Cut Line: Top seeds gone, but all is not lost

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2013, 12:30 am

MARANA, Ariz. – The great WGC-blizzard of 2013 will be remembered for three things: a mass exodus of all four top-seeded players before the weekend, an empty void at least partially filled with a collection of feel-good stories and well, snow – nearly 4 inches of the white stuff – that turned this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play into something that more resembled the Olympic downhill trials.

Made Cut

Seeing daylight from the DL. The Match Play is as good a litmus test for a player’s form as any in golf. Every match features Sunday-like pressure and the normal flow of Tour life is upended by the urgency of now.

It’s a simple truth and had everything to do with the Teflon smiles on Tim Clark and Jason Day’s faces Friday at Dove Mountain. Both players have endured their share of medical setbacks in recent years, so when both emerged from the second round it was reason to celebrate.

“This last (injury) was hard. To not hit a golf shot for almost a year is a long time,” said Clark, whose 2011 season was cut short because of elbow surgery.

Clark beat Adam Scott (2 and 1) and Thorbjorn Olesen (3 and 2) to advance to the Sweet 16, while Day – who was slowed last year by an ailing foot – cruised to victory in Round 1 with a 6-and-5 walkover of Zach Johnson and survived a 19-hole bout with Russell Henley on Friday.

You know what they say: Beware the mended golfer . . . or something like that.

One voice. While the PGA Tour remains mum on what the circuit’s official response will be to the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient’s proposed ban on anchoring, players who participated in Monday’s conference calls seem to be united in their distaste for the proposal.

Although one member of the Player Advisory Council said “everybody was against (the ban)” during Monday’s 35-minute conference call, another council member softened that stance but conceded those voicing opinions against the rule change were “more in the majority.”

After the PAC conference call, commissioner Tim Finchem conducted a second call with the Policy Board to formulate the circuit’s official response to the proposal, which is nearing the end of a 90-day comment period.

There has been no formal comment on the Tour’s stance, but the seeds of discontent seem to have taken hold among the play-for-pay set.

“I have said all along, take anchoring out of the equation, is this the best way to make rules for our sport? Should the PGA Tour make its own rules? No. Should the PGA Tour and the PGA of America and the USGA and R&A and journalists be involved? I think so,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the Policy Board. “I don’t think this is the way we should be writing rules for our sport.”

This isn’t about long putters anymore; it’s about the long view.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Seeing red. Any way you slice it, Tiger Woods’ Round 1 loss to Charles Howell III, just his third one-and-done week in 13 Match Plays, is reason to reassess; but the truth is, some early exits are unavoidable.

Consider that Woods was bogey-free and 2 under when Howell closed him out in darkness on the 17th hole Thursday – he missed four birdie attempts from inside 11 feet, hit 12 of 13 fairways and 14 of 17 greens, and simply ran into a hot hand, regardless of seedings.

“I played well, I really did, I hit a lot of good shots out there,” Woods said. “I didn’t make a bogey out there. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the format, and I’m not advancing.”

Before we press the collective panic button know this: There’s nothing wrong with Woods that 72 holes of stroke play can’t fix.


Missed Cut

Bracket busting. Blame it on the format, the world golf ranking or the snow, whatever the culprit, it doesn’t make a weekend marquee that is barren of a single top-seeded player any easier to stomach – not for Accenture executives, television types and certainly not for fans.

For the first time since 2002, the game’s alpha and omega, at least according to the world ranking arithmetic, were bounced in Round 1. On Friday, the remaining top dogs (Luke Donald and Louis Oosthuizen) joined world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Woods on the couch.

“It’s kind of the nature of the beast,” said Donald, who just made it past the turn in his 7-and-6 loss to Scott Piercy. “I think over 18 holes anyone has got a chance. I think maybe the No. 1 seeds or the higher seeds, maybe there's a little bit more expectation on their shoulders and the other guys have nothing to lose.”

