Cut Line: What's up Down Under?

By Rex HoggardNovember 15, 2013, 5:21 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Erik Compton was awarded the PGA Tour’s inaugural Courage Award last month, but at this rate Jarrod Lyle may retire the new chalice if he continues his emotional comeback. The Australian highlights this week’s Cut Line following a frigid fortnight in Oz.

Made Cut

The fighter. Lyle’s plan this week at the Australian Masters was to survive the emotional storm of the first tee and make the cut. So far, he’s 2 for 2.

Following Thursday’s tearful 72 Lyle avoided a letdown on Friday that would have kept him from playing the weekend in his first event in 18 months by carding an even-par 71 to easily make the cut.

The plan was to use this week’s Australian Masters as a litmus test to guage his game and his stamina, but at this rate Lyle may be back on the Tour sooner rather than later.

Earlier this week, Sandy Jamieson, Lyle’s swing coach, said Lyle was far from “Tour ready,” but after just two holes on Thursday Jamieson said the “old competitor” emerged.

It turns out, those two holes may have been the hardest part of Lyle’s week.

Geoff Ogilvy, who was paired with Lyle for the first two days, described the scene on the first tee as surreal and compared the emotion to when the Presidents Cup was played at Royal Melbourne in 2011.

“You could see he had tears in his eyes when he hit it (the first tee shot),” said Brendon de Jonge, who was also paired with Lyle. “I asked him if he thought about backing off and he said, ‘No, if I would have backed off I would have started crying more.’”

There will probably be more tears on Sunday, but it’s nothing Lyle can’t handle.

Tweet of the week: @JarrodLylePGA “T-minus 4 hours until tee off. Getting very nervous now. #crappingdacks”

Scott-land. That he won the Australian PGA Championship last week on the Gold Coast, where he grew up, and put himself right back into the hunt at the Australian Masters is impressive, but Adam Scott’s greatest accomplishment since becoming the first Australian to win the green jacket is recognizing the importance of the moment.

Scott, who rarely plays more than two or three events in a row, committed to playing all four Australian-swing events this year, including the last two weeks, next week’s World Cup at Royal Melbourne and the Open. It is a clear sign he understands the significance of his Masters victory and the impact it could have on golf in Oz.

“With (Greg) Norman, I felt he was larger than life and I don’t feel like that’s what I’m doing, but I did enjoy seeing so many kids out there (at the Australian PGA),” Scott said. “Hopefully I can help the next bunch of guys come along.”

Giants come in all sizes, gentle and otherwise.

A caddie career. Last week as Scott was making his triumphant return to Australia, his caddie Steve Williams revealed he may be ready for semi-retirement after the 2014 season.

Williams, who will turn 50 next month, said he will caddie next season for Scott and then dial back his workload in ’15, perhaps working the more high-profile events like the majors and World Golf Championships to spend more time at home with his family and racing cars.

“He was honest with me a couple of years ago and said he didn’t have long in him,” Scott said. “If I play really good next year maybe I can persuade him to go one more season.”

Although Williams has endured his share of controversy and has had a somewhat contentious relationship with the press, his looping credentials are impeccable. He’s caddied his bosses to 14 major championships – 13 with Tiger Woods and one with Scott – and has been a looping staple for more than 30 years.

There are no caddies in the World Golf Hall of Fame, but after Jim “Bones” Mackay there is no one who is more deserving of a spot in St. Augustine, Fla., than Williams.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Too little, too late. Former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman took to the podium this month at the U.S. Golf Association’s pace of play summit and cautioned the organization against being in “complete lockstep with the R&A on golf rules and policy issues.”

Beman went on to say that the “bifurcation of the rules for equipment needs to be more fully examined” and that “no sport has been hurt by different rules for different levels of play – including golf.”

While Beman’s take is certainly a popular one in the wake of this year’s ban on anchoring, Cut Line can’t help but wonder where he and his bully pulpit were when the anchoring debate was reaching a crescendo earlier this year.

He is, after all, a regular fourball partner of current commissioner Tim Finchem in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. A little small talk between shots could have gone a long way.

365 and counting. Briny Baird, who is winless in 365 career Tour starts, is long past metaphorical victories and learning experiences, and Sunday’s letdown at the McGladrey Classic will likely weigh on the veteran for some time.

But if it is true we learn more about ourselves in defeat than we do in victory his near miss at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort spoke volumes.

“This game’s so humbling it’s incredible,” said Baird, who hit his approach into a water hazard at the 72nd hole to lose to Chris Kirk by a stroke. “I could have crawled into a shell walking up to the green on 18 knowing that I had no realistic chance at winning the golf tournament  . . . you got to take away some silver linings.”

The silver lining for Baird is that PGA Tour start No. 366 was just a few days away at this week’s OHL Classic.

A royal head scratcher. PGA of America president Ted Bishop told Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” crew on Thursday that the association would consider Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush “a great first international major” venue for the PGA Championship.

While we agree with Bishop that the seaside gem would be an ideal major stop for the PGA, doesn’t the United Kingdom already have a major championship?

The PGA’s potentially bold move to take its championship abroad has merit, but if Bishop & Co. are keen for a road show it seems an Asian stop would have the greatest impact.

Or, considering the affinity held for Royal Melbourne by the game’s top players and the proximity to a major market, the Sand Belt classic would also be worth a look.

If the PGA is really interested in a game changer, it’s the deep end of the pool, not the other side of the pond, that awaits.

Missed Cut

A real split. The Tour’s new split-calendar schedule has had a domino effect on all of golf, but listening to observers this week in Australia has brought to light yet another unintended consequence.

On the heels of last week’s news that Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., will launch PGA Tour China next season, organizers in Australia are taking a wait-and-see approach.

For years, a handful of Tour events played in Australia and New Zealand gave up-and-coming players from the region an avenue to Tour membership (see Lyle, Jarrod, 2013’s comeback kid). But those events are gone as is access to the game’s top stage via Q-School.

It’s a reality that will likely drive Australia’s best and brightest to the European Tour, which is not good for the U.S. circuit or the players.


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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's Friday 71 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods got caught in the Bear Trap on Friday, but bit back with a late birdie to sign for 1-over 71 on a difficult day at PGA National, where he sits four off the lead heading into the weekend at the Honda Classic.

Woods started at even par in Round 2 and began Friday with a bogey at the par-4 second, before getting that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. He remained there with this enthusiastic par save at the par-4 11th.

Tiger poured in three more pars at was just two off the 3-under pace when he rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. He dropped another shot and fell to 2 over when he three-putted 16.

But he wouldn't leave the Bear Trap at a total loss. At the diabolical par-3 17th, Woods wowed the jam-packed stands with a flagged 5-iron iron and a 12-foot putt for birdie, pulling him back to plus-1 for the week.

Woods would go on to par the closing hole, leaving him in a tie for 14th with two rounds to play.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.