Cut Line: Match Play finale highlight of languid West Coast swing

By Rex HoggardFebruary 28, 2014, 7:17 pm

As the PGA Tour arrives in Florida to begin the official run up to the Masters, we take one final look back at the eventful finale at last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and an otherwise languid Left Coast.

Made Cut

Good Day. The knock on Jason Day throughout much of his young career is that the Australian, while a fine player, lacked the intensity to close out tournaments under pressure.

Last week at Dove Mountain, Day may have finally put that rap to bed with his overtime victory against Victor Dubuisson. Because of the win-or-go-home nature of match play, each of Day’s six matches were a litmus test for a player who’d managed just one victory in six seasons on Tour.

“In golf you have to choke some and hopefully you win more than choke some,” Day said on Sunday. “But these experiences, these wins, and especially playing match play like this, it's so similar to playing Sunday rounds that it's a good experience to play in match play events because it just gets those juices flowing, what you're going to feel on Sundays at big events.”

Maybe Day’s Match Play marathon doesn’t translate to bigger and better things, but it did prove that he can close out rounds under pressure, and more pressure, and more pressure ...

Filling that Hollow feeling. It has been a season of change for Quail Hollow Club, the tony Charlotte, N.C., layout that has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship since it joined the PGA Tour line up in 2003.

The club recently underwent a dramatic redesign to prepare to host the 2017 PGA Championship. According to various sources, players should ready themselves for the new look when the event is played in early May.

The event also seems to have found a home away from home for 2017 when the Tour stop will have to move out of Quail Hollow to prepare for the year’s final major. Word on the practice tee last week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was that the Wells Fargo will be played at the Tom Fazio-designed Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, N.C., for one year.

The folks at the Wells Fargo have proven themselves adept at putting on a quality event and can now add another line to their resume – have PGA Tour event, will travel.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Woeful West. As the PGA Tour breaks camp and heads east it’s worth taking one last look at what turned out to be a wanting West Coast swing.

Perhaps the weak West Coast fields were a byproduct of the new wraparound schedule or simply changing priorities for the top players. But the ability to quantify how far the Left Coast has fallen is not up for debate.

This week’s Honda Classic, once a vagabond stop adrift in the Florida swing, will award 60 points to the champion. Only the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (72 points to the winner) – which was missing the world’s Nos. 1, 2 and 4 – received more points.

To make matters worse, the absence of a title sponsor and future venue for the Match Play means the event may move to greener pastures perhaps in Florida or even overseas, further weakening the West Coast.

Of course, Tour officials did have one bit of good news this year from the West Coast – it didn’t snow.

A helping hand. The financial axe that was falling on the men’s golf program at Furman has been stayed, at least for now.

In a letter sent from a group of former Furman players, including Brad Faxon, and obtained by GolfChannel.com’s Ryan Lavner, the school will consider keeping the men’s team beyond this spring if the program can raise $285,000 to cover its operating cost for the next two years.

Beyond that, the program would have to establish an endowment of “no less” than $2 million by the end of 2015 to continue operations.

While the move was good news to anyone associated with the program, particularly the current players, the $285,000 needed to keep the doors open for two years is part of an effort by the university to stem a $6.3 million operating deficit in fiscal year 2014-15.

Considering the economics of scale, it seems cutting the men’s golf program would qualify as a penny wise and pound foolish decision.

Tweet of the week

Uihlein tweeted that after an opening 73 at the Honda Classic on Thursday, but it’s funny because Cut Line has that same line tattooed on his forearm.

Missed Cut

Social stupidity. Former PGA champion Steve Elkington has once again run afoul of common sense and socially accepted behavior on Twitter, this time with what appears to be a poor attempt at humor directed Michael Sam.

“ESPN reporting Michael Sam is leading the handbag throw at NFL combine ... No one else expected to throw today,” he tweeted.

Sam is the NFL hopeful who recently announced he has gay, while Elkington is the insensitive clown who continues to offend and astound with his blatant abuses of his right to free speech.

Elk has become the poster child for what is wrong with social media – just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

PGA Tour. Not surprisingly, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., clung to the company line when it came to Elkington’s faux pas this week, declining, as they always do, to talk about the crime or the punishment.

“Under our regulations, conduct unbecoming a professional includes public commentary that is clearly inappropriate or offensive. With respect to this matter, and consistent with our longstanding policy, we do not comment on player disciplinary matters,” a Tour statement read.

While Cut Line understands, although utterly disagrees, with the Tour’s policy of “go ahead and ask, we won’t tell” when it comes to punishments, how does that dovetail with ignoring the obvious?

Fine, don’t announce Elk’s punishment, which should be substantial, but at least have the common sense to take a stand against ignorant and offensive comments.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”