Cut Line: JD at 50, #SB2K16, and Rio 2016

By Rex HoggardApril 29, 2016, 4:05 pm

In this week’s edition of Cut Line, John Daly turns 50, Spring Break turns social for some of the game’s top players, and an overly crowded schedule turns some potential Olympians away from this year’s Games.

Made Cut

Daly’s second act. Perhaps no one in golf needs an occupational mulligan as much as John Daly, who turned 50 on Thursday and is poised to make his PGA Tour Champions debut next week at the Insperity Invitational.

Earlier this month, I spent a hectic morning with Daly in his rolling merchandise outlet on Washington Road, about a par 5 from the front entrance to Augusta National, and there was no denying his continued zeal for the game and how much he’s embraced this next chapter.

As he looks ahead, Daly didn't seem to have much interest in looking back at an eventful life both on and off the golf course. Instead, he's choosing to focus his energy on the one constant in his career – his fans.

For Daly, his legacy is a matter of perspective, and he understands that he means many different things to different people.

“It’s going to be like a politician,” Daly figured. “You take the good with the bad. You know some people are going to say what a disgrace I was, and others are going to say, 'He did great with charity work and has a heart of gold.'”

You may not agree with some of his choices, but you can’t deny his honesty.

Tweet of the week:

#SB2K16. Perhaps the most surprising part of the Bro-hamas vacation that was so well publicized via social media is the pushback the foursome of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Smylie Kaufman and Justin Thomas received.

Some in the media questioned the group’s decision to make their antics so public via a series of Snapchat posts.

Others, most notably Gary Player and Rory McIlroy, celebrated the week for what it was – a group of twenty-somethings doing what twenty-somethings do during spring break.

“After seeing all these Snapchats over the last few days, maybe I should have taken [Fowler] up on the invite!” McIlroy tweeted.

If there was one moment that gave us pause, it was Kaufman’s breakdown of Spieth’s chunked wedge shot at the 12th hole during the final round of the Masters. Although the Snapchat was unquestionably funny, it may have been too soon.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Progress or potential problems? The World Anti-Doping Agency released its annual doping violations report this week, a list of infractions that included six golfers.

The golfers were from Italy (three), France, Korea and South Africa, compared to just one golfer who was sanctioned on last year’s report.

The timing of the report was particularly interesting considering that any potential Olympians will be placed in a anti-doping testing pool on May 6 that is much more stringent than the methods used by the PGA Tour.

Ty Votaw, the vice president of the International Golf Foundation and the Tour’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told that the report’s findings were a “validation of our testing procedures.”

Perhaps, but a significant portion of potential Olympians play the majority of their golf on the PGA Tour, which is not a signatory of the WADA code, and the circuit reported just a single performance-enhancing drug violation in 2015.

Maybe there is no need for concern as golf inches closer to its return to the Olympics, but as the WADA report suggests the anti-doping world is filled with possible missteps – both intended and otherwise.

Slippery slope. Things didn’t go exactly as planned for the United States Golf Association at last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, but give the organization credit for embracing a more sustainable golf course in a market that has largely been devoid of championship golf.

On Monday, however, the USGA seemed to take a step back during media day for this year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, when executive director Mike Davis was asked about the layout’s renowned difficulty.

“I think in the past,the course rating has been somewhere in the low 80s, so the average golfer, even if it's not setup for a U.S. Open, has no idea how exacting this golf course is,” Davis said. “I believe it's up [to an] 80, 81, 82 course rating when it's set up for the U.S. Open.”

To put that number in context, the rating for this week’s stop at TPC Louisiana is 76.3, and last week at TPC San Antonio, which was statistically the second-toughest course on Tour last year, the tournament rating was 76.5.

Harder doesn’t always mean better.

Missed Cut

Don’t blame it on Rio. On Monday, Charl Schwartzel joined Louis Oosthuizen on the sidelines for this year’s Olympics, announcing that he would be skipping the Games because of a “tight schedule.”

There has been no shortage of criticism of the South African’s decision to skip the Olympics, but the real blame should go to those tour executives who were unable, or unwilling, to accommodate golf’s return to the Games with a more user-friendly schedule.

After the U.S. Open, there will be virtually no rest for many players bound for Rio, with essentially mandatory starts at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational/French Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship, Olympics and then onto the FedEx Cup playoffs and Ryder Cup.

If the various tours wanted to truly embrace the Olympic vision, the schedule needed to be reduced, not reworked. Maybe, as officials have said, the 2020 schedules will be more accommodating to prepare for the Games in Japan, but that didn’t make Schwartzel and Oosthuizen’s decision any easier this year.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”