Lists Letters and Lessons
But before golf breaks Spring Training and heads north for the Grand Slam season, “Cut Line” has a Sunshine State scorecard including Arnold Palmer, John Daly and everyone in between.
Bay Hill. Arnold Palmer’s goal was to, “make more than 18 par 5s.” Mission accomplished, and not a moment too soon.
On Friday at Arnie’s place, soft-spoken Steve Stricker was the quintessential spokesman to address the changes to the golf course, which Stricker had not seen since he last played the event in 2005.
“It was a hard course and my game wasn’t real good at the time,” Stricker said. “It was also during my kid’s spring break, so we’d come down here, stay in the same hotel as the players and just go to the amusement parks.”
Thanks to Palmer’s handiwork, Orlando now has one less amusement park and the Tour a golf course players don’t have to avoid.
Erik Compton. That the two-time heart-transplant recipient made the cut at Bay Hill was all well and good. That he did it with a ticker that’s running at 130 beats per minute is a testament to how much resolve the 30-year-old has.
During a community Q&A earlier this week at Winter Park (Fla.) Golf Club, Compton explained to the crowd that when his heart rate is elevated, unlike normal hearts, it takes hours to slow down. Which means that if he’s unable to keep his emotions in check on the first tee he will play his entire round at what amounts to a full sprint.
“By the end of my round it feels like I’ve run a marathon,” Compton said.
But then, when you’ve covered as much inspirational ground as Compton, 4 ½ hours at 130 rpms is all part of the package.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Slow play short list. News this week that the Tour is circulating a list that ranks players based on their pace of play was welcome. It is the method of measurement that has “CL” a little dubious of the list’s validity, however.
According to The Associated Press, the Tour is using Shotlink technology to separate the turtles from hares, measuring how long it takes them to hit each shot. While we applaud any effort to stomp out slow play, the use of Shotlink, which is primarily operated by volunteers walking with each group and imputing data via a handheld device, is about as scientific as our NCAA Tournament bracket.
“I talked to one of the Tour officials and asked, ‘Do they know the right time to start the clock?’” Ben Curtis said. “But it gives the Tour an idea, a good reference point to help solve pace of play.”
Besides, if Lucas Glover is not even in the top-15 fastest, which he is not according to one player, we suggest the Tour find a more reliable method, like John Paramor’s stopwatch.
Manic Mondays. Whether it be a shrewd attempt at media manipulation or a nod to expediency, Tiger Woods’ plan to hold his first public press conference since his life was transformed from charmed to contentious is a move in the right direction, if not wildly inconvenient.
Most scribes normally don’t arrive at Augusta National until late Monday or early Tuesday and many national media types were likely planning on being at the NCAA championship game in Indianapolis on Monday.
But then holding his first media meet-and-greet on Monday will reduce the impact of his return and immediately remove the elephant from the room before things have even started. Given the circumstances, sooner is better later.
Favoritism. Word last week that Tour commissioner Tim Finchem sent a memo to tournament directors explaining why Steve Elkington needed sponsor invitations this year seems curious, at best, and biased, at worst.
According to reports Finchem’s memo, which was dated Nov. 23, chronicles Elkington’s career and points out that “he has also been a tournament favorite for his work with the sponsors.”
Although Tour officials said it was a regular procedure when a player’s eligibility status changes they declined to give specific examples of other similar letters and some tournament directors said they felt pressure to give Elkington an exemption.
Champions Tour. For a circuit with a legal track record well south of the Mendoza Line – as best we can tell if it weren’t for Doug Barron the Tour would be 0-fer in court – news Wednesday that the over-50 set had turned down Ken Green’s request for a major medical exemption was curious.
Green, who lost the lower portion of his right leg in a car accident last June, has been attempting a comeback to professional golf since he was released from the hospital and he had 13 months of exempt status through the career-victory category at the time of the accident.
“I just wanted something I earned. I don’t understand what they were thinking. I could probably only play one year, anyway; that’s it. I’d never make the top 30 and stay on the Champions Tour,” Green told Golfweek.
All of which reminds us of a quote from former Tour player Dan Olsen a few years ago, “Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) is a country club for bad lawyers.” And bad decisions it would seem.
Tweet of the Week: @PGA_JohnDaly: “sorry haven’t been (Tweeting) been depressed – Bay Hill and Houston turned me down during Friday’s round at Transitions for (a sponsor’s exemption).”
This from the player who was cited by the Tour in 1998 for “failure to give best effort” after depositing a couple sleeves of balls into a lake and signing for an 18 on Bay Hill’s par-5 sixth hole.
Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.
The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.
Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.
''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''
Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.
McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.
''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.
Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.
''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''
Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.
Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.
The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.
''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''
Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.
Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.
''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''
Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.
''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.
The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.
Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.
Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.
Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game
ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.
“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.
Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.
“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”
Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.
Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.
“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.
McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68
ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.
In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.
“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”
McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.
“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”