Cut Line: Travelers reaches out to Newtown

By Rex HoggardJune 21, 2013, 8:57 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Thoughts and therapy on the road from Merion to TPC River Highlands.

Made Cut

The little tournament that could. The Tour doesn’t dole out “most improved” awards to tournaments, but if it did the Travelers Championship would be a perennial contender.

The “small market” stop regularly draws record crowds – in 2012 the Travelers gate was the second-best on Tour behind only the Waste Management Phoenix Open – via a collection of creative campaigns and programs, including a chatter flight from the U.S. Open to Hartford, Conn.

This week, however, the tournament once again exceeded expectations.

Following the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December in Newtown, Conn., about 48 miles from TPC River Highlands, tournament officials reached out to the community and asked what they could do to help.

“We met with a few families and the town and said, ‘What could we possibly do for you?’” said tournament director Nathan Grube. “Some of it is completely off the radar that they have asked to keep private, but there are other parts of it that are great.”

The tournament has pledged to indefinitely fund a First Tee program in Newtown and summer camps beginning this summer.

“We are going to stay in touch with them for years and years and years. We want to be a part of the recovery,” Grube said.

Justin Rose. On Tuesday the U.S. Open champion delivered the iconic “Top 10” list on the 'Late Show with David Letterman' (as an aside, that list wasn’t Dave’s best work).

Two days later Rose picked up where he left off at the Travelers Championship and had some trying to come up with a “Top 10” list of their own as to why he couldn’t become the first player since Ernie Els in 1997 to win the week after hoisting the Open trophy.

Even three bogeys through his first six holes on Thursday couldn’t slow Rose’s momentum. He finished with an opening 67 and has quickly proven himself adept at sidestepping the pitfalls that come with a maiden major.

Even Rose’s curious move to Excel Sports Management from 4 Sports & Entertainment this week was mitigated by the Englishman’s honesty.

“The timing is kind of ironic, I suppose, with everything that's happened,” Rose told Cut Line. “But it’s a decision I made quite some time ago and things take some time to figure themselves out.”

The best players are not always the best people, but in Rose’s case he seems as adept with a microphone as he is with a putter.

Sean Foley. The introspective swing coach knew when he signed on to work with Tiger Woods the fishbowl would be intense, and he has taken the nonstop analysis in stride.

What is lost in many reviews of Foley’s work, however, has been his ability to help a diverse group of players improve. Consider Rose and Hunter Mahan, who teed off in the last group on Sunday at Merion and opened his week at the Travelers with a 62.

“It’s a testament to Sean that what Justin is doing and what I’m doing and what Tiger is doing are completely different things,” Mahan said Thursday. “We all do different things and Sean has been able to help all of us.”

Lost in all the analysis is the only thing those three have in common – winning.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Merion. Maybe the setup wasn’t perfect, the logistics were less than accommodating and the bottom line not exactly what the USGA would prefer, but from a pure competitive point of view the long awaited return of the U.S. Open to the East Course was a success.

Just ask Zach Johnson, one of the more outspoken critics of the USGA’s setup last week. “Oh, I hope so,” he said when asked if the Open should return to Merion.

The East Course may not be a perfect fit for a regular spot in the U.S. Open rotation, but let’s hope it’s not another 32 years before the national championship returns to Merion.

Slow play. While reporting a story this week on the PGA Tour’s pace-of-policy it occurred to Cut Line that the circuit and its players don’t seem to be having the same conversation.

Officials will tell you it’s a math problem, that 26 groups (with a 156-player field) on an 18-hole golf course adds up to only one thing – slow rounds. But many players contend it’s a policy and implementation problem.

“A guy comes in, makes the cut on the number. An official is standing there and says, ‘You know what, actually you shot 1 over today not even. You had a bad time on (No.) 14 and you missed the cut.’” Lucas Glover said. “He would probably play faster next time.”

We don’t know the answer to the circuit’s slow-play problem but this much is clear, until the Tour and its players start having the same conversation the perception will remain that the pace-of-play problem in golf starts at the top.

Tweet of the week: @PaulGoydosPGA “We’ve been plagued by slow play for years, and it turns out it was a 14 year old that was the problem.”

Goydos actually tweeted that missive in April after Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang was assessed a stroke penalty for slow play at the Masters, but it seems apropos given the ongoing debate on how to speed up play on the PGA Tour.

Missed Cut

Small print. While Cut Line is not litigious, the Tour’s move on June 12 to nix Vijay Singh’s lawsuit following his dust-up with the circuit’s anti-doping policy sets a curious precedent.

Singh sued the Tour in May claiming the circuit “(violated) its duty of care and good faith” after he admitted to using the Ultimate Spray, which contained IGF-1, a growth factor like human growth hormone that is on the circuit’s banned substances list. Although Singh was later absolved of any doping violation, he filed the lawsuit on the eve of this year’s Players Championship.

The Tour moved this month to dismiss the suit in New York Supreme Court, claiming that when players sign their membership application they agree not to sue the Tour and adhere to all aspects of the Tour’s anti-doping policy, which doesn’t have a provision for outside legal action within its appeal guidelines.

The Tour declined to comment on the motion, and a quick survey of players on the TPC River Highlands practice tee on Friday suggests that if the circuit is legally protected from its members that is news to them.

Here’s a line we never thought we’d pen: It may be time to consider a union in golf.

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.