Cut Line: Tiger out of the woods yet?

By Rex HoggardJuly 3, 2015, 7:22 pm

In honor of this weekend’s Fourth of July festivities we present a red, white and blue edition of Cut Line, from Donald Trump’s explosive comments on the campaign trail to golf’s fizzling response.

Made Cut

Out of the Woods. It’s easy to overstate this. Just as easy, in fact, as it was to put too much stock in Tiger Woods’ opening-round 80 at the U.S. Open or that third-round 85 at the Memorial.

The truth is Woods’ opening 66 on Thursday at the Greenbrier Classic will mean little if he doesn’t build on that momentum, but considering the competitive depths he has plunged to in recent weeks it would explain his optimism.

“I made a little bit of progress since last time I played,” Woods said on Wednesday. “Obviously not really saying much, but I'm looking forward to [Thursday]. Really looking forward to competing again and getting out here and playing.”

It’s become dangerously easy to stake Woods’ fortunes to a single round in recent years, but in golf that is short sighted and overly simplistic. But in this case, fans should be optimistic because Tiger is inspired to play, and after the road he’s been down in recent months that’s progress.

Unqualified success. After years of confusion and indifference, the Royal & Ancient seems to have conjured up a qualifying process for the Open Championship that is both understandable and entertaining.

In its second year, the qualifying series began last week at the Travelers Championship with four players – Brian Harman, Graham DeLaet, Carl Pettersson and Luke Donald – earning invitations in two weeks to St. Andrews via their finishes at TPC River Highlands.

Top finishers this week at the Greenbrier Classic – the top 4 players who finish among the top 12 on Sunday who are currently not eligible – and next week at the John Deere Classic. It’s a similar scenario on the European Tour.

Compared to the old International Final Qualifiers, 36-hole events held weeks before the Open at an awkward time in the schedule, the new system strikes a solid balance between competitive integrity and the realities of a global game.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Empty words. Or maybe hollow promises would be a more accurate assessment of how golf’s major players handled Donald Trump’s insensitive remarks this week.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems,” Trump said in his presidential campaign kickoff. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

After a few days of awkward silence, the PGA Tour, PGA of America, USGA and LPGA issued a joint statement: “While the LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and USGA do not usually comment on Presidential politics, Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf.”

Missing from that statement, however, was any mention of possible sanctions or repercussions for Trump’s comments. No acknowledgement that all four organizations hold championships on Trump’s various golf courses and no suggestion whatsoever that they were considering distancing themselves from the candidate.

Just words. Empty words.

Empty words II. Phil Mickelson has not been charged with a crime nor is he under investigation, according to an ESPN "Outside the Lines" report this week.

But the report did tie Mickelson to Greg Silveira, a former sports gambling handicapper who has pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering. The money was from a “gambling client,” who according to two unnamed sources in the OTL story is Mickelson.

Last year, Mickelson was tied to iconic sports gambler and entrepreneur Billy Walters in a federal investigation into insider trading, an investigation Lefty has been at least partially cleared.

Yet while Mickelson doesn’t appear to have broken any laws, he may have run afoul of the PGA Tour player handbook.

The code of conduct section of the handbook forbids a player to, “associate with or have dealings with persons whose activities, including gambling, might reflect adversely upon the integrity of the game of golf.”

According to the handbook, a player found in violation of this section “shall be subject to a suspension from tournament play for a minimum period of two seasons.”

While federal officials don’t have any interest in Mickelson, the Tour may want to review it’s own handbook.

Tweet of the week:

Give the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year credit for coming clean, but there is something to be said for discretion being the better part of valor.

Missed Cut

Background noise. Remember when Jordan Spieth won the Masters and turned around three days later and teed it up at the RBC Heritage?

Remember young Jordan was lauded as a refreshing change from the insular Tour player norm for his decision to fulfill his commitment despite the whirlwind that accompanies a first major?

It is interesting that some of those same folks from the gallery who applauded Spieth for his decision to play Harbour Town are now roasting the 21-year-old’s decision to play next week’s John Deere Classic with the single-season Grand Slam on the line at St. Andrews.

Spieth became the sixth player to win the first two legs of the single-season Grand Slam by playing a schedule he felt was right for him, changing that schedule now to acknowledge the gravity of the moment, or worse to appease critics, would not only be foolish, but it simply wouldn’t be Jordan.

Getty Images

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."