Cut Line On the Right Track

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2010, 1:28 am

The last time Tiger Woods returned to golf after an emotional hiatus following the death of his father at the 2006 U.S. Open he missed the cut. How things go next month at Augusta National remain to be seen, but given his earlier-than-anticipated announcement this week “Cut Line” is going to give him the competitive benefit of the doubt.

Made Cut

Tiger Woods. Opinions vary on whether the embattled world No. 1 is a new man following months of seclusion and therapy. The jury is still out on that. But if there is a 12-step re-entry process Tuesday’s initial step is encouraging for no other reason than it removed more question marks than it added.

That he announced “Return 2010” more than three weeks before he takes the field at Augusta National is a dramatic coloring outside the lines for Woods, and that he seems to have made a competitive sacrifice for logistical and practical reasons indicates damage control is almost as much a priority as golf ball control.

“I would imagine he's going to be a little rusty. He has not played a round of golf since November I think. Doesn't matter who you are. You are going to be competitively, you know, under the gun. You're going to be a little bit rusty,” Steve Stricker said.

For a star who has lost a healthy amount of luster in recent months, a little competitive rust may be a welcome reprieve.

Ben Crenshaw/Pinehurst. In the ego-driven business of golf course design it was refreshing last week to read Gentle Ben’s take on the tweaks he has planned for venerable Pinehurst No. 2.

Crenshaw, alongside design partner Bill Coore, were hired to nip/tuck the southern gem, but in an encouraging interview last week it was clear that when it comes to No. 2 less is more.

“The course is still there, it’s a museum piece,” Crenshaw told the Fayetteville Observer. “It’s a lot of golfers’ favorite course in the United States. It’s always been known as a wonderful strategic test of golf.”

Crenshaw, perhaps more than any of his fraternity brothers, understands that Donald Ross made tinkering an art form at No. 2, it’s why he lived there almost until the time of his death in 1948. Modern amenities are fine, but too much gloss can turn any “Mona Lisa” into “Dogs Playing Poker.”

South Carolina legislature. State politicos voted Wednesday to keep a measure in the budget that would allow for a $10 million loan to Beaufort County if the Tour is unable to find a replacement sponsor for the 2011 Heritage on Hilton Head Island.

There have been plenty down economy victims on the Tour schedule, the Buick Open being the most recent loss, but the Heritage has been a Lowcountry staple since 1969 and is one of the circuit’s best tournaments, to say nothing of one of the most-appreciated golf courses.

In honor of two-time Heritage champion Boo Weekley, may we suggest the Bass Pro Shops Heritage.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

“Random tee times.” Padraig Harrington is one of the most thoughtful, and entertaining, interviews in the game and to hear the Irishman speak last week it was little surprise he jumped at the chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the White House on Wednesday.

It is the shenanigans of the Tour leprechauns we are not keen with. At Doral last week Harrington said he’d take the chance of getting an afternoon first-round tee time for the opportunity to meet President Obama, who he presented with a set of golf clubs.

By luck, or design, Harrington ended up with a p.m. spot on the tee sheet. Fortunate? Sure, but Irish luck only goes so far. That Harrington is leading only makes it that much harder to stomach on a Tour that has always played by one set of rules.

As for Harrington “CL” has just one question, is there a Guinness tap in the Oval Office?

Micro-economics. As expected Computer Associates walked away from its spot in the World Golf Championships rotation after last week’s reported $12M bash at Doral.

Cut Line is hardly on texting terms with Warren Buffett, truth be told we’re grinding these days trying to turn our 201k into a 401k, but given the current economic headwinds and a tournament that was largely overshadowed by who was not there (Woods), why didn’t the Tour consider a “blue light” special for a sponsor that has gone the distance since 2007?

If there are Fortune 500 companies lined up to sign $12 million annual checks for an event without a Wednesday pro-am, great. If not, how about a little discount selling to get things moving again? Maybe a “buy two WGCs, get the third one half price” action?

Tweet of the week. @DanJenkins (Golf Digest columnist Dan Jenkins) “Tiger Watch. Masters field votes to give Tiger victory, focus attention on next tournament.”

A tad cynical, but funny.

