Cut Line: Waiting to exhale

By Rex HoggardAugust 19, 2011, 9:05 pm

The excitement of Sunday’s shootout at Atlanta Athletic Club had barely subsided when the golf world went on a collective rant about young Keegan Bradley’s use of a belly putter and Fred Couples’ use of his captain’s picks. The major championship season may be over, but there are still plenty of cuts and controversy to be dissected.

Made Cut

Keegan Bradley. The cow bells haven’t stopped since the beanpole closed with three birdies – the PGA can call Atlanta Athletic Club’s 18th whatever they want, it was a par 5 – to force overtime against Jason Dufner.

“Crazy Stuff,” was Bradley’s assessment shortly after his breakthrough and he certainly did his part to increase the profile of the season’s final major with his post-PGA media blitz.

A guy named Keegan may not have captivated middle America with a perfect 1-for-1 start to his major career, but he soon will.

Something old . . . Perhaps only the West Coast staples of Torrey Pines – the North not Rees Jones’ nip/tucked South Course – Pebble Beach and Riviera can stand up to the current run of turn-back-the-clock classics on the PGA Tour.

Over the next six weeks, the circuit will stop at Sedgefield (Wyndham Championship), Plainfield (The Barclays) and East Lake (Tour Championship). Or, as we like to call it, the Donald Ross Swing.

“(Atlanta Athletic Club) was really kind of a beast compared to this old lady,” Ernie Els said of Sedgefield. “You kind of play trying to survive, (whereas at Sedgefield) you can almost attack a golf course. It was nice a change.”

Tweet of the Week: @elkpga (Steve Elkington): “(Golf Channel analyst) Tim Rosaforte said Tiger should play a Nationwide (Tour) event to get reps. I’m going outside to wait for a fairy to shat a gold nugget on my porch.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Glory’s Last Kerfuffle. The PGA Championship has caused the worst kind of revisionist nonsense. From Bradley’s use of a belly putter to Phil Mickelson’s continued rants against Rees Jones’ handiwork, the season’s final major has become a one-stop shop for everything that plagues the ancient game.

Full disclosure here, your Cut Line correspondent has been a belly putter convert from way back, but to suddenly dub the lengthy implement “public enemy No. 1” in the ongoing equipment debate is shortsighted and fundamentally flawed. That they have been playing majors since 1860 and just one has been won by a non-standard length putter is all one needs to know about the evils of the long putter.

As for the Phil v. Rees brouhaha, the fallout has spilled over into New Orleans, where Jones is on the hook to build a championship course in the Big Easy’s City Park. Renowned New Orleans’ columnist Peter Finney wrote this week, “Jones has a $24.5 million challenge to come up with a golf course that will stand the test of time, not for a one-week ‘championship,’ but for 50 weeks a year, over years and years and years, when the touring pros are in another town and your clients are folks trying to break 100.”

Lost in that logic is how beneficial an East Lake-like revitalization would be for City Park, not to mention the immediate upgrade the Zurich Classic would enjoy if it were moved from the West Bank hinterlands into the heart of the city.

The PGA has become a catchall for the game’s ills of late, but this revisionism seems a bit much. The thought did occur late Sunday, however, that Jimmy Hoffa may be buried in the middle of Atlanta Athletic Club’s 15th green.

A Big Difference.  Last year at this time Ernie Els was the FedEx Cup frontrunner, 149 points clear of Steve Stricker and cruising. This week the Big Easy is fighting for his playoff life, mired at 126th on the points list although his opening 65 at the Wyndham Championship has improved his postseason picture.

The same can’t be said of Padraig Harrington (130th in FedEx Cup points), who cancelled a family vacation to play Greensboro and rallied with birdies at Nos. 15 and 17 to make the cut but will need a solid weekend to crack the top 125 and advance to The Barclays.

A postseason marquee without the likes of Harrington, not to mention Tiger Woods, may not be a recipe for marketing magic, but for the first time in five tries the end of the season actually feels . . . well, playoff-like.

Missed Cut

Motor City moves. News this week that General Motors and the Tour had reached an impasse in their efforts to bring the circuit back to Detroit was of little surprise to insiders who questioned all along how the circuit was going to add an event to an already crowded summer dance card.

There had been some speculation that a return to Detroit could be possible if The Heritage failed to find a new title sponsor, but the South Carolina staple signed a five-year deal with the Royal Bank of Canada in June.

Cadillac’s sponsorship of the World Golf Championships event at Doral runs through 2016, but unless they can relocate the Blue Monster to Detroit and trade its March date for something closer to the Fourth of July, Cut Line suspects we haven’t heard the last from GM.

Freddie Couples. Boom Boom has made this clear: you can’t spell Presidents Cup without T-I-G-E-R. The U.S. captain has said on numerous occasions that, even at 28th on the current points list, Woods will be among his dozen in November when the matches return to Royal Melbourne.

“There will be somebody upset because they’ve probably had an incredible year. If Tiger can show us he can play back to any kind of form he’ll be great to have on the team,” said Couples, although he softened his stance this week and is urging Woods to add some starts to his pre-Presidents Cup schedule.

Still, there are currently 17 potential “somebodies” who could get passed over for a Woods pick, which Couples will make on Sept. 26. Among that group is your most-recent major winner and two-time 2011 Tour champion Keegan Bradley (No. 18), cup stalwart Zach Johnson (No. 14) and last year’s Ryder Cup star and Rookie of the Year Rickie Fowler (No. 11).

We can just see the text message from Captain America now, “I’m really sorry, but I promised Michael Jordan . . .”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.