Cut Line: USGA's hi-tech rule good news for everyone

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2013, 11:07 pm

Golf’s rule makers headline this week’s list by digging a line in the high-tech sand, while Olympic officials continue to scramble in an attempt to turn sand into a golf course that will be ready in time for the 2016 Olympics.

Made Cut

HiDef do-over. The recently announced tweaks by golf’s ruling bodies to end super-slow motion rule violations is good news to everyone, even Tiger Woods.

While USGA officials avoided an arm-chair decision on Woods’ violation during this year’s BMW Championship, which was prompted by a slow-motion breakdown of the infraction, the common sense notion that an infraction is not warranted if it wouldn’t be evident without the aid of technology seems logical.

The rule change, however, emboldened some to call for an end to viewer call-ins, which seems extreme and counterproductive. Viewers call in possible violations all the time, but most are dismissed after a review of the tape by an official. Sometimes those call-ins result in an uncomfortable conversation with the player, but invariably protect the entire field.

And isn’t that what the Rules of Golf are supposed to do?

The Icemon cometh. With an ailing wrist and a tank not even close to being full, Henrik Stenson completed a historic double last Sunday with his victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

Stenson claimed the Race to Dubai trophy less than two months after winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta and the FedEx Cup.

The Swede’s transatlantic tear – which includes three victories in his last seven starts and seven top-3 finishes since July – has made him flush with prize money and bonus cash and propelled him to third in the World Golf Ranking.

Not bad for a guy who was ranked 113th at this point last year. He also endured what appeared at the time a financial haymaker with the collapse of Stanford Financial.

Tweet of the week: @jarrodlylepga (Jarrod Lyle) “Now everything has settled down, I want to send a big thank you to everybody for your support at the Aussie Masters.”

Lyle made the cut at the Australian Masters in his first event back since beating leukemia for the second time. After watching the emotional return it is worth pointing out that it would take a lot more than 140 characters to explain how thankful Lyle really is.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A coup and a comeback. According to various reports this week, including a lengthy story on, current USGA president Glen Nager attempted to realign the association’s management structure by proposing a long-term chief executive and block Tom O’Toole from becoming president.

Both attempts failed and by most indications Nager will cut ties with the USGA after his term expires this year.

That the “golf guys,” a term used for O’Toole and executive director Mike Davis, prevailed is good news considering the duo’s impact on the association in recent years and their no-nonsense management styles.

That Nager felt compelled to reinvent the USGA is concerning. Maybe the association needs to be run more like a business, but running a business is not now, nor should it ever be, the association’s primary goal.

Blame it on Rio. While 2016 may seem like a lifetime away, when organizers of the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil start putting together flow charts for the construction of the host golf course it is, as Yogi Berra once figured, getting late early.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said this week that the irrigation system for the new course, which is being designed by Gil Hanse, should arrive soon, but he did acknowledge that things haven’t gone as smoothly as he would have liked.

“Actually the progress is reasonably good. We think the timeline is in order. We were really concerned there, as you know, for a good period of time,” Finchem said. “But I am going to go down there in the spring and look at it.”

The plan was to host an event at TPC Timetable sometime next year to test the new venue, but at this rate competitors may be asked to bring buckets of water with them to irrigate the parched turf.

Missed Cut

Cup confusion. During a World Cup press conference this week at Royal Melbourne, PGA of Australia CEO Brian Thorburn began with an interesting take on the history of the event.

“Australia is very proud of its involvement, and I haven’t told Tim (Finchem) this but I have got a photograph in my office of Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson signed by each of them from the Canada Cup in 1955 or whichever year it was. I think they were the inaugural winners,” Thorburn said.

“That is right,” Finchem replied.

Only problem, Roberto De Vicenzo and Tony Cerda won the first Canada Cup in 1953, which was the precursor to the World Cup. Nagle and Thomson won in 1954.

Revisionist history aside, this week’s World Cup was supposed to be a tune up for the 2016 Games, but it still has the look of a “silly season” outing.

Officials altered the format to mirror how the Games will be played in ’16 and figured Royal Melbourne would woo the game’s best and brightest, but if this week’s field is any indication golf in the Olympics may need some more selling.

Matt Kuchar and Kevin Streelman are playing for the U.S., Nos. 7 and 46 in the World Ranking.

Four days at Royal Melbourne may not exactly be the “thrill of victory,” but one would have expected better.

Getty Images

Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

Getty Images

Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

Getty Images

Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

Getty Images

Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”