Golf notes: Harrington, Knox appreciate value and stress of 36-hole cut
Orlando, Fla. — Not having a cut is one of the sticking points for LIV Golf’s request to be part of the Official World Golf Ranking system. Padraig Harrington and Russell Knox can appreciate the importance for different reasons.
Harrington is now on the PGA Tour Champions, though he still dabbles quite a bit on the European tour, and he is playing two weeks in a row on the Florida swing, at the Honda Classic and Bay Hill.
“It’s nice not to have the stress of a cut,” Harrington said of the 54-hole events on the PGA Tour Champions. “Even the couple of events I played on the European tour — even the first one where I finished fourth — at one stage on the Friday I’m like, ‘What’s the cut going to be? Where am I?’ And when you start thinking like that, you just hit a brick wall.
“It’s a big difference having a cut line -- a lot of pressure, a lot of stress in that cut line, and it doesn’t matter how good, what you’ve done in your career.”
Knox won a World Golf Championships event in Shanghai among his two PGA Tour victories, and he once reached as high as No. 18 in the world.
“If you’re playing well, you don’t even think about it,” he said of the cut.
He’s not playing his best right now, and the pressure is hard to avoid, particularly because the PGA Tour has changed its model so that only the top 70 (down from top 125) made the FedEx Cup postseason.
“Right now, in this instant snapshot, it is quite stressful,” Knox said. He is coming off three straight missed cuts, after making eight in a row.
“I see my game as not as good as it potentially is, and with the changes the tour is making and the standard of everyone’s game, I feel the most pressure I’ve felt into my first couple of months," he said. “The money is the most it’s ever been, the opportunity is the highest to do well.
“I feel the pressure to play some decent golf.”
Knox is taking this week off to regroup for The Players Championship, where a year ago he tied for sixth.
“I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of not having a cut,” he said. “That eliminated a boatload of stress. The first goal is to survive to the weekend, and then see what happens.”
Club pro's dream season
That birdie putt Kapalua head pro Michael Castillo made in September is paying more dividends than he ever imagined.
Castillo won the Aloha Section PGA Championship with a birdie on the final hole, which got him into the Sony Open. He made his PGA Tour debut at age 60, a few months after radiation for cancer that returned to his liver.
Now he’s off to the PGA Tour Champions this week in Arizona.
“I’m living the club pro’s dream,” Castillo said before leaving for the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, where he received a sponsor exemption.
This exemption was a surprise, but it’s a good fit.
Exact Science Corp. produces Cologuard, a noninvasive screening test for colorectal cancer and precancer. Cologuard has been the name of the tournament since it began in 2015.
Castillo was first diagnosed about five years ago with colon cancer, which was detected through a home screening test.
“It wasn’t theirs, but it was a product for early detection,” he said. “That’s what they do, and that’s what helped me get on this cancer thing earlier rather than later.”
Like other players, he will be representing a cancer survivor during the tournament.
Castillo will be in a field that includes Bernhard Langer going for his record 46th career PGA Tour Champions victory, along with other major champions who played the old PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Poipu Bay when Castillo was the head pro at the Kauai resort.
Castillo missed the cut at the Sony Open, though he met his goal of 36 holes without anything worse than a bogey and no three-putts.
He is playing both pro-am days at Omni Tucson National, and he is guaranteed 54 holes because there is no cut on the PGA Tour Champions.
“Without the worry about a cut, I can just freewheel a little bit,” he said. “I try not to worry about what my fellow competitors are doing, but they were 50-plus (yards) in front of me at the Sony. I don’t think this week will be the same. I’ll be somewhere in the same zip code as the best Champions Tour guy.”
As for that club pro’s dream? In a span of six months, Castillo will have competed in the Senior Professional National Championship, the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour Champions and the Professional National Championship, where the top 20 club pros earn a spot in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
Current big three
Jon Rahm would love nothing better than to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, giving him a sweep of tournaments hosted by Palmer, Jack Nicklaus (Memorial) and the Genesis Invitational (Tiger Woods).
“But I haven't won the Byron Nelson,” Rahm was quick to point out, a tournament he has played only once and likely won't be returning to this year in a busy May schedule.
The AT&T Byron Nelson doesn't carry the same weight as the other three now, not so much because Nelson died in 2006, but there was never a strong connection with the golf course. Dating to when Nelson became host, it has been held at five venues.
Rahm also mentioned one other difference should he win at Bay Hill — not getting a handshake from The King.
“But the meaning would still be there,” he said.
Palmer and Nicklaus effectively built their tournaments — Palmer bought Bay Hill, Nicklaus built Muirfield Village. Woods became the official host only in 2019, when the PGA Tour gave it elevated status with Bay Hill and the Memorial.
Ernie Els, Fred Couples and Hale Irwin are the only players to win at Riviera, Bay Hill and Muirfield Village. Irwin won in LA in 1976, when it was hosted by Glen Campbell.
As far as winning tournaments hosted by golf's biggest names, Els and Couples have the trifecta. They not only won Bay Hill, Memorial and the Nelson, all three legends were around to greet them off the 18th green.
Vu on the rise
UCLA alum Lilia Vu picked up her first LPGA Tour victory last week in Thailand, and it might have felt overdue.
She was a three-time winner on the Futures Tour in 2021. She was outside the top 200 when she began her rookie season on the LPGA Tour and recorded three third-place finishes. Vu tied for third in Saudi Arabia a week before rallying to win in Thailand.
Vu also moved to No. 3 in the Solheim Cup standings and moved into position to be on the four-player U.S. team for the International Crown at Harding Park in May.
According to showbuzzdaily.com, LIV Golf's opening event at Mayakoba, which aired from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on The CW Network, had a household rating of 0.18 for Saturday and Sunday. ... Phil Mickelson has fallen out of the top 300 in the world for the first time as a professional. He last was this low before winning the Tucson Open while still at Arizona State. LIV Golf is still waiting to hear whether it will get world ranking points since it began in June. ... Tyler Duncan finished third in the Honda Classic for his first top 10 since he won the 2019 RSM Classic at Sea Island.
Stat of the week
This is the first time since the world ranking began in 1986 that No. 1 has changed among three players (Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm) before March.
“You can't get more nervous than nervous. You're either nervous or you're not. If you're nervous trying to win your club championship, it's the same feeling as Tiger Woods when he's trying to win the Masters.” — Russell Knox.