Chew on This

By Rex HoggardMay 15, 2009, 4:00 pm
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Dont be fooled, La Cantera may dwell in the shadow of an amusement park but for those on the wrong side of the cut it is not the happiest place on earth. In honor of the last tournament turn at La Cantera, Cut Line takes a rollercoaster ride through the game.
 
Made Cut
 
  • John Daly: Regardless of your tilt towards the Austin Powers-inspired wardrobe and 43-year-olds with bleached highlights, the big mans first two rehab starts on the European circuit are nothing short of captivating.
     
    And for all the cynics perched in Turn 2 awaiting the fiery pile up know this about the slimmed-down Daly, the world quickly became much less accommodating toward his off-course shenanigans and personal, as well as professional, extinction can be a powerful motivator.
     
    Exhibit A is JDs current swing through the Euro Tour. There was a time six-figure appearance fees were hardly enough to get him on a plane to the Continent. Hes touring Europe on his own dime these days. The reclamation project may still be a fashion mess but hes doing just fine on the golf course.
     
  • Anthony Kim: His game may be a few dimples off, the likely byproduct of assorted injuries and an off-season that was anything but off, but his presence in the field this week at the Valero Texas Open defies the selfish stereotype of the modern professional athlete.
     
    In 2006 Texas officials granted AK a sponsor exemption into what was then a fall afterthought and his tie for second place turned out to be a glimpse of things to come. Kim returned to the event in 07 after a stellar rookie season, but he had to miss last year because of scheduling issues.
     
    After 07 you felt like hed met his obligation, said Tony Piazzi, the CEO and president of the organization that runs the Texas Open. Then he turns around and comes to this years event. Thats cool.
     
    Texas, where Kim is the only top-20 player in the field, is AKs third consecutive start and the beginning of a run that will add up to seven events in eight weeks through the U.S. Open. All of which makes his San Antonio stop-over very cool, indeed.
     

     
    Missed Cut ' Did not finish (MDF)
     
  • David Feherty: If the CBS Sports funnyman is guilty of anything its not bringing the heat. His comment in a Dallas magazine last week wasnt even among the top 100 funniest things hes ever written and, truth be told, probably not among the top five most offensive.
     
    Sensitivities aside, Feherty is paid to entertain and does funny better than anyone else in the business. If he takes things a bit too far at times hes earned some freebies. Besides, of all the people wed want muzzled in golf, the Northern Irishman wouldnt even be in our top 100.
     
  • Henrik Stenson: The Swede was impressive on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, but the chatter that followed didnt pass the bandwagon sniff test. He may be a big-game hunter ' with victories now at uber-field events in Dubai, the Match Play and The Players ' but were not penciling him into our fantasy lineup for the big brawl next month at Bethpage just yet.
     
    Phil Mickelson proved last year that you cant win a U.S. Open without a driver in your bag and, with all due respect to that nuclear 3-wood, Stenson ' by his own admission ' does not have a driver in his bag.
     
  • Drug testing: OK, the revelation that Paul Goydos ' the former high school teacher who, well, still looks like a high school teacher ' was the first player tested for performance-enhancing drugs at a major championship makes about as much sense as 600 yard par 5s and travelling handicaps.
     
    But in dizzying order the sports world has been rocked by more drug scandals in recent days that make Goydos turn at the testing counter at least understandable.
     
    While no one should be surprised that Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez tested positive for a banned substance, further soiling a sport that should simply change its logo to a fully-loaded syringe, but word last week that NASCARs Jeremy Mayfield had tested positive put the Tours testing initiative in perspective.
     
    Before Mayfields gaffe, it was hard to imagine NASCAR drivers testing positive for anything more harmful than Copenhagen snuff and Bud Light. Maybe drug-testing on Tour isnt a bad idea after all.
     

     
    Missed Cut
     
  • 'Made cut-did not finish': While we have little interest in rekindling the made cut-did not finish debate from last year, we were flummoxed to see the secondary axe take a few prisoners last week at The Players.
     
    If the Tour is serious about dubbing The Players the fifth major, it needs to exempt the event from the 78-player rule. None of the other majors employ a secondary cut and the events new spot in May gives officials plenty of time to get 80, 85 players around the golf course.
     
