Cut Line: Re-Opened

By Rex HoggardJune 24, 2011, 8:41 pm

The Northern Irish Open, eh, make that the U.S. Open could well be the first of many major victories for young Rory McIlroy, but before we get ahead of ourselves let’s appreciate the 22-year-old’s accomplishment as well as the U.S. Golf Association’s acceptance of a Blue Course that yielded more red than the last midterm election.

Made Cut

U.S. Golf Association. It seems about right that the same week the USGA announced it was returning to Shinnecock Hills for the 2018 U.S. Open the organization would get blasted for the same kind of level-headed thinking that likely brought the storied New York venue back into the championship fold.

Shinnecock Hills, of course, was the site of the 2004 Open, the one most observers agree got away from the blue blazers. At Congressional, which is now being panned for being on the softer side of par last week, officials could have tricked up the greens in an attempt to protect par, but Rory McIlroy still would have won.

“I give all credit to the USGA,” said TV analyst David Feherty. “They could have sucked these greens bone dry with the SubAir system and tried to make them faster and all they would have done is make them unputtable. Believe me, that's the sort of mistake a few years ago that they would have made in a heartbeat.”

In this it’s better to ask for forgiveness, not permission.

Hearing the ‘Rors.’ When he won last year’s Quail Hollow Championship with a closing 62 there was reason to believe Rory McIlroy was indeed the complete package – style and substance.

When he rebounded from a closing 80 on Sunday at Augusta National with his historic victory at Congressional it was impossible to shake the feeling that something special was happening. That his father, Gerry, was waiting for him off the 18th green on Sunday only added to the storybook.

How do you make a world beater?

“His parents are unbelievably good,” McIlroy’s manager, Chubby Chandler, said earlier this year. “He’s sensible. He has good values. There is a bit of Darren Clarke in him here or there, but a lot of Rory McIlroy as well.”

Hilton Head. Lost amid McIlroy’s historic run was news last week the PGA Tour had finally landed some long-term financial security for the coziest event this side of Kapalua.

Royal Bank of Canada signed on to title sponsor the Lowcountry staple through 2016, ending months of speculation that one of the circuit’s longest-running and most-endearing events was going the way of the Dodo.

It’s also encouraging that the RBC Heritage will move back to its traditional post-Masters date beginning next year. However, there is no truth to the rumor that officials were going to replace the historic firing of the cannon with a slap shot from atop the island’s iconic lighthouse.

Tweets of the week: @PaulAzinger “Everyone was compared to Jack, especially Tiger. It’s inevitable that Rory is compared to Tiger now and Tiger at the same age. Enjoy it.”

’Zinger didn’t stop there, posting a scorecard to compare the two shortly afterward: “Driver-Rory. Irons-even. Wedges-Rory. Bunkers-Rory. Putter-Tiger. Health- Rory. Swing clarity-Rory. Confidence-Rory. Record-Tiger.”

Good stuff.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

International Final Qualifiers. Sure, they make life easier on the play-for-pay set and likely strengthen the field for next month’s British Open, but a recent conversation with Davis Love III reminded Cut Line of how cool it was seeing American pros schlep across the pond for the local qualifiers.

The local qualifiers are always played at classic, little-known gems like Royal Cinque Ports and Prince’s and produced compelling storylines. This year, however, just three Americans are signed up for local qualifying, including journeyman Scott Dunlap.

“Why wouldn’t you at least try it?” Love said last month at Muirfield Village. “I always thought you should do whatever you could to play in a major.”

Note to any pro not in the Open Championship field: the only way to win a major is to actually play in one.

Phil Mickelson. Lefty arrived at Congressional with a spark in his eye and a driving iron in his bag, was reduced to a spectator for Rounds 1 and 2 paired with McIlroy, and played the weekend in 6 over par to finish tied for 54th, just the third time in more than a decade he’s finished outside the top 20 at the U.S. Open.

Mickelson turned 41 last Thursday, hardly over the hill but the five-time Open runner-up is inching closer to the Sunday of his career. Lefty made it clear that he does not need a national crown to complete his Hall-of-Fame resume, but the mantel is going to be oddly bare without one.

Missed Cut

Hurry-up historians. The numbers are nothing short of mind-boggling, 16 under par, eight strokes clear of the “B” flight, four rounds in the 60s, 62 of 72 greens in regulation. Simply put, McIlroy’s victory at Congressional was brilliant.

The hyperbole that followed, however, is at best premature and at worst blatantly unfair to the 22-year-old phenom.

“He's potentially the next Tiger Woods. He's that good,” fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell said of McIlroy.

“Potentially” being the key word. McIlroy is easy to like and his swing is nothing short of artistic. But before we welcome in golf’s “new era” let’s give the kid a chance to grow. Given the chance, he may even surpass all those wild expectations.

Doctor’s orders. Speaking of expectations, perhaps it’s a measure of how far the public’s 2011 prospects have fallen for Tiger Woods that his announcement this week that he will not play AT&T National was little more than a footnote.

There seems little chance that Woods will recover from his left knee and Achilles injury in time for next month’s Open Championship, and maybe it is best that he’s become such a model patient considering the extent of his injuries.

“I’m listening to my doctors and allowing time to completely heal,” he said on his website.

Still, it’s never easy to accept that the game’s biggest draw may sit out the remainder of the season. Best guess: we won’t see Woods between the ropes before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.