Cut Line: U.S. Open looms; Tiger's absence lingers

By Rex HoggardJune 10, 2016, 8:36 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – In this week’s edition, Oakmont and next week’s U.S. Open looms, Tiger Woods’ absence from golf lingers and the PGA Tour laments the loss of a longtime sponsor in Houston.

Made Cut

All eyes on Oakmont. It’s a common assessment each year as the U.S. Open inches closer and players get a glimpse of that year’s venue.

“Over par will win,” Daniel Berger said of Oakmont, which he played on Monday.

“It's a hard golf course. You don't want to be in the rough there,” offered Brooks Koepka, who played the U.S. Open venue last week.

Phil Mickelson’s take, however, may have been the most foreboding.

“I've played Oakmont the last two days, and I really think it is the hardest golf course we've ever played,” Lefty said on Wednesday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Often lost in the U.S. Open hyperbole, however, is the fact that, at least in the Mike Davis era, officials have largely erred on the side of the players (last year’s greens at Chambers Bay not withstanding).

“It's a very fair test, even though it's hard,” Mickelson added.

Wild stories of ridiculously difficult golf courses are nothing new, but history suggests predictions of player pain and suffering are greatly exaggerated.

Tweet of the week: @TigerWoods “You’ll always be The Greatest for more than just what you did in the ring. A champion to so many people in so many ways.”

Muhammad Ali’s passing last week drew plenty of reaction, but Woods’ tweet was among the most poignant. Cut Line met the champion during the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla and remembers European captain Nick Faldo being speechless afterward. It was a common reaction.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Silver lining. Tuesday’s announcement that Woods would not be playing next week’s U.S. Open or the Quicken Loans National as he recovers from multiple back procedures was not all gloom and doom.

Woods did say via his website that he is “making progress, but I'm not yet ready for tournament competition.”

Give Woods credit for clearing the speculation table before next week’s U.S. Open, if not a recovery that has now stretched to nearly 10 months since his last Tour start.

Woods is also showing an impressive amount of patience, which hasn’t always been the case for the 14-time major champion and that might be the most encouraging part of this entire process.

Low down dirty Shane. The turf war that cropped up this year between the PGA Tour and European Tour took its first casualty this week when Shane Lowry announced he would defend his title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and not play the French Open the same week.

Lowry’s decision is notable only because the European Tour, unhappy with the scheduling of the Bridgestone the same week as the centennial celebration of the French Open, pulled its sanctioning of the World Golf Championship and offered double Ryder Cup points for those playing in France.

“I've known for a while in my own mind that I wanted to defend in Akron [Ohio],” Lowry wrote in the Irish Times. “Any players I've spoken to have said I'm right, even though it won't count on the European Tour this season and doesn't have any Ryder Cup points.”

It’s an even tougher choice for Lowry when you consider he’s currently well outside of qualifying for the European Ryder Cup team, but then he shouldn’t have had to make the choice to begin with.

Missed Cut

Shell games. It’s been a tough few months for the energy business and maybe this week’s news that Shell Oil Company, would be dropping its sponsorship of the Tour’s Houston-area stop after next year’s event shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Still, the event has been a staple on the Tour since 1992 – only Honda and AT&T (Pebble Beach) have been title sponsors longer than Shell – and the work that Steve Timms, president and CEO of the Houston Golf Association, has done to improve the event and the field made the news something of a shock.

The event moved to its pre-Masters spot in 2007 and despite a tough position on the schedule Timms and Co. regularly produced a solid field and plenty of exciting finishes.

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem vowed to “begin the search for a new title sponsor right away and are confident we will be successful in those efforts.”

Normally, those would be encouraging words, but after the World Golf Championship’s exit from Doral last week for Mexico City, that kind of optimism is in short supply.

Guessing games. It’s a rite of summer and yet every year it seems that much more comical.

Each June the USGA creates a “reallocation list,” which is essentially the list of alternates for next week’s U.S. Open based on the various qualifiers that are held around the globe.

Although this reallocation list is likely based on a complicated formula, there’s no way to know for sure because the USGA doesn’t “make that known,” according to a spokesman for the association.

Players can get a rough idea where they are on the list based on the relative strength of each qualifying field (the first replacement was pulled from the qualifier in Japan followed by players from the Memphis and England events, respectively), but the actual list – just like the lists that are published each week on Tour – remains a well-guarded secret.

This leaves players to guess where they are on the alternate list, and the rest of us to guess why in the world the USGA would be so guarded over something that is so straightforward.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.