Cut Line: Stricker sticking to plan despite great play

By Rex HoggardMarch 15, 2013, 7:53 pm

In honor of Steve Stricker, who has been nearly perfect in semi-retirement this season, Cut Line is taking a less-is-more approach this week, with a call for less John Daly, less deliberation in the Vijay Singh doping proceedings and less Olympic golf course drama.

Made Cut

Quality over quantity. Maybe Steve Stricker will start a trend of world-class players going with quality of life in their prime.

It’s impossible to argue with Stricker’s plan so far. Three events into what will be an 11-tournament season, Stricker, 46, has finished runner-up twice (at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions and last week to Tiger Woods at Doral) and tied for fifth at the WGC-Match Play.

Stricker’s schedule the rest of the season includes the Shell Houston Open, Masters, Players Championship, Memorial, U.S. Open, John Deere Classic, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship. That’s right, no British Open, no FedEx Cup playoffs and no second-guessing.

“I just want to be home. I enjoy competing but I just don’t enjoy being out on the road as much as I used to,” he told Cut Line last month. “My kids are loving it, I’m loving it. I’m in a good spot.”

And if he does have any free time, that will likely be dedicated to Woods, who received an impromptu putting lesson from Stricker last Wednesday and rolled over the field with one of his best putting weeks in years. At this rate, Stricker’s Tour frat brothers will be asking the veteran to play more and talk less.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bay watch. Tour types say the quality of golf course – more so than purse size or spot on the schedule – is the most important factor when deciding where and when to play. This week’s stop at Innisbrook, however, seems to be the exception to that rule.

Dubbed by one Tour player as the best course the circuit plays in Florida, and that list included TPC Sawgrass, the Tampa Bay stop enjoys endless accolades, just not a very deep field.

As good as Innisbrook may be, it’s not enough to overcome a bad spot on the calendar sandwiched between a World Golf Championship (Doral) and Arnold Palmer’s event next week at Bay Hill.

Defending champion Luke Donald called the Copperhead layout a “thinking man’s golf course,” but adrift in a Florida Swing no-man’s land, tournament officials must be thinking there has got to be a better place.

More Games. Officials for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil seemed more confident last week that they will break ground on the golf course that will host the Games on April 1, following months of legal wrangling over land disputes.

That April 1 (fill in your own April Fool’s Day joke here) is more than five months after the original start date was scheduled for the Gil Hanse design is the concerning part.

Officials say it will take about 18 months to build and grow in the Olympic course, which still leaves time for a test tournament (either a PGA Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamerica or Champions Tour event) in either the first, second or third quarter of 2015, but it will be tight.

A tight schedule to build a championship test that can accommodate thousands of fans – what could go wrong?

Tweet of the week: @aronpricePGA (Aron Price) “The 3rd ranked club pro in Louisiana has a start at next week’s event over the 167th money earner on (the) PGA Tour last year.”

In the past that sort of self-entitled nonsense would prompt a stern, “play better” response. But to Price’s point – the crunch on playing opportunities on the PGA Tour this year as the circuit transitions to a split-calendar schedule will have a domino effect on the secondary circuit. A one-year suspension of the club pro exemption (which grants three spots to PGA section members into events) doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Missed Cut

Daly dose. Tour players are not immune to the bad bounces and bad decisions that add up to double-digit scores every day in golf, it just seems John Daly has had to use two hands to add them up more than anyone else who plays for pay.

On Friday Daly added another chapter to his mercurial resume when he signed for sextuple-bogey 10 on the par-4 third hole at the Tampa Bay Championship. Daly took two unplayable lies, advanced the ball just 5 inches with another shot (according to ShotLink) and needed nine strokes to reach the putting surface.

Which sets up a perfect punch line: How did you make a 10? Had a solid up and down from 30 yards. Ba-da-boom.

Slow play. No, not five-hour rounds at your local muni. This week’s snail chalice goes to the PGA Tour for its handling of the Vijay Singh doping investigation that surfaced in January when he admitted to using a deer-antler spray that is on the circuit’s banned list.

With apologies to due process and Singh’s right to a fair hearing, commissioner Tim Finchem’s recent claim that there is “no time urgency here” seems to ignore the competitive reality of the situation.

Throughout this process Singh has continued to play (he tied for 50th at Pebble Beach, 51st in Los Angeles and was among the top 10 through one round at Innisbrook) and although there is fine print in the anti-doping policy that would require the Fijian to possibly forfeit prize money and FedEx Cup points he earned during the investigation if he is found guilty, that will mean little if he wins or costs someone a spot in the weekend field by influencing the cut.

“No comment to you. No comment to anybody,” Singh reportedly told a Tour media official on Thursday following a first-round 69 at Innisbrook.

That’s fair, silence is probably the best approach. But as the investigation and innuendo begins to drag out, it’s time for the Tour to start talking.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''