Cut Line: Taking stock of playoffs, Presidents Cup

By Rex HoggardSeptember 8, 2017, 6:07 pm

No PGA Tour stop this week, no problem. Cut Line has plenty to fill the scorecard in a post-season pause edition.

Made Cut

Oh, captain I. Any captain, be it for a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup squad, will tell you the toughest part of the gig is making your wildcard picks.

You want to select players who will contribute to the team and inevitably there will be those who get left off. While solid arguments could have been made for Brian Harman, Jason Dufner and Gary Woodland, Nos. 12, 13 and 14, respectively, on the U.S. Presidents Cup points list, given the landscape it’s hard to see how Phil Mickelson shouldn’t have made the American team when Stricker announced his picks on Wednesday.

Although Mickelson hasn’t had the best season, U.S. captain Steve Stricker recognized the one thing his team needed was experience and leadership, and Lefty brings plenty on both fronts.

If the International team finds some way to upset the Americans in New Jersey in three weeks, maybe it’ll be worth revisiting the Mickelson pick, until then Captain American deserves the benefit of the doubt.

More than a bagman. It’s hard to overstate the impact Jimmy Johnson has had on Justin Thomas, who teamed with the veteran caddie in mid-2015.

Thomas has won all six of his Tour titles with Johnson on the bag, including this year’s PGA Championship, and is always quick to acknowledge how important it is to have someone with as much experience as Johnson.

Late Monday following his victory at the Dell Technologies Championship, Thomas was being peppered with a few random questions when he was asked the last time he purchased golf balls?

“Last summer,” he laughed. “I was with some buddies and had no golf balls in my bag so I had to go into the pro shop and buy some. When I’m home I’m so unprepared. I never have golf balls, I never have a towel. I need Jimmy in my life, badly.”

With two playoff events remaining, Thomas still hasn’t technically wrapped up the Tour’s Player of the Year Award; but there’s no doubt who deserves to win the Caddie of the Year Award.

Tweet of the week:

@JordanSpieth: “Big congrats [Justin Thomas], good battle out there! 2 down 2 to go till [the Presidents Cup] and love where my game is trending.”

Thomas responded, “Fun battle bro. Won’t be our last either.”

Not sure if you know this, but Spieth and Thomas have been running mates for the better part of the last decade (it was only mentioned about a gazillion times during last week’s telecast), but on Monday at TPC Boston the measure of that relationship was on display when Spieth stopped his post-round interview to congratulation Thomas.

Some may like their rivalries with a dollop of animosity, but genuine friendship is tough to beat.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Postseason pangs. At the turn for this year’s playoffs it’s worth taking stock in what has been a less-than-stellar year for some of the game’s top names.

Missing from next week’s field at the BMW Championship for the first time since 2007, the year the playoffs began, will be Bubba Watson, who failed to play his way into the third postseason stop with a tie for 69th at TPC Boston.

Adam Scott also failed to advance for just the third time in the playoff era, as did Branden Grace and Chris Kirk, who just three years ago entered the Tour Championship ranked first on the points list.

The playoffs may still be a confusing mix of golf and math to many fans, but in the simplest terms if a player makes it to East Lake for the finale he’s had a very good season.

Conversely, if a player like Watson or Scott don’t even advance to the BMW, they have some work to do.

Missed Cut

Oh, captain II. International captain Nick Price is 0-for-2 as a captain – although in fairness, if the Tour would have agreed to his desire to change the event’s format to match that played at the Ryder Cup that record could be vastly different – and yet he didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his picks.

His first pick, Emiliano Grillo, made perfect sense. The Argentine finished the qualification process strong with a 22nd-place finish in Boston and has 7 top-25 finishes this season. But for his second pick, Price dipped all the way to 16th on the points list to select Anirban Lahiri, who was the only member of the International team who failed to earn even a half point two years ago in South Korea.

Even Lahiri was surprised by the pick.

“I was just shocked,” he said. “I was honestly expecting him to deliver bad news, but my wife and I were just in shock.”

Lahiri is one of the game’s most genuine and enjoyable players and perhaps he will be an unexpected boost for Price and his team. But for the sake of the matches, we should all hope Price’s gamble pays off.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''