Cut Line: Killing caddie races kills fun

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2013, 3:11 pm

Cut Line bids farewell to the 2013 regular season with a mathematical and emotional breakdown of the Wyndham Championship field, a pros/cons look at the PGA Tour’s rumored buyout of the European circuit and a plea for Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., to reset the FedEx Cup points reset.

Made Cut

Greater Greensboro. Wyndham Championship tournament director Mark Brazil will tell you the field at his event has steadily improved in recent years, although he prefers to make that assessment based on star power and not statistics.

“I love counting big names, household names, that’s the way I gauge it. I don’t gauge it on rankings,” Brazil said. “You get a Fred Couples here, he’s not ranked, but he’s still one of the top draws. A guy like Padraig Harrington, name recognition is huge.”

It is curious, however, that the Official World Golf Ranking math makes a compelling argument that since the Greensboro, N.C., stop moved into the pre-FedEx Cup playoffs spot in 2007 business has steadily improved.

In 2006, the last year the event was played in October, the Wyndham champion received 18 world Ranking points. The ’07 winner, Brandt Snedeker, received 24 points. That total jumped to 30 points in ’08, 32 in ’09, 38 in ’11 and 42 in ’12. This week’s champion is projected to receive 44 points.

In this case Brazil’s heart and his head tell the same story.

Bethpage and beyond. Right there behind Sasquatch and Nessie is the U.S. Golf Association’s baffling reluctance to put Bethpage’s Black Course and Torrey Pines’ South Course back into the U.S. Open rotation as a genuine mystery.

The 2008 Open at Torrey Pines may arguably be this generation’s best major, and Bethpage, although soaked for both Opens it hosted, is a perfect combination of qualify golf and prime location.

The USGA’s slow play on both venues has prompted the PGA of America to be a bit more proactive. Golfweek magazine reported this week that the PGA plans to name Bethpage the venue for the 2024 Ryder Cup and 2019 PGA Championship; and sources have told Cut Line that the association is vying to bring the year’s fourth major to Torrey Pines.

While the PGA deserves credit for outside-the-box thinking, may we suggest they hold off on any official announcement until, say ... next year’s U.S. Open. You know, for maximum coverage and all.

Tweet of the week: @Keegan_Bradley “Pains me to say (Jason Dufner) did a good job on (Howard Stern). I was hoping he’d be horrible and rushed outta there.”

No one was more surprised than Cut Line that Dufner handled his post-PGA media blitz almost as effortlessly as he negotiated his way around Oak Hill. #MediaDarling

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

NFL (No Fun League). PGA Tour officials say it’s a question of caddie safety, but the circuit’s move to ban caddie races at the Waste Management Open and Crown Plaza Invitational seems more like a wet blanket.

Players and caddies have been advised that the races at TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole and Colonial’s 13th hole will no longer be allowed because, “It was a situation where we developed a little concern about caddies’ safety. Running 150 yards puts caddies at risk for injury,” Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations, told Cut Line.

We concede that no one wants to see a steady diet of lumbering loopers and that there are plenty of caddies who are more likely to break a bone than a land-speed record, but a game that is still considered too stuffy for its own good doesn’t need more rules.

“It’s Phoenix where they scream ‘Noonan’ while your man is hitting. It’s not a funeral,” one longtime Tour looper told Cut Line.

One world. Most say reports this week that the PGA Tour is looking to buy the European Tour were a bit premature, but as one longtime observer pointed out, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it is being considered. You know how it is with these things, where there is smoke ...”

Nor did Tour commissioner Tim Finchem – who called the reports “inaccurate” – put an end to speculation with his statement regarding the potential takeover.

“I have stated publicly on several occasions, the integration of professional golf can create additional value for our players, sponsors and fans ... Such integration has been ongoing since 1994,” Finchem said.

There is “up side” for both parties if such a mega-merger occurred. The financially challenged European Tour would be reinvigorated by the Tour’s deep pockets, and Finchem & Co. would get a stronger foothold in Asia and a piece of the Ryder Cup, which is jointly owned by the PGA of America and European Tour.

But the “down side” of such a move would also be significant, including a loss of identity for the European circuit and the probability that there would be fewer playing opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic divide.

Perhaps globalization is inevitable, but we’re not sure this is what Greg Norman had in mind when he first floated the idea of a world tour.

Missed Cut

Resets. Through the magic of mathematical creativity, Tiger Woods’ commanding, 767-point lead over Matt Kuchar in the FedEx Cup points race will be cut to 250-points following Sunday’s reset heading into the playoffs.

Officials consider this a necessity to maintain a competitive balance throughout the post-season, but it feels more like contrived marketing.

Last year, it was Rory McIlroy who was pencil whipped by the circuit’s new math after the Ulsterman won two playoff events (Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship) and finished tied for 10th at the Tour Championship only to watch Brandt Snedeker – who went runner-up (Barclays), sixth (Deutsche Bank), T-37 (BMW) and first (Tour Championship) in the playoffs – slip away with the FedEx Cup and a not-so-small fortune.

“I think it's worked well, and the right people have won,” Finchem said last year at East Lake.

Perhaps, but it still feels like Woods will have to beat the other 124 playoff-bound players and the Tour’s calculators to complete a season that, by all accounts, is second to none.

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Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.