Cut Line: Paying for Tiger and Phil

By Rex HoggardJuly 6, 2012, 6:52 pm

In this week’s lineup, Dottie Pepper gets a much-deserved second chance for Solheim Cup glory, appearance fees on the PGA Tour endure a second look and the math and magic of the world golf ranking screams for a second opinion.

Made Cut

A dash of Pepper. It was a momentary lapse into what she thought was a closed microphone that led to five years of regret for Dottie Pepper, but on Wednesday U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon took the high road and named Pepper, one of America’s most fiery competitors, an assistant captain for next year’s matches.

Pepper had been on the Solheim Cup persona-non-grata list since she referred to the U.S. side during the 2007 matches as “choking, freaking dogs.” The comment rightfully rankled many U.S. players and Pepper, once considered a shoo-in captain, was cut out of the event.

On Wednesday, an emotional Pepper admitted that she has regretted the comment every day for five years.

“I was delighted for Dottie,” Annika Sorenstam said on Thursday’s “Morning Drive.” “She is such a large part of the Solheim Cup and she brings a lot of intensity.”

High praise considering that Sorenstam once taped a picture of Pepper onto a punching bag during one particularly heated Solheim Cup.

Tweet of the day: @HunterMahan “(Steve) Nash to (the Los Angeles) Lakers? Oh happy day! I loved Canadians before this day, now I want dual citizenship!”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Appearances. Despite reports to the contrary, the PGA Tour doesn’t allow appearance fees, but as tournament officials have become more savvy the practice of doling out back-door appearance fees has become common.

The theory is simple: you don’t buy a pair of Super Bowl tickets for $5,000, you buy an envelope for $5,000 that just happens to have two tickets in it. Word on the practice range this week is that both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson received “show up” money for this week’s Greenbrier Classic. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is that some have used the occasion to suggest it may be time to open Tour tee sheets up to the highest bidder.

The problem with appearance fees, either overt or otherwise, is the impact they have on events that can’t or won’t sign big checks for big names. Next week’s John Deere Classic, for example, is a small-market stop that soldiers on without the occasional cameo from Woods or Mickelson.

If appearance fees were to become commonplace on Tour boutique events like the John Deere would likely move from being a success story to an endangered species.

Blind Justice. Greenbrier owner Jim Justice has, by all accounts, dusted off The Greenbrier resort, and the Old White TPC, and recreated an American gem, but the ambitious owner may have overstepped this week when he told that he has his sights set on hosting a U.S. Open.

“We have just barely got into the infancy of having dialogue in regard to the U.S. Open,” Justice said. “I’ve put out some feelers with others toward the USGA, but I have not had any direct communication whatsoever.”

While crowds this week have been impressive, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is closer to the middle of nowhere than a major metropolitan market and this is, after all, the same course that yielded a 59 to Stuart Appleby just two years ago.

Besides, there would be something inherently icky about a course with a “TPC” in its title hosting the national championship.

Turkey and Tiger. The idea is high-minded enough: bring together eight of the world’s top players for a showcase event in Turkey, which will use the event to help woo the 2020 Olympic summer games.

The event, which will be sponsored by Turkish Airways and feature a $5.3 million purse, is the work of European uber-agent Chubby Chandler with International Sports Management and, according to initial reports, would include the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

Although the event is heavy with upside, Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg said the reports were a tad preliminary and that details remain to be worked out, and Chandler admitted this week on “Morning Drive” that the event has created a bit of a scheduling “mess” this year.

This year’s event, which will feature a match-play format and award $1.5 million to the winner, will be played nine days after the Ryder Cup, but Chandler was confident a better date could be found.

Admittedly the event has found a balance between high-minded and high-dollar, but considering the logistics of an already crowded golf schedule it could quickly go from being a solution for Turkey to a problem for professional golf.

Missed Cut

Diamond roughed up. News last week that Barclays CEO Bob Diamond has stepped down amid a flurry of fines and accusations that the financial giant rigged an important interest-rate benchmark sent ripples of concern through the golf world.

Barclays has been a key player in the game for some time and currently sponsors the first FedEx Cup playoff event on the PGA Tour, an event on the European Tour and Phil Mickelson.

On Wednesday, Mickelson said the resignation would not impact his endorsement agreement with Barclays and he told one Golf Channel insider that he felt Diamond was being made a “scapegoat” for the scandal that surfaced four years ago.

“Personally I’m crushed because I have really enjoyed my time with Bob,” said Mickelson, who first signed a multiyear deal with Barclays in 2008.

Golf has established itself as a risk-free sponsorship property for some time. Too bad some of those who have subscribed to that theory haven’t been as risk-free.

Math. The world golf ranking debate is becoming as repetitive as it is ridiculous, but last week’s calculations became too much for Cut Line to ignore.

Following his victory at last week’s AT&T National, a haul that netted 48 ranking points, Woods vaulted from fourth in the ranking to . . . well, fourth. Mathematicians will explain that Woods’ lack of mobility has everything to do with the ranking’s minimum divisor (40) and his limited playing schedule over the past two years (33 events).

Fair enough, but when a player has won three out of his last seven starts and yet remains mired at No. 4 it may be time for a makeover. A 52-week ranking window may not be the answer, but it seems like a good place to start to the conversation.

Getty Images

(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

Getty Images

Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

Getty Images

Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

Getty Images

Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.