Cut Line: Tiger in the swing of things

By Rex HoggardOctober 20, 2017, 4:00 pm

A couple of firsts highlight this week’s edition, starting with news that Tiger Woods took his first few swings with a driver following back surgery in April, and a surreal cancellation of a round in Peru because of a census, of all things.

Made Cut

Road to recovery. Woods’ doctor cleared him for all golf activities last week, now it would seem his possible return to competition will depend on how clear-headed he chooses to be this time.

Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg told GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champion recently met with his doctor who performed his back surgery in April, and that he hasn’t experienced any pain in his most recent comeback.

The news dovetailed with a video on social media of Woods hitting a driver. Not bad for a guy who just three weeks ago at the Presidents Cup said he was limited to hitting 60-yard wedge shots.

The conversation now turns to his possible return, with some speculating he may be ready in time to play December’s Hero World Challenge, which Woods hosts and is played on a golf course in the Bahamas he’s comfortable on.

That may be a tad too ambitious, and to be honest, if Woods is being as cautious as Steinberg said, it may be time to rethink an entirely new schedule and play courses that are a little more user friendly.

We hear Scottsdale, Ariz., and La Quinta, Calif., are beautiful in January.

Tweet of the week:

Haney, Woods’ former swing coach, was commenting on Tiger’s swing with his driver, which threatened to break the internet. It’s an encouraging sign for Woods, and golf, that he’s back putting in the “reps,” but let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves.

New boss. Fred Ridley moved into a new office on Monday, taking over as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club after Billy Payne announced he was stepping down earlier this fall.

In his first meeting with golf writers as chairman this week, Ridley said there’s no perfect way to prepare for such a gig; but the former U.S. Amateur champion seems to have amassed the right resume.

An accomplished amateur and college player, Ridley opted for a career as a lawyer over that of a professional golfer and ascended to president of the USGA before taking over as chairman of the Masters competition committee for the last decade.

 He also had the perfect mentor in Payne.

“Billy Payne is the best person that I have ever met with regard to the importance of relationships with others,” Ridley said. “If you listen to him speak, he always talks about the other person. He always points the light in another direction, and he probably, more than anyone I've ever met, understands the importance and the power of relationships.”

Ridley will certainly bring his own stamp to the job, but there’s no denying that he was groomed to be chairman.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Far and wide. The PGA Tour broke new ground this week, hosting its first stroke-play event in South Korea as part of the circuit’s three-tournament Asia swing.

The inaugural CJ Cup is off to a solid start with a field that includes reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Adam Scott, fulfilling the long-held desire to expand the game beyond the Lower 48.

What lands the lucrative event in the MDF file is the curious wisdom to send the game’s best and brightest into such a tense region (technically South Korea is still at war with North Korea).

To be fair, the Tour has been proactive in keeping players up to date on the security situation in the region, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of countries across the globe that could benefit from such an event.

Places that don’t require regular updates on the evening news.

Don’t count on it. Speaking of curious planning and far-flung events, this week’s Lexus Peru Open on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica should go directly into the swing-and-a-miss file.

The event in Lima was shortened to 54 holes because of a national census on Sunday and a government mandate that citizens, and visitors, must remain indoors from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Roads will be blocked and air traffic halted in the country during the nine-hour window, while all shops and restaurants will be closed as officials conduct the census.

A bigger concern than a cancelled round, however, are building travel concerns for players and tour officials looking to leave Peru on Sunday in order to travel to the circuit’s next event more than 2,500 miles away in Uruguay.

Delays and cancellations happen in golf all the time, but this one seems like it could have been avoided.


Missed Cut

Wheels of justice. While some may consider this the slow season for the Tour, off the course there is one department that’s been busy in recent weeks.

Last week, attorneys for the Tour and a group of more than 80 caddies argued before a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and last month a New York judge denied a motion from the circuit to reargue a previous decision regarding summary judgment.

The Ninth Circuit panel has not handed down a decision on the caddie lawsuit, which stems from an anti-trust claim made by the caddies who say the Tour uses them as “walking billboards” for sponsors; while the New York ruling involves Vijay Singh’s lawsuit against the circuit claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program.

Both cases have been mired in legal wrangling for years and Singh’s attorney seemed to sum up the frustration of not being able to take his case to trial.

“This case has been going on for a long, long time,” Peter Ginsberg, an attorney for Singh, told the judge in September. “Is it possible for the court to give us a trial date? This war of attrition is just battering my client, who is still plagued by this.”

And they say golf has a slow-play problem.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''