Cut Line: Change is inevitable on PGA Tour

By Rex HoggardApril 27, 2012, 4:45 pm

In honor of this week’s Zurich Classic, Jazz Fest and the bottomless plate of BBQ shrimp, Cut Line is taking a soulful approach to this week’s edition, starting with a call for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to embrace the future and the possibility of a new start for the circuit in the “City That Care Forgot.”

Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Made Cut

Hugs. All this time we thought professional football’s popularity in relation to golf was a byproduct of the game’s violence and the inherent loyalties of a team sport when in fact the NFL’s dominance seems born from a softer side that begins at the top.

There it was in HD clarity, over and over again, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell embracing the next pick in Thursday’s draft with emotion that would make Dr. Phil proud.

If the Tour really wants to cut into football’s popularity we suggest marching Finchem out to the 18th green at Q-School this year ready to dole out a Tour card, a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., cap and a hug.

Peter Dawson. It is, as far as the PGA Tour is concerned, a dead issue. As long as the current regime remains in Ponte Vedra Beach the circuit’s policy to not publish fines or disciplinary actions will remain the status quo, but it is worth revisiting when the chief of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decides to swim upstream.

“I have gone on record saying that more public sanctioning would not be a bad thing,” Dawson said this week. “One would have thought more public sanctions would be more likely to lead to a correction of behavior rather than private sanctions.”

For the record, the Tour’s policy is to only publish fines and punishments when a player violates the circuit’s anti-doping program – and only then when the offending drug is considered performance enhancing, not recreational.

Imagine, however, if the Tour published the list of players who had violated its slow play policy. A private monetary fine is one thing, the public scorn of being labeled a snail in print – now that’s preemptive.

Bayou District Foundation. News this week that the plan to create an East Lake-like neighborhood in New Orleans’ City Park is a reason to “second line” on many levels.

The planned Rees Jones-designed course promises to be a dramatic upgrade over the Zurich Classic’s current home. Moving the event to City Park, which is just minutes from downtown and the French Quarter, would improve the event’s appeal to local fans and let’s be honest, there’s little chance Jones could design something worse than the TPC, which ranked 45th out of 52 Tour courses in a player poll last year.

“One of the courses (in City Park) is going to be designed as a championship venue,” said Joe Ogilvie, who has been involved in the City Park initiative since his days on the Tour Policy Board. “I’m guessing that’s the city’s goal (to host the Zurich Classic at City Park). It would be a big bonus if the Zurich moved to City Park, but the project is going to get done either way.”

Even if the Zurich stays put on the wrong side of the Mississippi River the Bayou District Foundation, which has spearheaded the restoration project, has already been a success having transformed the neighborhood surrounding City Park.

Tweet of the week: @WestwoodLee “Retief grey goose (Goosen) on the Robert rocks (Rock) with a slice of Jose Phillpe [sic] lime (Jose-Filipe Lima). Can’t get better than that! #BoozyFourBall.”

Westy may be ranked third in the Official World Golf Ranking, but the Englishman is the undisputed leader in the Twitter index.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bubba Watson. The in-demand Masters champion got back to work this week in New Orleans and the not-so-bashful-prince deserves style points for honoring his commitment to play the Zurich Classic.

Where Watson seemed to get sideways was during his press conference on Tuesday at TPC Louisiana when he made at least nine references to “the media’s” short attention span and its penchant to distort facts.

While much of the media’s reputation is well deserved and many of Watson’s references were made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, there was a curious and concerning undertone to his comments.

By almost all accounts Watson has been dubbed a media darling since slipping on the green jacket and even before his major breakthrough Cut Line can think of just a single episode – during last year’s French Open when he ran afoul of the local press when he referred to the “big tower” (Eiffel) and “some archway” (Arc de Triomphe) – when he hasn’t been given the benefit of the doubt by the press.

Watson has made a decision to embrace the spotlight, which is certainly his right and infinitely understandable, but he must understand that scrutiny and stardom are not mutually exclusive.

Olympic effort. It is difficult, if not impossible, to question U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis’ U.S. Open handiwork in recent years (see Torrey Pines, 2008), but the organization’s last-minute scramble to add a fairway bunker to the Olympic Club’s 17th hole is at the least a reason to sit up and take notice.

