Cut Line: Will Match Play move help tourney?

By Rex HoggardFebruary 8, 2014, 1:01 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Crosby weather returned to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week and, let’s be honest, officials have dodged their share of forecast bullets in recent years. But clouds over the Monterey Peninsula are hardly the only concern for the PGA Tour following a less-than-star-studded West Coast swing and a WGC-Match Play marquee that will be a few leading men short of a full house.

Made Cut

A good match. Word this week at Pebble Beach is that this month’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship will be the last played at Dove Mountain outside of Tucson, Ariz.

Dove Mountain, which ranked 51st out of 52 courses on the PGA Tour in a Golf Digest poll last year, has been public enemy No. 1 since the Match Play moved to the Ritz-Carlton course in 2009, and this is the final year of the contract between the circuit and the course.

According to various sources, the event seems poised to move to Harding Park in San Francisco in 2015. The public course hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup, and held up well in the match-play format, and is assured of drawing better crowds than the isolated Dove Mountain track.

As an aside, it hasn’t snowed in San Francisco since 1962.

Lefty’s right choice. The plan this season was to dial back the schedule in order to peak when it counts at the four majors, and when Phil Mickelson was slowed by an ailing back at Torrey Pines he would have been forgiven if he had checked himself onto the DL for the next few weeks.

But the West Coast, particularly the Tour stops in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Pebble Beach, Calif., holds a special place on Lefty’s schedule; and as difficult as Friday’s conditions were, the four-time Pro-Am champion wasn’t second-guessing his decision.

Even when informed that Saturday’s forecast called for more of the same.

“More of this? Cool,” Mickelson smiled. “We’ve had a great run of weather the last six or seven years, so we certainly can’t complain. In fact, it’s sometimes a fun challenge to play out here. As the reigning Scottish and British Open champion I don’t really mind the elements.”

In an age devoid of athletic loyalty, it’s worth pointing out that Lefty did the right thing.

Tweet of the week: @JohnPetersonLSU “Sorry (Russell Henley), my canoe is full headed back into position.”

Peterson was referring to Thursday’s storm that halted play for nearly three hours. No one tell him that it’s a good day on the Monterey Peninsula when the rain stops.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Celebrity golf. No Bill Murray, no problem.

No one wants a steady diet of bad swings and canned jokes, but the combination of idyllic views of Stillwater Cove and celebrity personality makes this week’s Clambake a refreshing twist in the world of professional golf.

It’s also worth pointing out that the celebs have a surprising amount of appreciation and respect for their professional partners.

“This is my major,” smiled Kenny G, who won the pro-am portion of the competition in 2001. “I spend all year looking forward to this and I’m blown away every year by how good these guys are.”

Bing Crosby’s Clambake may not have the star pull it once did, but it still entertains.

On pace. Still not sure what took the powers that be so long to get up to speed on this issue, but at least the game’s rule-makers made it to the range-finding crossroads.

The U.S. Golf Association announced on Thursday that it will allow the use of distance-measuring devices at all USGA amateur championships and qualifying events starting in 2014.

The move was part of a broader initiative to identify the causes of and solutions to slow play, considered by some as the biggest issue facing the game. But if the power brokers really want to do something about slow play they should have taken a trickle-down approach.

For some reason the new rule doesn’t apply to the U.S. Open ... because slow play is not an issue at all on Tour.

Bracket busts. The deadline to crack the top 64 in the world golf ranking is Sunday and for some in this week’s field at Pebble Beach golf’s version of March madness is turning into a race against the clock.

Just three “bubble” players are in the Pro-Am field, with Kiradech Aphibarnrat likely safe at 66th in the world thanks to a collection of high-profile no-shows (see item below), while Bo Van Pelt (No. 73) and D.A. Points (No. 75) probably need top-five finishes to earn a trip to Dove Mountain.

Even more intriguing, Brooks Koepka’s tie for third last week in Dubai propelled him to 68th in the world, a spot ahead of roommate Peter Uihlein, who missed the cut in Dubai and dropped to 69th in the world.

As recompense, may we suggest Koepka volunteer to do the house dishes for a month to make up for his inadvertent slight.


Missed Cut

Olympic concerns. No, Cut Line isn’t referring to the increasingly critical reports coming out of Sochi, but the continued languid progress at the Olympic golf course in Rio.

This week course architect Gil Hanse told the “Morning Drive” crew that the course will “definitely” be ready for the 2016 Games and confirmed that the newly announced Latin American Amateur will probably serve as the test event for the new layout.

All good news, but watching the amount of scrutiny coming out of Sochi it’s becoming increasingly obvious that golf will not get a second chance to make a solid first impression.

West Coast woes. Whether you blame it on appearance fees, the PGA Tour’s new wraparound schedule or the perils of putting on poa greens, this year’s Left Coast swing has been something less than must-see.

To put the West Coast swoon in context, the top five players in the world golf ranking have a combined four starts on the West Coast and next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship won’t pad the marquee.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 4 Phil Mickelson have already announced they plan to skip what is rumored to be the last Match Play at Dove Mountain, and No. 5 Justin Rose remains on the fence for the year’s first World Golf Championship depending on how things go next week in Los Angeles.

Lucrative appearance fees being doled out by European Tour events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai factored into the wanting West Coast swing, as does the new split-calendar schedule which gave players a chance to pad their FedEx Cup points last year in Asia.

Combined, however, the imperfect storm has given players a reason to skip the West Coast.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.