In this season-opening edition of Cut Line, the PGA of America embraces change for the Ryder Cup, Jarrod Lyle endears himself to even more fans and officials at the Frys.com Open err with a missing exemption. Made Cut Ryder Cup reclamation. As bad as the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s five-point loss at Gleneagles may have been there is a measure of solace to be drawn from that losing legacy. Earlier this week it was revealed that the PGA of America is creating a task force to examine every inch of the Ryder Cup process, from how captains and players are selected to the schedule of events during the matches. “Basically we are giving the task force a blank canvas on all things on the Ryder Cup to give the PGA some input,” PGA president Ted Bishop told GolfChannel.com. “The PGA is willing to take a step back and listen to some people that are involved in the process.” The task force, which will be announced within the next week, will include former and current players, former captains and PGA officials; and numerous sources have indicated the blue-ribbon panel could include the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Paul Azinger. If Gleneagles turns out to be rock bottom for the American side the silver lining will be it prompted some much needed change. The survivor. Jarrod Lyle gave golf fans reason No. 326 to admire his persistence as well as his play. Lyle returned to the PGA Tour this week following a second bout with leukemia thanks to a 6-under 66 at Monday’s qualifying event. The Australian birdied the second extra hole to earn his first PGA Tour start in 29 months. “I was getting a little emotional on Tuesday just talking to guys on the range and thanking everyone for their support,” Lyle told GolfChannel.com. “Hopefully, I will be a little better than I was in Melbourne (where he made his competitive return at the Australian Masters late last year).” That Lyle didn’t receive a sponsor exemption into the Frys.com Open defies logic (see Missed Cut below). That the man who has endured numerous bouts with chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant returned to the big leagues in competitive style is simply apropos. Tweet of the week: @Oliver_Wilson “It’s starting to sink in that I actually won the Dunhill Links (Championship). Keep believing people, anything is possible.” For Wilson, one of the game’s most likeable players, it may take some additional time to fully sink in that he finally found the winner’s circle. The Dunhill was his 181st start on the European Tour and his first victory on the circuit. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (DMF) Leaving the swoosh. News this week that Cindy Davis is stepping down as president of Nike Golf sent a ripple through the equipment sector. Golf executives come and go, but Davis’ tenure at Nike Golf was all at once dynamic and deliberate. During an interview with Davis earlier this year she explained the nuances of balancing growth with sustainability, and under the 52-year-old’s leadership Nike Golf has delivered profitable growth every year since 2009, according to Nike executives. Davis was also the first female to take the helm of a major golf equipment company and led many initiatives at Nike Golf, most recently the high profile signing of Rory McIlroy to a multi-year endorsement contract. But then bringing the world No. 1 into the swoosh fold may turn out to be low-hanging fruit compared with the void the iconic brand must now fill to replace Davis. Tweet of the week II: @PaulAzinger “(Question for Ian Poulter) With (the Ryder Cup) only two years away, are you shaking in your skates at the prospect of losing RC 2016?” Poulter’s response on Thursday’s “Morning Drive” was, “Bring it on.” We love ‘Zinger’s passion for the matches, but let’s not poke the bear just yet. Just ask Michael Jordan. Missed Cut Sponsor enigma. It is the most difficult job a tournament director may have and most players will concede that receiving a sponsor exemption is a luxury not a right. But it’s hard not to Monday morning quarterback the decision by officials at this week’s Frys.com Open for not offering an exemption to Lyle, the feel-good story of the young season. The two-time cancer survivor requested an exemption but was turned down. Instead, officials went with the likes of Andy Miller, who made his last Tour start in 2003 and is the son of tournament host Johnny Miller, for one of their exemptions. For his part Lyle, who earned a spot in the field via Monday qualifying, took the high road. “I know it’s just the way these things work,” Lyle said. “I would have loved to have got (an exemption) but I went and did the next best thing.” There are a lot of reasons tournament directors dole out exemptions, but when Lyle’s journey, and the exposure it is sure to deliver, isn’t good enough to rate a spot in the field it may be time to take a new look at an old system. Breaking bad. When Heath Slocum set out at 10:15 a.m. (ET) for Day 1 at the Frys.com Open it marked the end of an offseason that lasted exactly 24 days. Yeah, it’s opening day … Of all the pieces that fell into place when the Tour transitioned to its split-calendar schedule last season, the absence of anything even close to a true offseason remains the square peg on the circuit’s board full of circular holes. “It’s just so quick to restart after the Ryder Cup,” Matt Kuchar said this week. “It doesn’t feel like there’s any break. A one-week break is not a break.” If absence makes fans’ hearts grow fonder then the Tour is in danger of running afoul of another cliché – familiarity could indeed breed contempt.
