Cut Line: Struggles for Tiger and the West Coast swing

By Rex HoggardFebruary 13, 2015, 6:15 pm

What could Jason Day accomplish if he avoids the doctor’s office this season? When will Tiger Woods return to his office? And, in rhetorical observation, is there a better office for a professional golfer than this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am? There are more questions than answers in this week’s edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

A new Day. In 2007, Jason Day spent much of the season dealing with a right wrist injury. In ’13 the diagnosis was an ankle ailment. Last season it was a left thumb issue.

In short, Day’s career has ebbed and flowed in lock step with his periodic visits to the disabled list, which makes Sunday’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open compelling on many fronts.

His playoff victory over J.B. Holmes, Harris English and Scott Stallings was the Australian’s third on the PGA Tour, but more importantly it was his first without a medical asterisk, like the one that hovered over him last year after winning the WGC-Match Play Championship.

Day began 2015 as close to 100 percent as he has ever been.

“That’s all we wanted. At the end of the year we sat down and asked, ‘What are we going to do?’ We can’t have another year like last year being injured,” Day’s caddie/swing coach Col Swatton told Cut Line.

“He was scheduled to play in Australia, but he broke those obligations, rehabbed his back for three months basically and we said one year where he’s fully healthy is going to be a big year and this is the start.”

You, me and the bay of Monterey. Some even-par rounds are better than others. Consider Mark Hubbard’s card on Thursday, three birdies, a bogey, a double bogey ... and a proposal.

The PGA Tour rookie proposed to his girlfriend, Meghan McCurley, adjacent to the 18th green at Pebble Beach following his first round.

Although Hubbard’s opening round wasn’t exactly what he’d hoped for – the 25-year-old was tied for 99th after Round 1 – the day was an unqualified success nonetheless. McCurley said yes.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Day-to-day. Not sure which is more troubling, Tiger Woods’ withdrawal last week after just 11 holes at Torrey Pines with an ailing back or his announcement on Wednesday that he won’t play the Honda Classic unless his game “is tournament-ready.”

The good news is that his deactivated glutes were not a cause to return to either the doctor’s office or the MRI machine.

“Between his trainer and his therapist that was easily detectable,” Mark Steinberg, Woods’ manager with Excel Sports, told Cut Line. “He started getting worked on immediately. It was apparent everything was intact and he was resting pretty comfortably.”

The bad news is he’s resigned himself to finding his game behind his South Florida iron curtain before he clocks back into work. Whenever and wherever that may be is a mystery, even to Woods.

Cold play. Along with the U.S. Open’s first trip to the Pacific Northwest this year, has come an entirely new set of challenges for those charged with challenging the world’s best this June.

Chambers Bay, the municipal layout hard on the shores of Puget Sound, will also be the first course to host America’s national championship with fine fescue grass.

“Fine fescue is a very unique grass. It's a grass that plays firm and fast because it doesn't require as much water, it's not a sticky grass, so the ball does tend to skid on it,” said U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis.

Fine fescue also stops growing around November, which has prompted the USGA to dial back play at Chambers Bay.

“We have taken precautions, and eliminated some of the play, and in particular two greens (Nos. 12 and 15) we've backed play completely off, just to make sure we're in good shape going into the Open,” Davis said last week during the USGA’s annual meeting.

Nursing an upcoming U.S. Open venue through the winter is nothing new and Davis pointed out the USGA had a similar “winter care” program leading into last year’s championship at Pinehurst.

Still, it’s a little disconcerting to hear about closed putting surfaces and reduced play some four months before a golf course is subjected to the game’s most revealing microscope.

Tweet of the week

While we agree with Spieth’s assessment of the Monterey Peninsula’s position atop the American golf scene, he was quickly called out by Tour rookie Justin Thomas

Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Blame it on the Tour’s wraparound schedule and the increased strength of the European Tour’s Middle Eastern swing, but then having ready-made culprits doesn’t make things any better for West Coast events that are starting to look like split-squad spring training games.

Just three of the top 10 players in the world are in the field this week at Pebble Beach and tournament officials had to dip all the way into the circuit’s “past champions” category to fill the tee sheet.

If every event is special none of them are, and given the non-stop nature of professional golf it’s natural that some events will have better fields than others. But when an event with the history, and unrivaled golf course line up, of the Clambake struggles to attract the game’s biggest names it may be time to take a hard look at the illness, just not the symptoms.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.