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Cut Line: Woods 'just there to win' next week at Masters

By Rex HoggardMarch 30, 2018, 9:13 pm

It’s never too early to start talking about the Masters and this week’s edition touches on Tiger Woods’ return to Augusta National, the idea of favorites and one player who came up short in his bid to play the year’s first major.

Made Cut

Masters mission. It’s been three years since Tiger Woods wheeled down Magnolia Lane with something more pressing than which fork to use for his salad on his mind.

In 2016 and ’17, injury kept him from playing the year’s first major, but he did attend the annual Champion’s Dinner last year. Given that recent history, his status as the betting favorite for this year’s Masters is a little silly, even to Woods.

“That’s kind of funny. Quite a shift. Six months ago the odds were I wasn’t even going to play,” Woods said this week on his website.

His play in recent weeks, including back-to-back top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, and his history at Augusta National, where he’s a four-time champion, explain at least part of that betting interest. But if his odds may be a tad misplaced there is a more tangible reason to celebrate Woods’ return to the competitive ranks.

“I got a second chance on life. I am a walking miracle," he said, before adding that his goal is still to leave on Sunday with a fifth green jacket. “I’m just there to win.”

A word on favorites. Following his victory on Sunday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Bubba Watson was asked if Woods should be the favorite for next week’s Masters.

Although he’s won two green jackets and has two victories this season, Watson was quick to dismiss his own chances, although he clearly had ulterior motives.

“I’m not a favorite, I'm going to definitely say that. I'm not a favorite,” he said. “I don't want anybody to talk to me that week, let me just focus on what I've got to do. I'm not going to play well that week, so nobody talk to me.”

But when he was pressed for answer regarding Woods’ status at Augusta National, Watson’s answer was telling.

“If Tiger was sitting next to me, if he says, if I do my job, I'm good enough to beat Bubba. And I'm sitting here and Tiger was right there, if I do my job I'm good enough to beat Tiger,” Watson said. “All golfers are going to say the same thing. Maybe to the media they might sugar coat it.”

So, Tiger’s the favorite?

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

2019 or bust. The 2019 Tour schedule is coming into sharper focus and officials are poised to announce the circuit’s makeover in May at The Players.

“I thought it was going to be very challenging,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said last week of the new schedule. “I knew it would take some time, but I’d say we’re at or ahead of where we thought we’d be.”

Although some of the larger brush strokes have already been established – like the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shift back to March – some of the more subtle elements are coming into focus.

The Florida swing is poised to regain some much-needed continuity, with the WGC-Mexico Championship moving to the back end of the West Coast swing, followed by the Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship and Valspar Championship.

The Texas swing, however, will not be as lucky, with the PGA Championship, which will be played at Bethpage Black in New York in 2019, sandwiched between the AT&T Byron Nelson and Fort Worth Invitational.

The Dallas-Fort Worth events have always drawn solid fields because of the tournaments’ proximity to each other and the history of golf in the Metroplex. Whether that draw is enough to inspire players to rack up the airline rewards points bouncing around the country remains to be seen.

Tweet of the week:

Poulter ended up losing his afternoon match on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and did not move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and qualify for the Masters. Although it is disappointing when the media distributes incorrect information, be it through traditional means or otherwise, there was a simple solution for the Englishman’s plight – play better.

Missed Cut

Book it. Nothing generates interest in golf, and sports, like Tiger Woods, so when a new novel by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian entitled “Tiger Woods” was released last week, there was plenty of chatter.

While the book is rich with detail and wonderfully written, the back and forth between the authors and Woods’ camp has become deafening.

“This book is just a re-hash from older books and articles and it’s hard to tell if there’s anything original at all,” Wood’s long-time manager Mark Steinberg said in the statement. “The author’s claim ‘we seldom quoted anonymous sources’ yet they relied on them at least 65 times.”

This prompted the authors to respond.

“Our book is based on three years of research and reporting, during which we conducted 400 interviews with more than 250 people, many of whom had never talked about their relationship with Tiger before,” the authors said in a statement. “But let us be clear: We stand by the accuracy of our reporting and are proud to have produced a critically acclaimed book that answers a question many have asked for many years: Who is Tiger Woods?”

It was a lofty goal and Benedict and Keteyian’s efforts should be applauded, but it’s become increasingly clear that’s a question only Woods can answer.

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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.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.