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Cut Line: Thomas, Presidents Cup eye the future

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2017, 8:48 pm

This week’s Safeway Open kicks off a new PGA Tour season, but before we turn the page on the 2016-17 edition it’s worth taking a look at the season’s winners (Justin Thomas) and losers (Presidents Cup).

Made Cut

Season’s greetings. Each fall the realization hits some fans like an alarm clock, the Tour’s off-season is measured in hours, not weeks or months like other sports. And with this recognition comes the predictable level of handwringing.

Some argue that the circuit is somehow doing a disservice to the game by not allowing the season to breath, as if golf would somehow resonate across all lines if the Tour embraced a less-is-more approach.

Lost in these concerns, however, is the fact that the Tour is a business, and like any business the folks in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., aren’t interested in contraction just for the sake of contraction.

As a general rule, successful corporations don’t fold successful divisions, in this case tournaments played in the fall, just for nostalgia purposes; and if sponsors like Safeway, RSM and CIMB are content with the product don’t expect the Tour to turn its back any time soon.

A break would be great, but business is business.

Goal oriented. When Justin Thomas’ historic season finally ended at the Tour Championship, he revealed his list of goals for the season, a lineup of 13 items that largely were achieved.

Missing from that list was winning the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award, which Thomas won on Wednesday following a five-win season that concluded with his claiming the FedExCup.

It took only a few moments before the inevitable question was asked – how will his goals change for next season? Thomas’ answer was an indication of why the 24-year-old has been able to achieve so much in his young career.

“That's something I'll probably spend some time talking to Mr. Nicklaus about or Tiger [Woods] or even Jordan [Spieth], those are the only people I know that have had such success in one season multiple times,” Thomas said. “They've had to deal with resetting their goals and reevaluating.”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tweet (or blogs) of the week: In a blog post this week Marc Leishman's wife Audrey described a scene at last week’s Presidents Cup that she correctly contended wasn’t for children.

“There were many times last week that I thought about what the kids were seeing. The crowds booing for good shots and cheering for missed putts. The drinking at 7 a.m.? Screaming ‘Big Easy’ to Ernie Els and begging for his autograph and then yelling at his players,” she wrote.

After four days at Liberty National, Cut Line can attest that there was an element to the New York crowds that didn’t exactly adhere to normal golf etiquette, but with a monsoon of respect for Audrey Leishman, what did she expect?

The Tour - and last year the PGA of America at the Ryder Cup - has made it clear these marquee events need to attract a more broad sports audience. With that additional exposure will come an element that doesn’t understand what those in golf consider appropriate behavior and will push boundaries.

It’s the price the game pays for those new fans.

Points, picks and a task force? Before we move on from last week’s Presidents Cup, the 19-11 loss the U.S. team laid on the International side at Liberty National should serve as an ultimatum for the Tour, which has been adverse to meaningful change at the biennial event.

International captain Nick Price, along with Els and Greg Norman, have been lobbying the Tour for years to reduce the total number of points to 28 to mirror that of the Ryder Cup and give the Rest of World, which is not as deep as the U.S. side, a fighting chance.

But if the circuit is looking for real change, they may take another page out of the U.S. Ryder Cup playbook and give the next International captain (Els) carte blanche to overhaul a system that is clearly broken.

Maybe it’s time for an International task force.

“Everyone who is involved in the cup going forward should get together, talk about it, what the U.S. team has done the last few years, and try and come up with something to get our guys a little more invested in it,” Adam Scott said. “It's getting to that point where we see we've got to do a bit more.”

Whatever is required to make the event more competitive, a reduction in the total number of points is a start but decision makers should also consider an overhaul of the selection process and perhaps more captain’s picks for the Internationals should be everyone’s top priority.


Missed Cut

Minimum mistakes. Following an injury-plagued season, Rory McIlroy considered skipping the FedExCup Playoffs to rest and prepare for next season.

He went on and played the postseason, failing to advance to the Tour Championship for the first time in four years and surprised many when he added last week’s British Masters to his schedule.

It seems the world No. 6 was protecting his European Tour status and his chances to play next year’s Ryder Cup in Paris.

“I want to play the Ryder Cup next year and obviously I’ve got to play my five events in Europe,” McIlroy said last week at the British Masters. “So that was a big factor in that.”

This week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he missed the cut, will be McIlroy’s final start of the year, but there’s something inherently wrong with a system that forces a player’s hand when rest is clearly a better option.

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.