Cut Line: Rookies, rules and Rory

By Rex HoggardOctober 30, 2015, 8:36 pm

This week’s Cut Line is all about extremes, with the rule makers keeping it simple with the most recent edition of the Rules of Golf, while things have gotten far too complicated for officials trying to bring an East Lake-like revival to New Orleans.

Made Cut

Young and restless. There are those who will attempt to characterize rookies winning the first two events on the PGA Tour schedule as a recent trend, but in truth it’s all part of a larger narrative that’s been building for some time.

Before we dub the 2015-16 season Gen Next’s turn, consider that the average age of the top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking is 25 and the last two Player of the Year award winners were in their 20s.

Emiliano Grillo, winner of the season-opening Open, and Smylie Kaufman, last week’s champion in Las Vegas, are extremely talented, fearless, young and all part of a larger move in professional golf that has become a reality – 25 is the new 35.

Favorable rulings. With the exception of the impending ban on anchoring, this week’s release of the 2016 edition of the Rules of Golf was a victory for common sense.

The R&A and USGA adjusted the rules for signing an incorrect scorecard, the movement of a golf ball at address and the use of a training aid or artificial device during a round, all with an eye toward equity and general fairness.

It’s all part of a movement among the game’s rule makers to simplify a game that is, at least to your average fan, undermined by the small print of the rulebook.

“The stated objective is to find a way to simplify the rules, that’s our primary focus moving forward,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf. “It’s a balancing act of inserting fairness, but also the ultimate goal of making it more simple.”

Count this as unsolicited advice, but Cut Line would like to see the powers that be take a hard look at “stroke and distance” penalties and something called a “match adjustment.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rory resurfaces. There have been concerns about his putting and doubts he has completely recovered from the ankle injury that caused him to miss the Open Championship, but all along Rory McIlroy has remained at ease with his comeback.

So far this week at the Turkish Airlines Open he’s shown why pundits and couch potatoes alike should stay away from the panic button, opening his week with back-to-back 67s for a spot inside the top 10.

In a relatively short amount of time McIlroy has proven himself adept at enduring the ebb and flow of the game; whether one chooses to acknowledge his track record doesn’t change the facts.

Missed Cut

Park place. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina officials in New Orleans moved to turn City Park, a sprawling public park with multiple golf courses adjacent gto a public housing development, into an East Lake-like project complete with an 18-hole championship golf course.

The $13 million course is being designed by Rees Jones and has been cited as a possible host of the Zurich Classic by 2020, but ongoing resistance to the project, including local opposition to green fees that will range between $45 and $125, has again slowed the project.

Tom Cousins, who led the restoration of East Lake in Atlanta and the surrounding area and has now turned his attention to bringing the concept to other cities, once told Cut Line that City Park was perfectly positioned for an East Lake-like transformation, but the politics of the Crescent City has proven to be a formidable opponent.

Even if you don’t play golf, or see the need for an 18-hole championship course, anyone who has ever marveled at the state-of-the-art Charles R. Drew Charter School adjacent to East Lake can attest to what golf can do for a community.

Turf wars. Although not exactly a cold war, the gulf between the PGA Tour and European Tour has become much more chilly in recent months.

The rift began when the Tour released its crowded 2015-16 schedule which included the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational played opposite the European Tour’s French Open, which is one of that circuit’s premier events.

The European Tour responded by removing the World Golf Championship event from its schedule and declaring that any earnings won at the Bridgestone by European players wouldn’t count toward the Ryder Cup points list or Race to Dubai.

“Europe had to take the position they couldn’t sanction it, which was unfortunate,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “It was a ripple effect of the Olympics and hopefully we’ll figure out a solution for next time.”

The transatlantic turf war seems to have escalated in recent weeks, with players such as Ian Poulter and Paul Casey wedged between the two circuits.

Some have even suggested the European Tour should yield to this pressure and reduce its minimum number of events (which is now 13), but many of the circuit’s core players see no need, including Poulter.

“You can’t expect the European Tour to roll over and allow all their guys to disappear,” Poulter said this week in Turkey. “It really is the one thing that’s kept the European Tour together, the Ryder Cup.”

Perhaps a global tour, a Darwinian amalgamation of the game’s top tournaments, is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean the European Tour shouldn’t have a say in what that future looks like.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”