Davis authorized the new hazard on the 17th, which will play as a par 5 for this year’s championship, in a strategic attempt to persuade more players to go for the green in two shots.

Although the idea (the potential for more late-round excitement) is compelling, the execution (less than two months before the Open) is concerning.

Missed Cut

World golf ranking. We’ve wasted no small amount of space in this column railing against the math and madness that is the ranking, but last week’s calculations deserve a “Missed Cut” encore.

At issue is the payment of appearance fees by international tours, a practice that essentially allows events to pay for world ranking points. Consider Lee Westwood’s victory at last week’s Indonesian Masters, a haul that landed him 20 ranking points. On the other side of the globe Ben Curtis ended a title drought at the Texas Open and collected 24 points.

With respect to the Asian Tour, if the difference in field quality between the two events is a mere 4 points the folks in San Antonio may want to consider asking for a bit of a refund for their $6.2 million purse.

One longtime Tour observer suggested a possible fix that would remove whatever points the two highest-ranked players bring to the table in every field each week. It may not be the solution to the pay-for-points problem, but it’s a start.

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Copycat: Honda's 17th teeters on edge of good taste

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 12:37 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Honda Classic won’t pack as many fans around its party hole this week as the Phoenix Open does, but there is something more intensely intimate about PGA National’s stadium setup.

Players feel like the spectators in the bleachers at the tee box at Honda’s 17th hole are right on top of them.

“If the wind’s wrong at the 17th tee, you can get a vodka cranberry splashed on you,” Graeme McDowell cracked. “They are that close.”

Plus, the 17th at the Champion Course is a more difficult shot than the one players face at Scottsdale's 16th.

It’s a 162-yard tee shot at the Phoenix Open with no water in sight.

It’s a 190-yard tee shot at the Honda Classic, to a small, kidney-shaped green, with water guarding the front and right side of the green and a bunker strategically pinched into the back-center. Plus, it’s a shot that typically must be played through South Florida’s brisk winter winds.

“I’ve hit 3- and 4-irons in there,” McDowell said. “It’s a proper golf hole.”

It’s a shot that can decide who wins late on a Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

Factor in the intensely intimate nature of that hole, with fans partaking in libations at the Gosling Bear Trap pavilion behind the 17th tee and the Cobra Puma Village behind the 17th green, and the degree of difficulty there makes it one of the most difficult par 3s on the PGA Tour. It ranked as the 21st most difficult par 3 on the PGA Tour last year with a 3.20 scoring average. Scottsdale's 16th ranked 160th at 2.98.

That’s a fairly large reason why pros teeing it up at the Honda Classic don’t want to see the Phoenix-like lunacy spill over here the way it threatened to last year.

That possibility concerns players increasingly agitated by the growing unruliness at tour events outside Phoenix. Rory McIlroy said the craziness that followed his pairing with Tiger Woods in Los Angeles last week left him wanting a “couple Advil.” Justin Thomas, also in that grouping, said it “got a little out of hand.”

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

So players will be on alert arriving at the Honda Classic’s 17th hole this week.

A year ago, Billy Horschel complained to PGA Tour officials about the heckling Sergio Garcia and other players received there.

Horschel told last year that he worried the Honda Classic might lose some of its appeal to players if unruly fan behavior grew worse at the party hole, but he said beefed up security helped on the weekend. Horschel is back this year, and so is Garcia, good signs for Honda as it walks the fine line between promoting a good party and a good golf tournament.

“I embrace any good sporting atmosphere as long as it stays respectful,” Ian Poulter said. “At times, the line has been crossed out here on Tour. People just need to be sensible. I am not cool with being abused.

“Whenever you mix alcohol with a group of fans all day, then Dutch courage kicks in at some stage.”

Bottom line, Poulter likes the extra excitement fans can create, not the insults some can hurl.

“I am all up for loud crowds,” he said. “A bit of jeering and fun is great, but just keep it respectful. It’s a shame it goes over the line sometimes. It needs to be managed.”

Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly oversees that tough job. In 12 years leading the event, he has built the tournament into something special. The attendance has boomed from an estimated 65,000 his first year at the helm to more than 200,000 last year.

With Tiger Woods committed to play this year, Kennerly is hopeful the tournament sets an attendance record. The arrival of Woods, however, heightens the challenges.

