Cut Line: Venues, victories and very peculiar calls

By Rex HoggardJuly 24, 2015, 1:30 pm

The calm before the PGA Championship storm is upon us but that doesn’t mean there’s a dearth of winners and losers to fill out this week’s Cut Line.

Made Cut

Rule of three. While the public and some players continue to stew over everything that went wrong at last month’s U.S. Open (and there was plenty to stew over at Chambers Bay), the USGA went a long way to changing the conversation with Wednesday’s unveiling of the 2022-’24 Open venues.

Although it was not exactly a surprise, Pinehurst will host the ’24 Open – marking the fourth time the national championship is played on the No. 2 course – and The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., was named the venue for the ’22 championship.

The biggest news, however, was Los Angeles Country Club being awarded the ’23 Open to become just the sixth Left Coast course to host the national championship. It will mark the third West Coast Open venue in five years (the 2021 championship will be played at Torrey Pines) and continue an interesting shift for the USGA away from the traditional Eastern staples.

Tweet of the Week: Actually, this week’s social media snapshot comes via FaceBook and caddie Damon Green, who posted a picture (below) of Jordan Spieth drinking from the claret jug won by Zach Johnson.

Count this as reason No. 642 to admire Spieth, whose bid to become just the second player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship came up agonizingly short on Monday in St. Andrews.

Despite the obvious heartbreak, the 21-year-old was waiting to congratulate Johnson after he won the four-hole playoff and, as this picture suggests, had no problem joining the celebration afterward.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Time for a Hall call. There seems to be plenty of blame to go around following last week’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony at St. Andrews.

Laura Davies was unable to attend the ceremony because of travel issues after she tied for 47th place at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Maybe the Hall could have tried harder to get Davies to the ceremony. Maybe Davies could have taken greater precautions to avoid the empty seat on the stage, but it seems the real issue here would be the easiest fix.

The current Hall of Fame criteria allows a player to be considered for induction at 40 years old. Given the length of current careers – Davies is 51 – it seems like a good time to adjust that minimum (55 sounds like a good number) and possibly avoid a similar scenario in the future.

Slow play. Maybe the wheels of justice grind slowly for good reason, but as the PGA Tour digs in for another protracted legal battle it’s hard not to see some of this maneuvering as a delay tactic.

On Thursday a U.S. District Court judge denied the Tour’s motion to change venue in its ongoing lawsuit with a group of caddies.

After months of motions and discovery, judge Vince Chhabria needed only about 40 minutes to deny the circuit’s request to move the case to Florida’s middle district, which is closer to the Tour’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The next legal speed bump will be an Oct. 1 hearing on the Tour’s impending motion to dismiss the lawsuit and on it will go. We understand why lady justice must be blind, but does she need to be so slow?

Missed Cut

Olympic effort. As the 2016 Tour schedule continues to come into focus, it’s also becoming clearer how much of an impact next year’s Olympic Games will have on professional golf.

The Games will be played Aug. 11-14 in Brazil, leaving Tour officials to dramatically overhaul the second half of next year’s schedule, a nip/tuck that will see the Travelers Championship moved from its normal spot behind the U.S. Open to the week after the PGA Championship in early August.

Sources also suggest the John Deere Classic will be played the same week as the men’s competition in Rio followed by the Wyndham Championship.

None of these moves are ideal, although everyone involved is putting a positive spin on the overhaul, and should prompt officials to begin proactive planning to avoid a similar fire drill in 2020 when the Games are played in Japan.

Moon ball. Duty and honor are concepts Cut Line can understand. What we struggle to fathom, however, is a shortsighted and dogmatic adherence to the rules, like in the case of Sangmoon Bae.

Bae was informed this week that a South Korean court had denied his request for an extension to delay his mandatory military service.

South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 years must complete two years of military service because the country technically remains at war with North Korea.

Bae is the second-highest ranked South Korean in the world (107th) and is currently qualified for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio. Perhaps more compelling is the 29-year-old’s potential status on this year’s International Presidents Cup team.

The two-time Tour winner is currently 23rd on the International points list and a strong candidate for a captain’s pick considering that this year’s matches will be played in South Korea.

The value of Bae to the South Korean military is understandable, but just imagine his worth to the nation as a Presidents Cup player and Olympian?

Getty Images

Watch: You have to see this golf swing to believe it

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 3:29 pm

Ho-sung Choi is a 44-year-old South Korean touring pro who plays primarily on the Japan Golf Tour. This week he's competing in the Asian Tour's Kolon Korea Open, where he is in second place, two shots off the lead, after three rounds. This is especially significant because the Korea Open is an Open Qualiffying event, meaning he could qualify for this year's Open Championship.

That, however, is not why we're writing about Mr. Choi. The video above is why:

We're with Charlie here: We can't wait for Brandel's take on this swing.

Getty Images

Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

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Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

Was it a birdie, or a par?

According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”