Cut Line: Follow the bubble

By Rex HoggardOctober 21, 2011, 7:47 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – For many, the last cut of the PGA Tour calendar is the harshest. There is no “next week” for the likes of Roland Thatcher and Rod Pampling, both mired around 125 in earnings and facing the very real possibility of Q-School after missing the Magic Kingdom cut.

Uber-agent Chubby Chandler didn’t have to wait until Sunday to hear the news that he’d been cut by a client for the second time in a month, while Greg Norman rounds out this week’s lineup in familiar fashion – taking a curious and questionable shot at Tiger Woods.

Made Cut

Money matters. Webb Simpson made it a long shot with his runner-up showing at The McGladrey Classic. Luke Donald made it interesting with his opening rounds of 66-71 at Disney. Both have added a measure of excitement to the Fall Series that has been missing.

A recent poll of Tour types ranked the money title relatively low on the preseason “to do” list, but this week Simpson and Donald have proven a point. Much like the FedEx Cup, Players Championship and Player of the Year Award, the money list is important when the players say it is.

This week at Disney, the two would-be cash kings have spoken very loudly.

Bubble theory. Give James Driscoll credit. At 125th in earnings the Boston-area native could have gone fetal and slunk out of the Magic Kingdom this week secure in the knowledge that he’s exempt into the final stage of Q-School and will at least have partial Tour status in 2012.

Instead, Driscoll opened with rounds of 66-70 and is currently tied for eighth place, which puts him safely inside the projected top 125.

Ditto for Spencer Levin – 32nd in earnings and trying to move inside the top 30 to secure spots in next year’s majors – and Heath Slocum – who is exempt in 2012 via his victory at last year’s McGladrey Classic but is trying to stay inside the top 125 and earn an invitation to The Players Championship. But then Disney always seems to produce more than its share of gutsy finishes.

On Tuesday last year’s Disney champion Robert Garrigus put the money-list pressure into perspective: “It's kind of like knowing you might be the CEO of a company, and if you don't play well you're going to be the janitor,” he said.

Michael Allen could turn out to be the week’s biggest “feel good” story. Allen, 52, is currently tied for fifth and trying to become the first player to win his first PGA Tour title after having won his first Champions Tour tile.

The happiest place on earth, indeed.

Tweet of the week: @bencranegolf  “It’s a girl! Saylor Mackenzie Crane 7.6 lbs. Momma and baby are doing great! #best24hourseverthankyouLord”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rory McIlroy. Those surprised by the Ulsterman’s split with Chubby Chandler this week weren’t paying attention.

The U.S. Open champion surprised Chandler twice in recent years, most recently at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when he suggested he would likely return to the PGA Tour in 2012, and he joins a firm (Horizon Sports Management) that includes Graeme McDowell, who also bolted Chandler’s stable in 2010.

Yet McIlroy’s decision was not mean spirited. This move was all about business. Chandler, a former European Tour player, has been very successful at leveraging his stable’s successes, but his priorities did not always dovetail with those of the PGA Tour (see Championship, Players 2011).

This wasn’t personal, this was business, and Chandler, something of the Godfather of European golf, understands that better than anyone.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica. In theory, a Double-A circuit that opens doors for players in Central and South America is a non-starter – all at once altruistic and entirely useful considering the Tour’s interest in the region.

The devil, however, is in the details when it comes to the Tour’s planned expansion south.

“In a sense we have that with the Hooters Tour,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the Policy Board. “Would we want to put that under the umbrella of the PGA Tour? I would say no.”

The new circuit appears to be a work in progress with an estimated 11 to 12 events the first season and surprisingly low purses (around $100,000). That the Nationwide Tour, the circuit’s version of Triple-A ball, is in search of a new umbrella sponsor also complicates things. Expansion is admirable, but doesn’t charity start at home?

Missed Cut

Timing is everything. Any other year Adam Hadwin’s efforts would have been enough to qualify him for “Cinderella” status. In just five events Hadwin has earned $440,752, which would be well inside the top 150 in earnings this year ($401,000) had he been a Tour member.

But Hadwin is not a member and because he didn’t match the top 150 in earnings from the 2010 money list ($563,000) he now has a date with the dreaded second stage of Q-School.

Nor does it help that Hadwin’s request for a sponsor’s exemption into Disney was overlooked. The fall is all about heartbreak in golf, but this seems a bit much.

Shark attack. Greg Norman has never sidestepped controversy but “Cut Line” can’t help but think The International Presidents Cup skipper stepped right onto a bulletin board with his comments this week about U.S. captain Fred Couples’ decision to make Tiger Woods a wild-card pick.

“I can understand the name of a Tiger Woods and his history of what he's done on the golf course,” Norman said. “But I pick the guys who I think are ready to get in there and play and have performed to the highest levels leading up to it.”

Lost in that logic is Norman’s decision in 2009 to pick Adam Scott for his team at Harding Park. The Australian had missed 10 of 19 cuts and posted just a single top 10 in ’09 and struggled to a 1-4-0 record, not exactly a “highest levels” resume.

It’s a simple rule - captains who live in glass golf carts may want to hold off on swinging ill-advised 9-irons.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”