Cut Line: USGA's Davis acts as peacemaker

By Rex HoggardMay 17, 2013, 10:59 pm

The USGA’s Mike Davis takes top honors in this week’s edition as he tries to head off a Texas-sized showdown next week, while the Byron Nelson Championship scores a much needed upgraded, but we can’t be sure the world’s best noticed.

Made Cut

Pragmatism. As expected, USGA executive director Mike Davis has quietly been playing peacemaker in the ongoing anchoring dispute between golf’s power brokers.

Unlike Peter Dawson, Davis’ counterpart at the R&A, who took exception to the PGA of America and PGA Tour’s public stance against the proposed ban on anchoring (seems he was only interested in comments of support), Davis told Golf Magazine that dissension was always going to be part of the process, although his opening comment about PGA president Ted Bishop is telling.

“Before Ted Bishop, trust me, there was a different mindset with the PGA of America. But listen, the PGA of America and Ted Bishop and the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem, have done exactly what we asked them to do,” Davis said.

“We had a 90-day comment period for the rule, and it's a divisive rule. But they've never specifically said they're not going to follow this rule. People want to think we're at war with the PGA of America and the PGA Tour, and it's just not the case.”

Building a consensus these days is akin to finding a wayward tee shot in the rough at quirky and confined Merion; which, by the way, may be the easiest part of Davis’ job this year.

Upgrades. A change of venue may not be the answer for all that ails the Byron Nelson Championship, but it seems officials are at least asking the right questions.

It was reported this week that the Nelson will move to Trinity Forest, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that is expected to begin construction next year.

Mired with a bad date on the calendar and a golf course that has endured more bad facelifts than Joan Rivers, the Nelson has become an afterthought on the Tour schedule for most players.

But it seems officials and the deep pockets at AT&T, which is stepping in to sponsor the event, have realized the most important rule of the tournament business – location, location, location.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rory McIlroy. Just about the time the Ulsterman appeared to be playing his way out of his mini-slump arrives word that there is another twist in the world No. 2’s life.

Sources told Golf Channel on Friday that McIlroy is leaving Horizon Sports Management, which he joined in 2011, and will form his own management firm that will include various family and friends, including his father Gerry.

The new team won’t have much heavy lifting to do if reports of McIlroy’s 10-year deal with Nike Golf are accurate, and he’s not the first golf superstar to create his own management company.

Still, this is the second time McIlroy has changed his management team since he turned pro in 2007, and right now, after a rocky start with the Swoosh, he could use all the stability he can get.

Vijay Singh. It’s been more than a week since the Fijian stunned Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and while the timing of his lawsuit remains suspect, a review of the filing suggests a legitimate beef.

The suit accuses the Tour of “violating its duty of care and good faith,” when reports surfaced in February that Singh had used a supplement that contained IGF-1, a substance that is on the circuit’s banned list.

What remains unknown, however, is what Singh hopes to achieve with the lawsuit. It’s hard to imagine a player who has nearly $70 million in career earnings needs the money, nor does it seem possible a successful day in court will repair his reputation. Fair or not, he will always be the “deer antler” guy.

Which leaves just one option – revenge.

The desire for justice is understandable, but the fact is Singh’s wounds are very much self-inflicted. IGF-1, a growth factor like HGH, was listed as an active ingredient in the spray at least three times on the company’s website that sells the supplement and has always been on the Tour’s banned-substance list. Perhaps IGF-1 shouldn’t have been on the banned list (see WADA below), but curious science doesn’t diminish culpability in this case.

Tweet of the week: @IanJamesPoulter “Oh well, it’s probably the only tournament you can lose your first match and still be OK. Tomorrow is another day. Good job, really.”

While Cut Line applauds the Englishman's attitude, if not his perspective, the round-robin nature of the Volvo World Match meant Poulter's Round 1 loss was simply a momentary setback. In our Friday four-ball, we call that a mulligan.

Missed Cut

Short memories. Independent contractors will say it’s a sign of the times, but this week’s less-than-star studded field at the Byron Nelson Championship suggests a baffling indifference to one of the game’s legends.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, before Lord Byron passed away, the Nelson regularly drew a deep field. But since 2006, when the Hall of Famer died, the current top 5 players in the Official World Golf Ranking have a combined four starts in Big D.

The Sony Open is the only non-opposite-field event to receive fewer World Ranking points then the Nelson, and this week’s field features just five players ranked in the top 20.

Lord Byron deserves better.

WADA. Singh sued the Tour over his run-in with the anti-doping code, but it is the World Anti-Doping Agency that seems at fault.

The Tour follows the WADA policy because they are supposed to be the experts. But the agency flip-flopped late in the proceedings with Singh and announced that IGF-1, taken orally and in such small quantities, did not constitute a violation.

The agency announced this week it is reviewing IGF-1’s status on the banned list as a direct result of the Singh situation, but that does little to help Singh or the Tour.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”