Cut Line The Wrap on Woods

By Rex HoggardApril 10, 2010, 2:21 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The chairman was right, regarding what was said and left unsaid. Tiger Woods is not bigger than game, but to window dress the first half of the year’s first major with stories of on-course heroics, of which there have been plenty through 36 holes, is akin to bringing a spork to a knife fight.

The time for golf, just golf and nothing but golf is fast approaching, but before the Masters starts on the back nine Sunday history compels “Cut Line” to put a bowtie on the “return.”


Made Cut

Billy Payne. The Augusta National chairman is proving to be as savvy as former regimes were dogmatic, and his unprovoked trip to the metaphorical wood shed with Tiger Woods on Wednesday was every bit a necessary step in the re-entry process as those 45-days of rehabilitation.

We can’t say for certain what Payne’s motives were, nor do we care. What’s important is that someone Woods’ respects, be it begrudgingly or otherwise, drew a line at what is acceptable behavior.

“His future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change” Payne said in his annual “State of the Masters” address to the media. “I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.”

In a sport that is often dominated by enablers, perhaps the only place that could took a stand.

Woods’ play. The jury is out, will be for a while actually, on whether the new, improved version is changed. But his play on the course is reason No. 1,856 why he will go on to be the greatest who ever played the game.

For 15 years Woods struggled mightily on Day 1 at the Masters – having posted just five under-par rounds and not a single round in the 60s – and with 15-minutes of infamy weighing heavily on him this week 2010 didn’t look like the year he’d finally break strong out of the gate.

So much for neatly crafted theories. His opening 68 could have been better had a few more putts dropped and he called his second-round 70 even better considering the conditions. He also treated the crowd to what may be the shot of the week, a sweeping approach from the left rough at No. 9 on Thursday from 207 yards that set up an 8-foot birdie putt.

“It feels good to be back in contention,” Woods said.

Yes, it does.

Competition committee. Day 1 at the Masters may have been the most eventful in decades, if not ever. Most agreed Thursday’s pins were as kind as Augusta National can offer and there is a good chance the softer side of the Georgia gem didn’t come about by chance.

The best way for a curious public to move beyond the Tiger Show was a leaderboard dotted with legends (Fred Couples and Tom Watson) and headliners (Woods, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood) and few places can serve up storylines better than Augusta National.

For a public seeing red, and not the traditional Sunday shade, the best way to change the subject was with some old fashion red on the leaderboard.

Tweet of the Week: @danjenkinsgc “Watson, Couples, Lyle and Langer, all 50 and up, are all under par. Maybe Jack and Arnold should have gone 18.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Monday’s media meet-and-greet. Woods’ long-awaited mass Q&A was a clean card by most accounts, with revelations of a previously unknown Achilles injury and a long-awaited answer regarding his association with Canadian Dr. Anthony Galea, who is under investigation for treating his patients with performance-enhancing drugs.

There were, however, questions left unanswered that will continue to haunt Woods no matter how well he plays.

His refusal to say what he was receiving treatment for will only lead to more questions and, holding true to his old form, he continues to be coy about his schedule this year.

What happens between Woods and his wife is no one elses business. What happens between the ropes this year is.

Nike Golf. A Swoosh commercial aired this week with a voiceover from Woods’ father, Earl, who passed away in 2006, that has been widely blasted by the press and public.

Devil’s advocate time, here. Nike Golf has a sizable investment in Woods. An investment that, much like “Cut Line’s” 401k, has been laying dormant for the better part of five months and the company, like Woods, had to move forward.

As for the use of Earl Woods in the ad, although it may seem distasteful to some, would the company have been better off airing a traditional go-fight-win campaign? Wouldn’t that have seemed trite given the circumstances?

Besides, we’re pretty sure Earl wouldn’t have minded.

Missed Cut

Mean people. Above all else Woods has been rather clear on this, he did wrong in his personal life. Terribly, terribly wrong. And not a single patron on Thursday was unaware of his transgressions and yet still someone with plenty of means felt they needed to remind all those on hand why Woods has been out of the game for five months.

To be honest, we were not surprised someone rented a plane and crafted signs that were critical of Woods. More concerning, however, were the messages. One line was pinched from a Jay Leno monologue and the other was less than original. If you’re going to go through all the trouble of buzzing Augusta National, we expect better.

Collective moral flexibility. More than one Tour wife found the reception the world No. 1 received on Thursday a bit more embracing than they would have expected. Forgiveness is one thing, carte blanche support that borders on denial is an entirely different malady.

“I just feel sorry for Elin,” said one Tour wife.

It is a sad testament to our society that Woods’ abilities with a golf club are not mutually exclusive to his inability to control his urges.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.