Snedeker, Kuchar consistent, if not dynamic, duo

By Rex HoggardJuly 31, 2013, 6:12 pm

Without the aid of a lifeline or a scrambling Google search, name the top two Americans in the Official World Golf Ranking not named Tiger or Phil?

If you answered Matt Kuchar  (No. 6) and Brandt Snedeker (seventh) proceed to the collection window and, as an aside, you might want to consider spending a little bit more time outdoors or with the kids.

As for the rest of us, consider that it’s been that way since the start of the major championship season in April, a fact that is as enlightening as it is apropos considering that with slight variations the duo are very much the same make and  model.

Neither would likely cause much of a stir if they showed up unannounced at say, the Akron (Ohio) Zoo, which is where Snedeker celebrated his Canadian Open victory on Tuesday with his family.

Nor does either player have the flash and front-page appeal of their high-profile top-10 stable mates Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, a product of their demeanor and DNA more so than their professional body of work.

There is a theme here: both players are relatively understated family men who can kill you with competitive kindness. Combined, America’s discrete duo has four victories and four runner-up showings in 2013, rank second and third on the FedEx Cup points list and have missed just four cuts in 33 collective starts.

On Thursday’s star-studded tee sheet at Firestone there may be other players with higher Q ratings but few with the potential to dominate courses from Akron to Augusta, Ga., like Kuchar and Snedeker, thanks to a combination of clutch putting and low-risk tee-to-green play.

At the highest level, the “grip it and rip it” generation has given way to playing the percentages. Look no further than Mickelson’s no-driver victory two weeks ago at the Open Championship to prove the pendulum has swung on Tour to a unique brand of competitive conservatism.

And few play this version of Tour small ball better than Kuchar and Snedeker.

“He is not shooting at as many pins, especially with his longer clubs. If it’s the right number and the pin is in the right spot he can be aggressive,” said Snedeker’s longtime swing coach Todd Anderson. “He’s doing a better job of working his way around the golf course. His short game is so good, but he is realizing he is going to make a lot more 20- or 30-footers that way and just giving himself a chance.”

For Snedeker, the slow-and-steady approach has resulted in drastic improvements in his ball-striking. He’s up 109 spots, and five percentage points, in greens in regulation over his 2012 numbers, and 81 spots in the ball-striking category to 61st.

Kuchar wields a similar no-frills approach tee shot to green, and yet is fifth on Tour in actual scoring average (70.14).

“If (Snedeker) misses a shot, he's going to be able to score by getting up-and-down and making a putt.  He's certainly a force to be reckoned with,” Kuchar said Sunday in Canada, although as the words hung in the air he may as well have been talking about himself.

At Glen Abbey on Sunday the blue collar duo was at their best, finishing first and second on a day that Snedeker admits he didn’t have his best stuff. The reigning FedEx Cup champion went so far as to replace his new TaylorMade SLDR driver, which Anderson said is hotter than his older model but not as accurate, with his trusty Burner SuperFast version.

Among the play-for-pay types control is the new category leader – consider that this year’s driving average on Tour is 287.4 yards, the lowest it’s been since 2010 – and Kooch and Sneds are the tempered trailblazers.

In practical terms, risk aversion can be quantified via the Tour’s proximity to the hole statistic. For Kuchar, his average approach shot is 33 ½ feet from the hole, while Snedeker is slightly better at 32 ½ feet. That’s not exactly throwing darts but when you putt as well as the American two-ball it beats spending a round on the short side of every hole location.

Of course, the next step for both players is getting on the Grand Slam board. Both have had their chances – Snedeker went off in the final group on Sunday this year at Augusta National and Kuchar came up two shots short a year earlier at the Masters.

“The more times you put yourself in that situation you understand what you need to do to take that next step,” Anderson said. “Brandt has done it three or four times now; he is realizing what he has to do. He didn’t have his best game in Canada but was able to score well. He needs to learn that at a major.”

The word around the caddie yard is that Oak Hill, site of next week’s PGA Championship, will be a typical major venue, with brutally long rough and even longer holes. But before we dismiss the year’s final major as a bomber’s bout – even Mickelson admitted this week he’s thinking about taking the driver off the shelf – consider that 2003 PGA champion Shaun Micheel ranked a pedestrian 66th on Tour in driving distance when he began his week at the Donald Ross design.

Snedeker and Kuchar may not be the flashiest members of golf’s marquee, but both are one major away from changing that.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.