Cut Line: Woods claims POY; Spieth tops rookie class

By Rex HoggardSeptember 27, 2013, 4:44 pm

Before we turn the page to next season – the 2013-14 campaign is off and running in just under 14 days – Cut Line takes one final look at a post-season filled with wild finishes, weather and no shortage of wonderful performances.

Made Cut

Appreciation. For all the speculation that the rank-and-file may somehow put two and two together and come up with five, reason prevailed in the annual PGA Tour Player of the Year voting.

There had been speculation that somehow Tiger Woods’ five victories weren’t good enough to deliver the world No. 1 his 11th Jack Nicklaus Award but on Friday the trophy went to this season’s only five-time Tour winner.

“It’s been an incredible year,” Woods said. “A fantastic year all around and an incredible feeling to be voted by your peers and have that kind of respect is very humbling.”

Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson – who both had three fewer Tour titles than Woods but did put majors on their resumes in 2013 – were considered the primary challengers largely because Woods failed to win a major for the fifth consecutive season.

In the end, however, the electorate went with Woods and his five bottle caps, which came against some the year’s deepest fields on the toughest golf courses (Farmers Insurance Open, Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Cadillac Championship, The Players and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).

Glad to see Tour types leaving the protest vote to the folks in Washington D.C. and the United Nations.

Jordan rules. It was kind of the Tour to include a few other names on the Rookie of the Year ballot, but this hasn’t been a contest since Jordan Spieth beat Zach Johnson in a playoff at the John Deere Classic in July.

Spieth earned his card when he tied for second at the Puerto Rico Open and followed that with a tie for seventh at the Tampa Bay Championship. He was the only rookie to qualify for the Tour Championship and also was selected by U.S. captain Fred Couples to play next week’s Presidents Cup.

But perhaps the most impressive feat for the 20-year-old is when he became the first player to earn a start at the Tour Championship after beginning the season with no Tour status since Woods in 1996 and the youngest ever to play the finale.

“To start off the year with no status and to win a tournament and not only that but get to the Tour Championship and finish in the top 10 on the money list is pretty incredible,” Woods said of Spieth.

Over the last decade or so it’s been too easy to label a young player the next big thing, but in Spieth’s case he’s come by the title honestly.

Tweet of the week: @KipHenley (Brian Gay’s caddie Kip Henley) “The Tour found out I received testosterone injections in my butt, now I am facing a 111 toornament [sic] suspension.”

Funny guy, that Henley. But if a Tour caddie is going to run afoul of the circuit’s PED program Cut Line’s money is on Steve Srticker’s man Jimmy Johnson. That guy has put in some serious OT this season.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Don't call it a comeback. In March 2012 the Tour policy board voted to stop giving out the Comeback Player of the Year Award, the byproduct of Steve Stricker’s consecutive victories in CPOY voting and what appears to be a lack of interest.

But if Henrik Stenson’s climb from the competitive trash heap to FedEx Cup champion doesn’t qualify as a bona fide comeback, then we don’t know what does.

Last year at this time, the Swede was 120th in the World Ranking and 111th on the final FedEx Cup point list. Following his victory at the season-ending Tour Championship on Sunday, his second Tour victory in three starts, his biggest concern was coming up with ways to spend his $11.4 million FedEx Cup haul.

The Tour replaced the comeback award with the PGA Tour Courage Award, which will likely be given for the first time in 2013 with Erik Compton being the top candidate to win the inaugural trophy, but it just seems like a missed opportunity considering how far Stenson has come.

Too much of a good thing. Practice tee lore has it that it was the top players who wanted the condensed schedule that the FedEx Cup era delivered, but last week at East Lake the consequence of scale seemed to shift that reality.

“I’m tired. It’s been just a long, long grind,” Woods said at the Tour Championship, and three days later Phil Mickelson suggested he would consider cutting his schedule by 25 percent in the future to maintain his competitive edge.

Things don’t get any easier next year, when the bye week which normally follows the Deutsche Bank Championship is shifted to after the Tour Championship, or 2016, when the Olympic Games condense the schedule even more.

Something has to give, and in practical terms that likely means top players like Woods and Mickelson will start looking for their own “bye” weeks in the future. Note to officials at The Barclays, you may want to hold off on finding that new mattress for Woods next year.

Missed Cut

Democracy. Although the frat brothers got it right with Woods and Spieth earning the Tour’s Player and Rookie of the Year honors, respectively, it is still baffling the circuit refuses to provide the public with voting totals for the year-end awards.

Considering the condensed window for voting this year, ballots were sent out on Monday and had to be in at 5 p.m. on Thursday, it’s likely that voter turnout was lower than in past years, when players had a month or more to cast their ballots.

But if Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., doesn’t feel comfortable publishing participation totals, why not allow for percentages, like voting in most other major professional sports and the World Golf Hall of Fame? Would it really be the end of the world if the public knew that Spieth won the Rookie of the Year Award with 99 percent of the vote (it stands to reason that fellow newcomer David Lingmerth voted for himself)?

Only the Tour could make the cornerstone of democracy (voting) seem so undemocratic.

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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.