Cut Line: Reality check

By Rex HoggardJuly 1, 2011, 7:14 pm

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Erik Compton won’t be around for the weekend at Aronimink Golf Club, but he will have plenty of chances next year as a PGA Tour member after an inspiring Nationwide Tour victory last week that transcends birdies and bogeys; while Bubba Watson also didn’t make it to the weekend in France and couldn’t be happier.

Made Cut

Robert Garrigus. In sport we love reclamation projects – the deeper the abyss the bigger the headline – and no one in golf has completed a climb quite like Garrigus. From drug-addicted “waste” to Tour winner, Garrigus’ rise from pothead to Tour pro was recently documented in a revealing Golf World story.

Among the highlights of the report was this quote from Garrigus that likely didn’t sit well in Camp Ponte Vedra Beach: “Oh yeah, there were plenty of guys on the Nationwide Tour who smoked (marijuana) in the middle of the round. We always talked about it. You could go in the Porta John and take your drags.”

On Thursday at Aronimink, Garrigus didn’t seem overly concerned with the potential fallout from the Tour or his fellow players: “I can handle it,” he said.

If that kind of honesty is a bit too unfiltered for the Tour, all one really needs to know about the 33-year-old is that he’s one of the most engaging and genuine players in the game regardless of his history. “I hit the ball 300 yards and I smile a lot,” he reasoned.

The only difference between John Daly and Garrigus, besides those two majors, is that Garrigus has faced down his demons and is a better person for it.

Erik Compton. “Erik the Great” looked like a two-time heart transplant patient at Aronimink, struggling to matching rounds of 76 to miss the cut less than a week after winning his first Nationwide Tour event in Mexico.

AT&T National was Compton’s fifth consecutive tournament and he was looking forward to some rest, as well as an annual checkup on his third heart next week in Miami. Moreover, at second on the Nationwide Tour money list he was cherishing the idea of not having to play Q-School.

“I’m going to do nothing (in the fall),” he smiled widely. “It’s a great feeling.”

Yes, it is.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The tournament formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic. Considering that self-deprecation was a Hope hallmark, the late comedian would have likely made a punch-line out of the news that his name had been removed from the tournament’s marquee.

“They wanted to name it the Humana Bob Hope Challenge, but they ran out of vowels.” Ba-da-boom.

Instead, officials went with the Humana Challenge after a lengthy debate according to many reports. Eight years of financial security, not to mention the impact of having former president Bill Clinton involved, is certainly worth the tradeoff, but that doesn’t make dropping Hope’s name from the title any easier to stomach.

“It’s a tough one,” Joe Ogilvie said. “You want to make sponsors happy and Hope was the type of guy who would want what’s best for the event. This makes the tournament go on.”

In short, thanks for the memories.

Barclays, Bethpage and bad courses. First the good news: Barclays signed on for another four years to sponsor the PGA Tour’s stop in metro New York City and, as previously reported, pulled storied Bethpage Black into its rotation of courses.

The bad news: Much-maligned Liberty National will also return to The Barclays lineup in 2013, a course that Robert Allenby was asked to assess after the first round in 2009, “They set it up very well. That's as good as I can go on the course.”

And while the move to Bethpage (2012 and 2016) is an upgrade by any measure, the bigger concern is the fate of public golf in the U.S. Open rota. Former U.S. Golf Association executive director David Fay made it his mission to bring municipal golf to the national championship table, but the USGA continues to balk at a return to Torrey Pines, site of what was arguably the decade’s best Open in 2008, and now Bethpage has sent an interesting message – don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Missed Cut

A Bubba in Paris. We regularly hear how shameful it is that more Americans don’t take their games around the globe, but after Bubba Watson’s week in France the globe may change its tune about America’s insular ways.

Following a first-round 74 on Friday at the French Open, Watson appeared to already have one foot on a plane bound for the States. “I think this might be the only time I play in Europe. I miss my home,” he said.

But it wasn’t so much Watson’s homesickness as it was his cluelessness that ruffled French feathers – calling the Eiffel Tower “that big tower,” the Arc de Triomphe “this arch I drove round in a circle” and the Louvre as “a building starting with ‘L.’”

There’s a fine line between charmingly unschooled and ugly American, and Watson seems to have blown through that stop sign.

Tweet of the week: @KipHenley (caddie for Brian Gay) “AT&T in Philly where the fans can be tough. They booed Santa Claus, who boos Santa? What’s wrong with you if you boo Santa?”

Tim Finchem. On the scorecard the commish batted something close to .500 this week following news that Barclays has re-upped to sponsor the playoff opener and he was optimistic that FedEx would remain the umbrella sponsor of the circuit’s season-long playoff race, but his reasoning behind why it may not be best for Rory McIlroy, among others, to play more in the United States sounded more like spin than solution.

When asked if the Tour would consider a rule that would exempt top-10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking into whatever event they wished to play regardless of membership status, Finchem said it was a “possibility.”

But he also reasoned, “We increasingly look at things on a global basis, not just an our-tournament basis. If we’re successful in changing rules so that an international player can play four or five more times here, that’s great for those weeks here, (but) it means that he’s not going to play three or four times someplace else.”

Although altruistic, Finchem’s logic misses the point that the Tour is still battling difficult economic headwinds and is quickly approaching a new round of contract negotiations with the television networks. Having McIlroy & Co. around a little more often could only help those talks.

Getty Images

LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

Getty Images

For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

Getty Images

Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.

Getty Images

Woods now listed as Masters betting favorite

By Will GraySeptember 24, 2018, 12:03 am

Now officially a winner again on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has become a popular bet for folks thinking about next year's Masters.

The trip down Magnolia Lane is still seven months away, but Woods' breakthrough victory at the Tour Championship has led bettors to flock to the window to lay down cash on the four-time champ to add green jacket No. 5 next spring at age 43.

Woods was listed at 12/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook when odds opened after the PGA Championship, behind only 2015 champ Jordan Spieth. That's where he remained for the subsequent six weeks, but after a stirring performance at East Lake Golf Club he's now listed as the 9/1 betting favorite for the first major of 2019.

Here's a look at the latest odds via the Westgate, as many of the top contenders head to Paris for the Ryder Cup:

9/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Jordan Spieth

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

16/1: Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Jon Rahm

20/1: Jason Day

25/1: Bubba Watson

30/1: Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Tony Finau