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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.


Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.

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Two-time champ Bubba fires 63 at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 7:20 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Amid a resurgent season that has already included a pair of wins, it only makes sense that Bubba Watson is back in contention at the Travelers Championship.

TPC River Highlands has been one of Watson’s favorite haunts over the years; it’s a layout where the southpaw’s creative approach is often rewarded. This is where he burst into tears after earning his first PGA Tour victory in 2010, and this is where he beat Paul Casey in a playoff to again lift the trophy in 2015.

He’ll once again have a late weekend tee time after firing a 7-under 63 during the second round, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under total.

“Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts,” Watson said. “The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson was well down the standings after opening with an even-par 70, a round that included three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to negate progress he had made earlier in the day. But he ran into no such struggles the second time around, adding six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the hole.

The difference, according to Watson, was between the ears.

“Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course.”

Watson was also a runner-up in 2012 here in addition to his two wins, and he has racked up nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances. Once again thinking the right thoughts on one of his favorite tracks, he’s potentially 36 holes away from his third win since February.

“Obviously around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”

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Only putting is holding McIlroy back

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:48 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Through two rounds of the Travelers Championship, the tee shots are towering and the approaches are accurate for Rory McIlroy. Now he just needs the putter to heat up.

McIlroy started to show signs of life during the second round last week at Shinnecock Hills before missing the cut, and after putting in some extra work honing his swing over the weekend, his tee-to-green game is worth boasting about at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands.

McIlroy has missed only five greens in regulation through two rounds, barely breaking a sweat en route to rounds of 64 and 69 that left him at 7 under. He’s within striking distance heading into the weekend, three shots behind Brian Harman, but might be topping the standings with a more cooperative putter.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I felt like I left a few out there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I had a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I started them on line, did everything I needed to do, and it’s just one of those days where they were sliding by the edges.”

McIlroy took 32 putts to complete his second round, including a three-putt on No. 7 for his only bogey of the day and another three-putt on No. 13 that turned an eagle opportunity into a par. Already with a win under his belt this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he knocked in putts from all directions during a final-round 64, McIlroy feels confident that he might be only a few rolls away from having another shot to contend in his second career trip to the Hartford-area stop.

“I think if I can put the ball in the fairway and hit my irons as good as I have been over the first couple of days, I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies,” McIlroy said. “It’s just about converting them and taking the opportunities when they present themselves.”

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Rosaforte Report: Toski lively, singing and ready to go home

By Tim RosaforteJune 22, 2018, 6:41 pm

Bob Toski sounded pretty good for a man near death last week. When we spoke on Friday, the 91-year-old teaching legend and former PGA Tour leading money winner was alive and feeling well. Especially when he was talking about giving lessons, swinging a golf club again, and going down to the piano bar at Arturo’s near his home in Boca Raton, Fla., to sing his favorite song, “Sentimental Journey."

“It’s been quite a journey,” Toski said in total bliss. “But I’m going home tomorrow.”

Going back 10 days, to June 12, Toski suffered a severe heart attack that had him on life support, in critical condition, at a hospital not far from the South Florida golf community where he’s pro emeritus at St. Andrews.

He opened 15 minutes on the phone on Friday by asking how much he owed me for the publicity he got during the U.S. Open. Typical Toski. His heart may have skipped a beat, but he hadn’t.

At no more than 120 pounds, still larger than life.


Bob Toski from his hospital bed in South Florida


“This is the mouse,” he said when asked to confirm it really was him on the phone. “The Mighty Mouse.”

We were laughing now, but there was a moment one night during “Live From the U.S. Open” when I got a message from the Boca hospital which sounded grim (hospital staff used a defibrillator on him six times during his stay). That’s when one of the friends by his side texted me and said it would be just like “Tosk” to sit up straight and ask everybody what was going on.

Essentially, that’s what happened. And now here he was on the phone, cracking off one-liners, talking about Brooks Koepka’s win at Shinnecock, giving his take on the USGA and course setup, asking how much I’d been playing, and giving his love to everybody at “The Channel.”

He invited me down for a lesson at St. Andrews and dinner at Arturos. “In a month’s time,” he said, “I’ll be ready to go.”

He sounded ready right now, singing a line from his favorite song, from his hospital bed in the happiest of voices, “Gotta set my heart at ease.”

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Spieth fades with 3-over 73: 'It's just golf'

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:10 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – After finding nothing but positives for his first five trips around the course, Jordan Spieth finally suffered a setback at TPC River Highlands.

Spieth won the Travelers Championship last year in his tournament debut, and he quickly bounced back from a missed cut at Shinnecock Hills by firing a 7-under 63 in the opening round this week to take a share of the lead. Out early during the second round with a chance to move even further into red figures amid calm conditions, he instead went the other way.

Undone by a triple bogey on the par-5 13th hole, Spieth was 5 over for his first 14 holes and needed an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole for the second straight day simply to salvage a 3-over 73. The score knocked him back to 4 under for the week and six shots behind Brian Harman.

Despite finding three fewer fairways, three fewer greens in regulation and taking five more putts than he did in the opening round, Spieth still put a positive spin on a lackluster result.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I actually felt like I had better control of my golf swing than I did yesterday. I really struggled with my swing yesterday and I kind of got some good breaks,” Spieth said. “It’s just golf. It’s kind of like yesterday I got three or four shots extra out of the round, and today I lost three or four based on how I felt.”

Spieth was happy with his opening-round effort, but even after finishing late in the day he still went straight to the driving range that lines the ninth fairway at TPC River Highlands – not exactly standard behavior after grabbing a share of the lead.

“So it’s not like things are on,” he said. “Sometimes it can get disguised by rounds, but it’s not far off. It really is close.”

Spieth has lamented a lack of quality chances to win this year, which he has previously described as being within six shots of the lead heading into the final round. He’ll have some work to do to meet that mark this weekend in defense of his title, as his round hit a snag on No. 13, his fourth hole of the morning, when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds and then hit his subsequent approach into the water.

“For whatever reason, it’s a large fairway but it’s always just killed me,” Spieth said. “I don’t know what it is about the hole, but that hole I get on the tee and for whatever reason I struggle. … I just hit a bad shot at the wrong time there.”