McIlroy, collapses, anchored putters highlight 2012

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2012, 4:45 pm

According to the Chinese calendar 2012 was the Year of the Dragon, but as we sorted through the year-end edition of Cut Line it became clear this was a season of change (PGA Tour, U.S. Golf Association, PGA of America), collapse (Jim Furyk, Adam Scott) and coronation (Rory McIlroy).

Made Cut

Rory McIlroy. An encore was always going to be a tough pull for the Northern Irishman following what was a historic 2011, but at 23 years old he delivered again.

After a rousing victory at The Honda Classic over Tiger Woods in March, McIlroy added his second Grand Slam tilt, rewriting another major record book at the PGA, won two of four FedEx Cup playoff events and completed the transatlantic double with money-list titles on both the PGA Tour and European Tour.

Maybe more impressive, however, was how McIlroy dealt with what some called his first professional slump. After his Honda victory, McIlroy missed four of five cuts and added the Fedex St. Jude Classic to his schedule in a move to steady the ship.

It's one thing to ride a hot streak, but the Ulsterman’s ability to 'fix' things on the fly may have been his greatest accomplishment in 2012.

U.S. Golf Association. Whatever your opinion on the impending anchoring ban give credit to the USGA, with an assist to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, for moving thoughtfully and deliberately through an emotionally charged  landscape.

USGA executive director Mike Davis made the best of a complicated situation that was not of his doing and created a new rule that is clear if not concise.

Davis & Co. also get credit for a Sunday setup at The Olympic Club that tested every aspect of the players' games, including a new tee box at No. 16 that Jim Furyk is still trying to wrap his head around.

Tweets of the Year: It was Twitter at its 140-character best, two high-profile players playfully trading barbs and self-deprecating humor that began with Keegan Bradley (@Keegan_Bradley) reacting to Thursday's news that Tom Watson would captain the 2014 U.S. team.

'Congrats to Tom Watson on being named USA Ryder Cup captain! I hope to have the privilege to play for him.' Which was followed by two more tweets: 'Cue the belly putter comments . . .'

'All this Ryder Cup talk is getting me excited. Can we play now?'

Which prompted McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) to join the fun: 'You wanna get beaten again already?'

Note to Watson: Whatever you do in ’14 at Gleneagles, we have to see Rory vs. Keegan II on Sunday.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

PGA Tour. Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., secured a new long-term agreement with FedEx for its season-long race, introduced a new qualifying process and completed the delicate transition to a split-calendar schedule that begins next season. Along the way, however, there was collateral damage.

Gone from the 2013-14 lineup will be the Disney stop, a Tour staple since 1971, and direct access to the circuit via Q-School, an extreme makeover that will leave many veterans, and likely more than a few newcomers, professionally adrift next fall.

The Tour has also embraced an increasingly international schedule with the addition of the CIMB Classic and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Asia to the official docket, but it seems to have come at a cost for long-time domestic stops. So much so the circuit may want to adjust its old marketing campaign to 'These guys are good and have passports.'

PGA of America. For an organization that hosts a maximum of two marquee events a season, and that's only in even-numbered years, the PGA made more than its share of headlines in 2012.

Kiawah Island, site of this year’s PGA Championship, produced a worthy champion (McIlroy) and an endless stream of 'beauties' for the national television audience but was nothing short of a logistical nightmare for the thousands who tried, and often failed, to attend Glory’s Last Shot. If the PGA is married to another Low Country major, may we suggest the powers dig up the Ocean Course and put it in a more geographically friendly locale.

The organization also broke the mold this week by naming 63-year-old Tom Watson the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Perhaps Old Tom is a natural to lead the U.S. team in two years in Scotland, but president Ted Bishop’s acknowledgement that this pick was 13 months in the making is curious.

Let's say Davis Love III's dozen doesn’t collapse on Sunday at Medinah, and the U.S. improves to two for three since 2008 with a one-point loss in ’10 in Wales, did the system really need to be blown up?

Missed Cut

Closers. Golf had the look of a Chicago Cubs bullpen in 2012, with enough blown leads to fill an entire September swoon.

In order, Tiger Woods began the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with a two-stroke advantage and closed with a 73; Jim Furyk started Sunday at The Olympic Club leading by two and limped in with a 74 and Adam Scott was four clear of the field at the Open Championship and signed for a 75. All three lost.

Of course the ultimate blown save came at September's Ryder Cup when the U.S. side began Sunday's singles frame with a commanding 10-6 lead, failed to win a point in the first five matches and succumbed to the largest collapse by a home team in event history.

It was, by any measure, a tough year for front-runners.

Luke Donald. Although the affable Englishman will likely close the year at No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he managed just a single win in the U.S. in 2012 (Transitions Championship), failed to seriously contend in any of the year’s majors and simply didn’t appear as sharp as he was in '11.

The lowlight, however, came during the Deutsche Bank Championship when he committed the ultimate social media faux pas and inadvertently tweeted a series of critical messages directed at architect Gil Hanse following a round at TPC Boston. 'Nothing quite like hitting my best shot of the day into the last and walking off with a (bogey), what a terribly redesigned green. #sourtaste,' was the G-Rated of the two tweets.

Donald later apologized for the tweet, which he said was supposed to be a private message, and, thankfully, has returned as one of the game’s most-creative tweeters.

Olympic Golf. Although the Games are still some four years away golf's return to the Olympics is off to a shaky start as organizers scramble to be ready for 2016.

An ongoing land dispute in Brazil has pushed back the start of construction of the Olympic golf course and may jeopardize the timing of a 'test tournament' on the '16 venue. As one official recently explained to Cut Line, the test event could be played in early 2016 but that would leave little time to make any adjustments before the Games.

Organizers also seem to have missed the mark on golf’s format for the Games. Although 72-hole stroke play may be the preferred method of crowning a champion among the play-for-pay set, there is a growing sentiment to come up with a more creative format. All these questions and concerns may be sorted out in time, but this was likely not the smooth start organizers envisioned.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."