Cut Line: Woods remains front and center

By Rex HoggardFebruary 7, 2015, 1:14 am

SAN DIEGO – It’s not always sunny in Southern California, as Tiger Woods learned on Thursday, but the legal clouds certainly parted in the United Kingdom for Rory McIlroy. The game’s top two draws highlight this week’s Cut Line.

Made Cut

Settle-ing in. So maybe it cost Rory McIlroy $20 million, can you put a price tag on clarity of thought when you’re closing in on golf history?

That’s how much it cost the world No. 1 to settle his lawsuit with his former management firm, Horizon Sports, this week.

The trial, which stemmed from a contract McIlroy claimed charged excessive fees, would have been a distraction as the Northern Irishman prepared to win the final leg of the Grand Slam in April at Augusta National.

There is no sugarcoating this – $20 million is a steep price to pay – but if McIlroy slips a green jacket over his shoulders in April it will have been worth every penny.

A legend’s legacy. Charlie Sifford died on Tuesday. He was 92.

Sifford was the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour, earning him the distinction of being dubbed the “Jackie Robinson of golf” when he broke the game’s color barrier in 1961.

The two-time PGA Tour winner was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November and his impact on the game became even more evident on Wednesday when Woods addressed his passing.

“As I've alluded to in the past, he's like my grandpa that I never had,” Woods said. “It's been a long night and it's going to be a long few days. But he fought, and what he did, the courage it took for him to stick with it and be out here and play, I probably wouldn't be here, my dad would never have picked up the game, who knows if the clause would still exist or not. But he broke it down.”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Withdrawal. Why an MDF for Woods? Because Cut Line doesn’t dole out incomplete grades.

For all the grassy knoll conspiracy types, know this – Woods was hurting (although in text messages with Golf Channel’s Notah Begay he said it was not an injury that forced him to withdraw, just tightness) at Torrey Pines. From his second tee shot until the moment he climbed the fairway to his 11th green, the pain was evident.

And for those who seem to think Woods withdrew because he was playing poorly – he was 2 over par when he bolted the course – consider that things were much worse last Friday when he posted his highest score on Tour as a professional (82) and yet he finished the round.

“It's frustrating that [his back] started shutting down like that. I was ready to go,” Woods said after his third withdrawal in his last eight official PGA Tour starts. “I had a good warm-up session the first time around. Then we stood out here and I got cold, and everything started deactivating again.” 

Until Woods is healthy and plays something close to a sustained schedule there is no way to accurately assess his game, although it should be pointed out that play stoppages and delays are a part of professional golf and dealing with them is a job requirement.

One thing you can say for Woods, he changed the conversation. On Friday at Torrey Pines no one was talking about the yips.

The task at hand. As well intentioned as the U.S. Ryder Cup task force was following another American loss last September, the 11-member panel may be reaching a point of diminishing returns.

Following multiple meetings, including Monday’s gathering in San Diego, they seem no closer to a solution and one source familiar with the meetings told Cut Line not to expect any announcement until the spring.

“I’d love to do it. Whoever is the next captain I believe they want other players involved who would be the next few captains,” Fred Couples, a consensus favorite to captain the next U.S. team in 2016, told Cut Line this week. “It would be fun.”

There are baffling rumors that the PGA of America is not leaning in Couples’ direction, which would suggest a continuation of the status quo and an indication that the task force’s conversations have taken a wrong turn.


Missed Cut

A bad loop. For the last few months the Tour has met every request from the Association of Professional Tour Caddies with varying degrees of cynicism and outright subterfuge, according to recent legal filings.

Those unproductive meetings have sprung a lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, that challenges the Tour’s practice of not compensating the caddies for wearing bibs.

While most lawsuits are contentious, this one has all the markings of a particularly nasty episode, with the lead lawyer for the caddies sending a letter to Tour players on Thursday claiming the circuit is “blowing smoke and creating havoc.”

Although the issue is complicated, considering the nuanced relationship between independent contractors (players) hiring independent contractors (caddies), it is worth mentioning that this is the same court that ruled against the NCAA in the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case last year – a suit which argued that upon graduation, a former student athlete should become entitled to financial compensation for NCAA's commercial uses of his or her image.

The Tour, a similarly powerful organization with unlimited resources, may want to stop talking about what this may cost the players and consider what it could cost the Tour.


Tweet of the week:


Too many cooks. There may not be a more lonely man than a struggling golfer, but that only applies during a round.

Otherwise, the Tour is filled with well-intended, would-be helpers who are more than happy to offer advice. Even if the player in need of help is Woods.

Prior to Wednesday’s pro-am, as Woods mulled around the Torrey Pines practice tee, there was no shortage of players who approached the former world No. 1 offering pro bono advice on his chipping woes.

“I don’t know much about the swing. I did notice there was a lot going on.” Couples said. “On the range we stood there in the fog and he had a lot of people try to help him and stuff. I just thought it was kind of funny.”

Misery, it seems, attracts company.

Getty Images

Casey in line to make Ryder Cup after Travelers T-2

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:30 am

Despite coughing up a four-shot lead at the Travelers Championship, England's Paul Casey moved into a qualifying position to make his return to the Ryder Cup this fall in Paris.

Casey struggled Sunday at TPC River Highlands, shooting a 72 as Bubba Watson raced to victory with a 63. But a four-way share of second place was still good enough to lift Casey into fourth place among those not already qualified on the World Points list, with the top four Europeans from that list in August punching their tickets to Le Golf National.

Casey has played in three Ryder Cups before, but none since 2008. After renouncing his European Tour membership a few years ago, he reinstated it for the 2018 season in order to be eligible to return to the biennial matches.

Here's a look at the updated standings for Europe, with the top four players from each points list ultimately joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Paul Casey

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

6. Ian Poulter


On the American side of the ledger, Watson jumped two spots to fifth with his third win of the year and seemingly locked up his spot on the squad, while Bryson DeChambeau moved inside the top eight with a top-10 finish in Connecticut.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship earning automatic bids:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Bryson DeChambeau

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

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Watson cracks top 15 in world with Travelers win

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:15 am

After his third win in the last five months, Bubba Watson is back on the cusp of the upper echelon in the world rankings.

Watson started the year ranked No. 89 in the world, but after a three-shot victory at the Travelers Championship the southpaw moved up seven spots to No. 13 in the latest rankings. It marks his best position since a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2017.

Watson stayed one spot behind Paul Casey, who was one of four runners-up in Connecticut and rose one position to 12th as a result. Beau Hossler's T-2 finish helped him jump 24 spots to No. 64, while J.B. Holmes went from 93rd to 75th with the same result. Stewart Cink, who grabbed a share of second with a final-round 62, went from No. 149 to No. 95 and is back inside the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since September 2011.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Matt Wallace, who won the BMW International Open on the European Tour, went from 91st to 66th.

There was only one change among the top 10 in the rankings, as an idle Jon Rahm moved past Jordan Spieth at No. 5 despite Spieth's T-42 finish at TPC River Highlands. At No. 6, Spieth is at his lowest point in the rankings since before last summer's victories at Travelers and The Open.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rahm. Spieth slid to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Poised to return to competition this week at the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods fell three spots to No. 82 in the latest rankings.

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After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray


On the difference between this week and last week ...

There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard


On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

“Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”