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.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “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.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.