Cut Line: Spieth-Day rivalry fizzles; Rory retakes No. 1

By Rex HoggardAugust 28, 2015, 10:38 pm

EDISON, N.J. – Playoff fever has been supplanted this week by all manner of background noise, from Martin Kaymer’s membership miscalculation to the madness of the Official World Golf Ranking math it’s all added up to an eventful week.

Made Cut

Remembering Butch. A little over a week after his father, Butch, died in a car crash, Ryan Palmer was back at work and doing what Butch would have wanted – playing golf.

Palmer, who moved into the hunt on Friday at Plainfield Country Club with a second-round 67, said he never considered skipping this week’s Barclays after Butch died on Aug. 18 when his car rolled over on a highway near his home in Amarillo, Texas.

“Inside the ropes it's been a little easier because I'm able to kind of get away and play with some ease and some peace,” Palmer said. “At night, it's tough sometimes when I'm alone. But you know, you try to just think about the good times and knowing he's peaceful and happy.”

It also didn’t escape Palmer that his 3-under 67 on Friday would have made Butch happy as well.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Continental divide. It’s quite likely that Martin Kaymer’s PGA Tour membership dilemma is more of a concern for others than it is for the German.

Kaymer failed to advance to the playoffs and finished the season with 13 starts, two short of the circuit’s 15-event minimum. Because last year’s U.S. Open and Players champion is a dual member in the United States and on the European circuit he will lose his PGA Tour membership next season, which means he will be limited to 12 starts and cannot play the playoffs.

For all the uproar, however, playing a limited schedule in the United States will be a curious benefit next year, allowing more time for Kaymer to focus on the European Tour and his quest to make another Ryder Cup team as well as the Olympics.

“I’m not saying he planned it this way, but considering everything that is going on next year it will give him a chance to pick his schedule and stay rested,” Paul Casey said. “It’s brilliant, really.”

Well, maybe not brilliant, but it’s certainly a better situation than some are making it out to be.

A rivalry, a realization. Just when golf was prepared to settle into a few decades of prolonged excitement reality set in to bring us all back to earth.

Just two weeks after watching Jordan Spieth and Jason Day go head-to-head down the stretch at the PGA Championship, the two set out this week paired together for Rounds 1 and 2 at The Barclays with no shortage of expectations.

In order, Day caused a small panic on Wednesday when he withdrew from the pro-am with an ailing back and Spieth missed the cut for the first time since The Players in May after rounds of 74 and 73.

Day rebounded and is 4 under and three shots off the lead but it’s all another reminder of why a true rivalry is so special, because it’s so rare.

Tweet of the week: @ErikCompton3 (Erik Compton) “Not how I wanted to end a season. No amount of determination was going to get me healthy, but I had to try. I am down, I will get up. Fact!”

The two-time heart transplant recipient reluctantly withdrew from last week’s Wyndham Championship because of lingering issues with the gout and played just eight holes on Thursday at The Barclays before his season ended for good.

Although Compton will not advance to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, he told Cut Line that an extended break, however untimely, might not be a bad thing.

Missed Cut

A curious compromise. Following months of backroom give and take between Presidents Cup captains Jay Haas and Nick Price, the Tour unveiled what could only be described as a compromise this week.

For this year’s matches the Tour has reduced the number of total points from 34 to 30, dropping the number of four-ball matches on Thursday and Friday from six to five.

Price had been lobbying for changes to the format for months and had wanted to mirror what they do at the Ryder Cup, which features 28 total points, but it turns out Haas is a tough negotiator.

“After numerous meetings and discussions, it was apparent that both captains felt passionate about their respective positions, as did their potential team members,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “But with no clear consensus between the two sides, it was up to me to make a decision that would be best for the event overall.”

While some see the move as progress, Adam Scott didn’t exactly sound thrilled when asked about the changes on Friday at Plainfield Country Club.

“I hope it makes it closer, but I don’t know if we should be hoping,” Scott said. “The best thing for that event moving forward would be to set it at the same number of points as the Ryder Cup.

