Grading the PGA Tour season at the halfway point

By Rex HoggardApril 15, 2014, 8:20 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – It’s part of the new wraparound reality that this week’s RBC Heritage, the ultimate after-party following last week’s Masters madness, is the halfway house of the 2013-14 season.

Harbour Town Golf Links is the official midpoint of the season, the 23rd of 45 events (including the four playoff tournaments) and that means midterms are due.

Missed opportunities. With the transition to the split-calendar schedule, the Tour also had to adjust its qualifying system to what became the four-event Finals to determine who would earn status.

While the new qualifying format worked well enough, there have been growing concerns that the 50 players who earned cards last fall have struggled to find playing opportunities.

Benjamin Alvarado, who secured the final Tour card at last year’s Finals, has played just one event this season (Valero Texas Open) and Will Wilcox, who took the second-to-last card, has just six starts.

It has become such an issue that it will be atop the agenda at Tuesday’s Player Advisory Council meeting at Harbour Town. Grade: C

Truth in advertising. Seems Patrick Reed’s assessment that he is a top-5 player, which drew the ire of players and press alike, was not that far off the mark.

Reed, a two-time winner on Tour this season, missed the cut at his first Masters last week with rounds of 73-79, while the real top-5 heading into the year’s first major – Tiger Woods (did not play), No. 2 Adam Scott (T-14), No. 3 Henrik Stenson (T-14), No. 4 Jason Day (T-20) and No. 5 Phil Mickelson (missed cut) – didn’t fare much better at Augusta National.

Still, Reed’s play this season, if not his public relations savvy, has been beyond reproach. Grade: A-

Status quo. Up is down, black is white, 50 is the new 30, this season has been the “bizarro world” edition of Tour golf.

Consider that the top 10 players to start the season in the World Golf Ranking have a combined one victory during the 2013-14 cycle and the game’s biggest stars have particularly struggled on Sundays.

Matt Kuchar blew a four-stroke, 54-hole lead on Sunday at the Shell Houston Open; Adam Scott failed to convert a seven-stroke advantage after 36 holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Rory McIlroy was two clear through three rounds at the Honda Classic and lost to Russell Henley.

And to top it off, the back nine on Sunday at the Masters – normally as automatic as taxes and pimento cheese sandwiches – failed to produce the traditional roars.

Truth is, the only thing that has been a certainty is the top players’ inability to convert. Grade: B-

Mother Nature. While the Northeast continues to await a spring thaw and the season’s first tee shot, the particularly harsh winter has also had a profound impact on play at the highest level.

Perhaps the most glaring blow could be found last week at Augusta National, which played for the first time without the iconic Eisenhower Tree – which guarded the left side of the 17th fairway – along with extensive damage to many of the club’s signature pine trees.

“I got lucky this year because some of the tops of trees were down on 11, so it made 11 a lot easier for me,” Masters champion Bubba Watson said on Sunday. Grade: F

Left out. Perhaps it should have been no surprise that Phil Mickelson missed the cut last week at Augusta National. The 2014 Masters marked the first time in his career he hadn’t driven down Magnolia Lane with at least one top-10 finish on Tour (he did finish runner-up at the European Tour stop in Abu Dhabi) and consequently he failed to advance to the weekend at the year’s first major for just the second time in his career.

“I’ve got some issues,” said Mickelson after an opening-round 76 at the Masters.

And his issues are even more concerning considering what is on the line at June’s U.S. Open. Lefty can complete the career Grand Slam with a victory at Pinehurst, but first he has a lot of questions to answer. Grade: Incomplete

Midterm Most Valuable Player. Dr. Charles Rich, the Park City, Utah, neurosurgeon who performed Tiger Woods’ microdiscectomy earlier this month.

The procedure alleviated pain from a pinched nerve, and while the squeeze is on now to see when the world No. 1 returns, it was, according to fellow Tour player Jason Bohn, the best thing for Woods.

“You don’t understand how much pain you have with a pinched nerve. It hurts just to go to the bathroom,” said Bohn, who had the same procedure in 2008.

It’s also worth noting that Bohn said his recovery from the procedure took about six to eight weeks before he could start hitting golf balls again and another three to four weeks to regain the swing speed and muscle to play Tour golf. If Woods maintains a similar timetable, he could return as early as late June. Grade: A

Pre-matrimonial bliss. Some LPGA Tour types took exception to Golf Digest’s decision to have Paulina Gretzky, Dustin Johnson’s fiancée, on the cover of this month’s fitness issue, but imagine how DJ feels?

The bomber has a victory this season (WGC-HSBC Champions), two runner-up showings (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Northern Trust Open) and at No. 3 on the points list is a virtual lock to make this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team, and yet he hasn’t been on the cover of Digest. Grade: B

Midterm Player of the Year. While Jimmy Walker has been the season’s most steady player – three victories and 5 top-10 finishes – the mid-term hardware goes to Bubba Watson.

The small town guy named Bubba has two wins, including a bookend green jacket, two runner-up showings, and perhaps most impressive, he has not missed a cut in nine starts.

Who knew Bubba Golf could be so consistent? Grade: A+

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”