Cut Line: Stricker says no to elk, yes to bucks

By Rex HoggardSeptember 13, 2013, 6:12 pm

There is no cut at this week’s BMW Championship and the LPGA might not get around to the 36-hole axe at the Evian Championship until October at this rate, but Cut Line will fill the void with the week’s winners and losers.

Made Cut

Always bet on Bethpage Black. The PGA of America has a press conference planned next Tuesday on Long Island for a “historic golf announcement,” and rumor has it the association will name Bethpage Black the site of the 2019 PGA Championship and 2024 Ryder Cup.

A couple of things: the weather at Bethpage has to be better for an August PGA and September Ryder Cup – let’s be honest, it can’t be any worse than it’s been for two U.S. Opens in June – and the ’24 Ryder Cup would be a perfect fit for a Phil Mickelson captaincy. Imagine the People’s Captain at the people’s course.

Give the PGA credit for moving in so decisively when the U.S. Golf Association balked at a possible return to the New York muni. Next up, Torrey Pines. We hear SoCal is beautiful in August.

A reluctant champion. Colorado’s elk population is safe for now, and they can thank the looming prospect of an $11 million windfall and Steve Stricker’s sensitivity to PGA Tour one-somes.

Stricker – whose part-time plan this season has resulted in six top 10s, more than half his starts, and a fighting chance at East Lake in the FedEx Cup race – announced this week he will play the Tour Championship, skipping a long-planned hunting trip to Colorado.

“It’s our marquee event. It's the Super Bowl of our year, and for me to just kind of say, you know what, I'm in the top 10 (in FedEx Cup points), I'm not coming, to walk away from that I think would have been foolish,” he said this week.

Good guy Stricker also said that because there are no alternates for the 30-man field at the finale he didn’t like the idea of a player having to go out by himself at East Lake. That’s Stricker, the game’s nicest “marker.”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Vive la 72 holes. The Evian Championship’s first turn as a major has been anything but smooth this season.

Initially, the first-year major came under the microscope when Inbee Park’s quest for the single-season Grand Slam was pencil whipped by the notion that a win at St. Andrews, site of last month’s Women’s British Open, would not be considered a proper Grand Slam.

Now officials, beset by Thursday’s downpour in France and an equally unforgiving forecast this weekend, are faced with a Monday finish. The LPGA even considered cutting the field to the top 50 and ties to finish play and the conversation immediately turned to whether a major could be reduced to 54 holes.

Sometimes, major status comes complete with major headaches.

Compromise. The back end of the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule was released this week with few, if any, surprises. One item of note, however, was covered at last month’s PGA Championship but deserves revisiting.

In what was described as quintessential game of give and take, the Tour agreed to move the playoff “bye” week after the Tour Championship next year. In exchange, the PGA of America gave up the tag line “Glory’s Last Shot” in reference to the PGA Championship.

“Our (Ryder Cup) captain (Tom Watson) felt like it was imperative that our players had a week off after the Tour Championship and the beginning of the Ryder Cup,” PGA president Ted Bishop said last month. “Obviously the week off prior to the Ryder Cup, hopefully, will be good for our players.”

What won’t be good for the players will be the sprint from the Monday finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston to the BMW Championship, which will begin Thursday in Colorado.

Without the bye week, expect players to cut some corners. You know what else starts with a “B” – Barclays, Boston and BMW?

Tweet of the week: @WestwoodLee “Well, shouldn’t play injured but everybody wants to play the Tour Championship. Give it a night to see if my neck and back settle down.”

Mad props to Westy, this week’s bubble boy at 30th on the FedEx Cup points list, for giving it a go at the BMW Championship and he’s hardly the first player to struggle (first-round 80) while injured. But given another solid season at the majors we’d much rather see the Englishman on the trainer’s table right now. No one has ever come back too late from an injury.


Missed Cut

Don’t call it a comeback? Henrik Stenson doesn’t likely have any interest in the politics or pomp of post-season awards, but in the spirit of competitive relevance to ignore the Swede’s climb out of the professional abyss is a disservice.

In 2010, the Tour effectively retired the Comeback Player of the Year Award – a reaction, some say, to Stricker being named the comeback player in consecutive years (2006 and ’07). Or maybe it was an over-reaction.

While it certainly makes sense not to dole out the comeback award if there are no viable candidates, but when a player like Stenson, who went from 111th on the FedEx Cup list in 2012 to first this season and also leads the European Tour’s Race for Dubai, battles back it’s worth dredging the award out of storage.

Or maybe Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., should have Stricker send one of his CPOY awards to Stenson. He has extras.


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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”