Cut Line: Rory, Jack and gym time

By Rex HoggardSeptember 16, 2016, 4:49 pm

The PGA Tour takes a pause in the action before next week’s season finale, but Cut Line remains on the clock.

Made Cut

Picking your battles. Rory McIlroy has endured his share of slings and arrows this season, with much of the criticism focused on a pedestrian putter.

But after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship earlier this month, the Northern Irishman said it wasn’t the criticism about his putting that has bothered him as much as the second-guessing about his fitness program this season.

“For me getting in the gym, that's my pet peeve,” McIlroy said. “Someone that says to me you're in the gym too much, the reason that I play at such a high level, and hopefully will continue to play at a high level for the next 10, 15 years is because of the work I did in the gym.”

On some fronts, the modern tour player’s affinity for fitness is seen as a generational divide, but this week Jack Nicklaus had a slightly different take on the subject.

“When I grew up not even the football players lifted weights,” Nicklaus told ESPN Radio 980 in Washington, D.C. “My workout was playing other sports, today guys get into the single-minded, one-sport routine, I can’t stand that. Most athletes are gravitating to golf because it is such a difficult sport.”

Nicklaus’ take was neither an endorsement for nor an indictment against fitness, just a balanced perspective from someone who knows.

Two-way traffic. After nearly 10 years of tinkering the Tour seems to have found a balance between too much volatility and not enough movement in the playoffs.

Five players moved into the top 100 on the points list at The Barclays, six broke into the top 70 at the Deutsche Bank Championship and four cracked the top 30 with their play at the BMW Championship.

“I think we have it right now, or at least close to right,” Kevin Streelman said. “The movement seems about right, we had it a little too volatile a few years back and not enough movement at the beginning. You need to perform in the playoffs to move on.”

Finding a balance between rewarding regular-season play and the essence of a playoff has always been a challenge for golf, and there are some who still contend there’s too much movement. But at the moment, give the Tour credit for pulling off the unlikely – making (almost) everyone happy.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Center stage. For a tour that sometimes gets lost on a crowded golf calendar, this week’s Evian Championship is a chance for the LPGA’s best to savor a solo moment in the spotlight.

Thanks to the pre-Tour Championship “off week,” the LPGA’s Grand Slam finale in France is an opportunity for the circuit to make a statement without the distraction of a competing PGA Tour event.

That’s not always the case for the LPGA’s top events. The ANA Inspiration was played the week before the Masters this season; the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was played the week before the U.S. Open; the U.S. Women’s Open was played the week before the Open Championship; and the Women’s British Open was held the same week as the PGA Championship.

The modern calendar makes its difficult for the LGPA to separate itself from the game’s other marquee events, but this week should give officials motivation to be more flexible and creative in the future with scheduling.

Pick of the bunch. If Monday’s captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team didn’t exactly ring of a fresh start it’s because the three selections were well short of groundbreaking.

Captain Davis Love III went with Rickie Fowler (who was a pick in 2010), Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes (a pick in 2008). If’s far too early to consider Love’s picks either mistake or masterpiece, let there play decide that, but it is clear the bold choices some expected following last year’s Ryder Cup task force felt more like the status quo on Monday.

Love has a final pick to make following next week’s Tour Championship, and Captain America could still surprise some with that 11th-hour selection. But for now, the new-look U.S. team looks a lot like the old versions.

Missed Cut

Odds and ends. Dustin Johnson’s three-stroke victory at last week’s BMW Championship was the likely walk-off in the Player of the Year race, with the bomber grabbing his third Tour victory to tie Jason Day, with DJ holding a U.S. Open high card.

It is strange, however, that there’s not as much of a consensus for the Rookie of the Year race. Emiliano Grillo would seem to be the easy choice. The Argentine won his first start as a Tour member last fall at the Open, finished runner-up at The Barclays and, along with Si Woo Kim, is one of just two rookies to advance to the Tour Championship.

Despite that resume, a recent poll by your scribe indicated that Grillo was not a lock for the Rookie of the Year award, with some players mentioning Smylie Kaufman, who also won on Tour this season but finished the year 43rd on the FedEx Cup points list. Kim, who rallied late in the season with a victory at the Wyndham Championship, is also getting some RoY attention.

Kaufman is one of the Tour’s bright young players and enjoys an enthusiastic fan base, but this is not a popularity contest. Box up the RoY award and send it to Grillo.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.