Cut Line: USGA's Davis acts as peacemaker

By Rex HoggardMay 17, 2013, 10:59 pm

The USGA’s Mike Davis takes top honors in this week’s edition as he tries to head off a Texas-sized showdown next week, while the Byron Nelson Championship scores a much needed upgraded, but we can’t be sure the world’s best noticed.

Made Cut

Pragmatism. As expected, USGA executive director Mike Davis has quietly been playing peacemaker in the ongoing anchoring dispute between golf’s power brokers.

Unlike Peter Dawson, Davis’ counterpart at the R&A, who took exception to the PGA of America and PGA Tour’s public stance against the proposed ban on anchoring (seems he was only interested in comments of support), Davis told Golf Magazine that dissension was always going to be part of the process, although his opening comment about PGA president Ted Bishop is telling.

“Before Ted Bishop, trust me, there was a different mindset with the PGA of America. But listen, the PGA of America and Ted Bishop and the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem, have done exactly what we asked them to do,” Davis said.

“We had a 90-day comment period for the rule, and it's a divisive rule. But they've never specifically said they're not going to follow this rule. People want to think we're at war with the PGA of America and the PGA Tour, and it's just not the case.”

Building a consensus these days is akin to finding a wayward tee shot in the rough at quirky and confined Merion; which, by the way, may be the easiest part of Davis’ job this year.

Upgrades. A change of venue may not be the answer for all that ails the Byron Nelson Championship, but it seems officials are at least asking the right questions.

It was reported this week that the Nelson will move to Trinity Forest, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that is expected to begin construction next year.

Mired with a bad date on the calendar and a golf course that has endured more bad facelifts than Joan Rivers, the Nelson has become an afterthought on the Tour schedule for most players.

But it seems officials and the deep pockets at AT&T, which is stepping in to sponsor the event, have realized the most important rule of the tournament business – location, location, location.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rory McIlroy. Just about the time the Ulsterman appeared to be playing his way out of his mini-slump arrives word that there is another twist in the world No. 2’s life.

Sources told Golf Channel on Friday that McIlroy is leaving Horizon Sports Management, which he joined in 2011, and will form his own management firm that will include various family and friends, including his father Gerry.

The new team won’t have much heavy lifting to do if reports of McIlroy’s 10-year deal with Nike Golf are accurate, and he’s not the first golf superstar to create his own management company.

Still, this is the second time McIlroy has changed his management team since he turned pro in 2007, and right now, after a rocky start with the Swoosh, he could use all the stability he can get.

Vijay Singh. It’s been more than a week since the Fijian stunned Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and while the timing of his lawsuit remains suspect, a review of the filing suggests a legitimate beef.

The suit accuses the Tour of “violating its duty of care and good faith,” when reports surfaced in February that Singh had used a supplement that contained IGF-1, a substance that is on the circuit’s banned list.

What remains unknown, however, is what Singh hopes to achieve with the lawsuit. It’s hard to imagine a player who has nearly $70 million in career earnings needs the money, nor does it seem possible a successful day in court will repair his reputation. Fair or not, he will always be the “deer antler” guy.

Which leaves just one option – revenge.

The desire for justice is understandable, but the fact is Singh’s wounds are very much self-inflicted. IGF-1, a growth factor like HGH, was listed as an active ingredient in the spray at least three times on the company’s website that sells the supplement and has always been on the Tour’s banned-substance list. Perhaps IGF-1 shouldn’t have been on the banned list (see WADA below), but curious science doesn’t diminish culpability in this case.

Tweet of the week: @IanJamesPoulter “Oh well, it’s probably the only tournament you can lose your first match and still be OK. Tomorrow is another day. Good job, really.”

While Cut Line applauds the Englishman's attitude, if not his perspective, the round-robin nature of the Volvo World Match meant Poulter's Round 1 loss was simply a momentary setback. In our Friday four-ball, we call that a mulligan.

Missed Cut

Short memories. Independent contractors will say it’s a sign of the times, but this week’s less-than-star studded field at the Byron Nelson Championship suggests a baffling indifference to one of the game’s legends.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, before Lord Byron passed away, the Nelson regularly drew a deep field. But since 2006, when the Hall of Famer died, the current top 5 players in the Official World Golf Ranking have a combined four starts in Big D.

The Sony Open is the only non-opposite-field event to receive fewer World Ranking points then the Nelson, and this week’s field features just five players ranked in the top 20.

Lord Byron deserves better.

WADA. Singh sued the Tour over his run-in with the anti-doping code, but it is the World Anti-Doping Agency that seems at fault.

The Tour follows the WADA policy because they are supposed to be the experts. But the agency flip-flopped late in the proceedings with Singh and announced that IGF-1, taken orally and in such small quantities, did not constitute a violation.

The agency announced this week it is reviewing IGF-1’s status on the banned list as a direct result of the Singh situation, but that does little to help Singh or the Tour.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”