Cut Line: Optimism for LPGA; Bifurcation for the PGA Tour?

By Rex HoggardJanuary 25, 2013, 6:43 pm

Call it a contingent cut. The PGA Tour may consider bifurcation of the Rules of Golf if the proposed ban on anchoring is approved later this spring; Phil Mickelson will address his tax fortunes in the future if he decides to vote with his feet; and the PGA of America would consider a more democratic selection process for its captains if . . . well, two out of three isn’t bad.

In this edition of Cut Line we make sense of what was a qualified week.

Made Cut

LPGA. Cut Line ran into the circuit’s chief communications officer, Kraig Kann, this week at the PGA Merchandise Show and the former Golf Channel host couldn’t contain his excitement.

“We are extremely pleased with everything that is happening,” said Kann, his smile betraying how understated his take actually was.

On the same day, the tour announced it was adding a new, match-play event to its schedule in 2014 that will feature the game’s top players in a team format. The International Crown is just another baby step forward for a circuit that has cornered the market on “most improved” since Michael Whan took over as commissioner in 2010.

Whan & Co. have succeeded where many before them have failed in making the LPGA relevant. Now if only Kann would stop smiling.

Options. Few in golf can say so much without saying anything at all, but PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem spoke volumes when he addressed the media following Tuesday’s mandatory players’ meeting at Torrey Pines.

With discontent growing among his constituency regarding the potential ban on anchoring, the commish left the door open to the possibility of bifurcation – or two sets of rules for amateurs and professionals.

“It certainly wouldn't be our objective. Our objective is to follow the rules and keep the rules together. Now, having said that, the whole question of bifurcation is always out there to be discussed,” he said. “Personally, I think in some situations bifurcation is OK.”

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a rousing endorsement for bifurcation consider Finchem’s unique dilemma. He has never wanted to be in the rulemaking business because of the inherent risks of creating regulations that benefit certain players while hurting others, but the anchoring debate has struck a nerve. As a result, the commish has decided an inflexible corner is no place to be and that it is always better to have options.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Lefty field. Regardless of which side of the political isle you reside and independent of the reality that all Americans are spending extra time studying the tax bill these days, Phil Mickelson’s foray into the world of tax-and-spend last week was ill-advised.

Just ask the big left-hander.

“My apology is for talking about it publicly, because I shouldn't take advantage of the forum that I have as a professional golfer to try to ignite change over these issues,” said Mickelson following comments last Sunday that suggested California’s new tax laws may require “drastic changes” on his part.

Few in the game are as PR savvy as Mickelson and his Wednesday mea culpa at Torrey Pines likely netted him more fans than he had before he launched into his dissertation on taxes at the Humana Challenge.

But for Lefty the lesson is clear: if California’s taxes are too high, pack up and more to Florida or Texas or one of the nine states without state income taxes like dozens of other Tour types. Sometimes the most powerful statements are made without saying a word.

Select audience. Following last week’s announcement that Paul McGinley would lead the European Ryder Cup team in 2014 at Gleneagles some, including your scribe, suggested that a similar selection process could benefit the U.S. side.

Ten members of the European Tour Tournament Committee voted unanimously for the Northern Irishman in ’14, although the debate was equal parts contentious at times and extremely public compared to how the U.S. selects captains.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop responded to those suggestions on Thursday and stressed that there was plenty of player input into the selection of Tom Watson to lead the ’14 team.

“It was a unanimous decision that Paul (Levy, PGA secretary) and Derek (Sprague, the association’s vice president) and I made, and it went with a lot of thought,” Bishop said.

Bishop also said that many former captains contacted him after the U.S. loss at Medinah last year, but the fact remains the ultimate decision was made by three hardworking and dedicated men who have nonetheless never played in a Ryder Cup and will not be between the ropes at Gleneagles.

This is neither an indictment of past U.S. captains or Watson, who by all accounts was a brilliant selection. Yet there is no denying that a structure that draws a captain directly from those who will be captained has worked well for the Continent in recent years. Getting U.S. players similarly involved with the selection is certainly worth consideration.

Tweet of the week: @Steve_Flesch “At the PGA Merchandise Show now. I obviously missed the ‘Free Navy Sport Coat’ stand when I walked in. #stiffs”

In related news, Flesch informed Cut Line on Friday that he doesn’t own a navy sport coat, so there you go.

Missed Cut

Quite Rors. It was never going to be fair for Rory McIlroy. The glitzy Monday announcement, the hype surrounding the Ulsterman when he showed up on the first tee last week in Abu Dhabi with a full lineup of Nike Golf gear in his bag, it was always going to be a difficult debut.

That McIlroy switched back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for Round 2 in Abu Dhabi only fanned the flames of instant analysis and, as he has in the past, the world No. 1 handled the scrutiny with honesty and aplomb.

“He put 14 clubs in the bag and hadn’t played in two months,” said Dave Stockton Sr., McIlroy’s putting guru. “He’s pumped about the clubs. He has no question he can use those clubs, I just think it was a little bit early.”

Growing pains like last week’s missed cut in Abu Dhabi were always going to be the pitfalls of such a wholesale jump and Stockton’s take will likely be prophetic in the coming weeks, but in the punch bowl where McIlroy now resides every missed cut will only heighten the scrutiny.

As unfair as it all seems, this is McIlroy’s new reality and perhaps the greatest challenge of his young career. 

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've get experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"I think I've won and lost actually from four ahead, so I've got experience both ways," Rose said. "Just shows you can't get ahead of yourself.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."

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Koepka looking to make hay on Horrible Horseshoe

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:26 pm

The Horrible Horseshoe - Nos. 3, 4 and 5 at Colonial Country Club - annually ranks as one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour.

Consider Brooks Koepka undeterred.

Last year's U.S. Open champ has played the stretch 2 over this week but knows that if he's going to have any chance at catching Justin Rose on Sunday, he's going to need take advantage of the par-5 first and then find a way to pick up shots on the Horseshoe.

"I feel like just need to get off to a good start on this golf course," Koepka said after a third-round 67 Saturday. "If you can get 2 or 3 under through six holes, I think you'll be right there."

Koepka will start the final round four behind Rose, as he looks to win for the first time since his maiden major victory last year.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

The big-hitter missed nearly four months this year with a wrist injury and is progressing quickly in his comeback despite dislocating his wrist on two different occasions over the last two months.

Koepka missed the cut with partner Marc Turnesa at the Zurich Classic in his competitive return before following up with a tie for 42nd at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 11th at The Players Championship.

Now, thanks to a closing birdie Sunday, he finds himself playing alongside Rose in the final group on Sunday.

"I feel like my game is coming around," he said. "[At Zurich], I was five days into touching clubs. I am finally finding a rhythm and feel like I'm getting really close. ...

"Just want to get off to a good start [tomorrow]. That's really all I am trying to do. You put together a good solid round tomorrow, you never know what can happen. The important thing is we were just trying to get in that final group. I thought the putt on 18 was kind of big to get in that final group and play with Rosey."

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take a four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up one to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made 17 birdies and just three bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentinian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 7-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year.

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th.

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71.