Cut Line: No shortage of compelling stories in 2014

By Rex HoggardDecember 12, 2014, 8:50 pm

The maintenance staff at TPC Sawgrass couldn’t grow the stuff, Mike Davis and the USGA made a statement by keeping Pinehurst No. 2’s turf on the edge of extinction and women crashed through golf’s grass ceiling in dramatic fashion in 2014.

The season-ending edition of Cut Line looks back on a year defined by equal parts growth and growing pains.

Made Cut

Game changing. Women’s golf was the undisputed champion of the year both on and off the golf course.

Competitively, the LPGA enjoyed an embarrassment of riches with major victories by the high-profile likes of Michelle Wie (U.S. Women’s Open) and Lexi Thompson (Kraft Nabisco Championship), compelling drama between Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park and a breakout season by super rookie Lydia Ko.

Off the golf course, however, women’s golf was equally compelling with the Royal & Ancient’s decision to include women in September with 85 percent of the club’s global membership approving a change that was more than two centuries in the making.

And finally, in November the PGA overwhelmingly elected Suzy Whaley the association’s next secretary, putting the Connecticut club professional in line to become the PGA’s first female president.

“Our theme for this week was driving the game forward, and certainly we are looking to be inclusive to all of those who want to play the game,” Whaley told “As we move forward I hope we show that, and I hope I can be a part of that.”

Golf’s grass ceiling may not have been completely shattered in 2014, but it has certainly started to crumble.

Rors returns. He’d failed to win an event on the PGA Tour, didn’t advance to the Tour Championship and raised eyebrows throughout the game with his wholesale jump to Nike Golf in 2013.

What a difference a year makes for Rory McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman’s bounce back year was historic, with bookend major triumphs at the Open Championship and PGA Championship wrapped around his maiden World Golf Championship title (Bridgestone Invitational).

He added another victory at the European Tour’s flagship event (BMW PGA Championship), and for good measure helped lead Europe to another victory at the Ryder Cup.

McIlroy has always been reluctant to compare himself with Tiger Woods, but after a Hall-of-Fame calendar it may be time to start warming up all that legacy talk.

Brown is beautiful. Those who tuned into June’s U.S. Open expecting to see the normal fare of thick rough ringing lush fairways likely had a difficult time digesting the dusty brown images on their televisions, but for Mike Davis Pinehurst No. 2 was perfect.

“I’m beaming to see that brown tinge to the golf course, the absolutely perfect condition of the putting greens,” said Davis, the USGA’s executive director.

While the hard and fast conditions were the perfect competitive mix for Davis and Co., the USGA’s statement was clear and much more far-reaching – given the challenges facing golf courses across the country brown may become the new green.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A year on the edge. For an organization that prides itself on decorum, the year was a mosh pit of missteps and media minefields for the PGA of America.

Things began to unravel for the association at the PGA Championship when officials tried to beat darkness and an approaching storm by having the final two groups essentially play up as a foursome.

While few, if any, questioned eventual champion Rory McIlroy’s credentials, the move didn’t sit well with Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler and prompted an apology from the PGA.

That miscue was followed the next month when Tom Watson did, well ... pretty much what most observers expected. The 55-year-old was out of touch with his modern players, sought little or no input from his team and was outcoached by Europe’s Paul McGinley.

From there things only got worse for the PGA when president Ted Bishop fired off an insensitive tweet directed at Ian Poulter and was removed from office.

The association ended the year with the first meeting of the Ryder Cup task force, a group some consider an overreaction, and a lone silver lining – 2015 is a new year.

Tiger 5.0. To be fair, while it was a lost year for Tiger Woods it’s impossible to grade the former world No. 1 any other way – incomplete.

He managed just seven Tour starts, missed two cuts, withdrew twice, fired a swing coach, hired a “swing consultant” and spent more time in his doctor’s office than he did on the leaderboard.

While he tied for last place at his own Hero World Challenge and had almost as many chunked chip shots (nine) as he did birdies (14) at Isleworth, Woods’ holiday cup was half full after remaining upright for four days.

