Cut Line: Will Match Play move help tourney?

By Rex HoggardFebruary 8, 2014, 1:01 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Crosby weather returned to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week and, let’s be honest, officials have dodged their share of forecast bullets in recent years. But clouds over the Monterey Peninsula are hardly the only concern for the PGA Tour following a less-than-star-studded West Coast swing and a WGC-Match Play marquee that will be a few leading men short of a full house.

Made Cut

A good match. Word this week at Pebble Beach is that this month’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship will be the last played at Dove Mountain outside of Tucson, Ariz.

Dove Mountain, which ranked 51st out of 52 courses on the PGA Tour in a Golf Digest poll last year, has been public enemy No. 1 since the Match Play moved to the Ritz-Carlton course in 2009, and this is the final year of the contract between the circuit and the course.

According to various sources, the event seems poised to move to Harding Park in San Francisco in 2015. The public course hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup, and held up well in the match-play format, and is assured of drawing better crowds than the isolated Dove Mountain track.

As an aside, it hasn’t snowed in San Francisco since 1962.

Lefty’s right choice. The plan this season was to dial back the schedule in order to peak when it counts at the four majors, and when Phil Mickelson was slowed by an ailing back at Torrey Pines he would have been forgiven if he had checked himself onto the DL for the next few weeks.

But the West Coast, particularly the Tour stops in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Pebble Beach, Calif., holds a special place on Lefty’s schedule; and as difficult as Friday’s conditions were, the four-time Pro-Am champion wasn’t second-guessing his decision.

Even when informed that Saturday’s forecast called for more of the same.

“More of this? Cool,” Mickelson smiled. “We’ve had a great run of weather the last six or seven years, so we certainly can’t complain. In fact, it’s sometimes a fun challenge to play out here. As the reigning Scottish and British Open champion I don’t really mind the elements.”

In an age devoid of athletic loyalty, it’s worth pointing out that Lefty did the right thing.

Tweet of the week: @JohnPetersonLSU “Sorry (Russell Henley), my canoe is full headed back into position.”

Peterson was referring to Thursday’s storm that halted play for nearly three hours. No one tell him that it’s a good day on the Monterey Peninsula when the rain stops.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Celebrity golf. No Bill Murray, no problem.

No one wants a steady diet of bad swings and canned jokes, but the combination of idyllic views of Stillwater Cove and celebrity personality makes this week’s Clambake a refreshing twist in the world of professional golf.

It’s also worth pointing out that the celebs have a surprising amount of appreciation and respect for their professional partners.

“This is my major,” smiled Kenny G, who won the pro-am portion of the competition in 2001. “I spend all year looking forward to this and I’m blown away every year by how good these guys are.”

Bing Crosby’s Clambake may not have the star pull it once did, but it still entertains.

On pace. Still not sure what took the powers that be so long to get up to speed on this issue, but at least the game’s rule-makers made it to the range-finding crossroads.

The U.S. Golf Association announced on Thursday that it will allow the use of distance-measuring devices at all USGA amateur championships and qualifying events starting in 2014.

The move was part of a broader initiative to identify the causes of and solutions to slow play, considered by some as the biggest issue facing the game. But if the power brokers really want to do something about slow play they should have taken a trickle-down approach.

For some reason the new rule doesn’t apply to the U.S. Open ... because slow play is not an issue at all on Tour.

Bracket busts. The deadline to crack the top 64 in the world golf ranking is Sunday and for some in this week’s field at Pebble Beach golf’s version of March madness is turning into a race against the clock.

Just three “bubble” players are in the Pro-Am field, with Kiradech Aphibarnrat likely safe at 66th in the world thanks to a collection of high-profile no-shows (see item below), while Bo Van Pelt (No. 73) and D.A. Points (No. 75) probably need top-five finishes to earn a trip to Dove Mountain.

Even more intriguing, Brooks Koepka’s tie for third last week in Dubai propelled him to 68th in the world, a spot ahead of roommate Peter Uihlein, who missed the cut in Dubai and dropped to 69th in the world.

As recompense, may we suggest Koepka volunteer to do the house dishes for a month to make up for his inadvertent slight.


Missed Cut

Olympic concerns. No, Cut Line isn’t referring to the increasingly critical reports coming out of Sochi, but the continued languid progress at the Olympic golf course in Rio.

This week course architect Gil Hanse told the “Morning Drive” crew that the course will “definitely” be ready for the 2016 Games and confirmed that the newly announced Latin American Amateur will probably serve as the test event for the new layout.

All good news, but watching the amount of scrutiny coming out of Sochi it’s becoming increasingly obvious that golf will not get a second chance to make a solid first impression.

West Coast woes. Whether you blame it on appearance fees, the PGA Tour’s new wraparound schedule or the perils of putting on poa greens, this year’s Left Coast swing has been something less than must-see.

To put the West Coast swoon in context, the top five players in the world golf ranking have a combined four starts on the West Coast and next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship won’t pad the marquee.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 4 Phil Mickelson have already announced they plan to skip what is rumored to be the last Match Play at Dove Mountain, and No. 5 Justin Rose remains on the fence for the year’s first World Golf Championship depending on how things go next week in Los Angeles.

Lucrative appearance fees being doled out by European Tour events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai factored into the wanting West Coast swing, as does the new split-calendar schedule which gave players a chance to pad their FedEx Cup points last year in Asia.

Combined, however, the imperfect storm has given players a reason to skip the West Coast.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.