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Cut Line: Ryder Cup reconsideration

By Rex HoggardJuly 27, 2018, 4:40 pm

In this week’s edition of Cut Line, Francesco Molinari’s victory at Carnoustie adds a new twist to the Ryder Cup hype, the PGA Tour may be second-guessing the secondary cut, and the RBC Canadian Open gets a new spot on the schedule and a better field . . . maybe.

Made Cut

Momentum moment. An event that was wildly one-sided in favor of Europe as recently as 24 months ago had taken on an inevitable feel of victory for the U.S. team. Fresh off the United States’ 17-11 victory two years ago, this year’s Ryder Cup had a distinct red, white and blue vibe.

Since the home side’s breakthrough at Hazeltine National in 2016, Americans had won five of the last six majors and boat-raced the International team, 19-11, at last year’s Presidents Cup.

But on Sunday at Carnoustie, Francesco Molinari ended the American Grand Slam run. Now, if early scouting reports from Le Golf National in Paris, site of this year’s matches, are any indication, the current crop of American bombers might not find the tight, rough-lined fairways to their liking.

“There's going to be a lot of European guys vying for [Molinari’s] partnership in the foursomes at the Ryder Cup, that's for sure,” Rory McIlroy said last weekend.

For the moment, momentum has swung back in the Continent’s direction. The Europeans will also have history on their side considering that the last time the American team won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil (1993) Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who will be two key anchors for the U.S. side this fall, weren’t even born.

A new look. Despite a closing 75, Davis Love III posted his best finish of the year at last week’s Barbasol Championship thanks, at least in part, to a familiar face in a new position.

Love had Mac Barnhardt, his long-time friend and former manager, caddie for him in Kentucky, where he began the final round just four strokes off the lead.

“It’s always fun to spend time with him in whatever capacity and to see him playing so well after all his injuries made it awesome for both of us,” Barnhardt said.

Barnhardt, who parted with Lagardère Sports in May, also caddied for Love at the John Deere Classic and said the two might reunite between the ropes later this season.

Tweet of the week: @DodoMolinari (Molinari’s brother, Edoardo)

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Secondary second thoughts. When the PGA Tour introduced the secondary cut in 2008, the concern was how exceedingly large weekend fields impacted pace of play.

To be clear, the pace of play hasn’t picked up but the secondary cut may have outlived its usefulness.

The secondary cut, which calls for a second field reduction after 54 holes if 78 or more players make it to the weekend, has already been stopped at certain events, primarily the first two playoff stops. There’s currently a push to remove the second cut at The Players, and a recent proposal to the players advisory council would end the practice at all events.

In place of a secondary cut, fields would be reduced to the top 65 and ties after 36 holes, instead of the current top 70 and ties. The European Tour uses a top-65 rule and that circuit doesn’t seem to have the need for a secondary cut.

The PAC discussed the option at its meeting during the Quicken Loans National earlier this month and will continue the dialogue at the council’s next meeting in August.

If a new rule makes things more palatable for everyone involved, then so be it. Just don’t expect Cut Line to adjust. “MDF” is here to stay.

Closing in. However you slice Tiger Woods’ play at The Open, the bottom line remains the same, having the game’s most high-profile player in the mix is good for golf.

Although Woods’ quest for major No. 15 came up three strokes short and he still seems to be missing a crucial element late on Sundays, having Tiger anywhere near the lead promises a spike in interest that the game hasn’t seen in nearly half a decade.

There’s also something to be said for the impact Woods’ continued solid play has on his own psyche.

“I was saying earlier that I need to try and keep it in perspective because, the beginning of the year, if they'd have said you're playing The Open Championship, I would have said I'd be very lucky to do that,” Woods said on Sunday at Carnoustie. “I know that it's going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I'm at now, I'm blessed.”

Missed Cut

Oh, Canada. The Canadian Open has struggled with its post-Open Championship date for some time, with many top players bypassing the trip over from the United Kingdom.

As part of the Tour’s schedule makeover beginning next season, the event will move to the week before the U.S. Open in early June. It’s a relocation many see as a move that should help the championship’s field.

The problem with that thinking, however, is how the other schedule moves could impact Canada. The Travelers Championship, which is played the week after the U.S. Open, regularly attracts a strong field and could lure some players away, and the new condensed lineup could prompt others to simply make the most of a relatively quiet run on the schedule.

As the old saying goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.