Cut Line: Taking long view on Beem, Tiger, Portrush

By Rex HoggardOctober 23, 2015, 3:15 pm

In a “long view” edition of Cut Line, Royal Portrush’s time arrives after a half-century wait, while Tiger Woods’ time on the bench remains uncertain.

Made Cut

Royal return. After a 68-year hiatus the game’s oldest championship will return to one of the game’s best golf courses.

The R&A announced on Monday that the 2019 Open Championship will be played at Royal Portrush, the Northern Irish gem that last hosted the event in 1951.

Although it took plenty of leg work to bring Portrush back into the Open fold – including a dramatic restructuring of the course that includes two new holes to replace the 17th and 18th, which will be used for the championship’s corporate village – those who lobbied for the event, most notably high-profile locals Darren Clarke and Rory McIlory, proved to be too persuasive to ignore.

As an aside, if you’re looking for an early favorite to win the ’19 Open may we suggest McIlroy, who as a 16-year-old set the Royal Portrush course record with a 61.

That’s Rich. Depending on how things play out next fall at the Ryder Cup, Rich Beem probably shouldn’t expect a Christmas card from U.S. captain Davis Love III.

That is, of course, if Ian Poulter makes next year’s European team and does what Ian Poulter does best, which is beat Americans in the biennial event.

Poulter, who dropped out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and lost his spot in next month’s WGC-HSBC Champions, needed to play the Hong Kong stop to maintain his European Tour status and remain eligible for next year’s Ryder Cup.

Beem, who was already in Hong Kong preparing to play the event on a sponsor exemption, gave up his spot in the field so Poulter could play.

“I saw Rich in the hotel this morning, so I went over and said, ‘That's awfully kind of you to do this,’” said Poulter after an opening 3-under 67 on Thursday. “He didn't have to, but he was nice enough to do it, and yeah, I have to thank him for that.”

If the odd turn of events leads to another historic Ryder Cup for Poulter, and another European victory, Beem shouldn’t expect the same level of gratitude from Love and the U.S. team.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Good news, bad news. Tiger Woods resurfaced this week at an event he had planned to play before being sidelined by his second back surgery earlier this year.

That’s the good news. The bad is that it’s about as close to a competition as he will get for some time.

“I'll start my rehab soon, but it's a long and tedious process. The last time, it took me a long time to come back,” Woods said at the Bridgestone America’s Golf Cup in Mexico. “Some of the guys who have had it [microdiscectomy surgery] done said it took them over a year to be pain free. I hope it doesn't take me that long to be pain free.”

Woods said he’s facing a “long and tedious rehab” and that he’s hopeful he can return to the Tour “early in 2016.” While that’s probably not what fans want to hear from the former world No. 1, after numerous starts and stops in recent years another extended break may be his only chance to finally break free from the DL.

Tweet of the week:

Everybody loves the long ball, even Koepka who is one of the PGA Tour’s longest, and this week’s World Long Drive Championship was certainly entertaining, but some purists used the event to lament what they see as continued out-of-control distance gains.

Tour statistics, however, suggest otherwise. Although the driving distance leaders have varied the last five years – from J.B. Holmes’ circuit-leading 318-yard average in 2011, to Luke List’s 306 yards in ’13 and last season’s 317-yard average by Dustin Johnson – the overall Tour average has remained surprisingly flat over that period.

In 2011, the circuit average was 290 yards, compared to 289 yards last season, suggesting that while the long ball is still entertaining, it is, at least at the highest level, not the uncontrollable force some think it to be.

Missed Cut

Travel warnings. Players were warned in an email from the Tour on Thursday of potential risks associated with a recent typhoid outbreak and poor air quality in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, site of next week’s CIMB Classic.

According to the email obtained by Cut Line, there have been more than 30 cases of typhoid reported in Kuala Lumpur since the beginning of August, and players were also warned of poor air quality due to severe drought conditions.

While this is the cost of doing business in far-flung locales, and according to officials hasn’t led to rash of withdrawals, what is curious is that the Tour didn’t send a similar warning to any caddies.

Communication between the circuit and caddies has broken down this year since a lawsuit was filed in February in U.S. District Court by a group of caddies against the Tour.

Legal proceedings have a tendency to cool relationships, but issues of public safety should be above the fray.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."