Fair enough, but then why did it feel as if it was the Dove Mountain faithful who had been handed a 7-and-6 haymaker?

Let this end the debate to transform the Tour Championship into some sort of match-play event; it’s already quiet enough on the weekend at East Lake.

Quite Rors. Although three competitive rounds is hardly an adequate snapshot, it is safe to say that McIlroy’s transition to Nike Golf is officially off to a rocky start.

The Ulsterman has been here before and showed himself adept at slump busting (let last year’s historic romp at the PGA Championship forever put those doubts to bed), but nearly two months into 2013, McIlroy hasn’t come close to breaking par or seeing a weekend.

While McIlroy sounded upbeat about his long-term prospects even as he bolted property late Thursday following his loss to Shane Lowry in Round 1, the Swoosh-shaped elephant in the room was unavoidable.

There is little doubt McIlroy will play his way out of this mini-slide, but until he does the questions and pressure will only build.

Snow doubt. Let the record show that two of the last three “snow” delays on the PGA Tour have occurred atop this slice of Arizona cactus country, and that two of the last three WGCs at Dove Mountain have been impacted by the white stuff.

But, as any Tour official within 200 miles of Tucson will tell you, golf is an outdoor game and the Match Play is hardly the only event that is at the mercy of Mother Nature.

For Dove Mountain, however, the weather woes are only part of the problem. Sparse attendance, a remote location some 20 miles from downtown Tucson and a genuine distaste for the Jack Nicklaus-designed course by more than a few Tour players add up to one inevitable truth – it’s time to leave the mountain.

According to tournament sources the Tour’s contract with Dove Mountain is up at the end of 2014 and Cut Line would humbly suggest a change of venue. You don’t have to go to South America, Tampa (which currently has a Tour event struggling to find a sponsor) or the Middle East, just go.

Getty Images

Tiger draws Sneds, Kizzire at Honda Classic

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 7:43 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Patton Kizzire and Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds of the Honda Classic.

The threesome will tee off at 7:45 a.m. ET Thursday off PGA National’s 10th tee, then 12:35 p.m. off the first tee in the second round Friday.

Woods is making his first start at the Honda, his hometown event, since 2014. He tied for second here in 2012, after a final-round 62.

This is the first time he has ever played with Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the FedExCup points leader.

Other notable groups for the first two rounds:

  • Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger: 7:35 a.m. Thursday, 12:25 p.m. Friday
  • Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland: 7:55 a.m. Thursday, 12:45 p.m. Friday
  • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner: 12:25 p.m. Thursday, 7:35 a.m. Friday
  • Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington: 12:35 p.m. Thursday, 7:45 a.m. Friday
Getty Images

The Social: In perfect harmony?

By Jason CrookFebruary 20, 2018, 7:00 pm

Bubba Watson re-emerges in the winner's circle but gets exposed on the hardwood, Mark Wahlberg tunes out Tiger Woods and if John Daly wants a drinking partner, he need look no further than ... John Daly?

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Bubba Watson had himself a week.

The two-time Masters champion hung out with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, caught a taping of "The Big Bang Theory," played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and still found some time to notch his first PGA Tour win in two years.

Watson's third victory at Riviera couldn't have come at a better time for the 39-year-old, with an annual trip down Magnolia Lane right around the corner. But don't let that distract you from the only Bubba highlight that mattered from the weekend:

Welcome to the block party, Bubba. Despite his former professional basketball playing wife's advice to stay out of the paint, Watson decided to challenge Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady at the hoop. You could say his challenge was accepted. And then some.

Watson, who picked up a couple of assists but also shot an air ball in the game, said afterwards that he "was just trying not to get hurt" and even poked a little fun at himself, calling out McGrady for committing a foul on social media.

But if these tweets from a couple of his PGA Tour peers are any indication, it will be a while before he lives this one down.

Sports fans probably take Bubba Golf for granted sometimes, no one plays the game like he does. Lets not make the same mistake with Bubba Basketball.

