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Cut Line: 'Crosby' rises again; Romo a no-no?

By Rex HoggardFebruary 9, 2018, 8:08 pm

In this week’s edition, the stunning views and stars return to Pebble Beach, the USGA doubles down on distance and a sponsor exemption sparks a social media storm.

Made Cut

Return of the Crosby. Just six years ago, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am had the lowest strength of field (210) of any full-field West Coast PGA Tour event.

When this week’s rankings are released, the tournament formerly known as the Crosby will be among the year’s deepest fields, with five of the top 10 players in the world including Nos. 1, 2 and 3: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth.

It’s telling that within the friendly arms race that exists among tournaments to produce quality fields, it was just a few subtle but meaningful changes that put the event back on the path to relevance.

In 2010, officials ditched the much criticized Poppy Hills layout for Monterey Peninsula Country Club, which is consistently voted among the circuit’s most popular stops. The event also contracted its field from 180 players to 156, alleviating much of the congestion and delays that had plagued the tournament.

Although neither change was ground breaking, they’ve made a world of difference.

Something to smile about. Last fall, Gary Woodland told Cut Line that 2017 was the “toughest year of my life,” a period that included the tragic loss of one of his wife’s unborn twins and ongoing health issues with his son, Jaxson, who was born 10 weeks premature in June.

At the time, his trip to East Lake for the Tour Championship was an impressive accomplishment considering everything he and his wife, Gabby, had been through.

Last Sunday Woodland took another step in the healing process, outlasting Chez Reavie to win his third Tour title at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“It puts it in perspective. It was obviously a long year for us. I’m really happy; one, to be holding him and also to be where I’m at,” Woodland said.

Victory can never change what the Woodlands have gone through the last 12 months, but it was inspiring to see the family have something to smile about.

Tweet of the week: @MavMcNealy (Maverick McNealy) “Hey @McIlroyRory – can we wager a signed golf ball on our father-son match this week @attproam?”

The first-year professional is playing this week with his father, Scott, who is the co-founder of Sun Microsystems and currently the executive chairman at Wayin; while McIlroy set out with his pater familias, Gerry. The challenge drew only silence from the Northern Irishman’s camp. McIlroy must have taken his Tour-mandated integrity training.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A line in the fairway. Maybe this is all talk. Maybe this is just a chance for the USGA to clear the air. Maybe it will be business as usual for the next decade.

But that’s not the way it sounds.

At the USGA’s recent annual meeting, executive director Mike Davis appeared to double down on his ongoing chorus of concern over how far modern players hit the golf ball.

“We all love hitting the ball far, but distance is all relative,” Davis told Golf.com. “I remember watching Jack Nicklaus, when he really got a hold of one maybe it went 280. That was the long ball then, and the long ball now is a lot longer.”

Davis also made it clear this isn’t just a Tour problem, and that distance is an issue at every level. It’s all a much different tune than what golf’s rule makers were singing at this time last year when they released the annual driving distance report.

Among the highlights of that report, officials said the average launch conditions on Tour – clubhead speed, launch angle, ball, spin rates, etc. – have been “relatively stable since 2007.”

A year removed from that assessment, the buzz words have changed from “relatively stable” to “unsustainable.”

Sign of the times. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson announced this week he’d signed an endorsement contract with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). He also announced he’d be playing the Canadian Open and the Heritage.

RBC is the title sponsor of both the Canadian and South Carolina events. Unlike the European circuit, the PGA Tour doesn’t allow appearance fees, but RBC has created a workaround that everyone is comfortable with by signing players – like Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk – to endorsement deals with the understanding they will play the events sponsored by the company.

While the endorsement, and accompanying agreements, follow the letter of the Tour law, it’s beginning to feel like an appearance fee by another name.


Missed Cut

Crossover appeal. Nothing rattles the social media experts like a wild-card sponsor exemption, and news this week that former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will play the Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in March drew plenty of opinions.

The first-year Tour event will be played in the Dominican Republic and opposite the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Having Romo, who is playing this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to a zero handicap, in the field might be the only chance for the tournament to draw any interest.

Still, there were those who declared the move a gimmick and a blow to the event’s competitive integrity.

There were many of the same concerns last year when NBA all-star Stephen Curry played the Ellie Mae Classic on the Web.com Tour. Although Curry missed the cut, he posted respectable rounds of 74-74.

Tournaments regularly use sponsor exemptions to increase an event’s exposure, and giving Romo a spot in the field, however unpopular it might be in some circles, has already accomplished that.

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Watch: Na punctuates caddie tiff with hole-out

Microphones captured a fascinating and testy exchange between Kevin Na and his caddie, Kenny Harms, on Na's final hole, No. 9.

Na was in the right rough, 185 yards from the green, which was guarded by water. He vacillated between a hybrid and an iron, but with either club he would have to hit "a 40-yard cut," as Harms termed it.

"Over the green's dead," Harms warned.

"It's not gonna go over the green, Kenny," Na replied.

Na finally settled on an iron and said to Harms, "As long as you're OK with this club."

"I'm not," harms replied. "I'm not OK with either one of them."

"I'm going with this," Na ended the discussion.