SAMMAMISH, Wash. – Inbee Park could finally crack a smile, even if she was five shots behind leader Brooke Henderson. No more nerves or anxiety whether Park’s injured thumb would hold up, the South Korean star was never more excited to make bogey than on the 18th to finish off the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Thursday – the round that made her eligible for the LPGA Hall of Fame. ”I was quite nervous this morning. I don’t think I was this nervous when I was going for a major championship,” Park said. ”This is a very, very special feeling. And I’m really going to enjoy Hall of Fame.” Park’s score of 1-over 72 didn’t really matter. It left the three-time defending champion of the event well back of Henderson, who shot a 4-under 67 in her morning round. At age 27, Park is the youngest player to qualify for the Hall of Fame. She completed the final eligibility requirement by playing the first round of her 10th event of her 10th season. She has won seven major titles and has 17 LPGA Tour victories. Park has been dealing with inflammation in the tendon and ligaments of her left thumb, but overcame the discomfort to be on the leaderboard for most of the first round before making the bogey on the final hole. As she walked off the putting surface, Park celebrated with family, Hall of Famers, fellow competitors and tour officials. Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb were among the crowd greeting Park and welcoming her to an exclusive club in women’s golf. Park is only the 24th player in the LPGA Hall of Fame and first since Pak in 2007. KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos ”It definitely came quicker than I thought. And it obviously wasn’t easy to get there,” Park said. ”There were some very hard moments, and very successful moments altogether and made me who I am right now.” The last time Park played a competitive round she shot 84 at the Volvik Championship in Michigan on May 27 and withdrew after the first round, the second consecutive tournament she pulled out of early. Park was tied for second at 2 under after rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt on the ninth. She scrambled for pars to start the back nine, making a 15-footer on the 11th after hitting her drive into the rough. Park bogeyed the 12th and 14th holes to fall back to even par. She missed a short birdie putt at No. 17 and pulled her second shot from the fairway on the 18th and missed a 20-footer for par. ”The score is obviously not the greatest, but I’m satisfied with the score today,” Park said. Henderson did her part in trying to steal the attention from Park. The 18-year-old Canadian, ranked fourth in the world, sparked her round by making an ace on the 13th hole – her fourth hole of the day – hitting a 7-iron from 155 yards to the left side of the green. The shot caught the apron and funneled directly to the cup. ”It really helped out a lot and gave me momentum for the rest of the day,” said Henderson, who won a car that she gave to sister and caddie Brittany. Henderson was at 3 under after making a birdie at the difficult par-4 18th – her ninth hole of the day – and overcame struggles with her driver on her second nine that caused her to drop two shots. Henderson birdied three of her final four holes. ”Making the turn I was a little shaky,” Henderson said. ”Hit a couple of bad drives. But I was able to scramble, get up-and-down a couple of times that really saved my round and then finished really strong.” Henderson won in Portland last year and has nine top-10 finishes this season. Christina Kim and I.K. Kim followed at 69. Christina Kim was at 2 over after three holes before rallying on her second nine. ”This place has absolutely drained me. I’m very, very thankful I was able to play early today,” said Christina Kim, fourth last week in New Jersey after finishing second the previous week in Michigan. Top-ranked Lydia Ko had an even-par 71 in a round that featured 14 pars, two birdies and two bogeys. Both of Ko’s bogeys came after she missed the fairway and had to pitch out from the trees. Ariya Jutanugarn, the winner of her last three starts, was tied for fourth at 70. She played alongside Park. Stacy Lewis shot a 73. Down to seventh in the world, the 31-year-old American is winless in 50 starts since June 2014. She has 10 runner-up finishes during the drought and 23 overall. Third-ranked Lexi Thompson bogeyed four of her first five holes in a 75. Michelle Wie shot a 78, making a double bogey and five bogeys. She’s winless since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open and hasn’t had a top-10 finish in 36 events.
BOCA RATON, Fla. – Holocaust survivors on Monday celebrated the end of German insurance giant Allianz’s sponsorship of a Florida pro golf tournament, saying it may boost efforts to collect some $2.5 billion in World War II-era policies issued to Jews that they say have gone unpaid. Survivors, their heirs and Jewish groups for seven years have protested the company’s sponsorship of the PGA senior tour’s Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, saying it failed to pay off policies of tens of thousands of Holocaust victims and other Jews who died under Nazi rule. They say the company has demanded death certificates, which the Nazis didn’t issue to concentration camp victims, and copies of policies lost during wartime upheaval. Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. David Schaecter, president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation – USA, said Allianz has refused to pay off a policy he is sure his parents bought because he couldn’t provide paperwork. His father was arrested by the Nazis in 1940. He, his mother, two younger sisters and older brother were forced from their Slovakian farm in 1941 and taken to Auschwitz, where his mother and sisters were soon executed and tossed into a mass grave. He and his brother, Jacob, spent nearly two years at Auschwitz and then were sent to Buchenwald, forced at both death camps to clean the railcars that transported other Jews. His brother died in 1944. He later learned his father had spent the war doing forced labor at an Austrian salt mine, dying in 1945 of typhoid soon after being liberated. ”Survivors everywhere are relieved that our voices have been heard and in at least one place Allianz will no longer be able to pretend it has acted honorably,” said Schaecter, 87. His group led the tournament protests, which included about 200 people last February. He said that years ago when an Allianz representative demanded his family’s death certificates, he responded, ”Where should I go? Where should I get it?” Samuel J. Dubbin, the group’s attorney, said Allianz has copies of the policies in its archives but has refused to cooperate with survivors. Allianz said the protests had nothing to do with it no longer sponsoring the tournament. The company has acknowledged collaborating with the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s, but has said it paid off most of the policies through the International Commission on Holocaust Insurance Claims and will pay any other legitimate claims. ”While none of us can undo the past, we must confront it,” spokesman Christian Kroos said in an email. ”Allianz began its compensation efforts in the 1950s by working in close cooperation with the German government, to try to make certain that restitution was made to those who lost their properties during the Nazi period. Anything else would be enormously disrespectful – especially to those who suffered unspeakable violence at the hands of Nazi Germany.” Hollis Cavner, CEO of tournament organizer Pro Links Sports, said Allianz told his firm years ago it would not renew its contract when it expired after the 2017 tournament. A new sponsor is expected to be named soon. Florida’s senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, along with Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, have unsuccessfully pushed legislation that would allow survivors to sue Allianz in U.S. courts. Survivors are currently blocked by an international agreement limiting claims to the Holocaust insurance commission, an accord upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. ”Allianz has a despicable record of its treatment of Holocaust survivors, having sold tens of thousands of insurance policies to Jewish families before WWII only to reject those claims using cruel tactics,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. ”Today will mark the beginning of a renewed effort for all of the next steps the survivors need – we can no longer sit idly by and allow these survivors to continue to be victimized.”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The two men entered the week as heavy favorites, and they left Quail Hollow after the opening round with matching over-par scores. But on a day where scoring at the PGA Championship more closely resembled that of a U.S. Open, all is not yet lost for Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. The two have shared the pre-tournament spotlight, with Spieth gunning for the final leg of the career Grand Slam and McIlroy returning to a course upon which he has feasted like no other. While they both flashed the form needed to lift the Wanamaker Trophy at various points Thursday, they each signed for a 1-over 72 that left them five shots behind Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner. For Spieth, the issue came surprisingly on the greens. After rolling in, what seemed like, miles of putts over his last three starts, Spieth didn’t make anything over 6 feet all day. The recently-renovated Bermuda greens vexed many players in the field, and even one of the PGA Tour’s best putters was not immune. “I can’t putt any worse than I did today,” Spieth said. “The score won’t be any higher than it was today if I’m driving the ball like I did today.” PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog: Day 1 | Full coverage McIlroy was also flummoxed from short range, missing everything outside 6 feet, but his problems extended to the tee as well. The Ulsterman bogeyed each of the first three par-3s he faced Thursday, and after clawing his way to 2 under for the round suffered a costly double bogey on the drivable par-4 14th after hooking his tee shot into the water and flubbing a chip. “Played that stretch of holes, 13, 14, 15, in 3 over,” McIlroy said. “So if I just could have had that three-hole stretch back, but I think other than that I played nicely. Did what I needed to do.” It was an oddly positive refrain to hear from a top-ranked player coming off an over-par round. The PGA has traditionally been a place where excitement is built one birdie at a time, and by week’s end the leaderboard is awash with red figures. This tournament hasn’t crowned a winner who failed to break par in the first round since Y.E. Yang in 2009. But with forecasted rain staying away, the sub-air system sucked any remaining moisture right out of the ground at Quail Hollow. What resulted was a long layout with thick, penal Bermuda rough and greens that ranged from “dicey” to “absurd” depending on who you asked. It added up to an unusually jam-packed leaderboard, as no player shot 5 under or better in the opening round of a PGA for the first time since Oakland Hills in 2008. It also means that Spieth and McIlroy remain