Want to know how far Tiger Woods has fallen? Sure, you could look at his 544th-world ranking or the current state of his game as he returns from injury, but the most telling sign came from his Wednesday pro-am round at the Genesis Open.

Woods was grouped with Mark Wahlberg for the day, and the superstar actor couldn't even be bothered to take the Apple AirPods out his ears – either one – for the entire round, even wearing them for the picture Woods posted on Instagram himself.

Marky Mark, you don't have to be his thunder buddy but at least show the man some common decency. He's still Tiger Freakin' Woods. Who is supposed to fake laugh at one of Tiger's patented hilarious dad jokes if all of his playing partners suddenly start listening to music during their rounds?

On a related note, guess Tigers are the only animals that Wahlberg won't talk to.

Something tells me this whole criminal thing isn't going to work out for these two.

Drinks were on John Daly Sunday after his hole-in-one at the Chubb Classic. But how many drinks? Well, that depends on who he’s drinking with.

If it’s with U.S. Olympian John Daly, the answer is, A LOT.

That's right, there's an American skeleton (headfirst luge for you newbs) racer competing in PyeongChang, South Korea, with the same name as the two-time major champ, and he couldn't help himself when asked about the similarity, jokingly saying he could keep up at the bar.

Of course, Daly (the golfer) wasn't just going to sit idly by while his name was dragged through the mud, tweeting out, basically, be careful what you wish for.

Somehow, someway, sliding headfirst down a frozen patch of ice with very little protection seems like a better idea than challenging Long John to a drinking contest. Just ask Andrew 'Beef' Johnston how it turned out.

If someone quits Twitter but they don't leave a long, drawn-out message on Twitter about why they're quitting Twitter before doing so, then did they even quit Twitter?

That's the riddle surrounding Lydia Ko's disappearance from the social media platform, one that the South Park Police Department would call, "suspicious."

The former LPGA world No. 1 has gone through all kinds of changes over the last couple of seasons, and added this curious move (on top of switching out her swing coach and caddie to start this season) because she said the app was “taking up [too much] storage on my phone.”

Whatever the reason, whether it be the storage issue she mentioned, or Twitter being a giant cesspool of negativity, here's to hoping it brings Ko happiness and a return to the winner's circle for the first time since 2016.

But we're sad to see her go.

After all, if people aren't freaking out on Twitter, what are we going to focus on here in The Social?

Rory McIlroy said last week after playing with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open that the 14-time major champ gives up two strokes a tournament dealing with the hoopla that comes with being Tiger Woods.

That hasn't deterred John Peterson, who was on Twitter Monday openly recruiting Woods to play on his team for the Zurich Classic.

The April New Orleans PGA Tour stop switched to a team format last year, with Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith joining forces to win the first title.

Peterson followed up his original tweet by asking how many retweets he'd need to make it happen. We're no experts here, but probably more than the 132 it had at the time of this publication.

Peterson's followers had some fun with the request, applauding his effort as a shooter:

And hey, who knows, stranger things have happened. While the two may seem like an unlikely pairing, they have some stuff in common – Peterson won the 2012 Coca-Cola Walmart Open and Tiger, we think, has heard of an establishment known as Walmart.

So yeah, you could say the two are basically best friends at this point.

Getty Images

Veteran Golf Journalist Bradley S. Klein Joins Golf Channel Editorial Team

By Golf Channel Public RelationsFebruary 20, 2018, 4:15 pm

Klein to Lend 30-Plus Years in Golf Architecture, History and Travel Journalism to Golf Advisor, Golf Channel’s Digital Travel and Lifestyle Brand

Read Klein’s first column here

Veteran golf travel, history and architecture journalist Bradley S. Klein has joined Golf Channel’s editorial team as senior writer for Golf Advisor, the company’s ever-expanding digital destination for the traveling golfer, featuring more than 700,000 reviews of nearly 15,000 golf courses in 80 countries worldwide. Klein’s first column appears today and provides eight simple tips for becoming a golf course architecture junkie – how architecture can be more relevant to everyday golfers and design aspects to observe that can make a round of golf a more fulfilling experience.