Woods is going off with the late pairings on Friday, meaning he will arrive at Honda’s party hole late in the day, when the party’s fully percolating.

Kennerly is expecting 17,000 fans to pack that stadium-like atmosphere on the event’s busiest days.

Kennerly is also expecting the best from South Florida fans.

“We have a zero tolerance policy,” Kennerly said. “We have more police officers there, security and more marshals.

“We don’t want to be nasty and throw people out, but we want them to be respectful to players. We also want it to continue to be a fun place for people to hang out, because we aren’t getting 200,000 people here just to watch golf.”

Kennerly said unruly fans will be ejected.

“But we think people will be respectful, and I expect when Tiger and the superstars come through there, they aren’t going to have an issue,” Kennerly said.

McDowell believes Kennerly has the right balance working, and he expects to see that again this week.

“They’ve really taken this event up a couple notches the last five or 10 years with the job they’ve done, especially with what they’ve done at the 16th and 17th holes,” McDowell said. “I’ve been here a lot, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the Phoenix level yet.”

The real test of that may come Friday when Woods makes his way through there at the end of the day.

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Door officially open for Woods to be playing vice captain

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 11:50 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, when Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, one of the biggest questions was what would happen if Furyk were to play his way onto his own team.

It wasn’t that unrealistic. 

At the time, Furyk was 46 and coming off a season in which he tied for second at the U.S. Open and shot 58 in a PGA Tour event. If anything, accepting the Ryder Cup captaincy seemed premature.

And now?

Now, he’s slowly recovering from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of action for six months. He’s ranked 230th in the world. He’s planning to play an 18-event schedule, on past champion status, mostly to be visible and available to prospective team members.

A playing captain? Furyk chuckled at the thought.

“Wow,” he said here at PGA of America headquarters, “that would be crazy-difficult.”

That’s important to remember when assessing Tiger Woods’ chances of becoming a playing vice captain.

On Tuesday, Woods was named an assistant for the matches at Le Golf National, signing up for months of group texts and a week in which he'd sport an earpiece, scribble potential pairings on a sheet of paper and fetch anything Team USA needs.

It’s become an increasingly familiar role for Woods, except this appointment isn’t anything like his vice captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016 or last year’s Presidents Cup.

Unlike the past few years, when his competitive future was in doubt because of debilitating back pain, there’s at least a chance now that Woods can qualify for the team on his own, or deserve consideration as a captain’s pick. 

There’s a long way to go, of course. He’s 104th in the points standings. He’s made only two official starts since August 2015. His driving needs a lot of work. He hasn’t threatened serious contention, and he might not for a while. But, again: Come September, it’s possible.

And so here was Woods’ taped message Tuesday: “My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the cup.”

That follows what Woods told reporters last week at Riviera, when he expressed a desire to be a playing vice captain.

“Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I like both.”

Furyk, eventually, will have five assistants in Paris, and he could have waited to see how Woods fared this year before assigning him an official role.

He opted against that. Woods is too valuable of an asset.

“I want him on-board right now,” Furyk said.

Arnold Palmer was the last to serve as both player and captain for a Ryder Cup – in 1963. Nothing about the Ryder Cup bears any resemblance to those matches, other than there’s still a winner and a loser. There is more responsibility now. More planning. More strategy. More pressure.

For the past two team competitions, the Americans have split into four-man pods that practiced together under the supervision of one of the assistants. That assistant then relayed any pertinent information to the captain, who made the final decision.

The assistants are relied upon even more once the matches begin. Furyk will need to be on the first tee for at least the first hour of the matches, welcoming all of the participants and doing interviews for the event’s many TV partners, and he needs an assistant with each of the matches out on the course. They’re the captain’s eyes and ears.

Furyk would need to weigh whether Woods’ potential impact as a vice captain – by all accounts he’s the best Xs-and-Os specialist – is worth more than the few points he could earn on the course. Could he adequately handle both tasks? Would dividing his attention actually be detrimental to the team?

“That would be a bridge we cross when we got there,” Furyk said.

If Woods plays well enough, then it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster, even with all of the attendant challenges of the dual role.

“It’s possible,” Furyk said, “but whether that’s the best thing for the team, we’ll see.”

It’s only February, and this comeback is still new. As Furyk himself knows, a lot can change over the course of a year.

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Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.