Cut Line: No cut, guaranteed cash not always enough

By Rex HoggardOctober 31, 2014, 2:30 pm

If a tree falls at TPC Sawgrass, does anyone hear it? If the PGA Tour travels to Asia, will anyone play? And if the PGA of America stumbles on the way to the high road, is the association beyond reproach? Answers in this week’s edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

DL 2.0. From host to PGA Tour title hopeful in a single news cycle. Not bad for a 50-year-old grandfather.

After an eventful week spent entertaining sponsors, doling out trophies and, just for good measure, finishing tied for 41st place at his own McGladrey Classic, Davis Love III managed to make his flight to Malaysia for this week’s CIMB Classic and is tied for 12th placeafter opening 68-71.

Not bad for a part-time Tour player and fulltime host last week at Sea Island. Despite officially reaching his golden years, the 20-time Tour winner doesn’t seem to have much interest in slowing down.

“Now family and business will allow me to expand my horizons a little bit, so I'm going to try to play a little bit more all around the world, try to play in some of these events that I'm invited to,” Love said this week. “At 50 years old, now I can start my world travels, I guess.”

Who knew 50 was the new 30?

All access. It was, as Tour commissioner Tim Finchem explained last week, “really the only [issue],” with the circuit’s new wraparound schedule and it appears to be atop the Tour’s to-do list.

The lack of playing opportunities for Web.com Tour graduates, the result of deeper-than-expected fields in the fall, turned into the Tour’s primary action item heading into the second split-calendar season.

The Tour responded with the expansion of field sizes at the Frys.com Open and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, from 132 players to 144; the addition of the Sanderson Farms Championship, which was historically played in the summer as an opposite-field event; and news last week the McGladrey Classic would go to a two-course rotation and expand from 132 players to 156.

Combined, the Tour will have added 180 new playing opportunities next fall and the moves have already started to produce results, with 13 more players from the Web.com Tour category playing the Las Vegas stop and 25 more at the McGladrey Classic.

For an organization often associated with slow play, the Tour certainly deserves credit for reacting quickly.

Tweet of the week:

 

Although the loss of the iconic tree adjacent the Stadium Course’s sixth tee shouldn’t be a surprise – this is, after all, the same course that struggled to grow grass in time for The Players this year – it will be missed. Not by Cut Line, who has clipped the thing on numerous occasions, but we’re sure someone will miss it.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Playing favorites. It is a sign of the times that the PGA Tour had to dip beyond the top 125 from last season’s FedEx Cup list to fill the field for this week’s no-cut, 78-man, guaranteed money CIMB Classic.

Even players who could likely benefit from an early-season points boost passed on a trip to Malaysia, which would explain how Nicholas Thompson, who finished last season 127th on the points list, earned a spot in the field.

Even more concerning for Tour types is the number of members who made the trip to Asia but are playing the BMW Masters in Shanghai, the first of four European Tour post-season stops, instead of the CIMB Classic.

Both events have $7 million purses, but the BMW Masters is allowed to dole out appearance fees, which might explain why some U.S. players – including Ryan Palmer and Kevin Stadler – are in China and not Malaysia.

Competition is a healthy part of every business, but when it comes to this type of head-to-head duel with the European circuit, the Tour is playing six clubs short of a full bag without being able to woo players with appearance fees.

Speed dating. At first blush it would appear the McGladrey Classic has it all: a respected golf course (Sea Island’s Seaside layout), stability (McGladrey announced a five-year sponsorship extension last week) and leadership (Love).

The only thing missing is a permanent, and workable, spot on the calendar. Since the inaugural event in 2010, the McGladrey has been played the first week in October, the first week of November and everywhere in between; and next year the event will try out another spot on the schedule.

The 2015 McGladrey Classic will be played the third week of November, one of two dates offered to tournament officials and, according to some, the best of two bad options.

The alternative was the second week of November, which would have put the event just after the WGC-HSBC Champions and likely have kept many of the Tour’s biggest names away.

Love and officials at the McGladrey have given the Tour everything they have asked for. It’s time for the Tour to return the favor.


Missed Cut

Crisis management. There is no escaping the fact that it was Ted Bishop, not the PGA of America’s board of directors or anyone in the media, who pressed the “send” button last Thursday.

It was Bishop who allowed his emotions to get the best of him. It was Bishop who thumbed in the fateful tweet that ultimately cost him his position as PGA president.

The PGA’s board and staff, however, are not without some blame in arguably the most surreal saga in the association’s history. It was a senior staff member who, according to Bishop, advised him to “go underground and be silent for 24 hours and see what happens.”

It’s crisis management 101 – always go on the offensive.

There is also an issue of semantics. According to Bishop, when he pressed for the reasons behind his dismissal the PGA board of directors gave him three – negative feedback from the media, potential damage to sponsor relations and negative responses from PGA members.

In a memo sent to various leaders and PGA section directors, however, the association stated, “The board felt that the comments made through social media violated the PGA of America Code of Ethics Bylaws.”

In his own missive made public on Wednesday, Bishop warned the association’s membership what the ruling could mean going forward. “This is powerful and for someone who served six years on the PGA Board of Control it clearly sets an eye-opening precedent. I want to emphasize to all of you the severe importance in the use of your social media platforms. Do not be cavalier with your words and succumb to a Code of Ethics violation,” Bishop wrote.

Bishop has no one to blame for his removal from office but himself, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more than enough blame to go around.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”