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.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.