Cut Line: Sawgrass Sights Sounds

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2011, 9:42 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If The Players Championship is the best field in golf then why is Tiger Woods’ second-consecutive WD all anyone wants to talk about?

The “fifth major” will, of course, carry on without Woods, not to mention world No. 1 Lee Westwood, but as Grand Slams go this one still appears to be searching for an identity.

Made Cut

Tim Clark. The wee defending champion put aside an elbow injury to play this week – though he did have to withdraw Friday after 10 holes – and offered the ultimate gesture of respect when he had Tour officials replace the South African flag flying in the “Circle of Champions” at TPC Sawgrass with Spain’s flag in honor of the late Seve Ballesteros.

“To have his flag up there is just a small little tribute to him. Obviously he deserves a whole lot more,” Clark said. “It went beyond just Spanish golf, it was world golf.”

As if all that wasn’t enough, Clark purchased cupcakes that were served on Thursday in the Sawgrass media center. In honor of Champagne Tony Lema, “Cut Line” would like to suggest a new, however misleading, nickname – “Cupcake Timmy Clark.”

17th Heaven. “Gimmick or good hole?” Lucas Glover was asked during his Wednesday practice round at the famed island hole, sparking a debate that Johnson Wagner seemed to end with a surprising testimonial.

“(In 2008) during the playoff (between Sergio Garcia and Paul Goydos) I came out here and watched,” Wagner said. “I think it’s a great hole. It makes you hit a shot and everybody has to play it.”

Pete Dye’s contrived circus may not be universally admired, but it is always on the players’ minds and maybe that’s the best any architect can hope for.

Quail Hollow. For the second consecutive year the Carolina gem delivered another Sunday slam without the aid of anyone named Tiger or Phil, which is no easy task for any event.

The bonafide mid-major gave us Rory McIlroy’s closing masterpiece last year and Lucas Glover’s short-game clinic last Sunday, but the Tour’s status in Charlotte seemed to be put on the clock last year when Quail Hollow was named the site of the 2017 PGA and became the leader in the clubhouse for the 2024 Ryder Cup.

Word around the caddie barn last week was the event will take a hiatus from Quail Hollow in 2015, ’16 and ’17 to retool for the PGA – during which time the Wells Fargo would rotate to another Carolina course, say Pinehurst – and return to Charlotte in 2018.

Seems about right. In NASCAR country four lefts always bring you home.

Tweet of the Week: @McIlroyRory “If I’m too young to know if I like a course or not Butch (Harmon) is too old to coach . . .”

It was the Northern Irishman’s response to criticism that he skipped The Players for all the wrong reasons.


 

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger Woods. The results may have been unsightly, but you can’t fault the man for trying. At worst, Woods’ nine-hole 42 was a rehab start that simply didn’t go well. At best, it may have convinced him to take the time needed to heal a particularly concerning Achilles injury.

Recovery time for an Achilles injury is about eight weeks, which means June’s U.S. Open may be questionable. But this is the same man who won a U.S. Open on a broken leg against doctor’s orders so it’s impossible to bet against Woods at Congressional, healthy or otherwise.

Golf needs Woods, but what it really needs is the former alpha male on two good legs.

Phil Mickelson. Lefty is no stranger to arm chair architecture, and Thursday’s indictment of TPC Sawgrass’ par-3 13th green, which he double bogeyed with an 8-iron in his hands, was anything but subtle.

“When I design courses I try not to screw the player like that,” Mickelson said. “I try to keep it a little fair.”

Outspoken assessments are certainly part of Mickelson’s charm, but it must be pointed out that this is the same player who is on record saying, “(Nos.) 16, 17 and 18 (at TPC Sawgrass) combine for the greatest risk-reward opportunity in all of golf.”

Sometimes a bad bounce is just a bad bounce, not the byproduct of a bad golf course.


 

Missed Cut

May day. Five years into the experiment, The Players' move to the drier confines of May seems to be a relative success, but – as usual – unintended consequences have cropped up.

Conflicts with the European Tour schedule, which is heading into an important stretch, cost the event Westwood and McIlroy this year and the fields at the Byron Nelson and Colonial have been impacted by a seven-week run that includes the Wells Fargo, Players, Memorial and the U.S. Open.

Warmer temperatures may also be having an impact on the fans. The grandstands around the Stadium Course’s 18th hole were removed this year because, according to one official, it is simply too hot to sit and watch.

“I’m cynical, I know, but it feels non-major-esque,” said one Tour player.

Rory Sabbatini. We may never know what, if any, action is taken against the Tour’s bad boy for his reported misbehavior in New Orleans last month but this much is certain, without a more transparent system no amount of fines or suspensions are going to do much good.

Sabbo told Golfweek magazine: “I heard it all. Supposedly I had a fight with (Sean) O’Hair and I told the Tour to ‘F-off.’ Hearsay is hearsay.”

Although the facts remain unconfirmed, there is little doubt something happened at TPC Louisiana. Memo to Sabbo: misleading denials do no one any good, just ask Barry Bonds.


Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.