Cut Line: It's a party on the European Tour

By Rex HoggardJanuary 20, 2017, 5:36 pm

DJs on the practice range at European Tour events, record scoring has some seeing red and Rory McIlroy takes to Twitter to prove his point, all of this and more in this week’s Cut Line.

Made Cut

Trailblazer. Last year he introduced shorts during practice and pro-am rounds and now DJ K-Pell, sorry European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, has set his sights on livening up life on the practice tee.

Pelley and the European circuit debuted a DJ on the range this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, playing assorted tracks while players warmed up, and “walk up” music when competitors made their way to the first tee.

“We're in the entertainment business,” Pelley told the Associated Press. “As long as you are always conscious of the integrity and protection of the game's magic. But you are always looking to improve your product, in any business that you run.”

Reaction from players was largely positive with the lone exception being Paul Lawrie, who said, “I didn’t like it on Tuesday.” May Cut Line suggest the 48-year-old’s “walk-up” song be “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel.

Lefty’s return. It won’t garner as much attention as Tiger Woods’ return to the Tour next week at the Farmers Insurance Open, but Phil Mickelson’s start this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge is noteworthy on many fronts.

For starters, following multiple surgeries to correct a sports hernia in the off-season it’s encouraging to have the southpaw back in action for his 26th season. But it’s Mickelson’s decision to play the old Bob Hope that is the real shot in the arm for officials.

Mickelson took over this year as ambassador for the event, which has been searching for an identity since Hope died in 2003.

According to various sources, Mickelson wants to get the community more involved with the Tour stop that dates back to 1960, and given Lefty’s status as one of the circuit’s elder statesmen his association can only help the field.

“I love the golf courses here, it's a great place to come out and start the year,” Mickelson said after an opening-round 68. “You don't have to be perfect, like I wasn’t [perfect] today, to still score.”

A perfect punch line, Hope would like that.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Hazeltine hangover. There was no task force, no committee designed to forge change, but the European Tour didn’t let last year’s Ryder Cup loss go unanswered.

The circuit reduced the minimum number of starts required to maintain tour membership, which is required to play for the Continent in the biennial matches, and gave captain Thomas Bjorn an extra pick, to match the number [four] that U.S. captain Jim Furyk will have in 2018.

The four events required for membership don’t include the majors or World Golf Championships and could persuade players like Paul Casey, who plays mostly in the United States, to return to the circuit.

Both moves are aimed at assuring Europe’s best 12 players make the team in ’18. Last fall, for example, both Casey and Russell Knox were ranked inside the top 20 in the world ranking but neither were on the Continent’s team at Hazeltine National.

Tweet of the week. Full disclosure, we are neither a TrackMan maestro nor a swing expert, so we’ll stay well clear of the technical mumbo gumbo behind the spat, but this week’s give and take between Rory McIlroy and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee – which began when Chamblee tweeted that the best players drive the ball with a level or descending strike – was worth the price of admission.

McIlroy countered with a tweet that included plenty of data to support his take, “To get the most out of modern equipment you need to hit up on the driver. #fact”

The world No. 2 finished with a tweet showing his rank in the strokes gained: off-the-tee category last year (first).

Missed Cut

Off course, again. While the golf world is still reeling from news late last year that the Olympic Golf Course in Brazil is already in financial trouble, this week officials with the International Golf Federation are facing another golf course issue.

A non-profit golf council in Japan has challenged the venue for the 2020 games outside of Tokyo because of the club’s all-male membership policies.

Although officials at the club said they are prepared to review its membership policies if asked to do so by the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese non-profit contend that having a private course host the golf competition is not in the “spirit” of the Olympic legacy.

Although officials have plenty of time to work out any issues before the 2020 Games, it’s curious that handball and table tennis never seem to have these kinds of venue issues.

Are you not entertained? There was plenty of handwringing last week as the Tour’s best and brightest took apart Waialae Country Club one record round at a time.

The week began when Justin Thomas, the hottest player on the planet right now, shot an opening 59, and on Saturday Kevin Kisner narrowly missed a 9-footer for eagle on his final hole that would have made him the eighth player in Tour history to post a sub-60 round. Chez Reavie completed the assault, with a 61 on Sunday that included a bogey on his 15th hole.

Golf purists weren’t impressed, taking to social media to decry the distance modern players hit the golf ball and lament the loss of classic courses as a challenge to the game’s best.

Lost in all this, however, was the entertainment value of good golf. If grinding pars and good bogeys are your thing, there will be plenty of that at the U.S. Open.

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Levy wins Trophee Hassan for fifth European Tour title

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 6:32 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alexander Levy finished with a 2-under 70 Sunday to win the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco by a shot from overnight leader Alvaro Quiros.

One off the lead overnight, Levy made two of his four birdies in his first five holes to hit the front and stayed ahead for the rest of the final day at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

It was the 27-year-old Frenchman's fifth European Tour victory and he will take winning form to Beijing next week when he defends his China Open title.

Levy ended 8-under 280 overall, one ahead of Spain's Quiros, who closed with a second straight 72.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

With his chasers pushing hard, Levy kept his cool after dropping a shot on No. 16. He birdied the short, par-3 No. 17 and made par at the last.

Quiros birdied his last two holes to make sure of second place outright. He needed an eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff.

A group of four players finished in a tie for third, including Italy's Andrea Pavan, who finished with a brilliant 6-under 66. Swedish pair Joakim Lagergren (70) and Alexander Bjork (70) and Finland's Mikko Ilonen (72) also shared third.

Levy had three other top 10 finishes in his five previous events this season and moved up to ninth on the European Tour's Race to Dubai points list.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."