Cut Line: Woods remains front and center

By Rex HoggardFebruary 7, 2015, 1:14 am

SAN DIEGO – It’s not always sunny in Southern California, as Tiger Woods learned on Thursday, but the legal clouds certainly parted in the United Kingdom for Rory McIlroy. The game’s top two draws highlight this week’s Cut Line.

Made Cut

Settle-ing in. So maybe it cost Rory McIlroy $20 million, can you put a price tag on clarity of thought when you’re closing in on golf history?

That’s how much it cost the world No. 1 to settle his lawsuit with his former management firm, Horizon Sports, this week.

The trial, which stemmed from a contract McIlroy claimed charged excessive fees, would have been a distraction as the Northern Irishman prepared to win the final leg of the Grand Slam in April at Augusta National.

There is no sugarcoating this – $20 million is a steep price to pay – but if McIlroy slips a green jacket over his shoulders in April it will have been worth every penny.

A legend’s legacy. Charlie Sifford died on Tuesday. He was 92.

Sifford was the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour, earning him the distinction of being dubbed the “Jackie Robinson of golf” when he broke the game’s color barrier in 1961.

The two-time PGA Tour winner was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November and his impact on the game became even more evident on Wednesday when Woods addressed his passing.

“As I've alluded to in the past, he's like my grandpa that I never had,” Woods said. “It's been a long night and it's going to be a long few days. But he fought, and what he did, the courage it took for him to stick with it and be out here and play, I probably wouldn't be here, my dad would never have picked up the game, who knows if the clause would still exist or not. But he broke it down.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Withdrawal. Why an MDF for Woods? Because Cut Line doesn’t dole out incomplete grades.

For all the grassy knoll conspiracy types, know this – Woods was hurting (although in text messages with Golf Channel’s Notah Begay he said it was not an injury that forced him to withdraw, just tightness) at Torrey Pines. From his second tee shot until the moment he climbed the fairway to his 11th green, the pain was evident.

And for those who seem to think Woods withdrew because he was playing poorly – he was 2 over par when he bolted the course – consider that things were much worse last Friday when he posted his highest score on Tour as a professional (82) and yet he finished the round.

“It's frustrating that [his back] started shutting down like that. I was ready to go,” Woods said after his third withdrawal in his last eight official PGA Tour starts. “I had a good warm-up session the first time around. Then we stood out here and I got cold, and everything started deactivating again.” 

Until Woods is healthy and plays something close to a sustained schedule there is no way to accurately assess his game, although it should be pointed out that play stoppages and delays are a part of professional golf and dealing with them is a job requirement.

One thing you can say for Woods, he changed the conversation. On Friday at Torrey Pines no one was talking about the yips.

The task at hand. As well intentioned as the U.S. Ryder Cup task force was following another American loss last September, the 11-member panel may be reaching a point of diminishing returns.

Following multiple meetings, including Monday’s gathering in San Diego, they seem no closer to a solution and one source familiar with the meetings told Cut Line not to expect any announcement until the spring.

“I’d love to do it. Whoever is the next captain I believe they want other players involved who would be the next few captains,” Fred Couples, a consensus favorite to captain the next U.S. team in 2016, told Cut Line this week. “It would be fun.”

There are baffling rumors that the PGA of America is not leaning in Couples’ direction, which would suggest a continuation of the status quo and an indication that the task force’s conversations have taken a wrong turn.

Missed Cut

A bad loop. For the last few months the Tour has met every request from the Association of Professional Tour Caddies with varying degrees of cynicism and outright subterfuge, according to recent legal filings.

Those unproductive meetings have sprung a lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, that challenges the Tour’s practice of not compensating the caddies for wearing bibs.

While most lawsuits are contentious, this one has all the markings of a particularly nasty episode, with the lead lawyer for the caddies sending a letter to Tour players on Thursday claiming the circuit is “blowing smoke and creating havoc.”

Although the issue is complicated, considering the nuanced relationship between independent contractors (players) hiring independent contractors (caddies), it is worth mentioning that this is the same court that ruled against the NCAA in the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case last year – a suit which argued that upon graduation, a former student athlete should become entitled to financial compensation for NCAA's commercial uses of his or her image.

The Tour, a similarly powerful organization with unlimited resources, may want to stop talking about what this may cost the players and consider what it could cost the Tour.

Tweet of the week:

Too many cooks. There may not be a more lonely man than a struggling golfer, but that only applies during a round.

Otherwise, the Tour is filled with well-intended, would-be helpers who are more than happy to offer advice. Even if the player in need of help is Woods.

Prior to Wednesday’s pro-am, as Woods mulled around the Torrey Pines practice tee, there was no shortage of players who approached the former world No. 1 offering pro bono advice on his chipping woes.

“I don’t know much about the swing. I did notice there was a lot going on.” Couples said. “On the range we stood there in the fog and he had a lot of people try to help him and stuff. I just thought it was kind of funny.”

Misery, it seems, attracts company.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.