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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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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

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, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."