Cut Line: Housecleaning

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2011, 5:32 pm

Like Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief, there is a traditional flow when a Tour type begins a freefall into a competitive abyss. Normally the road kill would be: caddie, wife, manager, equipment/apparel affiliation, corporate deals and swing coach. So far, only Tiger Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg has escaped completely unscathed.

Wednesday’s news that Steve Williams had been handed a pink slip was particularly surprising given the caddie’s loyalty to his boss through Woods’ post-2009 scandal and the duo’s track record – 13 of Woods’ 14 majors came with Williams at his side.

One source familiar with the situation called the move “shocking,” so much so a “missed cut” in this week’s edition of Cut Line hardly does the firing justice.

Made Cut

Darren Clarke. He smiled, he swigged, he proved that something special can happen – even at Royal St. George’s. As 150-to-1 long shots go the Ulsterman proved to be straight out of central casting – a 42-year-old widower with a balky putting stroke and enough competitive baggage to require not one but two sports psychologists on speed dial.

Clarke may not have been an immediate favorite in American circles, but the storytellers in the United Kingdom could not have asked for a better champion – not Rory McIlroy, not Graeme McDowell, not even Lee Westwood.

The defining moment for Clarke came late Sunday when a familiar U.K. golf writer attempted to ask the champion a question:

“Hang on, let me just scratch my little head. I'm trying to recollect your little line,” Clarke smiled widely. “’He's in his inexorable slide toward irrelevance.’ Is that what you said?

“This is a mirage,” he said as he playfully pointed to the claret jug.

Brilliant.

Tom Watson. Old Tom has turned the game’s oldest championship into one, long swansong as he refuses to go quietly into that good night – as they would poetically muse in the south English dunes.

On Sunday, having flirted with Open history . . . again, Watson was asked about a pre-championship trip to Normandy and some of the World War II monuments.

“Oh, there are a lot of things that can move me,” he said. “That particular turning point in World War II certainly was a feat extraordinaire.”

We feel the same way about Old Tom.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Funny how three major champions in 13 months can widen roads and ease logistical concerns. Last week R&A chief Peter Dawson sounded downright lukewarm over the prospects of the Open Championship returning to Northern Ireland, specifically to storied Royal Portrush Golf Club which hosted the event in 1951.

On Monday, less than 24 hours after Royal Portrush member Darren Clarke’s emotional victory at Sandwich, Dawson seemed a little more open to the idea, “We’ll take a closer look at Portrush,” he allowed, before adding, “What it doesn’t have, I don’t know yet until we’ve had another look at it. But I have agreed to look.”

What it does have is a golf course as good as any in the Open rotation, an adjacent course with plenty of open land and a motorway link directly to Belfast that would make last week’s gridlock at “Sandwich-ed” a distant memory.

What the R&A is really looking for is peace, which is in short supply in Ulster this time of year. And it’s not likely to simply materialize as long as the R&A refuses to make eye contact with the elephant in the Northern Irish room.

Evian Masters. The LPGA can name every event on its schedule a major for all we care, but that doesn’t change the reality that it is the players, not the media or fans or tour officials, who decide grand slam status.

On this the LPGA has history on its side. The du Maurier Classic was immediately considered a major when it was added to the fold in 1979 and remained there until it fell off the docket in 2000 and was replaced by the Women’s British Open.

There is, however, a sense of economic expediency that gives the Evian move a week-old cheese smell. The tour has been hit particularly hard by the global financial crisis, but doling out grand slam shingles to the highest bidder feels more like a finger in a dam than a long-term solution.

RBC Canadian Open. In the hyper-competitive world of PGA Tour events tournament directors and sponsors look for any edge to give them an advantage and although the Royal Bank of Canada didn’t break any PGA Tour rules landing this week’s field it certainly appears as if they are bending a few.

The banking giant – which took over sponsorship of the Canadian stop in 2008, and also signed on to sponsor the Hilton Head Island event earlier this year – has slowly signed a stable of high-profile players to lucrative endorsement contracts in recent years.

Among that group is current world No. 1 Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar, Ernie Els, and Anthony Kim. It’s no surprise then that the four-some made the long flight from England to the Pacific Northwest for this week’s event.

We’re not saying players like Els, who hadn’t played the Canadian Open since 1998, schlepped halfway around the world as a result of their endorsement deals with RBC, but if it quacks like an appearance fee it probably is.



Missed Cut

U.S. Golf Association. “Cut Line” is a proponent of any measure that will help speed up play, particularly for those groups that sneak out in front of our Saturday morning four-ball, but this week’s ruling at the U.S. Junior Amateur may be the wrong execution of the right idea.

Connor Klein didn’t have much time to celebrate his hole in one during Monday’s first round of stroke-play qualifying when he was informed by an official that all three players in his group would be penalized a stroke for slow play.

The group appealed the ruling and only Klein was penalized the stroke, which resulted in a birdie on the hole instead of an ace. It was the only penalty of the day for slow play.

There was a silver lining for Klein, who advanced to the match-play portion of the competition and likely spared himself from having to buy a round of milkshakes at the 19th hole to celebrate the ace.

Tiger Woods. There is no way to know exactly what transpired between Woods and Steve Williams, the details lost behind the cloak of Tiger Inc. Maybe the longtime looper overstepped with his moonlighting activities with Adam Scott, or perhaps it was a previous transgression that tipped the scales.

Although Woods’ release on Wednesday announcing the split made the move appear amiable, the New Zealander – who has caddied for an assortment of players to an estimated 120 worldwide victories – said he was “shocked and stunned.”

“After 13 years of loyal service needless to say this came as a shock. Given the circumstances of the past 18 months working through Tiger's scandal, a new coach and with it a major swing change and Tiger battling through injuries I am very disappointed to end our very successful partnership at this time,” Williams said.

Caddying is a tough business, but somehow it feels like Williams’ life just got a little easier.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.