Missed Cut

Tim Finchem. Less than 24 hours before Woods came out of the self-imposed woods, the commish said, “Tiger has indicated to us that he will give us reasonable notice, because we know we have got some preparation to do. I don't have the specific date when he’s going to come back.”

Although the Masters is run by Augusta National, not the Tour, it would seem either the commish is woefully out of the TW loop, a frightening thought, or he wasn’t completely forthcoming, an even more frightening thought. You choose.

John Daly. Just when we thought we’d heard the last of the big man for a few news cycles we get a link to Daly’s newest business venture,

The pies are being marketed to golf tournaments and existing restaurants. The line comes with a variety of promotional material and posters as well as a new slogan, “Grip it & Eat it.”

What’s next?, “Grip it & Snip it.”

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Promise kept as Poulter - and his fire - return to Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 11:14 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – In December 2016, in one of his lowest moments as a pro, Ian Poulter sat on stage at a PGA of America dinner and fielded questions from the audience.

One of the queries was this: What’s left for you in golf?

“I feel I’ve got more wins in me,” he replied that day. “And I’m going to make the team in Paris.”

That much appeared in doubt. 

Earlier that year, Poulter underwent foot surgery and missed the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Relegated to a vice-captain role, he could only watch as the Europeans got dismantled and saw their three-match winning streak come to an end.

Poulter’s own game suffered, too. Before the injury he’d already slipped outside the top 75 in the world – his lowest position since 2003 – and his freefall continued into early 2017, when he plummeted all the way to No. 207.

Then came a surprise runner-up finish at The Players that helped him secure his PGA Tour card for the next season, and then, at age 42, he enjoyed one of his best years. In April he won the Houston Open for his third PGA Tour title (and first since 2012) and then posted solid finishes at The Players, U.S. Open, Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Though he lacked the necessary points to qualify for the European team automatically, he was as much a lock for a captain’s pick as a healthy Tiger Woods on the U.S. side.

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“There’s a little voice in the back of your head that says: ‘You might not get back to as good as you once were,’” he said. “But that’s been a goal for the last 20 months. It’s been something that has kept me going from a motivational standpoint.

“It was difficult being a vice captain last time, knowing how much I’ve helped the team in the past, and I wanted to help the team in any way I could. But I felt like this time around, I really wanted to make the team. I’m pretty proud.”

Poulter and Sergio Garcia are the heartbeats of the European side, veterans have who seen everything in the Ryder Cup, who have plenty of pull in the team room, who know how to handle the most stressful situations.

With a 12-4-2 record, no European Ryder Cupper has a better win-loss mark than Poulter. At Medinah, he seemed to single-handedly bring the visitors back from the dead, teaming with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy to win three matches, then capturing a point in singles, as well, as the Europeans matched the largest final-day comeback in tournament history.

“He’s a legend,” said European teammate Tyrrell Hatton.

Poll any U.S. team member, and Poulter is still the guy they most likely want to beat – not necessarily because he’s the best player on the European side, but because his success seems to fuel his teammates.

“I take it as a huge compliment,” Poulter said. “It’s a daunting position to be in to know that everyone really wants to take you down, but quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much.”

Poulter was the first European player out on the range on Monday – he didn’t qualify for the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship – and captain Thomas Bjorn joked that Poulter “wanted to go midweek last week, if he could.”

“He looks forward to this,” Bjorn said. “We all know Ian’s history and feelings about the Ryder Cup. He wanted to get out there. He’s that type of guy. He’s certainly ready to go.”

Some brave reporter asked Poulter whether he’s preparing for this to be his final home Ryder Cup, whether he’s trying to “drink it all in.”

It was a reasonable question – he will be 46 during the 2022 matches in Italy – but Poulter stared a hole through him.

“It won’t be,” he said flatly.

Then he softened.

“I’d like to think I’ve got more in me, I’ll say that,” he said. “I think how I’ve played this year is hopefully the start of me kicking forward again to play in some more. The reason I answered it that way is I don’t want to think this is my last hurrah.”

But if it is, well, you can guarantee that Europe’s fieriest player will try and go out in a blaze of glory.

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Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.

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To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.

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All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.

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“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”