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Cut Line: Look out, DJ's swagger is back

By Rex HoggardSeptember 1, 2017, 9:25 pm

NORTON, Mass. – With this week’s scheduled Monday finish at the Dell Technologies Championship, Saturday is the official cut but there’s still enough this and that to fill this week’s edition.

Made Cut

DJ being DJ. Remember that time when Dustin Johnson won three consecutive events? Yeah, that was cool.

Unfortunately for the rest of the field at TPC Boston, it’s starting to look a lot like spring, when Johnson won three straight and arrived at the Masters as an overwhelming favorite before being sidelined by injury.

But now that swagger has returned, with the bomber following his playoff victory over Jordan Spieth last week at the post-season opener on Long Island with a 5-under 66 to take the early lead at the Dell Technologies Championship.

“I feel like the things I've been working on, they are back to working,” Johnson said. “I'm feeling good, so I think that's a big key for me.”

Asked last Sunday if he thought he was now in the race for the Player of the Year Award, Johnson said he would be if he were to win two or three playoffs events. How about all four?

Houston Strong. The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey has touched millions, including a handful of PGA Tour and LPGA players.

Chris Stroud, who was unable to fly home from New York to Houston last week because of the storm, said his house was transformed into a makeshift shelter for those in his neighborhood who lost power or suffered flood damage.

“We had 20 people come to my house, including kids. They have been there since last Friday. They made a ton of food. I have a generator,” Stroud said. “We were set up for this type of thing, and not thinking we would ever use it like this, but obviously it came in handy.”

As is normally the case when disaster strikes, Stroud joined a growing list of golfers who wanted to help those impacted by the storm by donating $10,000 and 10 percent of his winnings this week at TPC Boston to the relief effort.

Fellow Houston resident Jhonattan Vegas donated $25,000 to the fund created by Houston Texan J.J. Watt; and Stacy Lewis will donate all of her winnings this week at the Cambria Portland Classic to help the community.

And the list didn’t stop there, with the likes of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia donating for every birdie and eagle they make in the playoffs, proving yet again that the worst of times often brings out the best in us.

Tweet of the week: ‏ @GrahamDeLaet (Graham DeLaet) “[Retired NHL right wing] Shane Doan is Steve Stricker nice. Congrats on a great career. #HOF #rafters #19”

Couple things, that Stricker has become an adjective – as in, he’s such a Steve Stricker – is all at once telling and deserved. That DeLaet, who went toe-to-toe with a Twitter troll last week, remains one of the nicest guys on social media or otherwise, makes him, well, a Steve Stricker.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

First impressions. There was no room for interpretation, “awful,” said one player on Tuesday after playing the redesigned 12th hole at TPC Boston.

Others weren’t so kind, and that opinion didn’t change as more and more players got a look at architect Gil Hanse’s handiwork.

“I thought it was a great hole before. I personally don't think that it was a very good job re-designing it,” Justin Thomas said. “I thought 12 was one of the better holes on the course, and 13 was a great hole, too.”

Hanse wanted to make the 12th hole more difficult. Check. He wanted to make players think. Check. He wanted the new hole to fit in with the rest of the course. Well, two out of three isn’t that bad.

“The conversation we’ve had with three or four players is, ‘Listen, just give it three or four rounds. Try to figure it out,’” Hanse told Cut Line. “If we build a golf hole that the players can figure out after one round, then we probably haven’t done our job challenging them.”

Maybe the narrative will be different on Monday after a few more trips down the lengthened 12th hole, but given the general distaste that doesn’t seem likely.

Back to Boston? There’s been lots of talk in recent weeks about what the 2019 Tour schedule could look like and one of the common themes is a possible reduction in the number of playoff events.

Along those lines, the Boston-area stop seems like the most likely of the four on the chopping block, a difficult choice made even harder by the fact the tournament is one of the best-attended post-season events.

“There's still a chance that we would still move up here every other year or something. So there's still a lot of options available,” said Spieth, suggesting a move that would put TPC Boston into the rotation to host either The Northern Trust or BMW Championship. “I think a shortened, condensed season ending before football is better for us because it gives us an opportunity to have these end-of-the-season events that are big events for us.”

While most players agree, at least in theory, with a more condensed schedule that doesn’t go head-to-head with football season, it’s worth pointing out that whatever form of contraction the Tour embraces there will be a cost.

Missed Cut

Show up, shut up, clean up. The Tour’s best caddies are a combination of sports psychologist and mathematician, carefully considering the odds as well as his man’s mental state with each shot, but it’s the manual labor part of the gig that recently drew the attention of the circuit’s rule makers.

The Tour sent a memo to caddies in July regarding bunker maintenance and divot repair.

“Recently, a number of players have commented on the lack of consistency related to divot repair and bunker maintenance,” the memo read. “It is the responsibility of every caddie to ensure that all divots are repaired appropriately, that any debris created by a shot is properly cleaned and that all bunkers are maintained in a manner commensurate with a PGA Tour event.”

A “how to” guide was attached to the memo in case caddies needed a refresher course on how to properly rake a bunker. Maybe it’s just Cut Line, but this memo would carry a little more weight if the caddies and Tour weren’t locked in an ongoing legal battle over health care and retirement benefits.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.