firmly in contention heading into a pivotal second round. That particular fact was not lost on the two-time PGA champ. “I can see a low one out there. It’s just a matter of not shooting yourself in the foot too often like I did today,” McIlroy said. “I’m only five behind. Four under is the best score out there, and it’s a tough golf course. I shoot something in the 60s tomorrow, move right up there. So yeah, I’m in it.” None of Spieth’s 11 career Tour wins have included over-par openers, but he at least gave himself a chance to break that trend with his closing stretch. While it wasn’t on the level of his salvage at Royal Birkdale, Spieth was 3 over and already at risk of a missed cut after a three-putt bogey on the sixth hole, his 15th of the day. Just as caddie Michael Greller intervened with a pep talk during the final round of The Open, Spieth again credited Greller for offering some timely encouragement before heading to the next tee. “When we were at 3 over, he said, ‘Grind these last few. You had a chance to win Augusta and we were in worse position at this point.’” Spieth said. “And he was spot-on.” Spieth responded with birdies on each of the next two holes to not only return to the fringe of contention but escape with a bit of momentum on a day when big names like Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson essentially saw their title chances come to an abrupt end. Sure, there were loose shots and missed opportunities, more than either would have preferred. But despite their respective stumbles, Spieth and McIlroy each enter the second round equipped with a realistic chance to win. And after starting in the black, a chance is more than either could have hoped for. “We’re still looking at single digits winning this tournament, I imagine, and potentially 6 under, something like that,” Spieth said. “Somebody could really get it going, but if that doesn’t happen then it’s definitely single digits.”
OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – Golf hasn’t felt this easy to Dustin Johnson since he was making it hard for anyone to beat him. Coming off a week in the Bahamas and switching back to his old putter to rely more on feel, Johnson ran off three birdies over his last six holes at Glen Oaks Club and finished with a 5-under 65 to trail Russell Henley by one shot after the opening round of The Northern Trust. Johnson missed only two fairways and two greens Thursday afternoon, and he finished with a shot up the hill to 4 feet for one last birdie that gave him his lowest round since he won at Riviera in February to rise to No. 1 in the world. ”Today was much easier than it has been in the past,” Johnson said. ”I’ve been saying it’s close and I’ve seen signs of it. But today was the first day where I felt like all day I was really in control of the swing. Hit a lot of really good shots. Drove it well. Did everything really well. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve done that.” He specifically used as a reference the weeks leading into the Masters, when Johnson looked nearly unstoppable by winning three straight tournaments. And then he was stopped by a staircase in his rental home at the Masters, slipping in socks and wrenching his back. He had to withdraw from Augusta National the next day, and since then he has been trying to get over the back injury and get back his game. The first of four FedEx Cup playoff events moved this year to Glen Oaks, a course no one in the field knows particularly well. It is spacious and immaculate, the contoured greens that can be difficult to negotiate outside of close range. Henley brought a conservative strategy of aiming for the safe part of the green, and he converted eight birdies. Seven of them were from 12 feet or closer, a testament to how well he was playing. He also chipped in from 80 feet. The Northern Trust: Articles, video and photos FedExCup standings entering the playoffs ”I don’t know what the key is, or the secret,” Henley said. ”I just tried to hit the fairway, make sure I hit the green when I was in the fairway, and the greens are great and I rolled in a couple of putts.” Scott Brown, Camilo Villegas and Chris Kirk were at 66, and it was an important start for Villegas and Kirk. The top 100 in the FedEx Cup after this week advance to the second playoff event at the TPC Boston. Kirk is at No. 97, Villegas is one spot behind. It was even better for a few players who opened with a 67, such as Bubba Watson (No. 113), Martin Flores (No. 118) and Harold Varner III (No. 123). Flores only got into the top 125 by finishing with an ace, a par and a birdie at the Wyndham Championship. Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, needs to see a score much better than his 72, which featured two straight birdies at the end but also a pair of double bogeys. Mickelson has played in every Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup since 1994, and he is in danger of being left out of the Presidents Cup next month at Liberty National. U.S. captain Steve Stricker has said he needs to see signs from the five-time major champion, and Mickelson knows that. ”I would love to be on that team, but I’ve got to bring something to the table,” Mickelson said. PGA champion Justin Thomas, still sluggish from a busy week of trying to deal with his new status as major champion, wasn’t expecting much out of his game and dropped two shots early before he rallied for a 68. In his first start since his two-shot victory at Quail Hollow, Thomas was not introduced on the tee as the PGA champion. ”After the drive I hit, I’m kind of glad they didn’t,” he said. He hit it on the toe of the driver, a duck-hook