Cut Line: Stenson should be Comeback POY

By Rex HoggardSeptember 6, 2013, 7:44 pm

A rare “bye” week on the PGA Tour calendar demands we pause to recap the first two turns on the playoff schedule. And for those who prefer the long view, know that we are only a month away from the start of the 2013-14 season.

Made Cut

The Iceman cometh. Few tales in sport are as compelling as a bona fide comeback and Henrik Stenson’s rally in 2013 qualifies as one of the best in recent memory.

Within the two-year world golf ranking rolling window, the affable Swede had plummeted all the way to 222nd in the ranking and appeared truly adrift atop the professional golf trash heap.

Since July, he’s finished outside the top 3 in just one of his last half dozen starts. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship with a combination of ball-striking brilliance and clutch lag putting and moved to sixth in the world ranking, first on the FedEx Cup points list and continues to lead the European Tour’s Race for Dubai.

“I know there are still things that I can improve on,” he told “Cut Line” on Wednesday as he readied for a weekend of work with swing coach Pete Cowen.

The Tour hasn’t doled out the Comeback Player of the Year Award since 2010, but we’d like to humbly suggest the circuit avoid the holiday season shipping rush and send the hardware along to Stenson.

While they are at it, they may want to keep the FedEx Cup chalice close at hand as well. Perhaps they can secure a package deal from FedEx to save on shipping cost.

Captains courageous. Making a captain’s selection may be the most difficult and most profound move a skipper makes during an international team tilt.A pick may not win a cup for country and captain, but a couple of dogs can certainly go a long way to losing it. All of which makes U.S. captain Freddie Couples and International counterpart Nick Price’s picks on Wednesday truly inspired.

Price went with Marc Leishman and Brendon De Jonge, Nos. 12 and 14, respectively, on the points list. Both will be Presidents Cup rookies and have a combined one Tour victory between them. Yet both have proven themselves consistent performers and were probably the hottest hands going into the selection process, which Price said would be the deciding factor.

Couples went even further outside the box, if not with the consensus, with his selection of No. 11 Webb Simpson and No. 22 Jordan Spieth. With half the time to earn points, Spieth made a statement this season that was impossible for “Boom Boom” to ignore.

The common urge for captains is to travel the path of least resistance – which normally means Nos. 11 and 12 on the points list. Neither captain opted for the “safe” picks. Now, if only the biennial American boat race stays relevant until Sunday’s singles matches.

National exposure. There is an urgency to team golf that can’t be replicated in the week-to-week drudge that is the 72-hole stroke play calendar, and few of the game’s team outings can captivate like this week’s Walker Cup.

There is a parity to the amateur matches that seems to elude the one-sided contests that the Presidents Cup (United States) and Ryder Cup (Europe) have become, and for good measure this year’s Walker Cup will be played at the National Golf Links of America.

The Southhampton, N.Y., layout is considered by many America’s true architectural gem, and for most of us this may be as close as we get to the classic course.

So, enjoy.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A lifeline, a letdown. Word Friday that the Tour had secured a new title sponsor (Valspar) for the Tampa-area stop was certainly good news for any frat brother who enjoys the Copperhead Course, but at the same time it was hard not to feel for the folks in Puerto Rico.

For months, the rumor was the Tour’s inability to land a long-term sponsor for the Tampa stop – Valspar is the sixth different sponsor in the last 11 years – would lead the circuit to upgrade the Puerto Rico stop, which has been played opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship and has struggled to attract a marquee field.

“Obviously, we are very disappointed as over the past 18 months we were being considered and therefore we had been preparing for the opportunity to become an unencumbered event, which has always been our goal, in the event a date on the scheduled became available for 2014,” Puerto Rico Open tournament director Sidney Wolf said.

The Tour deserves credit for going the distance to save the Tampa stop. One would hope Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., works just as hard to find Wolf & Co. a standalone date.

Tweet of the week:

Nice sentiment from Donald, although it should be pointed out he won the event in 2012 and has never missed a cut at Innisbrook. #HorsesForCourses

Missed Cut

Two-way traffic. According to multiple members of the player advisory council, the Tour seems poised to tinker with the playoff points structure for the playoffs – again.

Seems some don’t like the amount of volatility that the current system has created and the idea is to reduce the number of available points from “five times” the amount offered for a regular-season event (500 for a victory) to a formula closer to 3 ½ or four times.

“The only thing on the points right now we are focused on is whether the amount of volatility because of the amount of points in the playoffs is a little too strong,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told Golf Channel last week. “We’ve been talking about this the last couple of years. We may, this fall, make a decision to not have quite as much volatility.”

When did two-way traffic become a bad thing? Monday’s action may have been a tad extreme for the likes of Ryan Palmer – who began the week 60th on the points list, missed the cut and slipped outside the top 70 to miss advancing to the BMW Championship – but it was about as compelling as math can be.

The playoffs have delivered the top players to four major markets after the PGA Championship, let’s leave the calculators and algorithms out of this. If it’s not broken, well ... you know.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.