Cut Line: O'Grady steps down; Reed's O.B. outburst

By Rex HoggardNovember 7, 2014, 4:35 pm

George O’Grady is out as the European Tour’s chief executive, Freddie Couples may be in as the Ryder Cup captain and Patrick Reed goes out of bounds in this week’s edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

Bye George. It likely wasn’t the way George O’Grady wanted to step down, via a hasty press release in the middle of a four-event finals run, but the European Tour chief executive has made a career out of rolling with the changing times.

Severe economic headwinds in Europe and increased competition with the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup – a $10 million carrot many of the Continent’s best and brightest found impossible to ignore – made the CEO gig particularly demanding for O’Grady.

Still, O’Grady, who took over the post in January 2005, secured a lucrative deal for the creation of the Race to Dubai, established the Final Series and inked new TV deals last year.

Some will say O’Grady wasn’t aggressive enough at keeping Europe’s top players at home for more than just the occasional cameo and that the circuit has become too fragmented, but much like the news this week that he would be stepping down he was a pragmatist to the very end.

Freddie for ’16. It was a blunt and telling admission, “You know, I’m not a PGA of America guy,” Fred Couples told Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte last week.

While it’s true golf’s most interesting man wasn’t the PGA’s brand of vodka – what else would explain the association’s decision to bypass the undefeated Presidents Cup captain for a turn in the Ryder Cup chair? – that was the old PGA.

The new PGA, armed with a task force and a mandate to stop the U.S. team’s Ryder Cup slide, seems more inclined to outside of the box thinking, and Couples would be a popular change of course.

“When they all got home, they said, ‘We need you to do this,’” Couples said of the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s early lobbying.

Giving the U.S. side a popular captain is only part of the overhaul that will be needed to end Europe’s dominance in the biennial event, but it’s a good start.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Down the rabbit hole. When Dustin Johnson announced on July 31 that he was taking a leave of absence from golf because of “personal reasons,” there was plenty of speculation.

A day later when reported Johnson had been suspended by the PGA Tour for failing his third drug test the speculation went into overdrive.

Now, however, we have learned that not all of Johnson’s “personal reasons” were self-inflicted.

Last week the eight time Tour winner filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta claiming 17 counts of possible racketeering, wire fraud and negligence violations against a former adviser and his former partners.

The most damaging part of the suit involved allegations that Mark and Rod Wittstadt, who are partners with the Morris Firm who were named in the lawsuit, “threatened to disclose private and confidential information about Johnson ... should he commence a lawsuit to seek repayment of the money,” for a loan of $3 million.

Seems there was more to DJ’s “personal problems” then anyone could have ever speculated.

Tweet of the week:

Say this about the Iceman, he’s not without a healthy amount of perspective.

Missed Cut

An uneasy Reed. Earlier this year at the WGC-Cadillac Championship Patrick Reed caused a stir when he declared himself a top-5 player. At the Ryder Cup, he angered some European fans when he “shhh’ed” the crowd.

On Day 1 at the WGC-HSBC Champions Reed reacted to a three-putt at his first hole with an expletive and a gay slur that was picked up by television microphones.

“I’m sorry for using offensive language today in China. My passion to play well got the best of me and my word choice was unacceptable,” Reed tweeted.

The same passion that made Reed one of the American team’s few bright spots at September’s Ryder Cup is also to blame for his outburst in China.

There is no doubt Reed has the potential to be star, as well as the petulance to be his own worst nightmare.

The (Tour’s) golden rule. You know the deal, if you don’t have anything nice to say ... Or so the Tour figures when it comes to its members’ missteps, a truth that was hammered home this week with a pair of high-profile miscues.

With surprising speed, the Tour sent out a release following Reed’s slur at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Not surprising, the release was short on details.

“The PGA Tour ‘conduct unbecoming regulations’ prohibit the use of obscene language on the golf course. The Tour will deal with this matter internally in accordance with its regulations,” a Tour statement read.

Earlier in the week, the circuit’s decision to not speak ill of its members reached new levels when news emerged from the PGA Tour China that Xin-Jun Zhang had been suspended for six months for signing incorrect scorecards.

Zhang, the China circuit’s leading money winner, is a lock to earn a 2015 Tour, which is sure to test the Tour’s silence is golden rule.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., may be able to sidestep media scrutiny by clinging to an outdated concept of smoke and mirrors, but questions from its own membership over issues of competitive integrity may prove more difficult to avoid.

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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.”