“First thing's first: playing tournament golf without being in pain, without having to call my physio every day or having to put out fires with my body,” Woods said. “It was nice to be able to hit the ball the way I did this week.”

While the jury is very much still out on new coach Chris Como, most observers were impressed with a new action that relies less on TrackMan and more on The Man. Tiger remains the game’s ultimate enigma.

As he pointed out earlier this month at Isleworth, “I’m not quite 40 yet ... I’ve still got some time.”

Perhaps, but as the great Yogi Berra once opined, “It’s getting late early.”

Missed Cut

A lack of editing skills. Ted Bishop was not the first person in the golf world to run afoul of Twitter’s inherent dangers, just the most notable to lose his job in 140 characters.

Bishop’s insensitive tweet – which, strangely enough, was sent in defense of a former European Ryder Cup captain – led to his impeachment as president of the PGA and has become the textbook example of how not to use social media.

Without the aid of an editor, the most dangerous thing for a public figure is quickly becoming the “send” button.

Tweet of the year: @TedBishop38pga “Faldo’s record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time [Ryder Cup] points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl.”

Stunted growth. Whether the issue was too much play, too little sun or too much rain, some of the putting surfaces at TPC Sawgrass were less than tournament ready for May’s Players Championship.

The Tour responded by removing trees and plans to convert to a hardier variety of Bermuda grass after the 2015 Players.

But this year’s agronomic episode was hardly an isolated occurrence and led some to ask an age-old question – was the grass greener when The Players was held in March?

Best of times, worst of times. Few, if any, have endured a roller-coaster like the ride Dustin Johnson found himself on this season.

After winning his first World Golf Championship to start the season last November, Johnson took a voluntary leave of absence that later reported was a six-month suspension following his third failed drug test, sued a former adviser over what he claims was a $3 million racketeering scheme, and revealed that fiancée Paulina Gretzky was pregnant with the couple’s first child.

Whatever the truth behind Johnson’s sabbatical and the outcome of his legal plight, 2014 qualified as a bad year for DJ.

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Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

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Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.

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Gooch chooses 'life over a good lie' with gators nearby

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:31 pm

AVONDALE, La. – A fairway bunker wasn’t Talor Gooch’s only hazard on the 18th hole at TPC Louisiana.

Gooch’s ball came to rest Thursday within a few feet of three gators, leading to a lengthy delay as he sorted out his options.

Chesson Hadley used a rake to nudge two of the gators on the tail, sending them back into the pond surrounding the green. But the third gator wouldn’t budge.

“It woke him up from a nap,” Gooch said, “and he was hissing away and wasn’t happy.”

The other two gators remained in the water, their eyes fixed on the group.

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

“I’m sure we would have been fine, but any little movement by them and no chance I would have made solid contact,” he said.

A rules official granted Gooch free relief, away from the gator, but he still had to drop in the bunker. The ball plugged.

“I chose life over a good lie in that situation,” he said.

He splashed out short of the green, nearly holed out his pitch shot and made par to cap off an eventful 6-under 66 with partner Andrew Landry.

“It was my first gator par,” he said. “I’ll take it.”

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Koepka's game 'where it should be' even after injury

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:18 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Brooks Koepka didn’t look rusty Thursday while making six birdies in the first round of the Zurich Classic.

Making his first start in four months because of a torn ligament in his left wrist, Koepka and partner Marc Turnesa shot a 5-under 67 in fourballs at TPC Louisiana.

“It felt good,” Koepka said afterward. “It was just nice to be out here. I played pretty solid.”

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

The reigning U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his wrist the week after he won the Dunlop Phoenix in the fall. He finished last at the Hero World Challenge in December and then the following month at the Tournament of Champions before shutting it down.

He only began practicing last week and decided to commit to the Zurich Classic after three solid days at Medalist. He decided to partner with one of his friends in South Florida, Marc Turnesa, a former PGA Tour winner who now works in real estate.

Koepka hasn’t lost any distance because of the injury – he nearly drove the green on the 355-yard 16th hole. He’s planning to play the next two weeks, at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

“I feel like I’m playing good enough to be right where I should be in April,” he said. “I feel good, man. There’s nothing really wrong with my game right now.”