Cut Line Bye BMW Hello Super Bowl
The Tour Championship may not be golf’s Super Bowl, just ask Tiger Woods, but it’s interesting exclamation point on three hurried weeks and a reason, finally, to look forward to East Lake.
Merion/Walker Cup. The two-day match likely slipped under many fans’ radar, and that’s a shame.
Forget about the United States’ walkover, which gives the red, white and bling a clean sweep of all the game’s major Cups right now, the event itself has been described as the purest in all golf, featured an impressive swansong for Rickie Fowler, who went 4-0 before turning pro, and showcased a classic American layout.
Jason Gore once told “Cut Line” he considered giving up Tour life not long ago and reapplying for his amateur status in hopes of playing in another Walker Cup, and if one watched any of the proceedings last week you could see why.
We also got a taste of Merion, that classic gem that had been made an afterthought by the modern game. Short and quirky with devilish greens, the U.S. Golf Association will take some attendance lumps at a Merion Open but it will be worth every penny.
As for the future of American golf, that 16 ½-9 ½ thumping says it all.
Dismantling of the grass ceiling. Some say Shoal Creek and the 1990 PGA debacle forced golf to take a hard look at its exclusionary practices, at least on the major championship level. Condoleeza Rice’s recent actions may force the game’s powers to take another hard look at the Alabama layout.
The world learned last week that Rice had become a member of the Birmingham club. While there may be too much bad blood to bring Shoal Creek back into the Grand Slam fold, Rice’s name has also surfaced as a potential member at Augusta National.
The move could also spur action at other clubs that have been excluded from the major championship conversation because of membership issues like Chicago’s Butler National and Cypress Point in California. Rice’s move may not be a game-changer, but it certainly makes the game much more inclusive.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Brandt Snedeker. It was an ugly and utterly unexpected moment for the Tennessee towhead. A two-putt from 12 feet last week at Cog Hill’s 18th hole and he’s playing next week’s Tour Championship, four unsightly swipes later he was out of the playoffs.
Snedeker cost himself at least $90,125, the two-stroke difference between a T-6 and his eventual tie for 10th and a guaranteed $2,000 for last place at East Lake, as well as starts in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, but he earned a ton of currency with the half dozen scribes and two dozen autograph seekers, or where they mourners, who he dutifully accommodated outside the clubhouse.
We once asked Roberto De Vicenzo, the author of perhaps the game’s most-glaring gaffe at the 1968 Masters, if he would do things different if he could. “No,” he said. “For 30 years it made me cry. Now, it makes me smile.”
Chicago golf. The landscape of Chicago has suddenly become very interesting. Although the $5.2 million makeover Cog Hill underwent before this year’s BMW Championship was met with mixed reviews, at best, the USGA had to like the eventual champion as well as the scoring.
Although Tiger Woods finished at 19 under, only three other players finished with double digit under-par totals on a course that didn’t play anywhere near the tips and with little rough. And Rees Jones also gave USGA set-up man Mike Davis plenty of teeing options.
Chicagoland now has two viable Open options, Cog Hill and Olympia Fields, and from what we saw of Medinah’s No. 3 course last week the PGA Championship now has a comfy second home in the “Second City.”
A generation on scholarship. The playoffs aren’t perfect, and no amount of creative math will change that. Golf has four Super Bowls and they are played in April, June, July and August. But the Tour now has a feverish finish that’s worth watching, with all the pieces of the marquee in place and a Tour Championship that, however contrived, means something.
Woods won the BMW Championship by eight strokes and had his lead cut from 1,504 points to 250 points, as good a reason as any to mail a calculator to Ponte Vedra Beach. But without the heavy-handed reset, East Lake would be about as suspenseful as an Atlanta Braves game.
The Tour also found a cure for mediocrity, as evidenced by a comment in a recent edition of Golfweek magazine by Brett Quigley. “I know I controlled my own destiny, but it’s still a little frustrating. I made the cut both (playoff) weeks and dropped 26 positions,” Quigley said.
We like Quigley, truth is it’s hard not to, but a tie for 67th (Barclays) and 61st (Deutsch Bank Championship) is, by definition, mediocre play and should not be rewarded. And that may be the best endorsement of the Tour’s current model we’ve heard.
Jim Thorpe. The Champions Tour staple pled guilty to two counts of failure to pay income taxes last week.
Thorpe agreed to pay all taxes (more than $1.5 million), interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service for 2002-2004. It’s the second time he’s run afoul of the IRS. In 1993 and 1994 Thorpe had 'significant' income, but the IRS had no record of tax returns having been filed. At the time Thorpe said he had two accountants and he thought they were handling his taxes.
An old Tour saw comes to mind. All Tour players are Republicans, until they miss a cut and then they become Democrats.
Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie
While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.
There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.
According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)
Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.
McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1
They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.
McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.
On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.
Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
12/1: Tony Finau
14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
20/1: Francesco Molinari
25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner
30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka
40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day
50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate
80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na
100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman
Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience
Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.
It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.
Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.
“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.
“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”
Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.
At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.
Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.
“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.
“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.
“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”
After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.
“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”
Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.
“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.
“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”
On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.
Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.
“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”
Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.
At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.
At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.
Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.
“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”
Her overall assessment of her day?
“It was a great experience,” she said.
Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.