that he says would have gone about 130 yards. He was exaggerating. It went 221 yards after it clanged out of the trees and into the fairway, leaving him a 2-iron to the green when most players are hitting a wedge or short iron. British Open champion Jordan Spieth had a 69, while Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into the PGA Tour’s version of the postseason, didn’t make a birdie and opened with a 74. Rory McIlroy made three bogeys on the back nine and shot 73. Johnson switched to a TaylorMade Spider putter during the playoffs last year, and he stuck with that up until returning this week and going back to what he used when he won the U.S. Open last summer at Oakmont. ”I got a little bit more feel with the putter instead of the Spider I was using,” he said. ”I was getting a little bit too mechanical and I was worrying about too many things when I was putting instead of just putting.” He ran a long birdie putt some 15 feet by the hole at No. 2 and three-putted for bogey. After that, his speed was better and his game was sharp. The 65 was his best round since a 64 in the second round at Riviera.
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lexi Thompson is smiling and having fun again at the ANA Inspiration. A year after a rules violation cost her four strokes in regulation in an eventual playoff loss, Thompson shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday to finish three strokes behind leader Pernilla Lindberg. ”I don’t know if I would say it’s a relief,” Thompson said. ”I was just really looking forward to just playing this week. I love coming here.” Thompson also again overpowered Michelle Wie on a hot afternoon at Mission Hills, four years after routing her in a final-round showdown for her first major title. Wie fought dizzy spells on the front nine in a 75 that left her in danger of missing the cut. ”I had the mad spins,” Wie said. ”I just got really dizzy. I don’t know why or how. I don’t know.” Wearing a black dress in the mid-90s heat, she birdied the second hole, then dropped five strokes in four holes with two double bogeys and a bogey. ”I fouled five balls out there on the front nine,” said Wie, the Singapore winner four weeks ago. ”One that I whiffed in the rough.” She felt much better on the back nine, but still couldn’t keep up with Thompson. The distance disparity was particularly pronounced on the par-4 12th when Thompson cracked a 348-yarder 72 yards past Wie. ”Probably my farthest,” Thompson said. ”This golf course definitely sets up for my game off the tee. I get to just aim up the right and fire away.” Full scoring from the ANA Inspiration ANA Inspiration: Articles, photos and videos That got her in trouble on the par-5 ninth – her 18th – when she drove into the left trees and made her lone bogey. Lindberg birdied her final two holes for a bogey-free 65, playing in the last group to finish the round. The 31-year-old Swede is winless on the LPGA. ”I often get the question, favorite tournament, favorite golf course, and I always say this event and this course,” Lindberg said. ”I like this place and I always feel good playing here.” Beatriz Recari and Ayako Uehara were a stroke back, and Jessica Korda, Ha Na Jang and Stanford sophomore Albane Valenzuela shot 67. In Gee Chun and Cristie Kerr were at 68 with Thompson, Chella Choi, Sung Hyun Park and Brittany Altomare. Recari had a bogey-free round , saving par on the par-3 17th with a 10-footer. The 30-year-old Spaniard has three LPGA Tour victories. ”I’ve always felt very comfortable here,” Recari said. ”I felt like if I was going to win a major, it was going to be on this course.” Uehara birdied her final two holes. The Japanese player credited instructor Ted Oh for her strong play. ”Now I have confidence,” she said. Korda birdied the 18th after bogeying 16 and 17. She birdied the first four holes and was 6 under after 11. ”A couple of weird shots there, especially on 17,” she said. The winner last month in Thailand in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery, Korda reached the par-5 ninth with a driver from the right first cut. She hit driver off the deck twice two weeks in the Founders Cup. ”I actually caught way more air than I expected,” Korda said. ”That’s kind of what I’m just trying to do is have fun out there, hit shots that normally I would probably not hit in a tournament.” She’s traveling with a mini Goldendoodle puppy named Charlie. ”It’s so nice to have a puppy with you to distract you,” Korda said. ”He’s so cute.” Playing partner Lydia Ko, the 2016 winner, had a 70. She closed with a double bogey after finding the water fronting the green from the fairway bunker. Jang birdied the final three holes for the last of her nine birdies. ”Any golf course straight ball is very important, but Mission Hills is more important,” she said. Jang left the LPGA in the middle of last season to return home to spend more time with her mother, left alone when she and her father were away. Her mother is visiting the U.S. for the first time this week. ”I’d like to play the LPGA again, but my mom’s more important than myself,” Jang said. Valenzuela topped the seven amateurs in the field. ”I love this course,” Valenzuela said. ”I feel really comfortable on it.” Valenzuela’a autistic brother Alexis is working as the Swiss Olympian’s caddie. ”I love having him on the bag,” she said. Stacy Lewis had a 72 in her return from a rib injury sustained practicing before the Thailand event. She won in 2011 at Mission Hills and lost a playoff to Brittany Lincicome in 2015. Defending champion So Yeon Ryu failed to make a birdie in a 75. DIVOTS: Laura Davies shot an 81, two weeks after tying for second in the Founders Cup at age 54. She played the first five holes in 5 over with a triple bogey on the par-4 seventh. Fighting left Achilles and calf problems, she withdrew last week Carlsbad after an opening 82. … Iceland’s Olafia Kristinsdottir had a hole-in-one on the 181-yard 17th in a 72. She used a 5-iron.