Cut Line: World Golf HOF should take a page from MLB

By Rex HoggardJanuary 11, 2013, 4:53 pm

For those who contend the season doesn’t really start until next week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, or maybe it’s the Farmers Insurance Open, Cut Line offers a crowded dance card of comings and goings that begins with The Honda Classic’s move to keep PGA National in the PGA Tour rotation and may end with Kapalua dropping out of the lineup.

Made Cut

No Hall Call. Whatever side of the Barry Bonds/Roger Clemens debate you reside on, this week’s no-vote by Baseball’s Hall of Fame makes the World Golf Hall of Fame’s increasingly inclusionary practices seem reactionary.

No major leaguer received the 75 percent of the vote required for induction for just the eighth time since 1936, the ugly byproduct of the game’s steroids era and an intriguing lead for golf’s HOF to follow.

Where baseball seems content with quality over quantity, the World Golf Hall of Fame sees strength in numbers even when it seems a more discerning approach would be a better option.

As one golf scribe recently pointed out, this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Good. If everyone is special, no one is.

Location, location, location. The Honda Classic’s status as one of the circuit’s most improved stops received another boost this week with news the event had extended its contract with PGA National.

Following more than a decade of substandard venues and poor fields, the brain trust in South Florida realized those two elements are not mutually exclusive and moved to PGA National in 2007. The results have been indisputable.

In 2012, the event may have had the best closing round (non-major category) thanks to Tiger Woods’ spirited Sunday charge and Rory McIlroy’s gutsy victory, and the event has quickly become a “can’t miss” stop on the crowded Florida swing.

It doesn’t hurt that many high-profile Tour types (Woods, McIlroy, et al) now call South Florida home, but the No. 1 rule when trying to woo a quality field on Tour is simple – location, location, location.

Tweet of the week: @Scott_Langley “Here we go! #SonyOpen”

On cue, the rookie roared out in his first turn as a card-carrying member with an 8-under 62 to take the early lead. Apparently Langley never got the memo that says newcomers are supposed to ease their way into Tour life.

Keeping up with Jones. Good to see the American Society of Golf Course Architects named Rees Jones this year’s recipient of the Donald Ross Award. Whether you like Jones’ work or not, his impact on the game, particularly at the highest level, is undeniable.

There are four Jones redesigns in the PGA Tour rotation this year and that doesn’t include his current work at venerable staples like Oakland Hills, Baltusrol and Bellerive.

The Open Doctor’s portfolio is beyond reproach, but Cut Line can only assume that Phil Mickelson didn’t have a vote for the Ross Award.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Celebrity. It was a telling measure of McIlroy’s growing reach that on the same day he announced plans for his new charity foundation, pictures of what were reportedly the Ulsterman’s new Nike Golf clubs were leaked.

A member of Team Rory declined to comment on the pictures but did say they were disappointed the incident overshadowed the release of McIlroy’s “six bags” initiative, which will begin next week in Abu Dhabi and benefit the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.

It’s a valuable lesson that took Woods more than a decade to learn: When the world is watching it’s often impossible to control the message.

Oh, captain. Next year’s European Ryder Cup captain, and possibly the 2016 skipper, will be announced next week in Abu Dhabi and momentum seems to be building for Colin Montgomerie to get a second turn at the big chair.

Although Monty – who was successful in his first campaign (2010) and owns a home just miles from Gleneagles, site of the 2014 matches – is certainly a viable option it seems the European tournament committee, like the PGA of America, is missing an opportunity.

Although Sandy Lyle’s Ryder Cup snub doesn’t feel as egregious as Larry Nelson’s, it is still one of the game’s great mysteries that a two-time major champion from Scotland doesn’t even rate consideration.

Missed Cut

Aloha. To be fair there is nothing organizers at last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions could have done about the blustery conditions that reduced the event to 54 holes and pushed the finale to Tuesday, but the weather woes will do little to help a tournament already on the ropes.

This is the last year of Hyundai’s current deal with the tournament and the combination of poor weather and missing stars (last week’s event was played sans world No. 1 McIlroy, No. 2 Luke Donald and No. 3 Woods) will only make the current contract talks to secure an extension that much more difficult.

As former Kapalua organizer Mark Rolfing told the Honolulu Advertiser last week, “weaker fields and the date’s conflict with the International Consumer Electronics Show could mortally wound a Tour stop that goes back nearly 50 years.”

For the record, if Hyundai fails to re-sign and the event goes the way of the Dodo bird it would mark the second tournament hijacked by the circuit’s new split-calendar schedule (the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic should be considered the first), but it would be the most high profile.

The dreaded pass along. It occurs from time to time when something Cut Line has written is relayed to a player via a third party and something is lost in translation. Something like that transpired last week between NBC’s Johnny Miller and Ian Poulter; though, Cut Line was not involved.

During the telecast of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Miller referred to the Englishman as “fairly dramatic.” When the episode was passed on to Poulter via his legion of followers on Twitter, however, he was led to believe Miller called him a “drama queen.”

This prompted a series of pointed tweets from Poulter including, “Johnny Miller why don't you come interview me live and say that stuff straight to my face. . . . Was (sic) you watching a different channel?”

For all of Twitter’s attributes, and believe me Cut Line would be lost without its 140-character updates, it is what the platform fails to provide that is often the most concerning – context.

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Sergio can now 'relax and trust it' after Masters win

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 4:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia says he didn’t let down his guard after winning the Masters and coast through the rest of the PGA Tour season.

If anything, he says, he burned more to win after claiming his first major championship title last spring.

“I was hungry or hungrier than I was before,” Garcia said while preparing for his first PGA Tour start of 2018 at the Honda Classic. “It doesn't change ... After the Masters, from The Players until probably the middle of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wanted to do well so badly.”

Garcia said his push to build on that Masters win probably caused him to be more erratic, trying to make things happen.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

“That's why my game would be very good a couple of rounds, and then a couple of rounds not quite as good, for putting that extra pressure,” Garcia said. “And then when I started to kind of relax and say, ‘You know, just keep doing what you're doing, you're playing well, you're playing great, just trust it and keep at it.’ That's when things started coming along a little bit easier.”

That “relax and trust it” attitude helped Garcia win the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in the fall and the Singapore Open last month.

After 15 years with TaylorMade, Garcia agreed late last year to a new multi-year equipment deal with Callaway, to play their balls and equipment.

Garcia on making the transition: “It was very easy, I think, for a couple of reasons. One of them, I moved to a great company that makes great equipment, and second of all, usually, I get used to new equipment quite easily, even in my old brand. I used to be one of the first ones to change the new equipment.”

Garcia played the Chrome Soft X when he won in Singapore.

“It hasn't been a stressful move or anything like that,” Garcia said. “I really love the golf ball. I think the golf ball, for me, it's been a step forward from the past years.”

Win or not, this will be a big spring for Garcia. His wife, Angela, is expecting their first child in March.

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For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.

Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

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Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

A Titleist representative declined to comment when reached by Golf Channel.

“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

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Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!