He missed the green with his approach shot, but avoided the water. After taking a free drop away from some TV cables, he had 92 feet 3 inches to the cup and of course, holed the pitch shot for a birdie-3, a 62 and a one-shot lead at the end of the first round.

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Na (62) leads Hoffman by one at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 24, 2018, 10:38 pm

Kevin Na leads the Fort Worth Invitational by one over Charley Hoffman following a first-round 8-under 62. Here's where things stand through 18 holes at Colonial.

Leaderboard: Na (-8), Hoffman (-7), Emiliano Grillo (-6), Jhonattan Vegas (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Beau Hossler (-6)

What it means: The veteran Na is in search of just his second PGA Tour victory in 367 events played. The 34-year-old's lone victory came at the 2011 Shriners to go along with nine runner-ups, the most recent of which was a tie for second at this year's Genesis Open. Na missed three straight cuts in April but has rallied back with a weekend stay at The Players and a T-6 at last week's Byron Nelson. Ranked 75th in the world, he is not currently qualified for the U.S. Open or the Open Championship. 

Round of the day: Na turned in a clean card Thursday with six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 first, his 10th hole of the day. He closed with a chip-in birdie at No. 9 following a friendly disagreement with his caddie (more on that below). 

Best of the rest: Hoffman was likewise bogey-free, drawing seven circles. The four-time Tour winner and typically steady performer has yet to register a top-10 finish this season.

Biggest disappointment: Not that a round of 1 under is tragically disappointing, but Jordan Spieth has a pretty solid history of going low at this event and contending for the title. He's seven back through Round 1.

Shot of the day: Satoshi Kodaira recorded the second albatross in tournament history when he holed a 3-iron from 234 yards at the first.

Honorable mention: Na got into a pretty good back-and-forth with his caddie about whether to lay up or try to clear the water from the right rough at No. 9. Na went for it, avoided hazard, and holed this chip for birdie. 

Quote of the day: "I told you." - Na, after his chip-in

Golf Channel's NCAA Golf Coverage Continues Mon-Wed., May 28-30 With the NCAA Men's Golf Championships

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 24, 2018, 10:24 pm

Two National Championships to be Decided Over a Three-Day Span – Individual (Mon., May 28) and Team (Wed., May 30)

 Eight of the Top-10 Ranked Programs in the Country Set to Compete; Reigning NCAA Men’s National Champions Oklahoma and Current Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Paired Together Starting Friday

 Buick and Stifel Co-Presenting Sponsors of Golf Channel’s Coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 24, 2018 – Coming on the heels of Wednesday’s dramatic championship match where Arizona defeated Alabama in a playoff to claim their third women’s golf team national championship, Golf Channel returns to Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. next week for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf National Championships. Taking place Monday-Wednesday, May 28-30, Golf Channel’s coverage will feature nearly 30 hours of live tournament and on-site wraparound news coverage, showcasing the top men’s college golf programs in the country.

NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage: Coverage begins on Monday, May 28 to crown the individual national champion and to track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 29-30 will include all three rounds of the team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion.

In addition, Golf Central will surround live tournament action with pre-and post-event news coverage produced on-site at Karsten Creek Golf Club, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and online via Golf Channel Digital. News and tournament coverage also will be live streamed on Golf Channel Digital. College Central, Golf Channel’s online home for college golf, will provide comprehensive editorial coverage throughout the championships.

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)

Monday, May   28

Individual   National Championship

4-8 p.m.   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29

Quarterfinals,   Team Match Play

11   a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday,   May 29

Semifinals,   Team Match Play

4-8 p.m.   (Live)

Wednesday, May   30

Team Match   Play National Championship

4-8 p.m.   (Live)

Stifel and Buick Sign on as Co-Presenting Sponsors for Golf Channel’s NCAA Golf Championships Tournament Coverage: New for 2018, Stifel Financial Corp. and Buick have signed on as co-presenting sponsors for Golf Channel’s tournament coverage of the 2018 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. In addition, Stifel has extended its partnership with the Fred Haskins Commission, Golf Channel and Golfweek as presenting sponsor of the Fred Haskins Award, given annually to nation’s outstanding male collegiate golfer.Golf Channel will announce the Fred Haskins Award presented by Stifel following the conclusion of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, on a live edition of Golf Central, Wednesday, June 6 at 6 p.m. ET. The show will include profiles on the top candidates for the award and a live interview with the winner, who also will receive an exemption to compete in the 2018 Greenbrier Classic on the PGA TOUR. The Haskins Award honors the nation’s most outstanding male Division I collegiate golfer as selected by his peers, coaches and the golf media.

Semifinal Teams in Match Play to Receive Invitations to Compete in East Lake Cup: The East Lake Cup, taking place in late October at historic East Lake Golf Club, will feature the top-performing teams from the 2018 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Invitations for the field have been extended to Arizona, Alabama, Southern California and Stanford – semifinalists in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, and also will be extended to the semifinalists in the Men’s Championships. Modeled after the NCAA Golf Championships, the format for the East Lake Cup consists of an opening round of stroke play to crown an individual male and female champion and determine seeding for the following two days of match play competition. Golf Channel will air live coverage of the East Lake Cup Monday-Wednesday, Oct. 29-31.

College Central – Golf Channel Digital Coverage: Golf Channel will provide comprehensive coverage via College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, and Ryan Lavner, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics: