Cut Line: Why take Presidents Cup back to Australia?

By Rex HoggardOctober 16, 2015, 9:10 pm

Despite a shorter offseason than the lifespan of an average housefly, the PGA Tour gets back to work this week with a surprising number of hot-stove topics, from a truly courageous comeback to a questionable move to send the Presidents Cup back to Australia.

Made Cut

The comeback continues. Last June, Jarrod Lyle cut short his comeback from leukemia just 10 tournaments into the season. On Thursday, the affable Australian resumed his quest to reestablish himself on the Tour.

Lyle opened with a 3-under 69 on Day 1 at the Open in his first event back since last May’s Crowne Plaza Invitational.

He admits now that he probably came back too early last year. After confirming with doctors in Australia that he’s still cancer-free, he begins the 2015-16 season on a mission.

Lyle has 10 events to earn $283,825 and retain his Tour card on a major medical exemption and complete what would be one of the most inspiring comebacks in modern golf.

The Price of progress. It wasn’t the ending Nick Price had hoped for, but Sunday’s finish at the Presidents Cup, the event coming down to the last hole in the last match, was a reason for the two-time International captain to be optimistic.

Price’s contention that fewer points, like the Ryder Cup, adds up to a more competitive event was at least partially proven by his team’s one-point loss and the final-day theatrics.

Still, Price wasn’t overly optimistic that the Tour would continue to tinker with the format in an attempt to maintain that newfound competitiveness.

“It’s going to be hard now to make any more changes, because he [Tour commissioner Tim Finchem] is going to say it’s so exciting,” Price said. “In all honesty, if you look at what the Ryder Cup has, that 28 points and no restrictions on who is playing, that’s been some real excitement. I think we need to give this another chance.”

It’s doubtful the Tour will reduce the total number of points available from 30 to 28, but it’s going to be an interesting exit interview between Finchem and Price.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Road games. Last week’s Presidents Cup in Korea drew thousands of fans (officials estimated attendance at 25,000 on Sunday), which is what one would expect from the event’s first trip to Asia.

Growing the game has always been a part of the Presidents Cup’s DNA, perhaps the only thing the U.S. vs. the rest of the world matches have in common with the Ryder Cup, which made last week’s news that the event will return to Australia in 2019 curious.

Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte reported this week that officials in South Africa balked at the $29 million price tag to host the event for the second time, which opened the door for Australia in ’19.

But if officials really want to use the matches to grow the game in emerging markets it should have taken the circus on the road to South America or back to Asia, which are both widely considered “emerging markets.”

Australia, whether the event is played at Royal Melbourne or elsewhere, is arguably the event’s best road venue, but drawing a crowd isn’t the same as drawing interest.

Tweet of the week: @EuropeanTour “Due to the adverse weather forecast Round 3 will be a shotgun start at 8:00 [a.m.], with the leaders teeing off from the first hole.”

There was no word on which holes officials plan to use for the longest drive contest and closest to the pin.

Missed Cut

Waiting to exhale. Eighteen days - that’s how long the Tour’s offseason lasted. That’s hardly enough time for FedEx Cup champion Jordan Spieth to count the $23 million in cash and bonuses he earned last season and nowhere near long enough for fans to miss the game.

It’s an old argument that has been compounded in recent years by the circuit’s wraparound schedule and the Tour’s contention that if fans want to tune out for a few months they are welcome to pick up the action in January in Hawaii.

But this goes beyond fan interest. It will be the players who will suffer burnout. World No. 3 Rory McIlroy is in the field this week in California but his appearance is a “make good” agreement with the Tour for playing an event in Europe a few years back.

Justin Rose is the only other top-10 player at the season opener, and don’t expect the fields to get much deeper this fall. With the exception of the WGC-HSBC Champions, a no-cut event that counts as a start on the European Tour, the fall events are the season’s weakest fields according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

On this the players are speaking with their feet, and the quality of the product is suffering.

Tough crowd. There is no shortage of postseason awards doled out by the Tour, but the circuit’s decision to not present the Courage Award is curious.

The award was created in 2012 to replace the Comeback Player of the Year Award and is given to a player who “through courage or perseverance has overcome extraordinary adversity [such as personal tragedy or a debilitating injury or illness].”

Two candidates quickly come to mind in Lyle and Steven Bowditch, who advanced to the Tour Championship for the first time and played for the International Presidents Cup team after nearly being forced from the game with clinical depression.

But it seems neither player qualified for the Courage Award, which is selected by the commissioner and four player directors and appears to have a ridiculously high standard.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.