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Cut Line: The good, and still bad, of the Presidents Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 16, 2018, 6:40 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiger Woods highlights this week’s edition, from his Presidential nod to captain next year’s U.S. team to the fuel he’s unwittingly adding to already unrealistic expectations.

Made Cut

Presidential pedigree. It was just a matter of time before Woods took his turn as both a Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup captain, but it did qualify as a mild surprise when the PGA Tour announced he will lead the U.S. team next year in Australia.

Woods and Ernie Els will captain the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams, respectively, in 2019, a move that promises to inject the matches with some new life, at least until the action on the course dictates if this edition will be another blowout.

Having Woods, who will be 43 when the ’19 matches are played, should also add a new twist to the event, with his improved play in recent weeks leading to the logical idea that he could be a playing captain.

“I would like to get to a point where I would have to make that decision, get to where I'm playing well enough where I could make the team on points. But I wouldn't want to have the conversation [to be a captain’s pick] and go, ‘Self,’” Woods laughed. “I don't really want to have that conversation; let's just see how it progresses.”

Remembering the King. Wednesday of Bay Hill week used to be the highlight of the year for any scribe with a notebook. That was the day the late Arnold Palmer would give his annual State-of-the-Kingdom press conference and it was always entertaining and insightful.

This year it was Sam Saunders, Palmer’s grandson, who addressed the media, and although it’s not the same, Saunders continues to impress with his poise and his dedication to what his grandfather stood for.

“It’s a celebration,” Saunders said of this year’s event.

Tournament officials also continued a tradition, with players lining up on the practice tee on Wednesday to hit ceremonial tee shots. Nothing can ever replace what Palmer meant to the game, but taking a moment to remember him is always a good thing.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Masters mayhem. Woods’ play last week at the Valspar Championship, where he finished runner-up for his best Tour finish since 2013, and another solid start this week at Bay Hill is encouraging, but it’s also an indication how quickly things can get out of hand when it comes to the guy with 14 major championships.

Following his round on Thursday, Woods’ odds to win the Masters dropped to 8/1, making him the betting favorite, just ahead of Dustin Johnson.

“A lot of gamble-holics out there,” Woods shrugged when told his odds.

Odds are based on how much interests the gambling public has in a particular player, not necessarily who should be the favorite, but even for Woods things are getting really silly.

Tweet of the week:

Gay was referring to Woods’ decision to hit 2-iron off the tee on the 72nd hole at the Valspar Championship when he was one stroke off the lead.

The instant analysis, which came from every corner, prompted fellow Tour frat brother Scott Brown to fire back:

Woods pointed out on Thursday at Bay Hill following his first-round 68 that the “narrative” has changed dramatically since he returned from injury this year. To his point, we’ve evolved from asking questions like, “can he hit driver” to “why wouldn’t he hit driver?”


Missed Cut

Cup concerns. While naming Woods and Els captains of next year’s Presidents Cup teams was an easy choice for Tour officials, there remains an inexplicable aversion to any kind of meaningful format change that could make the event competitive.

Despite last year’s boat race by the U.S. team, which could have clinched the cup on Saturday, and won by eight points, the only significant changes for the ’19 matches were to how many picks each captain now has (four), which was more a timing adjustment with the matches scheduled to be played in December.

For years, three-time International captain Nick Price lobbied to reduce the total number of available points in an attempt to make the event more competitive. The Tour eventually acted, with a four-point reduction, but it wasn’t what Price had hoped for as he was pushing for what the Ryder Cup employees, 28 points.

It’s been 20 years since the International team won the event, but apparently it’s going to take a few more decades of lopsided outcomes for the Tour to act further.

Compression. Although the Tour is still a few weeks away from unveiling the overhauled ’19 schedule – players were told at last month’s Honda Classic an announcement will be made at The Players in May – some parts of the new line up are falling into place.

Of particular interest is how the spring will unfold, with multiple sources confirming that the WGC-Mexico Championship will be played the week after the Genesis Open, followed by the Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship, Valspar Championship, Texas Open and the Masters.

That’s a major, the game’s preeminent mid-major at TPC Sawgrass and two World Golf Championships in an eight-week window.

The circuit’s plan to condense the schedule before the start of football season has been embraced in most circles as a much-needed and progressive step in the right direction, but the prospective spring line up is an indication that compression will not be painless.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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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.”