Cut Line: No excuse for O'Grady, Garcia comments

By Rex HoggardMay 24, 2013, 3:04 pm

In this week’s edition we remember the historic statement Annika Sorenstam made 10 years ago at Colonial, the metaphorical comments made by a handful of PGA Tour players against the ban on anchoring and the insensitive remarks of Sergio Garcia and European Tour chief George O’Grady.

Made Cut

Conviction. In retrospect, some 10 years down the line, the decision to extend a sponsor invitation to Annika Sorenstam has a “low hanging fruit” feel to it.

A decade removed from that historic week and the impact on the game is still immeasurable – as evidenced by young girls walking around Colonial this week sporting “Go Annika” buttons – but at the time the decision was not exactly a tap in.

“There was debate,” said Dee Finley, the Colonial’s tournament chairman at the time. “We talked about and expected some pushback . . . Players do have their opinions and we didn’t anticipate a large pushback but we were concerned. That was probably No. 1 on our concern list.”

There was player pushback, albeit muted and largely anonymous, but when Sorenstam opened with a 1-over 71 in front of record crowds, whatever second-thoughts Finley & Co. had faded into the Texas hills.

“I think Mr. (Ben) Hogan would have approved,” Finley said.

Taking a stance. Whether you agree with Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson and the other Tour members who have formed a coalition to possibly challenge the ban on anchoring or not, their decision to not go quietly should be applauded not argued.

A lawsuit, if it comes to that, would be at least partially motivated by self-preservation, but there is more to this than simply being able to ply your trade with what has been an accepted implement for the better part of three decades.

“It bothers me that guys that have no stake in the game decide how guys are going to make a living doing,” said Brian Harman, who is not part of the group that is represented by Boston attorney Harry Manion. “We have no say in the way that they make those rules. I don’t see how that’s fair.”

This isn’t about where the butt of a putter rests so much as it is where the power to rule the game resides. For centuries the USGA and R&A’s stewardship of the game has been unchallenged and for good reason. But that doesn’t mean that it might not be time to modernize the rule making process for a modern game.

Tweet(s) of the week: @Griffin_Flesch (Steve Flesch’s son) “Happy Birthday (Steve Flesch). Only four years until the Champions Tour!”

And dad’s response: “But who’s counting right? Thanks Pal. Now go practice!”

Kids say the darndest things.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bunker mentalities. Maybe there really was a genuine desire for dialogue, and maybe the pushback the USGA and R&A received from various corners had already been anticipated, analyzed and discarded; but the rule maker’s decision to press ahead with the ban on anchoring leaves some – most notably Clark & Co. – feeling disenfranchised.

The rule makers have proven to be exceptional caretakers of the game for centuries and USGA executive director Mike Davis deserves credit for his leadership, if not his convictions.

“If you’re in governance and do nothing because you’re scared of the ramifications, you shouldn’t be in governance,” Davis said this week.

Still, whether you agree with the ban on anchoring or not it’s hard to accept the idea that this is what’s best for the game right now.

Reluctant seniors. They are all independent contractors, regardless of age, but Corey Pavin and Tom Lehman’s decision to skip this week’s Senior PGA Championship, the Champions Tour’s first major of 2013, and play the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial is curious.

Both are past champions at Hogan’s Alley and consider the classic layout a place where they can still compete on the “big tour.”

“There was a thought process. It wasn’t a very long process,” said Pavin, who is making his 30th consecutive start in Fort Worth. “I love being here, and I would rather play here . . . I feel like I can compete on this golf course. It is one of the few on the Tour that I feel like I can, so that’s why I’m here.”

That both players are former U.S. Ryder Cup captains, which is run by the PGA of America, and have played well at the Senior PGA – Lehman won the event in 2010 and Pavin finished tied for eighth in 2011 – also complicates things.

Both players have earned the benefit of the doubt in their careers, but in this case it seems like the Senior PGA deserved a little more consideration.

Missed Cut

Ignorance. It seems American sensitivities on race and tolerance have been lost in translation somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, but that doesn’t absolve Garcia or O’Grady.

Maybe Garcia didn’t know his racially insensitive comment about Tiger Woods at an awards dinner on Tuesday in London was offensive, but he should have. Ditto for O’Grady, who in an attempt to mitigate the damage caused by the Spaniard’s comments only made things worse.

“We accept all races on the European Tour, we take it very strongly; most of Sergio’s friends happen to be very, er, are colored athletes in the United States,” O’Grady told Sky Sports on Thursday.

Cut Line doesn’t want to hear from our foreign friends about being an insular American anymore.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”