Cut Line: A slow news week

By Rex HoggardMay 5, 2017, 6:26 pm

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The LPGA continues to be slow to the dance with its uninspired playoff policy, while slow play takes center stage this week for all the wrong reasons.

Made Cut

Dustin off the rust. Everyone except Dustin Johnson began this week unsure how the world No. 1 would rebound from five weeks of competitive inactivity.

After Johnson withdrew from the Masters with a lower back injury last month there was an understandable level of anxiety given recent history (see Woods, Tiger), but Johnson's play on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship seemed to answer most of those questions.

The bomber hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and didn’t miss a beat off the tee, averaging 307 yards on Day 1. DJ may not make it four straight victories at Eagle Point, but he certainly doesn’t seem interested in a rehab start.

On Point. It was never going to be easy leaving the plush confines of Quail Hollow Club, and the Wells Fargo Championship’s relocation to Eagle Point Golf Club has had its share of logistical snafus, but considering the inevitable comparisons the layout has exceeded expectations.

Quail Hollow, which will host this year’s PGA Championship, is regularly one of the Tour’s most popular stops, and this week’s event was always going to be considered a step back, but instead the assembled field has offered nothing but praise.

“Flawless,” Adam Scott said of the Tom Fazio design.

“Spectacular,” Phil Mickelson offered.

“Compare it to Augusta,” Ben Martin added.

Eagle Point will likely be a one-and-done stop on the Tour schedule, but it's a good one.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Reading material. The USGA and R&A have been busy of late. Earlier this year the rule makers unveiled a sweeping set of potential changes to the Rules of Golf that has been dubbed a modernization, and last week they announced changes to how video replay is used to determine potential rule violations.

On Monday, the powers that be revealed they would be taking a closer look at green-reading material, pointing out in a joint statement, “We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.”

While the move was widely applauded by a large portion of the play-for-pay set, the idea that doing away with these books will somehow speed up play seems misguided.

“There's so much information out there, it's one of the small contributing factors to slow play,” Scott said. “If you want to address slow play, then you can take away one little part of it there, but it's not going to solve slow play.”

Speaking of slow play. It’s taken 20 years but Glen Day has finally been removed from the list of bizarre trivia answers.

Day had been the last player to receive a stroke penalty in a non-major Tour event for slow play at the 1995 Honda Classic, but last week at the Zurich Classic, Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo took over that dubious distinction.

Campbell and Carballo were given a stroke penalty in the team event after receiving the duo’s second bad time on the 14th hole at TPC Louisiana on Thursday.

Although slow play has been an issue without answer for decades on the Tour and a penalty, any penalty, is a step in the right direction, this had the feel of the wrong execution of the right idea.

Campbell and Carballo were paired with two club pros, who were struggling, and the windy conditions and unique format of foursomes factored into what could only be considered a unique situation.

Getting tough on slow play should be applauded but let’s not make common sense a victim along the way.

Alternate arguments. While the Tour’s push to rework the schedule appears to be in full swing, with the biggest pieces of the new puzzle a schedule that ends on Labor Day and a move back to March for The Players and May for the PGA Championship, there is reason to pause and consider exactly what all that could mean.

The high next Thursday in St. Louis, where the PGA will be played in 2018, is 63 degrees; and 56 degrees in Pittsford, N.Y., site of the 2022 PGA.

To be fair, forecasts change, but is the Tour’s desire to avoid going head-to-head with football season worth removing some of the nation’s best courses from the major championship rotation?

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. It was like a bad song on a constant loop, with Haru Nomura and Cristie Kerr marching back to the 18th tee at Las Colinas six times before the deadlock was mercifully broken.

Nomura went on to win the Volunteers of America Shootout playoff and Kerr was left to suffer the slings and arrows of fans unimpressed with her languid pace (which later prompted an apology from the runner-up).

The real mea culpa, however, should have come from the LPGA, which has been down this road before with other monotonous playoffs on the same hole. Count this under unsolicited advice, but the tour should consider there’s a reason that some don’t like vanilla.

Tweet (actually, Instagram) of the week: @ianjamespoulter (Ian Poulter) “How do you mark your Titleist practice balls . . .”

Although Cut Line can sympathize with the Englishman’s aversion to the darker side of social media and the item seemed innocent enough, this is the same player who drew the ire of the Twitter-verse in 2014 when he complained that his wife had to look after their four children because his nanny had been downgraded on a long flight.

Poulter fired back at his detractors, later tweeting: “I’m extremely happy to block any negative comments. I actually enjoy blocking the sad individuals.”

We appreciate Poulter’s position, and his honesty, but this seems like a case of knowing your audience.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.