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Cut Line: Time to get it right

By Rex HoggardJune 8, 2018, 4:21 pm

This week’s edition takes a deep dive into the good, bad and ugly of pace of play in professional golf, along with a sweaty farewell to Memphis in June.

Made Cut

On the clock. It is interesting how opinions relating to this week’s Shot Clock Masters range from corny to a contrived attempt to address a complicated problem.

Pace of play is trending again after last week’s final round at the Memorial sent many fans over the slow-play cliff, and this week’s European Tour stop in Austria has only polarized an already contentious conversation.

Perhaps pace of play does require a more nuanced answer than an oversized stopwatch, but if rounds that are averaging between three hours, 45 minutes and four hours aren’t progress then we don’t know what is.

There are plenty of factors that contribute to slow play, from golf course design to field size, but this week’s experiment has produced on one front, with players regularly ready to hit when it’s their turn. And that’s progress.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Play time. The USGA is sometimes guilty of taking itself too seriously, but there are times when the blue blazers offer a glimpse into the softer side of the association.

Each year the USGA spends what must be an exorbitant amount of time putting together the threesomes for Rounds 1 and 2 at the U.S. Open, and each year one can imagine officials sitting in a room coming up with all sorts of combinations.

Some of these connections are rather straightforward – like the former U.S. Open champion threesome of Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson and Graeme McDowell – while others are a little more subtle, such as the All-SEC group of Jason Dufner (Auburn), Brandt Snedeker (Vanderbilt) and amateur Braden Thornberry (Ole Miss).

This year’s tee times, however, seemed a tad stale – yes, we know, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera Bello are all from Spain, got it – and in this era of marquee pairings putting Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson together is down right lazy.

If the USGA really wanted to be creative they would have given Kevin Stadler and J.J. Henry, who teed off in the first group for the final round at the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills – before the association broke out the hoses – special invitations into this year’s championship and paired them with Phil Mickelson, who has been outspoken in recent weeks regarding USGA setups. Those conversations would be pay-per-view worthy.

On point. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk joined Matt Adams on his “Fairways of Life” show on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio this week to discuss a number of topics, including vice captain Tiger Woods’ chances of playing on this year’s team.

“I’m starting to hear guys in the locker room, a little buzz, how far he’s hitting it,” Furyk said. “He’s definitely on my radar. When he has played he’s had some quality finishes. Anyone in that top 30, 35 are immediately on the radar if they win an event.”

Woods dropped to 34th on the U.S. point list following his tie for 23rd at the Memorial last week, and his play this season certainly justifies that kind of attention, but there is a concern that Furyk may be starting to establish the foundation of what many see as a foregone conclusion that Woods will play on this year’s team, either as an automatic qualifier or a pick.

By all accounts, Furyk is one of the most thoughtful and thorough American captains in recent history, but on this front he may be backing himself into a corner.

Missed Cut

Feeling the heat. This week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic is a swansong for the event, which has been a fixture on the Tour schedule since 1958, as the event prepares to replace the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational next season.

While the move to become a World Golf Championship will assure the event an improved field, it remains to be seen if its new spot on the calendar will lead to a better event.

Temperatures this week at TPC Southwind will hover around 94 degrees at what is largely considered the Tour’s ultimate endurance test. As the field sweats out another week of exceedingly high temperatures and humidity, it’s worth pointing out that July, which is when the new World Golf Championship will be played in Memphis starting next season, is historically the area’s hottest month.

Tweet of the week:

Flesch describes himself as an “avid realist” on his Twitter account, which, along with his 15 seasons on Tour, makes him the ultimate voice of reason on this front. Push back from fans on social media won’t improve the pace of play on Tour. That will occur only with dramatic and fundamental changes to the circuit’s pace of play policy and that seems unlikely any time soon.

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Watch: Koepka nearly aces par-3 13th Sunday

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 4:24 am

Just when it looked like he was facing a legitimate challenge Sunday, Brooks Koepka responded with a near-ace.

Up four to start the final round, Koepka saw his lead disappear as Gary Woodland raced up the leaderboard to tie him at 13 under and then 14 under.

Unfazed, the three-time major winner birdied the par-5 12th to regain his outright lead and then followed up with this tee shot at the 218-yard, par-3 13th.

And just like that, the tap-in birdie put Koepka back ahead by two with five to play.

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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.