    The secondary cut impacts the competitive integrity of the event and Aaron Baddeleys Sunday surge proved why the Tour should revisit the rule. The Aussie finished Saturdays round at 2 over, one shot on the right side of the 54-hole cut, charged out early Sunday with a 6-under 66 and finished tied for ninth.
     
    It is a bad rule at the Buick Invitational, but it is a ridiculous rule at The Players Championship, said one manager who, admittedly, had multiple players miss the secondary cut.
     
  • Rory McIlroy: Were going to write off the Northern Irish phenoms comments regarding the Ryder Cup to youthful indiscretion and move on. It is the only way to explain McIlroys take on the transatlantic slugfest: The Ryder Cup is a great spectacle but an exhibition at the end of the day and it should be there to be enjoyed. In the big scheme of things it's not that important to me.
     
    Even 2010 European skipper Colin Montgomerie ' who can be easily hushed by a three-putt at the last but hardly ever by a metaphorical three-jack outside the ropes ' was left speechless by the lads take. The Ryder Cup is most definitely not an exhibition. Having played in it, having experienced the emotion and the stress of it, I can assure you of that, Monty said.
     
    David Duval and Hunter Mahan had similar takes on the biennial exhibition, until they felt the weekend heat at Brookline and Valhalla, respectively. Ask Mark Calcavecchia about the exhibition, that in 1991 left him emotionally drained and crying on a South Carolina beach. Trust us young Rory, youll never see that at a Skins Game.
     

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    Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

    By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

    There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

    Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

    In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

    “It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

    “That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”

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    Woods does everything but win

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:57 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and small victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.

    Sure, after taking the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.

    “Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”

    But here’s where we take a deep breath.

    Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with nine holes to play.

    Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.

    The scenario was improbable.

    Inconceivable.

    Impossible.

    At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.

    Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.

    This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.

    One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?

    “Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.

    Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.

    Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.

    Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.

    Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.

    Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.

    Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.

    “For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”

    So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”

    But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.

    “It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”

    Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He waved his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.

    “Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing the Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

    Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.

    “She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”

    But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.

    Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.

    “To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”

    His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two new, younger additions to his clan.

    Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:

    LOVE THE HATERS.

    After this unbelievable performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?

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    Molinari hopes to inspire others as Rocca inspired him

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:43 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Francesco Molinari was 12 years old when Costantino Rocca came within a playoff of becoming Italy’s first major champion at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews.

    He remembers being inspired by Rocca’s play and motivated by the notion that he could one day be the player who would bring home his country’s first Grand Slam title. As he reflected on that moment late Sunday at Carnoustie it sunk in what his victory at The Open might mean.

    “To achieve something like this is on another level,” said Molinari, who closed with a final-round 69 for a two-stroke victory. “Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close. Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the claret jug.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Molinari had already made plenty of headlines this year back home in Italy with victories at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and the Quicken Loans National earlier this month on the PGA Tour.

    A major is sure to intensify that attention. How much attention, however, may be contingent on Sunday’s finish at the German Grand Prix.

    “It depends on if Ferrari won today. If they won, they'll probably get the headlines,” Molinari laughed. “But, no, obviously, it would be massive news. It was big news. The last round already was big news in Italy.”

    Molinari won’t have any competition for the front page on Monday; Ferrari didn’t win the German Grand Prix.

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    Schauffele on close call: Nothing but a positive

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Playing in a final group at a major for the first time, Xander Schauffele awkwardly splashed out of three pot bunkers, went out in 40 and still somehow had a chance to win at Carnoustie.

    Playing the 17th hole, tied with Francesco Molinari, Schauffele flared his approach shot into the right rough and couldn’t get up and down for par. He dropped one shot behind Molinari, and then two, after the Italian birdied the final hole.

    Just like that, Schauffele was doomed to a runner-up finish at The Open.

    “A little bit of disappointment,” he said. “Obviously when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. I looked up on 17 and saw he got to 8 under, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Schauffele did well to give himself a chance. The 24-year-old was in the final group with Spieth, but both youngsters fell off the pace after rocky starts. The Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year birdied the 14th but couldn’t convert a 15-footer on the treacherous 16th that would have given him a one-shot cushion.

    “It’s going to go in the memory bank as a positive,” he said. “I had a chance to win a major championship. I was in the final group. I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance. Anyone can look at it however they want to, but I’m going to look at is as a positive moving forward and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”