Cut Line: Waiting to exhale

By Rex HoggardAugust 19, 2011, 9:05 pm

The excitement of Sunday’s shootout at Atlanta Athletic Club had barely subsided when the golf world went on a collective rant about young Keegan Bradley’s use of a belly putter and Fred Couples’ use of his captain’s picks. The major championship season may be over, but there are still plenty of cuts and controversy to be dissected.

Made Cut

Keegan Bradley. The cow bells haven’t stopped since the beanpole closed with three birdies – the PGA can call Atlanta Athletic Club’s 18th whatever they want, it was a par 5 – to force overtime against Jason Dufner.

“Crazy Stuff,” was Bradley’s assessment shortly after his breakthrough and he certainly did his part to increase the profile of the season’s final major with his post-PGA media blitz.

A guy named Keegan may not have captivated middle America with a perfect 1-for-1 start to his major career, but he soon will.

Something old . . . Perhaps only the West Coast staples of Torrey Pines – the North not Rees Jones’ nip/tucked South Course – Pebble Beach and Riviera can stand up to the current run of turn-back-the-clock classics on the PGA Tour.

Over the next six weeks, the circuit will stop at Sedgefield (Wyndham Championship), Plainfield (The Barclays) and East Lake (Tour Championship). Or, as we like to call it, the Donald Ross Swing.

“(Atlanta Athletic Club) was really kind of a beast compared to this old lady,” Ernie Els said of Sedgefield. “You kind of play trying to survive, (whereas at Sedgefield) you can almost attack a golf course. It was nice a change.”

Tweet of the Week: @elkpga (Steve Elkington): “(Golf Channel analyst) Tim Rosaforte said Tiger should play a Nationwide (Tour) event to get reps. I’m going outside to wait for a fairy to shat a gold nugget on my porch.”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Glory’s Last Kerfuffle. The PGA Championship has caused the worst kind of revisionist nonsense. From Bradley’s use of a belly putter to Phil Mickelson’s continued rants against Rees Jones’ handiwork, the season’s final major has become a one-stop shop for everything that plagues the ancient game.

Full disclosure here, your Cut Line correspondent has been a belly putter convert from way back, but to suddenly dub the lengthy implement “public enemy No. 1” in the ongoing equipment debate is shortsighted and fundamentally flawed. That they have been playing majors since 1860 and just one has been won by a non-standard length putter is all one needs to know about the evils of the long putter.

As for the Phil v. Rees brouhaha, the fallout has spilled over into New Orleans, where Jones is on the hook to build a championship course in the Big Easy’s City Park. Renowned New Orleans’ columnist Peter Finney wrote this week, “Jones has a $24.5 million challenge to come up with a golf course that will stand the test of time, not for a one-week ‘championship,’ but for 50 weeks a year, over years and years and years, when the touring pros are in another town and your clients are folks trying to break 100.”

Lost in that logic is how beneficial an East Lake-like revitalization would be for City Park, not to mention the immediate upgrade the Zurich Classic would enjoy if it were moved from the West Bank hinterlands into the heart of the city.

The PGA has become a catchall for the game’s ills of late, but this revisionism seems a bit much. The thought did occur late Sunday, however, that Jimmy Hoffa may be buried in the middle of Atlanta Athletic Club’s 15th green.

A Big Difference.  Last year at this time Ernie Els was the FedEx Cup frontrunner, 149 points clear of Steve Stricker and cruising. This week the Big Easy is fighting for his playoff life, mired at 126th on the points list although his opening 65 at the Wyndham Championship has improved his postseason picture.

The same can’t be said of Padraig Harrington (130th in FedEx Cup points), who cancelled a family vacation to play Greensboro and rallied with birdies at Nos. 15 and 17 to make the cut but will need a solid weekend to crack the top 125 and advance to The Barclays.

A postseason marquee without the likes of Harrington, not to mention Tiger Woods, may not be a recipe for marketing magic, but for the first time in five tries the end of the season actually feels . . . well, playoff-like.


Missed Cut

Motor City moves. News this week that General Motors and the Tour had reached an impasse in their efforts to bring the circuit back to Detroit was of little surprise to insiders who questioned all along how the circuit was going to add an event to an already crowded summer dance card.

There had been some speculation that a return to Detroit could be possible if The Heritage failed to find a new title sponsor, but the South Carolina staple signed a five-year deal with the Royal Bank of Canada in June.

Cadillac’s sponsorship of the World Golf Championships event at Doral runs through 2016, but unless they can relocate the Blue Monster to Detroit and trade its March date for something closer to the Fourth of July, Cut Line suspects we haven’t heard the last from GM.

Freddie Couples. Boom Boom has made this clear: you can’t spell Presidents Cup without T-I-G-E-R. The U.S. captain has said on numerous occasions that, even at 28th on the current points list, Woods will be among his dozen in November when the matches return to Royal Melbourne.

“There will be somebody upset because they’ve probably had an incredible year. If Tiger can show us he can play back to any kind of form he’ll be great to have on the team,” said Couples, although he softened his stance this week and is urging Woods to add some starts to his pre-Presidents Cup schedule.

Still, there are currently 17 potential “somebodies” who could get passed over for a Woods pick, which Couples will make on Sept. 26. Among that group is your most-recent major winner and two-time 2011 Tour champion Keegan Bradley (No. 18), cup stalwart Zach Johnson (No. 14) and last year’s Ryder Cup star and Rookie of the Year Rickie Fowler (No. 11).

We can just see the text message from Captain America now, “I’m really sorry, but I promised Michael Jordan . . .”

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.