Cut Line: Justice for DJ; more Olympic dropouts

By Rex HoggardJune 24, 2016, 5:42 pm

In this week’s edition, the post-Oakmont nitpicking continues, with players and the press dissecting the penalty that cost Dustin Johnson a stroke but not a major title; while potential Olympians continue to wrestle with a difficult choice.

Made Cut

Grand Open-ing. Last week at the U.S. Open, Spain’s Jon Rahm wore blue pants and a white shirt to honor Seve Ballesteros on his way to low-amateur honors at Oakmont.

On Thursday at the Quicken Loans National he began his professional career with a 7-under 64 to take the lead and firmly establish himself as a star-in-waiting.

It’s the kind of start that would have impressed Ballesteros, a short-game magician who never hid his emotions.

It’s an even more impressive start for Rahm considering this year’s crowded field of freshly minted professionals that some consider one of the deepest in recent memory.

Rahm said he wore his tribute to the Spanish legend last week so he could ask himself, “What would Seve do?” in difficult moments. Considering the ease Rahm has shown through his early transition to the play-for-pay ranks, Seve’s response would likely be a wide smile accompanied by a spirited fist pump.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger sighting. The world’s 582nd-ranked player took to the microphone this week at the Quicken Loans National and – as has been the case since he underwent multiple back procedures late last year – there was no real update.

“Still progressing. Excited about what has transpired so far. Lost some of the body fat, but kept the weight up and gotten stronger,” Tiger Woods said on Wednesday. “I need to get in more golf shape. Still working on it. Just wish I could be here playing.”

Although he declined to give any timeline for his return to competition, he also didn’t rule out a return this season, allowing that he’s playing 18 holes a day and would like to come back “sooner rather than later.”

The two most likely starts for Woods would be next month’s Open Championship and PGA Championship, which wouldn’t exactly be ideal rehab assignments considering he hasn’t hit a shot that mattered since last August.

Still, the guy who spoke on Wednesday sounded optimistic he was getting closer to a comeback, which at this stage can only be considered progress.


Missed Cut

Brazil or bust. On Wednesday, world No. 4 Rory McIlroy announced he was withdrawing his name from consideration for this year’s Olympics.

“After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realize that my health and my family's health comes before anything else,” McIlroy said in a statement.

A day later Graeme McDowell announced he would not replace McIlroy on the Irish Olympic team, citing concerns over the Zika virus and his wife’s pregnancy; and world No. 1 Jason Day said McIlroy’s decision was “understandable” and that he hasn’t decided whether he will play for Australia in Rio. Fellow countrymen Adam Scott and Marc Leishman have already declined.

Branden Grace also announced Friday he will not be playing for South Africa, joining Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen on the sidelines.

For potential Olympic athletes there are no wrong choices considering the impact contracting Zika could have on one’s professional and personal life.

Conversely, officials with the International Golf Federation said this week that the number of Zika diagnoses in Rio have dropped about 90 percent since the height of the mosquito season in February and that August is one of the coolest months of the year in Brazil.

Players will make their own choices and the Games will be played regardless, but right now golf needs clarity. There needs to be a single announcement outlining who is playing and who is not, otherwise it’s going to be a death by a thousand cuts that will only undermine the competition.

Justice for Johnson. Whether Dustin Johnson caused his golf ball to move on the fifth green on Sunday at the U.S. Open really doesn’t matter at this point.

The USGA said he did and he was assessed a one-stroke penalty that, thankfully, didn’t impact the outcome of his multistroke victory. Johnson contends he did nothing wrong. At this point it’s best to let history and the micro-pixels of the video replay decide.

What everyone can agree on, however, is the incident was poorly handled by officials who informed Johnson on the 12th tee that there might be a problem and he may or may not have to add one.

Play on.

It’s utter nonsense that a championship was decided with such an air of uncertainty hanging low over Oakmont.

“When you look back at the whole issue, you can break it down into two parts. It's a Rules of Golf issue, of trying to make sure that you apply the rules correctly the way they're written.

And we do believe we did that,” Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, told Golf Channel.

“But there's another part of it in terms of the conduct of the championship itself, and that's where we'd really like a mulligan because clearly we made a big bogey.”

The 2016 U.S. Open will be defined by those surreal final moments, which is unfortunate for Johnson after waiting so long for his major breakthrough, but at least the episode should serve as an example going forward that a decision, be it correct or otherwise, must be made in these crucial moments.

Tweet of the week:

On this you could really pick your poison, with social media reaction to Johnson’s penalty swift and nearly unanimous; but Spieth’s take cut to the central theme of so many concerns that regardless of the outcome the game deserves better.

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McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.