“There’s nothing to suggest it’s going to be for sure a close competition, when evidence shows over the last 30 years with the Ryder Cup a lot have been close at 28 points.”

Although Scott’s comments may sound like sour grapes to some, after eight losses in the 10 matches that have been played his appeal for parity should be embraced for what it is – constructive criticism.

Missing the points. Just when the golf world was starting to make sense, the number crunchers at the Official World Golf Ranking once again stepped in to muddy the waters.

After overtaking Rory McIlroy for the top spot in the world ranking with his runner-up finish at Whistling Straits, Spieth didn’t have long to savor the accomplishment.

Although McIlroy didn’t play The Barclays his divisor dropped to 44 this week and effectively gave him a larger ranking average. Combined with Spieth’s missed cut in New Jersey it added up to a new (old) world No. 1 in McIlroy and another awkward moment.

Following his loss to Day at the PGA Championship earlier this month, Spieth figured it was “as easy a loss as I've ever had,” because he’d overtaken McIlroy atop the world ranking. Following logic, his abbreviated week at The Barclays must rank as his worst missed cut.

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Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.

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No indication when Trump Turnberry will next host an Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 18, 2018, 12:25 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Turnberry last hosted The Open in 2009, during that magical week where Tom Watson, at age 59, nearly won his sixth claret jug. Ultimately, Stewart Cink won in a playoff.

While Turnberry remains on The Open rota, according to the R&A, there is no clear understanding of when the club, purchased by Donald Trump in 2014 before he became President of the United States, will next host the championship. The next open date is 2022.

“With respect to 2022, I’ve already said, ’21 we’re going to be celebrating the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews,” R&A chief executive Marin Slumbers said Wednesday on the annual news conference on the eve of The Open. “And in ’22, we’ll be going south of the border.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

South of the border means the 2022 Open will be at one of the three venues in England. Since the 2020 Open is at Royal St. George’s, that leaves Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Liverpool as the two remaining options. Since Lytham (2012, Ernie Els) last hosted The Open before Liverpool (2014, Rory McIlroy), that’s the likely choice.

Trump was at Turnberry for two days last weekend, 150 miles southwest of Carnoustie. The R&A said it did not receive any communication from the U.S. president while he was in the country.

Turnberry hosted the Women’s British Open in 2015. Inbee Park beat Jin-young Park by three shots.

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Slumbers explains driver test; Rory weighs in

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:18 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Players and manufacturers were informed about three weeks ago that the R&A intended to test individual drivers at this week’s Open Championship, marking the first time the rule makers have taken the current standards to players.

Although the R&A and USGA have been COR (coefficient of restitution) tests on drivers for some time, they have been pulling the tested clubs from manufacturers, not players.

“We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the Rules of Golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players' drivers straight out of the bag,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive.

Thirty players were notified their drivers would be tested this week - including Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson - from a list that roughly mirrored the breakdown of various brands based on current equipment counts.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

The R&A test center was set up on the Carnoustie practice range, and according to Slumbers there were no violations of the testing limits, which essentially measure the spring-like effect of the driver clubface.

Although none of the drivers failed the testing, Rory McIlroy did say that TaylorMade was “singled out a bit more than anyone else.”

“A manufacturer is always going to try and find ways to get around what the regulations are. It's a bit of an arms race,” said McIlroy, who plays TaylorMade equipment but said his driver was not tested. “If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then obviously guys shouldn't be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much.”

There was no individual driver testing at last month’s U.S. Open, and it’s not expected to become the norm on the PGA Tour, but Slumbers did say the R&A tested drivers at an event earlier this year on the Japan Golf Tour.

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Carnoustie open to any number of scenarios

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:07 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Carnoustie holds a distinct position within the Open Championship’s rotation of storied venues. It’s come by its nickname, Car-Nasty, honestly as the undisputed rough-and-tumble heavyweight of all the championship links.

Historically, Carnoustie is a beast. A punch in the mouth compared to the other stops on The Open dance card. If the likes of the Old Course and Muirfield are the fair ladies of the rotation, the Angus Coast brute would be the unfriendly bouncer.

