Cut Line KOd by 2K10 - COPIED
It was the year of the Europeans, apologies, grooves, rules, tweets, farewells and faux pas. “Cut Line” could barely keep up, but before we fall into a Tryptophan-induced coma we’ll take a look at the season’s ultimate winners, losers and others.
Europe. Quick, what do you get when you mix two Englishman, two Northern Irishmen and a German? Punch line: the opening act of a Mel Brooks comedy and a reason to watch golf in 2010. Ba-da-boom.
Who would have thought that as golf reeled in the aftermath of Nov. 27, 2009, the answer to all the game’s PR woes would come via the continent and a group that is as colorful as they are talented.
Lee Westwood is No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking math and in the minds of many on both sides of the pond; Graeme McDowell has a U.S. Open trophy, the Ryder Cup and a head-to-head with Tiger Woods on his mantel, and Rory McIlroy may not have been voted the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year but he is the 20-something with the most potential. And that’s ignoring the accomplishments of the brothers Molinari and Ian Poulter.
The old country never seemed so new and refreshing.
Lorena Ochoa. Going out on top is the toughest task in all of spots but the quiet Mexican did it with class and dignity.
In April at the age of 28 and No. 1 in the world ranking Ochoa announced that she would step down to spend more time with her family and her charitable work, proving once and for all Jerry Seinfeld’s point. She left us wanting more and we do.
Tweet of the Year. @PaulAzinger “I’ve arrived (at Celtic Manor)! But I’m unable to access the press room. What a difference a couple of years makes.”
Honorable mention: anything Tweeted by @WestwoodLee.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Phil Mickelson. Lefty covered it all in 2010 – the good, the bad and the ugly. To be fair, the second weekend in April and his magical Masters Sunday would easily qualify as a successful calendar if the other 51 weeks weren’t so pedestrian and peculiar.
Mickelson began the year with a controversial move to play legal-but-non-conforming wedges at Torrey Pines, a worthy protest for a bad rule that drew the ire of some frat brothers, came up short at Pebble Beach with weekend rounds of 73 and managed just a single top-10 finish after June.
Along the way he failed, repeatedly, to overtake Woods atop the world ranking, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and stunned the golf world with news he was a vegetarian.
Still, his 6-iron from the pine straw right of Augusta National’s 13th fairway was the shot of the year and his embrace of wife Amy behind the 18th green a few hours later is among the best snapshots in 2010.
Major misses. The year’s four Grand Slam stops were so eagerly anticipated that an emotional letdown was almost inevitable.
Woods’ surreal return at Augusta National somewhat tempered Mickelson’s emotional victory; McDowell’s Pebble Beach victory was certainly deserving but one walked away with the feeling the trophy went to the last man who remained upright; Louis Oosthuizen’s brilliance was anticlimactic after a series of unforgettable Old Course Opens, and Whistling Straits . . . well, Whistling Straits was a sandy mess that should be removed from the rota.
It was, in retrospect, the law of diminishing returns. If they aren't all special, none of them are.
No easy Ryder Cup. Mired by rain gear that didn’t work and Welsh weather that did, it’s easy to forget that the 2010 Ryder Cup produced the most dramatic finish in a decade and continued to rekindle a rivalry that seemed anything but just four short years ago.
Also lost amid the Welsh mud was the cementing of two legacies. Colin Montgomerie, whose Cup record is every bit as impressive as those Orders of Merit, went out on script and on top. While Corey Pavin, the bulldog with the major that always eluded Monty, well, he just went out.
Rules of Golf. For those scoring at home there was Dustin Johnson in the bunker-that-shouldn’t-have-been at the PGA Championship, Brian Davis on a beach where he shouldn’t have been at Hilton Head, Juli Inkster swinging a swing aid she shouldn’t have been at the Safeway Classic . . . stop us if you’ve heard enough.
Often the Rules of Golf don’t make a lot of sense, but in 2010 the litany of high-profile violations seemed senseless to the extreme.
Purest will claim the rules, and our unquestioning adherence to them, are what make golf special. Perhaps, but until “Cut Line” catches a Tour type taking a mulligan off Augusta National’s 10th tee it is the overly convoluted rules, not a player’s confusion with them, that need to be fixed.
Tiger Woods. All things considered it could have been worse. There could have been protests, hecklers, untold sponsor and fan fallout and more than just a single missed cut.