With more than 40 years of varied experiences within the game of golf – a career that began as a caddie on the PGA Tour – Klein most recently served as the long-time architecture editor for Golfweek magazine and the founding editor of Superintendent News.

"I've been in love with golf course design since I was 11 years old and have been lucky over the years to find a platform where I can share that fascination with fellow golfers,” Klein said. “It's an amazing opportunity now for me to bring that passion and commitment to Golf Channel and its travel and lifestyle brand, Golf Advisor."

"We are extremely excited to have Brad join the Golf Advisor team. His unique contributions covering history and architecture will be an excellent complement to the travel content Matt Ginella brings to Golf Advisor and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive,” said Mike Lowe, vice president and general manager, Golf Advisor. “Brad’s reputation and experience in the industry make him a wonderful addition to our expanding golf travel and course design editorial team.”

Other members of Golf Advisor’s editorial team include: Brandon Tucker, Mike Bailey, Jason Deegan, Bill Irwin and Tim Gavrich.

Including assignments for Golfweek, Klein has written more than 1,500 feature articles on course architecture, resort travel, golf course development, golf history and the media for such other publications as Golf Digest, Financial Times, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015, Klein won the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He is well known within the golf industry and has served as a consultant on numerous golf course development and restoration projects, most recently the Old Macdonald course at acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

Golf Advisor now includes the integration of Golf Vacation Insider and Golf Odyssey, two leading travel newsletters with a combined reach of more than a half million subscribers. Both newsletters joined Golf Channel’s portfolio of businesses in 2017 as part of the acquisition of Revolution Golf, golf’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform offering video-based instruction and integrated e-commerce.

Getty Images

Stock Watch: Fans getting louder, rowdier

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 3:01 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Bubba (+9%): Half of his 10 Tour titles have come at Augusta National and Riviera – that’s pretty stout. Though he can be maddening to cover because of his personality quirks, an in-form Watson is a must-watch.

Phil (+5%): For the first time in 11 years, Mickelson put together three consecutive top-6 finishes on Tour. Suddenly, another green jacket or that elusive U.S. Open title doesn’t seem so far away.

Kevin Na (+3%): How much fun would this guy be on a Ryder Cup team? He hits it dead straight – which will be important at Le Golf National, where the home team will narrow the fairways – and would drive the Europeans absolutely bonkers.

West Coast swing (+2%): From Jason Day to Gary Woodland to Ted Potter to Watson, the best coast produced a series of memorable comeback stories. And that’s always good news for those of us who get paid to write about the game.

South Korean talent (+1%): They already represent nine of the top 16 players in the world, and that doesn’t even include Jin Young Ko, who just won in her first start as an LPGA member.



FALLING

Steve Stricker Domination (-1%): Those predicting that he would come out and mop up on the PGA Tour Champions – hi there! – will be surprised to learn that he’s now 0-for-7 on the senior circuit (with five top-3s), after Joe Durant sped past him on the final day in Naples. The quality of golf out there is strong.

Patrick Cantlay’s routine (-2%): Never really noticed it before, but Cantlay ground to a halt during the final round, often looking at the cup six or seven times before finally stroking his putt. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his final-round scoring average is nearly four strokes higher than his openers.

Lydia Ko (-3%): Another wholesale change? Whatever is going on here – and it reeks of too much parental involvement – it’s not good for her short- or long-term future.

Tiger (-4%): It’s early, and he’s obviously savvy enough to figure it out, but nothing else in this comeback will matter if Woods can’t start driving it on the planet.

Fan behavior (-8%): Kudos to Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for taking the Riviera spectators to task for their tiresome (and increasingly aggressive) calls after a player hits a shot. The only problem? PGA National’s par-3 17th could be even worse – the drunk fans are closer to the action, and the hole is infinitely more difficult than TPC Scottsdale’s 16th. Buckle up.