Cut Line: Spieth makes it big; Chambers a big miss

By Rex HoggardDecember 11, 2015, 3:38 pm

Jordan Spieth was nearly perfect, the PGA Tour was perfectly baffling and Chambers Bay proved to be an imperfect storm at this year’s U.S. Open as Cut Line reviews an eventful 2015.

Made Cut

Jordan rules. When Jordan Spieth began his year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open there were doubts.

Doubts he could close out a PGA Tour victory despite finishing 2014 with back-to-back victories in Australia and the Hero World Challenge. By the time he completed his historic 2015 season there were no such concerns.

The 22-year-old wunderkind won the Masters in record fashion – setting 36- and 54-hole scoring records and tying the 72-hole record – the U.S. Open, and he came within one putt of possibly winning the first three legs of the single-season Grand Slam.

After adding a runner-up showing at the PGA Championship, Spieth closed the year with a fifth Tour title at East Lake to claim the FedEx Cup.

“I’m extremely pleased and I'm happy to go into the offseason now with this year under my belt knowing that I can do this,” Spieth said at the World Challenge earlier this month.

As he exited 2015, no one, not even Spieth, was doubting his ability to close.

Roars and rehab. En route to his first start of the season in Abu Dhabi, Rory McIlroy penned a few goals for 2015 on the back of his boarding pass.

When the Northern Irishman returns to the Middle East early next year he should add a footnote to that list – avoid “kickabouts.”

The Northern Irishman derailed, however innocently, what was shaping up to be one of the most competitively compelling seasons in recent history when he injured his left ankle playing soccer in July and missed title defenses at the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Prior to his extracurricular snafu, McIlroy matched Spieth with victories at the WGC-Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship. When he did return at the PGA Championship he was rusty and regretful, but by the time he wrapped up his year with a victory at the European Tour’s finale in Dubai his season had come full circle.

“I saved the best for last,” he smiled in Dubai. “I feel like I finally showed this week what was in there. I just needed to find something to be able to let it out and thankfully this week I was able to do that.”

The possibilities to add to next year’s boarding pass are limitless, let’s just hope he commits to cutting back on the “kickabouts.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Top heavy. Attendance was up, viewership at all-time levels and sponsorship nearly universal across all platforms, and yet the Tour still found ways to bewilder in 2015.

To start the season, the No Fun League nixed what is largely considered the greatest show on grass when the circuit announced it would no longer allow players to throw items into the crowd adjacent the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale because of safety concerns. This follows the Tour’s move to end the always-entertaining caddie races on No. 16 a few years ago.

At the CIMB Classic in November John Peterson was last in the field of 77 players when he teed off on Sunday with a “Happy Gilmore” swing. After multiple calls from the Tour regarding the incident, Peterson took a unique approach to the potential fine.

“I told them I’d tweet that I’d been fined and then start a GoFundMe page to pay the fine,” Peterson said. “I bet it would have worked.”

Even the Tour had to laugh at that.

Task at hand. Technically, the U.S. Ryder Cup task force was formed in late 2014 in the wake of another European boat race at Gleneagles, but the details and delivery were a central theme in 2015.

As a sign of progress, American captain Davis Love III spent more time texting with Tiger Woods during the Presidents Cup than he did serving as an assistant captain in South Korea.

“We saw some things that we want to be part of the plan next year,” Love said. “If you don’t think the task force is working, Tiger Woods is interested in what’s happening this week to apply it to the Ryder Cup.”

Woods’ commitment level has been elevated to the point that he bought in as a vice captain for next year’s matches – along with Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker – whether he turns his competitive fortunes around or not. The PGA of America’s move to bring the players into the process seems to have injected new life into the event.

Those same players now must do their part and bring some much-needed parity to an event that has been largely one-sided for the better part of two decades. The alternative is another loss and the uncomfortable question – where do you go from here?

Tweet of the year: @JordanSpieth “Pebble yesterday. Cyprus Point today. Spyglass tomorrow. Hard to imagine a better 17 miles than out here.”

Actually, it was Tour rookie Justin Thomas’ response to Spieth’s grammatical faux pas that earns the year’s top tweet: “[It’s] Cypress you dropout.”

His social media miscue ended up being about the only thing that Spieth, who did bolt the University of Texas early to turn pro, got wrong in 2015.

Missed Cut

Bay watch. Some of the greens at Chambers Bay were rough around the edges for the U.S. Open, others were dead long before the first tee shot went in the air for Round 1.

As U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis explained, bringing fine fescue grasses to the Pacific Northwest is a tricky proposition. Yet making an agronomic gamble at the national championship was probably not the most egregious mistake officials made at this year’s U.S. Open.

With apologies to Dustin Johnson – who probably would have converted that birdie putt at the 72nd hole at, say, Muirfield Village – a major championship golf course that doesn’t afford spectators a single view of the eighth hole and only limited glimpses of many other holes is fundamentally flawed.

“For the architect, Robert Trent Jones, to say that they built this golf course for the U.S. Open is awful,” said Billy Horschel, who was also not a fan of the putting surfaces. “I heard today that Mike Davis had input in this golf course, which blows my mind even more that they would build a golf course and not think about the fans and the viewing aspect of it.”

The Open will return to the Pacific Northwest municipal course sometime in the future. Let’s hope they’ve perfected 10-story grandstands and a green thumb by then.

Trump-ed. Donald Trump has vaulted to a substantial lead in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in large part thanks to his bombastic ways, but his politics aside it was golf’s reaction to The Don’s histrionics that missed the mark in 2015.

In July, Trump said “the Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States,” adding that in many cases they are “criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”

The PGA of America cancelled this year’s Grand Slam of Golf, which was to be played at Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, but the LPGA, PGA Tour and USGA all balked when faced with a chance to make a stand.

Despite the fallout from Trump’s comments, the Ricoh Women’s British Open was played at Trump Turnberry, the WGC-Cadillac Championship will continue at Trump National Doral and the candidate’s course in Bedminster, N.J., is still set to host the U.S. Women’s Open in 2017.

Growing the game has become a central theme for all of golf’s ruling bodies, yet when faced with a real and meaningful chance to make an inclusive statement they blinked and hoped the political winds would blow by.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.