Cut Line Haggis Hangover
The same can’t be said for Phil Mickelson, who highlights this week’s “Cut Line” for all the wrong reasons.
St. Andrews. Not sure why the Royal & Ancient Golf Club is dragging its feet on the 2015 championship, but in the interest of saving time let’s pen the Old Course in to host the Open Championship every five years until the North Sea reclaims the storied links or man gives up the ancient game altogether.
St. Andrews is a gem, both inside and outside the ropes, and for all the wasted words over new tee boxes and narrowed fairways we didn’t hear a single frat brother dub the Old Course too easy.
One Scottish scribe wrote it best: if technology ever deems the Old Course obsolete the powers that be have failed miserably.
Hall of Fame ceremony. On Thursday, the World Golf Hall of Fame announced it will begin holding its annual induction ceremony in May to coincide with The Players Championship, and on Friday interest in the event increased by 50 percent, or something like that.
Mired for years in a sleepy fall date, the ceremony was something of an afterthought as the golf season was coming to a close. The move to Players week may not immediately transform the event into Cooperstown, but on the coattails of the Tour’s marquee event it has a fighting chance.
Now on to more pressing matters, like a convoluted selection process that takes a degree from MIT, or a Tour lawyer, to understand.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Louis Oosthuizen. No, we’re not taking a shot at the South African for sucking every ounce of cold, wet air out the Open Championship. The performance, if not the name, was historic.
The Big Oosy lands on the “MDF” list for his plan to dump longtime caddie Zack Rasego following the Open Championship. When a player gets sideways it is common practice to change putters, caddies, managers, wives, whatever it takes to right the ship. But after seven years, Rasego, who grew up caddying in Sun City, South Africa, for the likes of Gary Player, deserved better.
Predictably, in the wake of Oosthuizen’s Open walk-over Rasego remains employed, but there’s always next week.
Tiger Woods. A PGA Tour player once boasted, “If I fell off my wallet I’d break my arm.” Which prompted the question: How many bones would Woods break if he tumbled off his fortune?
The answer, at least in the short term, is $22 million, the amount Sports Illustrated estimated the world No. 1 is losing in endorsements in 2010. According to the report, Woods’ total earnings this year will be more than $90 million, down 30 percent from nearly $128 million two years ago.
That still places Woods first on the SI list of highest-earning American athletes, with Mickelson No. 2 with $62 million in earnings. That’s ahead of LeBron James, Alex Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant. Explain to us again how golf is a niche sport?
Designated tournament haters. Paul Casey’s tie for third at the Open Championship was encouraging and his post-final round assessment of his game and the golf course was honest and unfiltered, but more importantly the Englishman proved how far a little name recognition can go when he bolted Scotland for Canada.
Casey tops a marquee at the Canadian Open that is, by any measure, wanting and is example No. 256 of how a “designated tournament” rule could help tournaments in need.
The proposal, which is likely to be given final approval in the next few weeks, has been dubbed the “Tiger and Phil Rule” in some circles, but that misses the point. Just ask the folks in Canada, or Casey.
Tweet of the week: @stewartcink “Just finished watching son Connor play in a tournament. A 12 (-year-old) shot 66. I want to retire today.”
Turning Stone executive. By almost every measure, the Turning Stone Championship is a hidden gem among players, who rave about the golf course and the resort’s amenities, but earlier this week the event made an unsightly bogey.
Ray Halbritter, Turning Stone CEO and the event’s founder, announced he will play the tournament, which will be held opposite the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational the first week of August, on a sponsor exemption, proudly pointing out he has dropped his handicap from about a 16 to a 2.
“I had a conversation with the people in charge, myself, and I got lucky and got approved to play,” mocked Halbritter.
Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones write big checks as well, but that doesn’t give them, or Halbritter, the right to “play” professional athlete for a day. If Halbritter wants a taste of the big leagues, Q-School is right around the corner.
Phil Mickelson. Lefty teased us with an early-week press conference that bordered on the effusive, suggesting that this was finally the Open Championship where he solved the links riddle.
Seventy-two holes and 289 strokes later, we all had the look of jilted Chicago Cubs fans. For the record, Mickelson has now played 15 Open Championships with just a single top-10 finish, an inexplicable hole in what is otherwise a Hall of Fame resume.
Maybe Lefty wants it too much, or maybe links golf asks a thoughtful man one too many questions, either way it adds up to one of golf’s most unthinkable titles – Best Player Never to Win an Open Championship.
Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut
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.
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:
No prob Doug. I’m +11 now and tweeting during my round. I’m playing as hard as I can. I have 8 holes left if you want to come out and kiss my ass. https://t.co/UMeFWFKLVP— Jake Owen (@jakeowen) May 24, 2018
New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead
After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.
The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.
"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."
The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.
"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."
Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.
Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.
"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."
McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead
VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.
Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.
The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.
McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).
''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.
''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''
McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.
After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.
Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.
Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.
Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain
After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.
The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.
"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."
Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.
"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."
Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.
Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.
"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."