New Cut Line Rule Still an Issue for Players

By Associated PressJanuary 15, 2008, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)HONOLULU -- Democracy arrived the day after 18 players who made the cut at the Sony Open were sent home.
On the bulletin board in the Waialae Country Club locker room, next to a notice of a mandatory player meeting in two weeks at Torrey Pines, someone posted a one-question survey written in pencil.
Do you agree with the new cut policy?
The vote was unanimous -- 6-0 against the new policy, with 63 abstaining.
That's the problem with independent contractors with a free lunch and millionaire's income. They preach about policies that supposedly are ruining their lives, but when it comes time to do something, they go to the range.
Or maybe they don't think anyone will listen.
'It's always back to the same thing,' Stephen Ames said. 'Play better.'
Ames didn't sign the sheet, although he said he disagrees with the policy. He feels more strongly about how the tour reached this decision, which essentially amounted to some 20 players speaking for 250 without really talking to them at all.
The policy that has raised so many hackles?
Whenever the top 70 and ties includes more than 78 players, the nearest number to 70 make the cut. The others still get credit for making the cut, and they receive official, last-place money and FedExCup points. But they don't get to play.
Twelve times last year -- and that's about average for the last decade -- the top 70 and ties to make the cut led to a weekend field almost the size of some tournaments. That meant a two-tee start with three players to a group, 5 1/2 -hour rounds, as many as three groups waiting on tees, and some players grumbling why it takes so long.
The highest number of players to make the cut last year was 89 at Disney, and perhaps it's no coincidence the policy board approved the new cut policy about a week later.
Among the 18 players it affected at the Sony Open was John Daly, who was playing on a sponsor's exemption and was outraged. It seems he met a family from Australia on Wednesday that had saved up money to come to Hawaii and watch him play, but they couldn't make it to the tournament until Saturday.
'I make the cut, and now they're not going to be able to watch me play,' Daly told GOLF CHANNEL.
Even if you believe that story, anyone claiming to be a Daly fan knows better than to wait until Saturday to watch him play. Sometimes it's not safe to wait until Friday. Daly withdrew six times last year; Jack Nicklaus withdrew seven times in a career spanning four decades.
The outrage is that a guy with a history of quitting is the first to complain about not getting to play.
But forget Daly for a minute.
What happens when a guy who actually sells tickets is sent home under this rule?
'I'd like to see if, by chance, Mr. Woods happened to be in that mix, and he has to go home, how the sponsors would feel,' Ames said. 'The No. 1 player, the star of the PGA TOUR, and he has to go home?'
The six who signed their names against the policy were Jerry Kelly, Paul Azinger, Carl Pettersson, Jay Williamson, Daniel Chopra and Patrick Sheehan. If you notice that none is among the top 50 in the world, consider that Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh also were outspoken against it.
'I don't like the rule,' Stricker said. 'It just seems like it doesn't benefit any of the players. It seems like our tour is about giving opportunity, and here's one they're taking away.'
And players were worried about the point structure in the FedExCup?
This is a far more meaningful -- and divisive -- issue.
The classic case study is Jose Maria Olazabal in 2002 at Torrey Pines, where he made the cut on the number and wound up winning when the cut was 85 players.
Twice last year when the cut was more than 78 players, those who made it on the number wound up in the top 10 -- Anthony Kim tied for third in New Orleans, Bo Van Pelt tied for sixth in Hartford. That's worth not only money, but FedExCup points. And with the Ryder Cup points based on dollars this year, it takes on greater significance.
But in this televised era of golf -- and remember, that's where the $280 million in prize money comes from -- who wants to see 5 1/2 -hour rounds and the final group having to wait 30 minutes on a tee late in the round, which recently happened in Las Vegas?
Both sides have merit. The broader issue is how these decisions are made.
The 16-member Player Advisory Council was roughly 75 percent in favor of the cut policy, so it went to the nine-member policy board. On matters related to competition, any change requires a majority of the four players on the board.
The cut policy was an unanimous decision.
Ames' excellent suggestion was to take a vote of the full membership, much the same way everyone votes on player of the year and other awards. Would it have been so difficult to give them a list of options and let the majority rule?
Or they could simply get more involved, which is what Kelly intends to do.
Each year, Kelly takes his name off the PAC ballot because he doesn't think anyone will listen. He forgot to do that this year, and lo and behold, he was elected. And he is determined to make a difference.
'There's a heck of a lot of guys who need a voice,' Kelly said. 'I didn't think a voice could be heard. We'll find out.'
Kelly is certain the cut policy will be a big topic next week at the mandatory meeting, which was scheduled to discuss the anti-doping policy. Then again, at the last mandatory players' meeting in May, half the guys didn't even show up.
And most left early.
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”