Cut Line: Woods, McIlroy in a Memorial Daze

By Rex HoggardMay 31, 2013, 9:14 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – There will be no fifth title of 2013 for Tiger Woods, no excuses from Rory McIlroy at the Memorial and no easy answers to the anchoring conundrum for the PGA Tour. ‘Tis the season for May Sours.

Made Cut

It’s good to be Freddie. Tiger Woods asks for his autograph, President Barack Obama wants to know how he’s so cool under pressure and iconic Jack Nicklaus wants to hear his stories.

Freddie Couples is golf’s “Most Interesting Man” and the last week has been even better than normal for the crazy cool 53-year-old. On Wednesday, Couples visited the White House with Nick Price, who will captain the International Presidents Cup team later this year.

After a 20-minute rap session with the commander-in-chief Couples out-dueled Tiger Woods on Day 1 at the Memorial before heading to yet another engagement.

“And now I’m going to interview Jack (Nicklaus). So, la de da,” Couples smiled.

For good measure, Couples also rounded out his staff for this year’s Presidents Cup – which he will captain for a third time – with good friend Davis Love III. Michael Jordan must have been too busy to answer Boom Boom’s text.

A better tempo. Within minutes of each other the game’s two most influential people spoke out against slow play, both on the PGA Tour and at the grassroots level.

First it was Nicklaus who took a stand against the game’s languid pace.

“You really need to play the game in three hours or less – that's what we need,” he said Wednesday at Muirfield Village. “We need to have changes within the game of golf, not only for us and for the Tour. I think the Tour ultimately needs to shorten their time span. I don't think they would argue with that.”

Not long afterward, it was Woods who was asked what his biggest concern is with golf.

“We need to speed that up,” he said. “Who wants to go out there and play for six hours when the game of golf should be played a lot faster than that, three or four hours, and be enjoyable? You’re sitting on public courses when you've got two or three groups on the tee – that's just not fun.”

When Tiger and Jack speak, let’s hope the game listens.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Expectations. You can’t blame Woods for the hyperbole that surrounded his start this week at the Memorial, but if he’s going to start winning events again at a historic pace – in six stroke-play Tour events he’s won four times (that’s a .667 batting average for those scoring at home) – you can’t be surprised by the hype.

But Woods’ second-round 74 at Jack’s place, where he is the defending champion, certainly surprised the Memorial masses, who were going to be disappointed by anything short of a Friday TKO.

Through two rounds, Woods’ short game has come up short. He’s needed 30 putts each day and is even par on the par 5s (Where is Steve Stricker when you need him?)

“All in all it was a day hard fought, and that’s all I have,” Woods said.

Woods’ play through 36 holes may not be what we expected, but in fairness that’s not the world No. 1’s issue.

No short answers. This is why Tour commissioner Tim Finchem lobbied so vehemently, both in public and behind closed doors, to derail the USGA and R&A’s ban on anchoring.

Sure, the commish wanted to stand up for the 20 or so Tour types who anchor, but the bigger issue went beyond that minority. On Tuesday at Muirfield Village, Finchem outlined all of the devils in the anchoring details to the player advisory council.

If the Tour decides not to adhere to the ban – creating, essentially, the bifurcation of the Rules of Golf – the messy byproduct will be two majors (U.S. Open and British Open) and probably the Masters played under one set of rules and the other Tour events played under another set.

And what would the Tour do at the World Golf Championships, which are sanctioned by the globe’s other professional circuits, which support the ban?

If the Tour accepts the ban, which seems the likely option, there is sure to be legal action which would drain Tour coffers, not the USGA or R&A’s nest eggs.

The USGA and R&A have created a mess, and it is Finchem who now must clean it up.

Tweet of the week: @ColtKnost (Colt Knost) “USGA asking me to send something from my (U.S. Amateur) and (U.S. Public Links) wins for the museum today. Definitely sending them my belly putter I used to win.”

For the record, Cut Line recently did a walkthrough at the USGA museum and searched high and low for a long putter. None were found.

Missed Cut

Weak stomachs. We bemoan the pox that is slow play, and yet every time the slightest move is made to curb the game’s snail's pace we recoil and claim the policies, which widely don’t work, are too Draconian.

First it was Chinese teen Guan Tianlang at Augusta National in April, and now it’s Texas A&M sophomore Ty Dunlap, who was penalized a stroke for slow play during the final round of stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Championship.

Although the timing of Dunlap’s penalty was unfortunate, dropping Texas A&M into a playoff which the team lost and failed to advance to the match-play portion of the championship, the fact is the policy had been violated.

There is no perfect system to stamp out slow play. But there has to be a system and it must be followed.

Missing Rors. Just when it seemed Rory McIlroy had rediscovered his winning ways, having finished inside the top 10 in three of his last four Tour starts, he meat-handed his way to an opening 78 at the Memorial and sent United Kingdom bookmakers scrambling to set new odds for the Ulsterman for next month’s U.S. Open.

For most of the season it has been McIlroy’s putting that has let him down – he ranks 100th in strokes gained-putting – but on Thursday at Muirfield Village it was the entire package that added up to a 6-over day.

While McIlroy wants to keep the conversation between the ropes, the fact is his wholesale equipment change to start the season and rumors of another management team change have become distractions.

“Once I'm here I'm focused on what I need to do,” he said Thursday. “Right at the moment it's not happening for me.”

It would be the acme of foolishness to think the world No. 2 doesn’t figure things out eventually, but it sure would be easier without the distractions.

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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.