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Cut Line: Fowler takes new approach to fall sked

By Rex HoggardNovember 10, 2017, 5:58 pm

We lead off a Veterans Day edition with a look at golf’s ongoing support of America’s heroes, while judgment day may be closing in on Colonial Country Club.

Made Cut

Fall forward. While Cut Line is a big fan of last week’s time change being something of a dew sweeper, it’s Rickie Fowler’s decision to test the fall waters that deserves a closer look.

Fowler said this week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, an event he’s playing for the first time, that he wanted to try something new this fall. Instead of playing the WGC-HSBC Champions in China like most top players, he took five weeks off following the Presidents Cup.

“I wanted to look at this fall and winter as a time to create an off-season,” Fowler said. “Enjoy the relaxation and get some time in the gym to get ready to go in January.”

Most players opt for the no-cut options in Asia to start the season, but there is a cost to be paid for that much travel on the back end of what is already a long year.

Whether Fowler’s decision pays off remains to be seen, but there is something to be said for outside-of-the-box thinking.

Veterans Day. Cut Line always appreciates how much support is generated for American heroes during Veterans Day, and it’s also a chance to value how dedicated golf is to giving back to those who gave so much for the nation.

From the Folds of Honor, an Oklahoma-based charity that has raised nearly $100 million for educational scholarships for the families of fallen or disabled American military members, to Birdies for the Brave, which was created by Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, to support combat-wounded veterans and has donated over $18 million, the game is uniquely suited to honor and support those who have served and sacrificed.

Earlier this year, Cut Line wrote a feature about Edward Gizara, a former Marine drill instructor who was injured in training and told he’d be paralyzed for the rest of his life. Gizara learned to walk again and now plays golf at least once a week. But more importantly, he runs the Adaptive Golf Program in Savannah, Ga., which is designed to encourage those with disabilities and challenges to play the game.

For Gizara and those like him, every day is Veterans Day.


Tweet of the week: @JustinRose (Justin Rose) “Like buses!!” Rose’s tweet referred to his comment following his victory on Sunday at the Turkish Airlines Open, just a week after the Englishman had won the WGC-HSBC Champions.

“It’s like buses. You wait ages for one, and then two turn up,” he smiled.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bidding wars. We’ll match your U.S. Open with a PGA Championship and a Ryder Cup wild card.

Perhaps the negotiations were more complicated than that, but essentially that was the offer the PGA of America gave to San Francisco’s iconic Olympic Club, which had hosted the U.S. Open five times and seemed to be a lock for a future visit.

Instead, club officials agreed to the deal with the PGA and will host the 2028 PGA Championship and ’32 Ryder Cup.

It was clear the draw of the Ryder Cup was what compelled club officials to embrace the PGA’s offer.

“It’s Alabama-Auburn on a Saturday afternoon,” Olympic Club president Dan Dillon told the San Francisco Chronicle.

There’s little doubt Olympic Club is a solid move for the Ryder Cup, which hasn’t been played on the West Coast since 1959, but much can change in 15 years and a decade from now this deal could look much different.

Owning it. It’s easy to criticize, just scroll through your social media feed to prove the point.

What’s often difficult is owning a mistake, particularly for a man like Mike Whan, the LPGA commissioner who admitted this week on Golf Channel that moving the Evian Championship to September was wrong.

Whan was criticized this year over his decision to scrub scores from the first round in France and then to shorten the major championship to 54 holes after multiple weather delays, which have become the norm since the event moved to September.

“The challenges we’ve faced are man-made,” Whan said. “And I’m the man who made them.”

Whan said the tour will move the Evian “back to a summer date,” by 2019. Mistakes are human, but responsibility is often a rare trait.


Missed Cut

Collateral damage. Although the details are still being worked out, it seems the Tour is inching closer to a condensed schedule beginning in 2019. While that may intrigue some it seems these moves won’t occur without a cost.

Recent news that Dean & DeLuca informed organizers at Colonial Country Club that they may not be able to meet their financial obligations to sponsor the tournament in 2018 has created more than a short-term bind.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, officials at the annual Tour stop have until Dec. 1 to resolve their sponsorship issues. What that exactly means is unclear, but it doesn’t sound encouraging.

The sweeping schedule changes proposed for ’19 include the PGA Championship moving from August to May and a Labor Day finish for the Tour season, all of which could make the Colonial stop expendable.

In fact, according to one source at the club, Colonial’s board voted on Wednesday to move the annual member-guest tournament from mid-October to May, the same month as the Tour stop.

It’s an altogether stunning development considering the annual Tour stop has been a staple on the schedule since 1946, when Ben Hogan won the first of his five Colonial titles and why the layout is dubbed Hogan’s Alley.

There’s a larger-than-life statue of Hogan overlooking Colonial’s 18th green and The Hawk doesn’t look happy. It’s an apropos image considering the club’s potential Tour fate.

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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.”