Cut Line: Slow-heim Cup

By Rex HoggardSeptember 30, 2011, 7:18 pm

Two Cups added up to one full Sunday last week, with the emotionally-charged Solheim version setting the table for overtime at East Lake and Bill Haas’ shot-of-the-year performance.

It was so good that one almost wonders if golf really needs a spot at the Olympic table, but we digress.

Made Cut

Solheim Cup. Cut Line didn’t think the European team had to win this one or risk the matches become irrelevant, but a shootout on Sunday was needed to wrest the event out of a series of one-sided affairs.

Sunday in Ireland delivered both in the form of a fiercely contested win for the home team, to say nothing of the emotional withdrawal of America’s Cristie Kerr.

As for those who questioned Kerr’s injury-induced decision not to play, which cost the U.S. side a point but not the matches, they must not have been paying attention to her pained attempts to warm up Sunday morning.

We would also suggest the Solheim Cup powers consider hosting the event in Ireland every year. The morning viewing meshed nicely with the Tour Championship and getting to celebrate Arthur Guinness Day – that’s right, that Guinness – is always worth a trip to the Emerald Isle.

FedEx Cup. Sure the math could send the easily confused into seizures and the nonstop parade of potential winners was enough to flummox even the Tour’s own statisticians on Sunday, but two players going mano-a-mano for the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and a $10 million lifeline delivered all the competitive clarity one could want.

The system is not perfect, and given the nature of the game it may never be, but if the last hour of play at East Lake didn’t captivate then nothing will.

Maybe Haas’ out-of-the-pack victory doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a season-long competition – he was 25th on the points list to begin the week and winless in ’11 until the finale – but wild-card teams win championships all the time and no one ever said the 2007 New York Giants didn’t “deserve” the title . . . wait, scratch that.

Tweet of the Week: @Keegan_Bradley “I do not get why people say using a belly putter or long putter should not be allowed because it’s unfair blah blah. Everyone can use it!”

Blah, blah, blah couldn’t agree more.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

LPGA. So this was all an accounting issue. All involved had to assure the “t’s” were crossed and the “i’s” were dotted. Commissioner Mike Whan just needed the proper paperwork to rubber stamp and young Lexi Thompson could be on her way to tour membership and history.

“Lexi Thompson is a unique talent who has continued to grow, develop and mature both on and off the golf course since turning professional in 2010,” Whan said. “Her overall performance, most recently demonstrated by her win at the Navistar LPGA Classic, has currently placed her among the top 50 in the world on the Rolex Rankings. . . . Therefore, effective at the start of our 2012 season, Lexi will officially become a member of the LPGA Tour.”

But if this was all about procedure, why did it feel so personal? If Thompson was such a “unique talent” why not just concede as much following her victory in Alabama? And, most importantly, what is Cut Line supposed to do with this gross of “Let Lexi Play” t-shirts? That’s what we get for buying in bulk.

Tiger Woods. In the litany of foul balls he’s hit over the last two years or so, this one is, at worst, a misdemeanor – a stop sign he brushed past on his way to greener pastures.

There’s no begrudging either Woods or Joe LaCava for a move made in looper heaven. Where Woods got sideways was not running the impending move past Dustin Johnson, LaCava’s old boss. There are no hard rules when it comes to caddie swaps, but locker-room etiquette calls for the simplest of courtesies, even if by proxy.

Sometime before Sunday afternoon, when LaCava gave Johnson his decision, Woods’ people needed to reach out to Johnson’s people. This isn’t about permission, this is about protocol.

At the Dunhill Links Championship this week, Johnson said he doesn’t have any hard feelings about the split, but just to be safe U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples may want to avoid that Woods-Johnson fourball pairing at Royal Melbourne.


Missed Cut

Olympic odyssey. Maybe golf was destined for drug testing given the nature of sports today, but Cut Line couldn’t help but cringe recently when news surfaced that the World Anti-Doping Agency is considering a move that would add tobacco to its list of banned substances. It’s a move certain to draw the ire of Tour types if implemented.

On Wednesday, we caught up with Doug Barron, the only player to ever run afoul of the circuit’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Barron is currently playing the Nationwide Tour and plans to participate in Tour Q-School this fall following a one-year suspension after testing positive for testosterone, which he was taking under doctor’s orders to regulate a condition for low testosterone.

Barron was granted a “therapeutic use exemption” by the Tour last fall that allowed him to start taking testosterone again.

“I feel so much better, it’s incredible. I have energy back,” Barron said. “The thing is, I haven’t played golf worth a darn. I try my best. It’s tough to get a competitive edge back.”

In short, Barron lost an entire year of his career because the Tour needed to align itself with WADA’s policies for golf to become an Olympic sport. Maybe golf’s inclusion into the 2016 Games will be the boost Tour suits expect it to be, but at what cost?

Slooooow play. Hardly breaking news here, but the glacial pace of play at the Solheim Cup soured many fans on what should have been the LPGA’s moment in the sun.

Three of the four morning matches on Friday exceeded the five-hour, 20-minute allotment for rounds in Ireland. That U.S. captain Rosie Jones wasn’t overly concerned about the languid pace was even more concerning, but this is hardly an LPGA phenomenon.

“If you gave one guy two shots (penalty), the pace of play would pick up 15 percent,” said Joe Ogilvie, one of the PGA Tour’s fastest players. “Give us (distance-finding) lasers – 20 shots a tournament guys have weird angles into pins and take extra time to get yardages. A laser would cut that down by 20 percent.”

Give them golf carts and running shoes for all Cut Line cares, five-plus-hour rounds is too long.

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.