Cut Line: Why take Presidents Cup back to Australia?

By Rex HoggardOctober 16, 2015, 9:10 pm

Despite a shorter offseason than the lifespan of an average housefly, the PGA Tour gets back to work this week with a surprising number of hot-stove topics, from a truly courageous comeback to a questionable move to send the Presidents Cup back to Australia.

Made Cut

The comeback continues. Last June, Jarrod Lyle cut short his comeback from leukemia just 10 tournaments into the season. On Thursday, the affable Australian resumed his quest to reestablish himself on the Tour.

Lyle opened with a 3-under 69 on Day 1 at the Open in his first event back since last May’s Crowne Plaza Invitational.

He admits now that he probably came back too early last year. After confirming with doctors in Australia that he’s still cancer-free, he begins the 2015-16 season on a mission.

Lyle has 10 events to earn $283,825 and retain his Tour card on a major medical exemption and complete what would be one of the most inspiring comebacks in modern golf.

The Price of progress. It wasn’t the ending Nick Price had hoped for, but Sunday’s finish at the Presidents Cup, the event coming down to the last hole in the last match, was a reason for the two-time International captain to be optimistic.

Price’s contention that fewer points, like the Ryder Cup, adds up to a more competitive event was at least partially proven by his team’s one-point loss and the final-day theatrics.

Still, Price wasn’t overly optimistic that the Tour would continue to tinker with the format in an attempt to maintain that newfound competitiveness.

“It’s going to be hard now to make any more changes, because he [Tour commissioner Tim Finchem] is going to say it’s so exciting,” Price said. “In all honesty, if you look at what the Ryder Cup has, that 28 points and no restrictions on who is playing, that’s been some real excitement. I think we need to give this another chance.”

It’s doubtful the Tour will reduce the total number of points available from 30 to 28, but it’s going to be an interesting exit interview between Finchem and Price.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Road games. Last week’s Presidents Cup in Korea drew thousands of fans (officials estimated attendance at 25,000 on Sunday), which is what one would expect from the event’s first trip to Asia.

Growing the game has always been a part of the Presidents Cup’s DNA, perhaps the only thing the U.S. vs. the rest of the world matches have in common with the Ryder Cup, which made last week’s news that the event will return to Australia in 2019 curious.

Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte reported this week that officials in South Africa balked at the $29 million price tag to host the event for the second time, which opened the door for Australia in ’19.

But if officials really want to use the matches to grow the game in emerging markets it should have taken the circus on the road to South America or back to Asia, which are both widely considered “emerging markets.”

Australia, whether the event is played at Royal Melbourne or elsewhere, is arguably the event’s best road venue, but drawing a crowd isn’t the same as drawing interest.

Tweet of the week: @EuropeanTour “Due to the adverse weather forecast Round 3 will be a shotgun start at 8:00 [a.m.], with the leaders teeing off from the first hole.”

There was no word on which holes officials plan to use for the longest drive contest and closest to the pin.

Missed Cut

Waiting to exhale. Eighteen days - that’s how long the Tour’s offseason lasted. That’s hardly enough time for FedEx Cup champion Jordan Spieth to count the $23 million in cash and bonuses he earned last season and nowhere near long enough for fans to miss the game.

It’s an old argument that has been compounded in recent years by the circuit’s wraparound schedule and the Tour’s contention that if fans want to tune out for a few months they are welcome to pick up the action in January in Hawaii.

But this goes beyond fan interest. It will be the players who will suffer burnout. World No. 3 Rory McIlroy is in the field this week in California but his appearance is a “make good” agreement with the Tour for playing an event in Europe a few years back.

Justin Rose is the only other top-10 player at the season opener, and don’t expect the fields to get much deeper this fall. With the exception of the WGC-HSBC Champions, a no-cut event that counts as a start on the European Tour, the fall events are the season’s weakest fields according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

On this the players are speaking with their feet, and the quality of the product is suffering.

Tough crowd. There is no shortage of postseason awards doled out by the Tour, but the circuit’s decision to not present the Courage Award is curious.

The award was created in 2012 to replace the Comeback Player of the Year Award and is given to a player who “through courage or perseverance has overcome extraordinary adversity [such as personal tragedy or a debilitating injury or illness].”

Two candidates quickly come to mind in Lyle and Steven Bowditch, who advanced to the Tour Championship for the first time and played for the International Presidents Cup team after nearly being forced from the game with clinical depression.

But it seems neither player qualified for the Courage Award, which is selected by the commissioner and four player directors and appears to have a ridiculously high standard.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”