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Cut Line: Much talk of lawns, literal and figurative

By Rex HoggardJanuary 6, 2018, 12:30 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Tiger Woods headlines the first edition of Cut Line in 2018 with details on his latest return, as Rickie Fowler brings out the game’s curmudgeons with a bold wardrobe choice.


Made Cut

Tiger, the Return. OK, so you’ve heard this before - probably 12 months ago when Woods was making a similar comeback from injury - but this time does feel different.

Woods announced on Thursday he will play the Farmers Insurance Open later this month followed by the Genesis Open in February. While it wasn’t a surprise he’d play either tournament – he’s won eight times at Torrey Pines (including the 2008 U.S. Open) and the Los Angeles stop now benefits Woods’ foundation – it was a sign of his progress.

Before his start at last month’s Hero World Challenge, an unofficial, limited-field event played at Woods’ home course in the Bahamas, there were some who openly questioned if he’d ever play competitive golf again.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions, like how his surgically repaired back will endure 72 holes on the hills of Torrey Pines, but his decision to look past his next swing is a reason to be optimistic.

When more is more. The PGA Tour unveiled a new policy last year designed to encourage players to mix up their schedules.

Essentially, the policy requires those who don’t play 25 events in a season to add an event they hadn’t played in the previous four seasons. The policy has been widely applauded as a creative fix to an old problem.

A potential sign of that impact can be seen in this week’s field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where 24 of the 34 players participated in at least 25 events in the 2016-17 season.

Full participation will never happen - no one can play every week - but it seems top players are playing more, and on this front more is better.

A January for Jarrod. If we’re being honest, it’s easy to overlook all of the charitable work the Tour is involved with on a weekly basis because, well, it’s a lot. But the circuit’s most recent push is worth applauding.

The Tour announced a new campaign, “January for Jarrod,” to help Jarrod Lyle pay the mounting medical bills his family faces as the Australian endures a third bone marrow transplant for acute myeloid leukemia.

Donations can be made to the fund right here and all proceeds will go directly to the family.

“Jarrod would be the first player to support others in their time of need, and now it’s our turn to help he and his wife Briony and their two young children, Lusi and Jemma,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of tournaments and competitions officer.

Lyle’s story of perseverance is one of the most inspiring in sports, and the Tour’s efforts to support him shouldn’t get lost in the weekly giving.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

When more isn’t more. It’s become fashionable in recent months to lament the distance modern professionals hit the golf ball and to declare that the only way to challenge the Dustin Johnsons of the world is with longer golf courses.

There’s not a better example of the flaw in this thinking than this week’s event at Kapalua. The Plantation Course ranked 50th out of 50 courses in difficulty in 2017, playing to a 70.37 average (2.65 strokes under par), yet the layout was the fifth longest (7,452 yards) on Tour.

It should be noted that Kapalua, a resort course, has the circuit’s widest fairways and many tee shots play dramatically downhill along bouncy corridors, but that only solidifies the point that the game doesn’t need longer golf courses, just better designed layouts.

Untucked-gate. It’s interesting that while the USGA and R&A are engaged in a “modernization” of the Rules of Golf, and while the PGA Tour has fully embraced multiple forms of new media, certain elements of golf still seem wedged in the past, as evidenced by the reaction to Rickie Fowler’s wardrobe choices this week.

While there were plenty who embraced Fowler’s island-inspired, untucked ways on Thursday in Maui, there were still a number of get-off-my-lawn types.

To be clear, Fowler doesn’t intend to take his bold attire to the mainland.

“I thought it was fun and definitely fitting for Maui. It's not like you can really bring out this shirt in many other places but on the island,” he said. “So I thought it was definitely fitting for the start of this week.”

So relax and have fun, because if you can’t have a little fun in Maui, where are you going to have fun?

Tweet of the week.

My colleague was responding to Fowler’s choice of shirt on Day 1 at Kapalua, but we do give him points for owning his grumpiness. A special-edition Fowler shirt is in the mail.


Missed Cut

Greens aren’t always greener. If you were able tear yourself away from the idyllic views of the Pacific Ocean this week, you may have noticed the greens on the Plantation Course aren’t exactly green.

The discoloration is the result of an old variety of Bermuda grass creeping onto the putting surfaces and causing some less-than-ideal optics, prompting officials to post a notice to players.

“In order to minimize this unexpected issue, the target green speed will be slower than previously stated,” the notice read.

The 14th hole, which was described by one caddie as a bad municipal course green, is the biggest area of concern, so much so that officials will be limited to a few positions near the middle of the putting surface.

Kapalua did endure a particularly wet December that impacted the greens, which players have largely said are rolling fine even if they may not look the best.

There’s nothing more mundane than watching (or talking about) growing grass - that is, until the grass doesn’t grow like you’d hoped.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”