Cut Line: Lexi impresses; LIV looks for major avenues

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Lexi Thompson highlights this week’s edition as she attempts to make history in Las Vegas while the world ranking’s decision on LIV Golf’s points requests might not be the end of the major championship conversation.

Made Cut

Lexi’s legacy. Within golf media circles, Padraig Harrington is a true content gem because of his unique superpower of transforming the most mundane question into a conversation worth having.

An example of Harrington’s prowess came in a pre-tournament interview at the Irish Open last year when he was asked, simply, “What do you think of the course?” After more than five minutes of wonderfully rambling thoughts he concluded his answer with, “And that’s why a woman will win on the PGA Tour in my lifetime.”

Harrington’s circuitous take is apropos this week as Thompson became the seventh woman to tee off in a Tour event. Although she wrapped up an opening 2-over 73 Friday morning at the Shriners Children’s Open and was T-93 as she attempts to become the first woman to make the cut in a Tour event since 1945, her statistical performance paints a compelling picture.

While Thompson ranks near the bottom in driving distance she’s not last (113th out of 131 players, at 301 yards) and she’s picking up strokes on the field from the fairway (0.706 in strokes gained: approach the green, ranking 37th).

This won’t be the week Harrington’s prediction is realized but Thompson’s performance suggests the Irishman isn’t that far off the mark.

Fall ball. No one knew what to expect from this year’s fall schedule as the Tour moved back to a calendar-year rotation and the post-Tour Championship events evolved into a type of seeding series for next season. But through 2 ¼ events, there’s a dollop of clarity.

Luke List’s victory at last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship was an example of how transformative the fall can be for a player who failed to qualify for the playoffs (he finished 119th on the points list).

List moved to 61st on the points list (the top 60 after the fall qualify for two of the first three signature events next year) and Cameron Champ, who is tied for second in Las Vegas after an opening 63, is in a similar position after finishing the season 143rd in points.

The fall won’t resonate with all fans but for those who are paying attention, there are plenty of compelling reasons to tune in.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Rank(led) math. It should have been no real surprise that the Official World Golf Ranking turned down LIV Golf’s request for ranking points this week.

The myriad issues the OWGR had with LIV Golf’s format (54-holes and 48-man fields) and the circuit’s lack of accessibility haven’t changed since the league started playing last summer and ranking officials had warned that these were nonstarters.

What was a bit of a surprise was the player response to the announcement.

“We are at a point now where our [ranking] strength of field is decimated,” explained one LIV player who requested anonymity. “As long as we have access to majors via [LIV Golf’s] order of merit, which I think can happen, then OWGR becomes irrelevant. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Majors start to get really hurt without LIVs top 8-12 players. It’s a win for the fan if they get to play.”

With Brooks Koepka’s victory at this year’s PGA Championship as the benchmark, it’s difficult to argue that LIV Golf’s top 5-10 players shouldn’t be eligible for the majors. It’s not the perfect fix but in the imperfect world of professional golf, it’s the best option.

X (formerly tweet) of the week:

Lefty took to X to respond to the world ranking’s decision to not award points to LIV Golf but his suggestion that this “move” is all part of a greater plan is the real headline.

Missed Cut

Mixed messages. The Tour announced Wednesday that Byeong Hun An had tested positive for a banned substance and would be suspended for three months.

In a statement from Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, An “tested positive for a substance prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency contained in a cough medicine available over the counter in his native Korea.” An “cooperated fully” with the Tour and his suspension was retroactive to Aug. 31, which means he technically won’t miss any meaningful events.

An finished 44th on the final FedExCup points list and is eligible for all of the circuit’s signature events next year, including the season-opening Sentry, the first week of January.

Perhaps in this case the punishment fit the crime and the Tour considered the nuances of the infraction before applying sanctions, but considering how heavy handed and absolute the circuit has been when it’s come to previous anti-doping infractions (see Singh, Vijay) An’s ruling certainly shows a more subtle side to the policy.

What could have been. Davis Love III, the two-time U.S. Ryder Cup captain, said last week that the next American captaincy was Tiger Woods’ if he wanted it and players in Rome largely rallied around Zach Johnson to get a second turn following the U.S. loss at Marco Simone.

Either option works. Tiger brings up the heat in any environment and he proved at the 2019 Presidents Cup he’s up to the challenge. And even though Johnson is going to get picked apart for some of his decisions, he was a players’ captain.

But the problem with any potential captains for the 2025 matches is that it was supposed to be Phil vs. Sergio. Mickelson, the people’s champion with so much history at Bethpage, would have been maximum Mickelson and a relentless promoter. While Garcia, who drew the ire of the New York crowds during the ’02 U.S. Open at Bethpage, would have been Lefty’s perfect nemesis.

LIV Golf and the fallout over their decisions to join the breakaway circuit robbed us of the potential for that contentious chaos. And for all the trouble caused by the new league, it’s the consequence that hurts the most.

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