Cut Line: The long and short of it

By Rex HoggardJune 30, 2017, 7:16 pm

In this week’s edition, TPC River Highlands makes the case that bigger isn’t always better, the field at the Quicken Loans National needs to be better, and it might be time to reassess the best use of sponsor exemptions on the Tour.

Made Cut

When less is more. It’s an apples-to-oranges deal, but entirely unavoidable considering the dramatic juxtaposition.

In one corner there was Erin Hills, a 7,800-yard brute that was built specifically to challenge the modern long ball; and in the other corner was TPC River Highlands, which was built in 1929 and at 6,841 yards qualifies as a bona fide welterweight in the Big Leagues.

In a single news cycle, one of those courses yielded a winning score of 16 under par, and the other was River Highlands with a 12-under winning tally.

To be fair, conditions at each course varied dramatically and the two layouts are Venus and Mars when it comes to design philosophy, but the last fortnight in golf has proven that you don’t fight distance gains with longer courses.

With 1,000 yards of additional real-estate, Erin Hills had 182 double bogeys during the U.S. Open, compared to 155 at TPC River Highlands last week.

There’s nothing wrong with Erin Hills that a little more wind and dryer conditions couldn’t have helped, but the last two weeks is another example that more length isn’t always the answer.

Tweet of the week: @LukeDonald (Luke Donald) “Love that 12 under won this week on a 6,850 yard course, last week at Erin Hills 7,650 yards and 16 under wins. Making courses long isn’t the answer.”

Better with Boo. Although his quest to win his fourth Tour title came up short last week at the Travelers Championship, Boo Weekley proved yet again that he’s still among the game’s most entertaining players on and off the course.

Consider a few examples of Boo’s best, like when asked on Saturday the last time he’d spoken to the media: “[In 2013] at Colonial. I think that was the last time I did any kind of media stuff besides getting in trouble or something or saying something wrong.”

Or when he was questioned about changing putters: “I change putters like I change underwear, man. If it don't work, we're putting another pair on. If these are a little too tight, you know, we're changing something, buddy. Something's going to get done.”

And this gem when a scribe inquired about his philosophy on life: “I ain't going to say everything's a joke, but, yeah, you've got to look at it as a joke. What you do for a living and when you get off the golf course, it's over with. It's time to have fun.”

You get the idea. Golf is enjoying an embarrassment of riches at the moment, with classic performances from the likes of Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, et al in recent weeks, but things are always better with a little Boo.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Schedule Showdown. Maybe it’s the new course, maybe it’s what has become an inhospitable spot on the schedule, whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, this week’s Quicken Loans National desperately needs a lifeline.

The field at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm includes just a single top-10 player from the Official World Golf Ranking and four from the top 30, which is about the same as last year’s field.

Compared to the Arnold Palmer Invitational or Memorial – which are also limited-field events with legends as hosts – those numbers paint a less-than-stellar picture.

This year’s field at Bay Hill had five top-10 players and 17 from the top 30, while the Memorial had six top-10 players and 16 from the top 30.

The Washington, D.C.-area stop deserves better. Tiger Woods deserves better, but without a better date, and a long-term home, that’s not going to happen.

Missed Cut

Game ready? There’s really no need for a task force here; the reasons behind Europe’s struggles in the Solheim Cup can be traced to single element.

When a handful of European Solheim Cup hopefuls teed off at this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship it was their first start in two months. In fact, the Ladies European Tour has played just four events this year and the 2017 matches in Iowa loom just eight weeks away with the U.S. having won four of the last six meetings at the biennial event.

Although credit should probably be split among a number of factors, including that task force that dramatically changed the way players and captains were selected for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, one of the often overlooked elements of America’s reemergence last year at Hazeltine National was the introduction of the PGA Tour’s season-long points race and four-event postseason.

The playoffs forced Tour types to remain competitive later in the year, much like a more robust LET schedule would give the Europeans a better chance at what is becoming a one-sided affair.

Making a splash. Nothing gets folks fired up like a good cross-over story, so it was little surprise that Stephen Curry’s invitation to play in a Tour event in August has polarized the golf world.

While opinions vary wildly regarding the unrestricted sponsor exemption, from those who criticized officials for giving a coveted spot to an amateur when aspiring professionals go without to the theory that the two-time NBA MVP will bring some much needed attention to the Ellie Mae Classic, this really isn’t about Curry or his curious exemption.

The bigger issue is how all sponsor exemptions are doled out on the Tour. Although sponsors sign large checks for, among other things, the right to award exemptions, according to various sources the system lacks some basic checks and balances.

There’s always an element of entertainment to professional golf, even at the Tour level, but along with that there must also be a measure of competitive purity, otherwise it’s little more than professional wrestling.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

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

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.