Cut Line Masters Rewind Edition

By Rex HoggardApril 15, 2011, 7:44 pm

For a major championship winner to be overshadowed by the loser requires either an epic meltdown or equally epic grace. Rory McIlroy is guilty of both, which is why the Northern Irishman headlines this week’s Cut Line.

Made Cut

Rory McIlroy. Forget for a moment his curious penchant for snowmen on his major championship scorecards and instead observe the ageless grace the 21-year-old showed on Sunday at Augusta National.

In order, McIlroy bounced his title chances off no fewer than two trees, a ubiquitous azalea bush and Jones Cabin at the 10th hole, signed for a closing 80, answered every question from the media and, to add the ultimate insult to injury, had to share his plane to Asia with Charl Schwartzel, who lifted the green jacket many thought McIlroy was destined to win.

McIlroy responded with a Tweet featuring a picture of he and Schwartzel wearing the green jacket, “Glad one of us has a green jacket on.” Glad golf has McIlroy.

Pinehurst No. 2. We got an early peak at the new and improved North Carolina gem this week, or as Pinehurst owner Bob Dedman Jr., figured, “We’ve gone backward to go forward.”

Give Dedman and the Pinehurst family credit for trusting the design dynamo of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore and having the courage to tinker with such an iconic course. No. 2’s green complexes remain virtually unchanged but the conversion to more “wild areas” has the effect of creating cleaner corridors and more definition.

The makeover also promises to make the 2014 U.S. Open, followed a week later by the Women’s Open on the Donald Ross masterpiece, interesting for all those who carry notebooks for a living. As a rule, Tour types don’t like change, and this is a big one.

Tweet of the week: @stewartcink “I’m neurotic. No bogeys today (Thursday in Texas) after making eight bogeys (the) last round at Augusta. I like no bogeys more.” Augusta National will do that to you.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Micro-analysis. Some colleagues have taken umbrage with Tiger Woods’ post-round interview with Bill Macatee on Sunday at the Masters. Here is the interview in its curt entirety:

BM. Tiger, 67 today. You said earlier in the week you just wanted to get to the second nine on Sunday to give yourself a chance. Do you feel like you played well enough today to win?

TW: Well, we'll see. Right now I'm one back, and we'll see what Adam (Scott) does.

BM. As you sit here now, do you feel like you're back in the thick of things, in the fight, the way you played today, especially in the opening nine, going out in 31?

TW: Yeah, I'm one back. We'll see what happens.

BM. Are you going to go in to get something to eat, go to the range? What's your plan?

TW: I'm going to go eat. I'm starving.

Warm and fuzzy it is not, but neither is the exchange a reason to demand another public apology. Woods has never been a good interview, particularly after an 18-putt back nine just cost him green jacket No. 5. To expect more is our problem, not his.

South African WGC. Consider the $10 million Tournament of Hope a 5-and-4 winner for golf, international or otherwise.

The new tournament, along with the third-year WGC-HSBC Champions in China, continues to reverse the jingoistic trend that relegated all World Golf Championships to the Lower 48.

At its core, however, it was the worst kind of compromise – at the point of a bayonet, as former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson once said.

“The internationals now hold the power in world golf,” Sunshine Tour commissioner Garreth Tindall said. “For how long, we don't know.”

Power plays in sports rarely turn out well. See work stoppage, NFL.

Hope springs eternal. News this week that Humana has signed on to sponsor the Bob Hope Classic through 2020, to say nothing of the event’s new four-day format, was a victory for all those who enjoy “golf in a dome,” but leaves us hoping there’s a similar announcement waiting next week when the Tour arrives in Hilton Head Island, S.C.

The Heritage has been on life support since MCI stepped down as title sponsor in 2006 – the event’s move from its traditional post-Masters date this year certainly hasn’t helped, either – and news from the Low Country that the 41-year Tour staple would be saved has not been encouraging.

Sources familiar with the negotiations say at least two potential title sponsors are considering the Heritage. All those with an affinity for shrimp and cheese grits certainly hope so.

Missed Cut

Follow the bouncing BMW. There are no shortage of reasons for the BMW Championship’s vagabond existence in recent years, but none that make last week’s pill any easier to swallow.

News that the BMW will be played at Cherry Hills near Denver in 2014, along with the event’s previously scheduled trip to Crooked Stick in Indianapolis in 2012, is a sign Chicago, the nation’s third-largest market, may become a bit player in the BMW picture. The event is currently not scheduled to return to Cog Hill, although the 2013 site has not been selected.

The issue is lackluster attendance and interest since the BMW became part of the Tour’s “Playoff” rota in 2007 and moved from its traditional July 4 date to September.

Unintended consequences have turned one of the circuit’s great stops into a circus, and may leave one of the nation’s best golf towns with a part-time tournament.

Na’s new low. No way to sugarcoat this one. Kevin Na made history for all the wrong reasons on Thursday at the Texas Open, hitting a tree, himself and a new low when he signed for a 12-over-par 16 on the par-4 ninth hole.

Na’s nightmare started when he had to take an unplayable lie off a tee and was assessed a two-stroke penalty when his ball ricocheted off another tree and hit him. Eleven strokes later Na went into the Tour record books for the highest score on a par 4 ever posted.

There was a positive, however. Na played the hole in just over 20 minutes, which is an improvement over the South Korean slowpoke’s normal languid pace of play.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”