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Maybe the best way to deal with the greens at the Broadmoor is to not putt on them at all. Jerry Kelly knew the drill. His chip-in for birdie on No. 18 highlighted a round that left him atop the leaderboard after his second round Friday at the U.S. Senior Open. After coming up short from the middle of the fairway, Kelly took advantage of a decent lie outside a bunker, chipped the ball and watched it go straight in. He made three more birdies on the front nine – his second nine – to complete a round of 1-under 69 and leave the course with a one-shot lead at 5-under 135. ”I knew I had to pull something out,” Kelly said. ”And the chip came out just perfect and rolled right down and went in, and that got things going again.” Playing in the same threesome with Kelly, Miguel Angel Jimenez shot 2-under 68 to stay a shot behind, with a decent prospect of pairing up with Kelly once more on Saturday. Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Open ”When you see guys hit the fairways consistently, you feed off that,” Kelly said. ”And that’s really the key out here, is just hitting the fairways.” Jimenez, coming off his first senior major championship last month, followed that rule to a ‘T.’ He hit 17 greens in regulation on his way to a bogey-free round. But he still needed 33 putts – fitting on a golf course where the Will Rogers Shrine up on Cheyenne Mountain dictates the break on every green. ”I can say I didn’t miss any putt,” Jimenez said. ”I hit every one right in the middle, but then the hole is moving.” Tim Petrovic had the best round of the morning, shooting 30 on the front nine – his second nine – to finish with a 65 and get to 3 under for the tournament. He took advantage of calm conditions that were far different from the 35-mph gusts the players faced in Thursday afternoon’s round. And he finally calibrated the higher altitude in Colorado, which most people believe adds 10 percent distance to every shot. ”I told my caddie as we were making the turn that we need to just slow it down, not hit so many half shots and just play within,” Petrovic said. ”And we started hitting some really good, quality shots.” Davis Love III (68) and Philip Golding (67) were the only others to break par in the morning. Both head into the weekend four behind Kelly, at 1 under.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There have been countless volumes written about Tiger Woods’ influence in golf and beyond. The well-documented “Tiger Effect” covers everything from TV ratings to the sale of golf balls following any of his numerous victories. What’s not as quantifiable throughout Woods’ career is how he’s drawn players to golf who have been historically disenfranchised from the ancient game. Many examples of this reach are anecdotal, like Harold Varner III’s tale. Like most stories involving Woods, Varner’s adulation of the 15-time major champion began long before he arrived on the PGA Tour – and it took a bad turn early. “Pissed. So mad,” Varner laughed on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Championship. Varner was a 13-year-old in 2004 when Woods played his first Wells Fargo Championship. Now 28, Varner can point to the exact spot it happened, on the road between the Quail Hollow clubhouse and the player parking lot. “I was like, ‘Dude, come on,’ and he walked right by me,” explained Varner of the time Woods brushed past him as he was attempting to secure a once-in-a-lifetime autograph. Varner, who has become a regular practice-round partner of Woods, would later bring it up to his childhood hero and, like many things with the reinvented Tiger, it became a learning moment. “I’ll never forget the first time we played together, we were walking up 18 and I was like, ‘Man, you didn’t sign my autograph,’” Varner said. “He’s like, ‘That’s probably why you’re here right now, you probably got mad.’ I was like, ‘You’re right.’” Varner has become something of a sponge when it comes to these impromptu learning moments with Woods. Anyone who knows Varner is drawn to his outgoing personality and unlike many over the years who appreciated Tiger’s greatness from a distance he’s not shy or subdued when it comes to his interactions with Woods. Wells Fargo Championship: Articles, photos and videos This week’s Wells Fargo Championship is a perfect example of Varner’s unfiltered approach to his friendship with Woods. When the deadline to commit to this week’s event came and went last Friday without Woods’ name in the field, Varner didn’t hesitate to send him a text message. “Really bummed. I was bummed. I gave him a good text, he hasn’t replied yet. But yeah, I’m pissed,” Varner laughed. Part of that reaction was professional. Woods’ presence in a tournament has an immediate impact on ticket sales, one of those quantifiable elements of the “Tiger Effect,” and an equally obvious influence on atmosphere. Simply put, things are better when Woods is around. But the biggest part of Varner’s disappointment was personal. He was scheduled to play a practice round with Woods this week and he’s become adept at taking advantage of any opportunity to pick the brain of arguably the game’s greatest player ever. In his fourth season on Tour, Varner has 10 top-10 finishes but is still searching for his first victory. Having Woods as a sounding