In fact, considering his form in his playoff loss at his season-ending Chevron World Challenge earlier this month the swing, if not the psyche, appear to be trending in the right direction.
But when your career is measured by majors and your income measured by the millions, 2010 was a disappointment by any measure. He failed to win a Tour event for the first time as a professional, was never really in contention on Sunday at a major, ranked worse in nearly every major statistical category and begins 2011 as the favorite for only one postseason award – Comeback Player of the Year.
Out of the groove. The U.S. Golf Association, and by default the PGA Tour, wanted to make the game more demanding for a bomb-and-gouge set that had turned far too many venerable layouts into pitch-and-putts so they dialed back the grooves in irons, which was akin to slowing down race cars by mandating more windshield wipers.
In this case, statistics don’t lie. Proximity to the hole, fairways hit, greens hit and scoring averages were all counter intuitive to what officials had in mind which was a greater focus on accuracy and higher scores.
In essence, the USGA took the path of least resistance straight back to the drawing board.
“If they wanted to make a big impact the golf ball would do that,” Heath Slocum said.
High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.
''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''
Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.
''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''
The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.
''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''
In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.
Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship
STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match play format provides fireworks. Almost always.
In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.
This year, for the third time in the past four years, the final outcome came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama on Wednesday when junior Haley Moore defeated senior Lakareber Abe on the 19th hole.
The Wildcats also won NCAA titles in 1996 and 2000, the later when current Arizona coach Laura Ianello was on the team as a player.
“Arizona is my home, it is where I went to school and it needs to be back home,” Ianello said. “So I am so proud to be the coach to bring it back.”
Two days ago, Arizona was in the midst of an epic collapse. They were safely in the third position after 54 holes of stroke play and needed to only be inside the top-eight after 72 holes to advance to the match play portion of the event.
But they played the worst round of the day and were on the outside looking in with one hole remaining when junior Bianca Pagdanganan made eagle on the par-5 18th hole. That propelled the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor that they ultimately won.
On the first day of match play, Arizona continued to ride the wave of momentum by defeating Pac-12 rivals UCLA, the top seed, and Stanford, a match play stalwart the past three years.
Next up for Arizona was Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country and the second seed this week after stroke play.
“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said, attempting to take pressure off her team, which, on paper, looked like an underdog.
But you know the saying, anything can happen in match play, and often does.
Alabama coach Mic Potter put out his three first-team All-Americans in the first three spots hoping to jump out to an early lead. Junior Lauren Stephenson played poorly in the opening match and lost, 4 and 3, to freshman Yu-Sang Hou.
Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight dispatched of Wildcats Gigi Stoll and Pagdanganan easily in the second and third matches.
Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas beat Angelica Moresco, 1 up, in the fourth match meaning the fifth and final match behind, which was all square after 16 holes, was going to be the one to decide the NCAA title.
Lakareber lost the 17th hole when her approach shot sailed well short and right of the green in thick, thick rough. She attempted to advance the ball but could not and headed to the final hole 1 down.
With seemingly every golf fan in Stillwater on site, including several men’s teams here to participate in next week’s championship, Abe hit a laser second shot into the par-5 18th hole setting up a 12-foot look for eagle. Moore failed to put pressure on Abe and Abe won the hole to set up extra holes to decide the championship.
In the extra frame, Moore was left of the green in two shots and Abe was short in the greenside bunker. Moore chipped to 4 feet and Abe’s bunker shot was 6 feet away. Abe missed, Moore made and Arizona walked away with the hardware.
“It means so much, it’s actually like a dream,” Moore said. “I’m just so happy for my team right now.”
Potter has been a head coach for 35 years – at both Furman and Alabama – and finally was able to collect his first NCAA Championship in 2012. Being so close to a second one will sting for quite awhile but he will be able to live with the outcome for one simple reason.
“They fought their hearts out all year,” Potter said. “I just want to congratulate them for the way they battled, not only today, but in match play. Everyone gave their best on every shot, that’s all we can ask.”
Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2
Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3
Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3
Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2
Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up
Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole
Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier
Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.
Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.
And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.
Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.
The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.
The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''
Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.
Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.
That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.
''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''
Off the course, they're also different.
The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.
Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.
Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.
''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.
Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.
Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.
Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.
On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.
In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.
Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.
Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.
''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.
The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.
''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.
LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.
Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.
''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''