Cut Line: USGA bats .500

By Rex HoggardMay 22, 2015, 9:23 pm

In this week’s Cut Line, the powers that be at the USGA make the right call for an Open qualifier, but the jury is still out on the Chambers Bay experiment.

Made Cut

Common sense goes 1 up. It’s not often that the USGA gets style points for doing the right thing (see “Bay Watch” item below), as opposed to what is correct according to the small print.

But in this case the USGA deserves kudos for allowing Alison Lee to switch her qualifying site this week for the U.S. Women’s Open. Lee was preoccupied on Monday at the LPGA’s Kingsmill Championship, where she finished third, and couldn’t make it to her scheduled qualifier on Monday in Virginia.

Instead, the USGA allowed Lee to switch to a qualifier in California on Wednesday where she carded a two-round total of 2-over 144 to earn a spot in the Women’s Open.

Now, if only the Rules of Golf had the same “sanity clauses.”

Tweet of the week: @Alisonn_Lee (Alison Lee) “Had a 3:05 time [Sunday] then 7 a.m. [Monday]. I also have to forfeit playing the Women’s Open qualifier tomorrow. I’ve definitely had better days.”

Lee followed that tweet on May 17 with another the next day, “Playing at Goose Creek [Mira Loma, Calif.] tomorrow for the U.S. Women’s Open. Thanks @USGA.”

When more is more. Detractors will point to Rory McIlroy’s 71-78--MC at the BMW PGA Championship as evidence that the world No. 1 is playing too much golf, and maybe there is something to that notion.

McIlroy has been unbeatable the last few weeks, winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship, but the BMW PGA was his fourth consecutive week and it seems like the Northern Irishman hit the metaphorical wall in England where he missed the cut.

But McIlroy doesn’t adhere to the less-is-more philosophy made so popular by Tiger Woods, electing instead to take advantage of courses where he has played well in the past and the good vibes he’s earned over the last few weeks.

That take has McIlroy batting .500 in his last four events with next week’s Irish Open at Royal County Down looming. It may not be a perfect model for everyone, but it certainly works for him.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Scheduling difficulties. It’s always tough to criticize players for their schedules, considering the independent contractors can plan as they please, but Patrick Reed’s decision to skip this week’s BMW PGA Championship seems curious.

Reed said last week at Quail Hollow that he was looking forward to playing the BMW PGA, along with the Irish Open, as part of his new commitment to European Tour membership, but on Saturday he informed tournament officials at the BMW PGA that he wouldn’t be playing the event because of “family reasons.”

Instead, Reed is playing this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational, which he would have had to commit to by last Friday afternoon at the latest.

Reed told Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte that he decided to play Colonial following the death of his wife’s cousin on Tuesday night.

Scheduling issues come up in every walk of life and this certainly was an unavoidable absence, but better communication likely would have alleviated the confusion.

Missed Cut

Hope-less. It was 29 years ago when the PGA West Stadium Course last hosted a round during the Bob Hope Classic, and that didn’t go very well.

At the time, Ken Green said the only thing the course needed was a few sticks of dynamite, and the amateurs that are just as much a part of the show at the CareerBuilder Challenge found the Stadium Course akin to dental surgery.

So forgive Cut Line if we don’t celebrate the return of the Stadium Course – which will join the Nicklaus Tournament course and La Quinta Country Club – to the event’s rotation.

The Stadium Course has been a fine venue for the Tour’s Q-School in recent years, where frayed nerves come with the courtesy car, but at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where most players are looking to ease their way into the season, it may be a bit too much.

Bay Watch. USGA executive director Mike Davis caused a stir among the play-for-pay set when he recently said a cursory glance at Chambers Bay, site of this year’s U.S. Open, would not do.

“The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person’s done,” Davis said. “Will not win the U.S. Open.”

On Sunday following his seven-stroke victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy was asked about Davis’ comments and the idea that the rank and file would need extra time to prepare for the year’s second major.

“What’s Mike Davis’ handicap?” McIlroy asked.

To McIlroy’s point, if a course needs to be played a multitude of times to be understood, does that really make it a worthy test?

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.