambers. Say this about last week’s visit to the Pacific Northwest, it certainly made things interesting for those who carry notebooks and microphones.

Billy Horschel was the most outspoken, blasting the greens at Chambers Bay that were a delicate mixture of fescue, poa annua and dirt.

“I think we really need to be taken seriously on this,” he said on Sunday. “I think a lot of players, and I'm one of them, have lost some respect for the USGA and this championship this year for the greens.”

Many echoed Horschel’s comments – Chris Kirk on Twitter said “the USGA should be ashamed” – and executive director Mike Davis acknowledged the agronomic issues that caused the dead and dying putting surfaces.

There hadn’t been this much focus on dead grass in the big leagues since last year’s Players Championship, and the incident proves that players will tolerate all manner of quirky golf course design as long as the putting greens are, well green.

Tweet of the week:

For those who considered the player criticism whining, know that the conditions at Chambers Bay were a universal concern, but only a handful chose to speak out about it.

Missed Cut

When less is less. Tiger Woods has more rounds in the 80s this season (two) than top-20 finishes (one) and after missing the weekend at the U.S. Open by 11 strokes it was difficult to imagine the former world No. 1 turning his game around this season.

Woods has just three events remaining on his schedule – the Greenbrier Classic, Open Championship and Quicken Loans National (although it seems highly likely he would also play the PGA Championship, which is strangely not on his summer dance card yet) – and is currently not qualified to play the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational or the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“My schedule is set for the summer. And I'm playing every other week. I'm excited about it,” he said on Friday at Chambers Bay.

Unless Woods finds some sort of form he will finish the season with just nine starts, marking the third consecutive year he’s played fewer than 10 events.

In his continued search for answers Woods has repeatedly said he needs the “reps” to play his way out of his current funk, but at this point it doesn’t seem those answers can be found in the South Florida dirt.

Unwanted attention. Chambers Bay wasn’t everyone’s brand of vodka and there was more than enough criticism, constructive and otherwise, to cause architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. to play defense.

“Gary Player was a strong player but is so no longer,” Jones told the Global Golf Post in response to Player’s criticism of Chambers Bay.

“He is now an architect. He has not demonstrated an ability to design courses of championship quality. It is appropriate that his favorite color seems to be black because some of his points of view are dark. He and I are competing so I regarded his comments as a competitive dissing of my work.”

Player said last week’s U.S. Open was “unpleasant” and called Chambers Bay a “tragedy,” and while he was hardly the only voice questioning Jones’ design it certainly was the loudest.

The South African legend correctly blasted the layout for being overly expensive, a tee time for a Pierce County resident is about $200, and too time consuming, practice rounds last week were taking nearly six hours.

Jones ruthlessly sought out the spotlight last week, going so far as to ask Tiger Woods what he thought of the layout in a surreal news conference, yet when the narrative turned on him he lashed out.

Any publicity is good publicity, but after moving all that dirt at Chambers Bay one would have thought that Jones knew where the high road was located.

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

Getty Images

Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry

Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.