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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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.