As personas go, Carnoustie wears its reputation well, but the 147th edition of the game’s oldest championship has taken on a new look this week. It’s not so much the softer side of Carnoustie as it is a testament to the set up philosophy of the R&A.

Unlike its sister association in the United States, the R&A allows Mother Nature to decide what kind of test a championship will present and this Open is shaping up to be something far different than what the golf world is accustomed.

Instead of the thick, lush rough that ringed the fairways in 1999 and 2007, the last two stops at the par-71 layout, this year has a dust bowl feel to it. The stories have already become legend: Padraig Harrington hit a 457-yard drive on the 18th hole during a practice round that bounced and bounded into Barry Burn and on Monday Tiger Woods slashed a 333-yard 3-iron down the same power alley.

“It’s so fast. It’s nothing like ’99 – that was like a jungle. It was wet, rough was up, there was wind. In 2007, it was cold and green,” said Ernie Els, who has played two championships at Carnoustie. “But this is very, very dry. Very different.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Anywhere else these divergent conditions would simply be the nature of the game’s most hands-off major, but at Carnoustie it’s created an information vacuum and wild uncertainty.

Within a 48-hour window, two of the championship’s easy favorites offered diametrically contrasting philosophies on how they might play Carnoustie.

“There's eight or nine drivers we hit. Depending on the wind direction, we could hit more,” said Brooks Koepka, who won his second consecutive U.S. Open last month. “It's so burnt out, where there's a lot of opportunity where the rough's not quite as thick as I expected it to be.”

That was in contrast to how Jordan Spieth, this week’s defending champion, was thinking he would play the course.

“I talked to [caddie Michael Greller] a little bit about what he thinks, and he said, ‘You might hit a lot of 5-irons off the tee, you might wear out 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you're used to,’” Spieth said.

Unlike previous championships that were played at Carnoustie, which were won by the player best prepared to take a punch, this one might come down to which strategy, controlled and calculated or bold and brash, works best.

In theory, the bombers seem to be on to something, primarily as a result of the dry conditions that have produced uncharacteristically thin and playable rough. The alternative is weaving irons in between the countless bunkers that pepper each fairway, which on links courses are widely considered true hazards compared to what players face at other major venues.

“I would definitely say it is a bomber’s course,” said Gary Woodland, who counts himself among the long-hitting set. “A lot of the bunkers here are 285, 290 [yards] to cover, for us that’s nothing. You can take them out of play, which normally isn’t the case because it’s windy and rainy over here.”

That line of thinking leads to a rather narrow list of potential contenders, from betting favorite Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy and Koepka. But that logic ignores the inherent unpredictability of The Open, where countless contenders have been undercut by the rub of a bad draw and the always-present danger of inclement weather.

Although this week’s forecast calls for continued dry weather, winds are currently forecast to reach 25 mph on Sunday which could upend game plans, regardless of how aggressive or conservative one intended to play the course.

Despite conventional thinking and the realities of a modern game that is being dominated more and more by long hitters, there are compelling arguments for the other side of the bash-or-bunt debate.

One needs to look no further than Woods’ record on similarly dusty tracks as an example of how a conservative approach can produce championship results. In 2006 at Royal Liverpool, Woods, who is playing his first Open since 2015, famously hit just one driver all week on his way to victory, and he was just as effective in 2000 at St. Andrews when the Old Course also played to a bouncy brown.

“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked to compare ’06 at Hoylake to this week. “Either case, I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees.”

Adding to that uncertainty is Carnoustie’s track record in producing late drama on Sunday. This is, after all, the same slice of coast where Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18th tee box with a three-stroke lead in 1999 only to slash his way to a closing triple-bogey 7 and the game’s most memorable, or regrettable, runner-up showing.

In ’07, the heartbreak went extra frames for Sergio Garcia, who appeared poised to win his first major championship before he bogeyed the last hole and lost a playoff to Harrington.

Even this week’s baked-out conditions can’t mitigate the importance and challenge of what many consider the most difficult Grand Slam finish; but the yellow hue has certainly created an added degree of uncertainty to an already unpredictable championship.