Before we embark on the bulk of the major championship season, Cut Line takes one final look back at the year’s first Grand Slam gathering and what is missing for this year’s Web.com Tour graduates.
Bubba Golf. It’s not as though Bubba Watson needed to “validate” his first Masters victory – green jackets have a tendency to keep the second-guessing to a minimum – but his bookend victory on Sunday certainly lifted the free-swinging southpaw into a new category.
Fifteen of the 17 players with multiple Masters victories are in the World Golf Hall of Fame (Tiger Woods being the other exception), and talking with some of Watson’s contemporaries this week at the RBC Heritage it seems he may have already punched his ticket to St. Augustine, Fla.
“I’d say he should be (in the Hall of Fame),” Jason Bohn said. “That’s pretty special to have two green jackets and, what, six Tour victories? I’d say he should make it.”
And for those who think it may be a tad early to start talking about Bubba’s Hall chances, consider that at 35 he will eligible for induction in just five years.
50 is the new 30. On Sunday at Augusta National the possibility loomed that the Masters could have been won by the youngest player ever (Jordan Spieth, 20) or the oldest (pick a senior; there were plenty to choose from).
While Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships looks relatively safe at the moment with Tiger Woods on the extended DL following back surgery, the Golden Bear’s mark of being the oldest to win the Masters (he was 46 in 1986) appears in serious jeopardy.
Sunday’s leaderboard read like something from the Champions Tour with Miguel Angel Jimenez, 50, finishing in fourth place, four strokes behind Watson; Bernard Langer, 56, tying for eighth; and Fred Couples, who at 54 is a leaderboard staple at the year’s first major.
“The people, they take care of themselves. They are being more healthy,” Jimenez said on Sunday. “If you don't want to be here at 50, you shouldn't be here. I love the game, I love competing, and probably that is the reason.”
As an aside, can you imagine how much fun the Mechanic’s Champions Dinner would be?
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Aggregate issues. If Tour golf is little more than entertainment we get it.
The new three-hole aggregate playoff for The Players Championship combines the risk-and-reward thrill of TPC Sawgrass’ final three holes with the nerves that come with winning one of the game’s most prestigious events.
Lost in this recent move to distinguish The Players from all the other circuit’s stops, however, is the fact that there must be some competitive integrity to go along with all those cheers.
“The No. 1 goal is to finish on Sunday and doing things to stop that are problematic,” said Paul Goydos, who lost a sudden-death playoff at The Players in 2008. “That would be my first question to the Tour. What are you going to do if it’s 8 (p.m.) and we have a playoff?”
There have only been four playoffs in Players history and officials plan to schedule for a potential overtime, but the Tour should be prepared to endure a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking the first time the event doesn’t end on Sunday.
Silent pines. It’s Mother Nature’s fault, really.
Six consecutive days of glorious spring weather combined with enough frayed nerves to page Dr. Charles Rich – the Park City, Utah neurosurgeon who performed Woods’ microdiscectomy earlier this month – delivered one of the more subdued Sundays in recent Masters history.
Missing from this year’s proceedings was the traditional two-way traffic, faltering leaders being passed by charging challengers on the back nine, in large part because of perfect conditions that delivered the fieriest greens many players could remember.
The closing loop scoring average (37.05) on Sunday was the highest it’s been in the last seven years and the top five finishers played the final nine in a collective 1 under par. That’s not exactly rattle-the-pines theater, but then if they were all special ...
Opportunities lost. Dwindling playing opportunities for Web.com Tour graduates is nothing new, but Tuesday’s meeting of the Player Advisory Council at Harbour Town did indicate a slight shift in thinking among the Tour frat brothers.
Because of a larger-than-normal number of players using medical and career money exemptions, the graduates have been squeezed this season. Consider that the players who earned three of the last four Tour cards from fall’s Web.com Tour Finals (Will Wilcox, Matt Bettencourt and Kevin Foley) have a combined 16 starts this season.
By comparison, Jimmy Walker, No. 2 in earnings this season, already has 14 starts.
One suggestion at Tuesday’s meeting was to reduce the number of exempt players from the money list from 125 to 115, or even 100. The difference now is that it was the players who were suggesting such a dramatic move, not Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
“It was good to see it coming from the players this time instead of the Tour,” said one member of the PAC.
The only way to have a good idea is to have a bunch of ideas.
Tweet of the Week: @joshbroadaway1 (Web.com Tour player Josh Broadaway) “(Nick) Faldo . . . REALLY? Get back in the booth and give the guys a chance to play that are trying to keep their job!”
Faldo, who won the 1984 RBC Heritage and played this week’s event for the first time since 2006, will certainly draw more interest to Harbour Town this week than say, Hudson Swafford, the first alternate who spent Thursday waiting for a tee time that never came. But on the same week the Tour addressed reduced playing opportunities for Web.com Tour grads it also didn’t seem like the best timing.