board may not help him crack that victory barrier, but if there is a secret sauce he figures Tiger would be the one who would know it. “If I never won a tournament, I’d be all right. I just think he’s really good at what he does. I don’t care how many times he wins, I’m still going to treat him as Tiger,” Varner said. “I just want to be really good at golf, so I ask him everything under the sun. That’s why I wanted to get close to him.” For Varner, the “Tiger Effect” doesn’t need to be dissected. In a game that trends predominantly white, Varner views Woods’ career through an opportunistic lens. Winning is always the ultimate goal but the path Woods blazed is about much more than the countless accolades in his biography. “He’s made it easy for a black golfer to play. When you guys ask questions about being black, he’s always answered them with the utmost respect and it’s made it easy for me, so I always thank him for that,” Varner said. “Things like that go a long way in my life. So yeah, I want to be close to that guy. I want to know how he became the best golfer to ever play.” Perhaps Varner would have moved along his path to the Tour without Woods’ influence, but he’ll happily tell you with his ever-present smile and infectious laugh that he wouldn’t be the player he is today without Tiger’s legacy. He’s become a better player and a better person because of the duo’s relationship that began when an autograph-seeking fan received a stiff-arm from a player in a rush. “No, I never got [Woods’ autograph],” Varner laughed. But he’s gotten so much more.
With the PGA Championship being contested this week, the order of golf’s major championships is changing for the first time since 1971. But the familiar rotation of Masters in April, U.S. Open in June, Open Championship in July, PGA Championship in August hasn’t always been followed. And as history shows, some of golf’s most iconic champions – from Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open to Ben Hogan in the 1953 Open to Jack Nicklaus in the 1971 PGA Championship – have won memorable majors at what might appear to be odd times of the year. Take Nicklaus’ victory in the ‘71 PGA, which completed his second trip around the career Grand Slam. If playing a major in May seems odd, how about competing in one held in February? That’s what happened when the PGA Championship was moved from summer to winter to avoid Florida’s oppressive August heat. The tournament was held at the original PGA National GC in Palm Beach Gardens, which was owned by John D. MacArthur, who was, as Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated, “practically the owner of the PGA itself.” Jenkins explained the date change came about because, “MacArthur wanted the championship to be played at the course sometime, and since hot old Florida certainly couldn’t be the site in July or August, traditional time for the PGA, February was elected.” You can switch months, but some things don’t change. It was Nicklaus’ ninth major victory as a professional, but at the time it was considered to be his 11th – along with his two U.S. Amateurs. PGA Championship: Tee times | Full coverage That marked the only time a major was held in February, but majors had previously been played in nearly every month. The 1934 Masters was completed in March, and the 1928 PGA Championship was held in December. Five majors – most recently the 1936 PGA – were held in November. September and October have seen their share of major competition, too. The Open Championship was quite often a fall event in the 1800s, and the PGA Championship spent much of the pre-World War II era bouncing around the latter months. As for the U.S. Open, Francis Ouimet’s famous win in 1913 was one of seven national championships held in either September or October. In fact, January is the only month in which one of the four professional majors hasn’t been contested. Oftentimes, the majors were held so close together that golfers couldn’t play in all of them. In 1953, when Ben Hogan won the Masters, the U.S. Open, and Open Championship, he was not able to compete in the PGA Championship. The final round of that tournament, won by Walter Burkemo in Birmingham, Mich., was played on July 7. By that time, Hogan had already been in Great Britain for nearly two weeks, practicing with the smaller British golf ball for The Open at Carnoustie, which began in earnest on July 8, with qualifying held on the previous two days. (Although, to be fair, Hogan likely wouldn’t have played in the PGA if it was held in August, as the match-play format, with multiple rounds in a day, was a physical hardship for the man who’s horrific injuries in a 1949 automobile accident nearly ended his life.) The most recent date change for the PGA Championship came just three years ago, as the tournament was held in July, having been moved up a few weeks because of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Jimmy Walker won at Baltusrol, on July 31; two weeks after Henrik Stenson won The Open. It marked the first time since 1968 that two majors were completed in the same month. That was the year The Open finished eight days before Julius Boros, at age 48, won the PGA Championship at Pecan Valley. But back to May and this year’s PGA, which will be the eighth major to be held in the year’s fifth month. The most recent was the 1949 PGA Championship, which was won by Sam Snead at Hermitage CC in Richmond, Va., while the tournament was still of a match-play variety. The PGA also concluded in May in 1937, 1942, and 1948, while the Open Championship was completed in May in 1897, 1928, and 1929. Interestingly, all seven champions (Snead and Walter Hagen twice, Ben Hogan, Denny Shute, and Harold Hilton) eventually became members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. So it appears this week’s PGA champion at Bethpage Black will be following in some mighty big footsteps.
