Cut Line: Busy news week in the golf world

By Rex HoggardFebruary 1, 2013, 5:43 pm

Anyone who thinks the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is lively during the Waste Management Phoenix Open didn’t get a look at the Cut Line newsroom this week. From deer-antler spray to putts for 59 to a much-anticipated return to Winged Foot for the national championship, the last week of January may be remembered as the news cycle that wouldn’t rest.

Made Cut

Lefty. Nothing changes the conversation quicker than a historic round. That it was Phil Mickelson, a week removed from a media mea culpa over taxes, dictating the topic only added to the drama.

Lefty’s flirtation with golf’s magic number (59) on Day 1 in Scottsdale wrested golf away from a dialogue that has drifted from anchoring and bifurcation to deer-antler spray, not to mention California’s tax code and the role of athletes in politics, however temporarily.

And all this from a player who if not for a series of delays and hurried finishes last week at Torrey Pines would have missed the 54-hole cut at the Farmers Insurance Open (Mickelson was tied for 77th through three rounds in San Diego).

Golf is at its best when Phil is playing his best, a truth that was never more evident than it was on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale.

Fun. The word is not exactly associated with many modern golf courses which are widely stretched to obscene lengths to accommodate the 1 percent who play for pay with all manner of forced carries and white-knuckle tee shots.

While the focus during last week’s PGA Merchandise Show was on the possible ban on anchoring, many in the game will point to modern golf courses that are something less than user friendly as a primary impediment to growing the game.

It was a hot topic last Saturday during the grand opening of Streamsong Resort’s two new golf courses designed by Ben Crenshaw, Bill Coore and Tom Doak.

“Televised golf and golf for professionals, so much is placed on difficulty and how to make things difficult,” Crenshaw told Cut Line. “But you try to offer something else for the golfing public and it’s a very difficult decision to put things together. You have to combine that with the reasons why you do courses. I tend to think occasionally we have forgotten about fun.”

That may explain why Crenshaw and Coore’s Red Course at the new Florida resort was appointed instant classics status from many observers.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

To 2020 and beyond. News this week that the U.S. Golf Association will return to venerable Winged Foot for the 2020 U.S. Open was widely applauded – even Mickelson hailed the news; although he may want to suggest fewer corporate tents down the left side of the 18th fairway for the ’20 championship.

The announcement, however, drew renewed attention to the USGA’s continued aversion for a return to Torrey Pines, site of the historic 2008 Open and an inspired venue for a much-needed SoCal championship.

“The USGA is trying to make a concerted effort, ever since ’02 going to Bethpage for the first time, (to go to) big public venues. (Torrey Pines) is the West Coast version, and it was amazing,” said Tiger Woods, who won his eighth professional title at Torrey Pines on Monday. “Torrey Pines and everyone here involved in it really made this tournament special, and I think the USGA will definitely come back.”

But the USGA doesn’t seem to share Woods’ enthusiasm for Torrey or the West Coast, or perhaps the blue coats just have a serious distaste for red-eye flights. There are currently just two West Coast stops for the Open through 2020 (2015 at Chambers Bay in Washington and 2019 at Pebble Beach).

Feeling the heat. Give USGA Championship Committee chair Tom O’Toole credit for stepping into the line of fire this week even if you don’t like the message.

O’Toole, on site at Winged Foot for Monday’s announcement the U.S. Open was returning to the layout in 2020, was asked about comments made by TaylorMade CEO Mark King regarding the ongoing anchoring debate and the growing support for the bifurcation of the Rules of Golf.

“The USGA within 10 years will be a non-entity; they will be a non-factor within golf because they are choosing to be on the outside, and no one is signing up for what they represent,” King said.

O’Toole deftly sidestepped the issue saying, “Our position has been that the game would not be benefited by bifurcation, and that's still our position.”

Missed Cut

Vijay Singh. In a statement on Wednesday, the Fijian said he was unaware the deer-antler spray he purchased from an Alabama-based company contained a substance banned by the Tour’s anti-doping policy and that he was “angry” for putting himself in this position.

While that statement may mitigate whatever punishment the Tour doles out – according to policy he can receive up to a one-year suspension and $500,000 fine for an initial violation – it does nothing to change his culpability.

On this the Tour’s policy, drawn almost directly from the World Anti-Doping Agencies’ regulations, is clear. Ignorance is no defense in the dogmatic world of anti-doping.

The only question that remains is how long his suspension should be and on this Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., should proceed carefully. Doug Barron is the only player suspended (one year) under the circuit’s anti-doping rules for testing positive for testosterone and beta blockers, which were both prescribed by his doctors for health reasons, in 2009.

It’s worth noting that Barron played the Tour last year on a therapeutic-use exemption that allowed him to use some of the same substances that got him suspended.

While Singh – who told a Sports Illustrated reporter that he had been using the deer-antler spray “every couple of hours . . . every day,” and was “looking forward to some change in my body” – has, by his own admission, conceded he sought a performance enhancement.

The Tour entered the world of anti-doping in 2008 to prove the sport was clean. As inflexible as those rules may seem now, there is no going back.

Tweet of the week: @JoshBroadaway “That (deer) antler spray didn’t do much for me when I took it. It just made me wanna start rubbin trees when I was in the woods huntin for my ball.”

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PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

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Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.

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Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."

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Scott returns to Valero with major streak in jeopardy

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 8:34 pm

Adam Scott is back in the Lone Star State as he looks to keep alive a majors streak that has stretched across nearly two decades.

The Aussie tends to play a relatively light schedule during the spring, often times skipping every event between the Masters and The Players. But this time around he opted to return to the Valero Texas Open for the first time since 2011 in an effort to capitalize on the form he found two weeks ago at Augusta National, where he tied for 32nd.

"Hopefully kind of pick up where I left off on the weekend, which was really solid, and get a bit of momentum going because that's what I haven't had this year," Scott told reporters. "Trying to put four good rounds together and get the most out of my game for a change."

Scott has won each of the four stroke-play events held annually in Texas, completing the so-called "Texas Slam" before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play relocated to Austin. That includes his win at TPC San Antonio back in 2010, when he closed with rounds of 66-67 for a one-shot victory.

After a seven-year hiatus, Scott is back San Antonio after a solid but underwhelming spring stretch. He cracked the top 20 at both the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship, but his worldwide top-10 drought stretches back nearly a year to the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. As a result, the former world No. 1 has dropped to No. 59 in the latest rankings.

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"I'm trying to be really in tune with where my game's at and identify why I'm just not having better results," Scott said. "To kind of change that, I've got to change something, otherwise I'm just going to do the same thing."

That ranking will become even more important in the coming weeks as Scott looks to keep his streak of consecutive majors intact. He has played in 67 straight dating back to The Open in 2001, second only to Sergio Garcia's 75 among active players. But Scott's five-year exemption for winning the 2013 Masters has run its course, meaning he is not yet exempt for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Barring a win next month at TPC Sawgrass, Scott's only way to avoid a trip to sectional qualifying will be to maintain a position inside the top 60 in the world rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The key for Scott remains easy to identify but hard to fix. While he ranks fifth on Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he's 194th in strokes gained: putting. Scott won in consecutive weeks in 2016 with a short putter, but otherwise has largely struggled on the greens since the anchoring ban took effect more than two years ago.

"Hopefully a quick turnaround here and things start going in the right direction, because I think I can have a really great back end of the season," Scott said. "My ball-striking is where I want it; I like where my short game's at. I just need to get a bit of momentum going on the greens. It's easy to do that on the putting green at home, but that doesn't always translate out here. I think I've just got to make it happen out here."