In this week’s edition of Cut Line, Kevin Na proves there’s a place for power and precision on the PGA Tour, while this week’s field at the Houston Open proves that change isn’t always a good thing. Made Cut The distance debate: There are plenty of conversations worth having about how far the modern golf professional hits the ball, but last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open put that debate in context. Kevin Na won for the second time this year with his victory in Las Vegas thanks in large part to a historic putting performance. Na made 558 feet of putts, the most ever in a 72-hole Tour event, on his way to victory where he ranked a modest 32nd in the field in driving distance. It was a similar story when Na won earlier this year at the Charles Schwab Challenge, where he finished second in putts-made distance and 55th in driving distance. Although it’s much more common for the modern player to over-power a course it’s worth pointing out that three of the top four putting performances, led by Na’s 558 feet of putts made last week, have come in the last two years. Distance will always be a crucial element of the game but it’s not the only element. Tweet of the week: “Beyond belief,” was how co-host Brad Faxon explained Tuesday’s event. Justin Leonard, who along with PGA of American CEO Seth Waugh helped organize the event, added that he was “absolutely shocked” by the outcome. Charity has always been a part of golf but the Bahamas Strong Pro-Am was particularly inspiring. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) The body issue: Bryson DeChambeau tied for fourth last week at TPC Summerlin and set out for an offseason that he promised will be transformative. “Bigger. Way stronger. Not necessarily bigger, but just stronger in general,” he said. “I am going to look probably a lot bigger, but it’s going to be a fun month and a half off. I have never been able to do this, and I’m going to go do things that are going to be a lot of fun.” Predictably the circuit’s “Mad Scientist” plans to leave no stone or theory unturned in his quest to assure his “neurological threshold is just as high as the mechanical threshold.” Phil Mickelson went through a similar transformation heading into the new season, and if anyone can pull it off it is DeChambeau, but maybe he should embrace more modest gains. There are few players in the history of the game who have successfully emerged from a full-body transformation. Golf Central Expect a ‘bigger, way stronger’ Bryson in 2020 BY Nick Menta — October 6, 2019 at 7:16 PM Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau couldn’t get it done at the Shriners Open in Las Vegas, but the next time you see him, you might not recognize his figure. Moving on: When he returned from a three-month suspension following a failed drug test in July, Robert Garrigus was predictably clear and cutting. “I wasn’t trying to degrade the PGA Tour in any way, my fellow professionals in any way. I don’t cheat the game,” Garrigus said. “I understand HGH [Human Growth Hormone], anything you are trying to do to cheat the game you should be suspended for 100 percent. Everything else should be a discussion.” Specifically, Garrigus said his marijuana use should not be placed in the same category as other performance-enhancing agents. The 41-year-old was prescribed marijuana to treat knee and back pain. Garrigus has struggled since returning from the suspension, missing four of six cuts on Tour, but appears to have turned a corner in Houston where he was one stroke off the lead midway through his second round. Garrigus never wanted to be the unofficial spokesman for marijuana use on Tour but he’s embraced the role. As his play this week has proven, however, his role as a contender is much more comfortable. Missed Cut New spot for Houston: While the fall portion of the new Tour schedule has included some pleasant surprises, like last week’s tee sheet in Las Vegas, this week’s stop in Houston is best described as underwhelming. This week’s strength of field (73) is the lowest for a non-opposite-field Tour event in nearly five years according to the world ranking. By comparison, this week’s Italian Open on the European Tour has a strength of field of 248 that includes Houston Open defending champion Ian Poulter. Houston’s star power took a step back this year as the event transitions from its normal pre-Masters date to the fall, and Houston Open tournament director Colby Callaway specifically voiced concern with the tournament’s location just before the lucrative Asian swing. “I’m learning that in the fall, players are interested in chasing the big money internationally and playing overseas,” Callaway told Golf.com earlier this week. “That’s not up to me to figure that out, but up to the Tour to help out because there are tournaments here who are saying, ‘What about us?’ Hopefully we can force the Tour’s hand to move us.” Fortunately, the event will move next year to home a new home next in Memorial Park, which should provide a boost to both the field and tournament attendance. News & Opinion Future is bright for Houston Open with Memorial Park move BY Brentley Romine — October 9, 2019 at 5:20 PM In recent years, the Houston Open has been thrown one curveball after another – natural disasters, loss of a title sponsor, a costly date change. But the longtime PGA Tour stop seems on the verge of hitting a home run.