Fresh from the West Coast “Cut Line” enjoyed fertile ground in search of this week’s winners and losers – from the USGA’s homerun with Mike Davis to John Daly’s foul ball lawsuit the Florida Swing is shaping up to be an interesting four weeks.
Honda Classic. The PGA Tour doesn’t dole out “Comeback Tournament” awards but if it did the Honda would be the runaway champion – think “The King’s Speech” at the Oscars without the inappropriate language.
There was a time, not that long ago, when the South Florida stop was little more than a real-estate shill for the likes of Mirasol and TPC Herron Bay. A time when the Honda was a good reason to do some laundry back at home and get ready for Doral or Bay Hill.
Since then the tournament has added a new course (PGA National), new energy (tournament director Ken Kennerly), a new date (wedged between World Golf Championships in Arizona and Doral) and an old draw (Jack Nicklaus), to move from worst to first, some would argue, on the Florida Swing.
And the Honda has done it without the top-ranked player in the field – they missed ending that streak by one week when Martin Kaymer bounced Lee Westwood, who is playing the Honda, from the top spot on Monday – which may also put the event in the running for the circuit’s “Best Supporting Actor” award.
Mike Davis. The U.S. Golf Association doesn’t always get it right, the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock immediately comes to mind, but on this the association batted for the cycle when they named Davis the USGA’s seventh executive director.
What Davis lacks in business acumen, and make no mistake the U.S. Open is a business, he more than makes up for in institutional knowledge and creativity. The USGA also deserves credit for adjusting the job description to keep Davis involved in the setup of Open courses.
USGA president Jim Hyler said the organization would be “idiots” if they tried to keep him out of the Open mix and Tom Meeks, who Davis replaced as senior director of rules and competitions six years ago, concurred: “They need Mike there. They don’t want to lose any of that continuity. . . . It’s a slam dunk.”
An apropos and interesting choice of words by Meeks considering the only airtime the 5-foot-9 Davis sees these days is in the 18th-hole tower at the U.S. Open.
Jack Nicklaus. Officially the Golden One holds his “State of the Bear” news conference later this summer at his Memorial Tournament but he met with scribes this week to talk Tiger, the 1986 Masters and the current world order.
Among the highlights of the Q&A:
-On his 1986 Masters victory. “I don't care where I go, I always run into somebody who says, ‘You know, I was in an airport in '86, I cancelled my airplane and sat there and watched it because I couldn't leave.’ Or I had to stop this or I had to stop that. Amazing the number of people that just told me those kind of stories.”
-On the current parity in golf. “When I was playing, there were three or four guys that always wanted to be No. 1. We didn't have a No. 1 ranking in those days but they always wanted to be No. 1. But there was always that group that was scared of winning and they were afraid that, gee, if I come down the stretch and I win this golf tournament, you know, what is it going to mean to me? They sort of backed away from it. I think there's going to be that, though in everything. You always have people that are afraid of success.”
-On Woods reaching his record of 18 majors: “I'm very surprised that he has not popped back. I still think he'll break my record.”
Rory McIlroy. Golf scribes lament the onset of the “one-size-fits-all tour” and then dismantle a player when he has the guts to step outside the lines.
Whether you agree with young McIlroy’s comments or not, his self-bylined opus in this week’s SI Golf Plus is his opinion, and a good read.
Maybe McIlroy is ill advised to poke a sleeping Tiger with lines like, “I wasn’t playing against Tiger Woods when he had that aura. . . . There still is to some extent, but when you’re on the golf course you simply block it out. But Tiger is not playing as well as he was even a couple of years ago, never mind going back to the late 1990s and early 2000s.” But his opinion and his honesty are refreshing, not risqué.
Tweet of the week. Ogilviej (Joe Ogilvie): “Breaking news: PGA Tour has decided to grant Bubba Watson exclusive rights to refer to himself in the third person.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Johnny Miller. The status quo dismisses it as Johnny just being Johnny, but the outspoken NBC Sports analyst played it close to the white stakes during last week’s “State of the Game Live” special from the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship when he was asked about Tiger Woods’ recent struggles.
“It’s a little bit like a Mike Tyson story to be honest with you,” Miller said. “Sort of invincible, scared everybody, performed quickly under pressure. Until a Buster Douglas came along. . . .His life crumbled. It's like Humpty Dumpty. He was on the high wall, way above all the other players, and had a great fall, and there's pieces all over the place trying to put them together.”
We always enjoy Miller’s candid take on the game, but on this it must be clarified – Woods hit a fire-hydrant and a tree. Tyson was accused of hitting Robin Givens. Big difference.
PGA Tour. After 41 years the circuit seems to have fallen out of love. It’s not you, Harbour Town, it’s me. It’s time to move on. Hope we can still be friends. Have you ever met the Champions Tour? Great guy.
At least that was the read last week when Tour vice president Ty Votaw said it was “imperative” for the Heritage to secure a title sponsor. No translation needed, find some deep pockets or find a way to split up the record collection because we’re done.
“Cut Line” is not a relationship expert, but our gut says Dr. Phil would call that dysfunctional.
Dove Mountain. Speaking of unrequited love, the desert outpost seems to be on the way out as host of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Just three years ago the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club had that new course smell sponsors love, complete with clear skies that made muddy La Costa seem like a bad dream. But word around the WGC last week was Accenture and the Tour were ready to move on (must have been the jumping cholla).
Last Sunday’s snow and sleet did little to help Dove Mountain’s future. Woods once declared, “It’s not raining in Tucson,” when the Match Play was suffering through yet another storm at La Costa. We couldn’t help but think last Sunday amid the wintery proceedings that it wasn’t snowing in Hilton Head.
John Daly. Seems like just yesterday Daly was lamenting the lack of sponsor exemptions being thrown his way, blasting the fine folks at the Bob Hope Classic and Waste Management Phoenix Open for not sending him an invitation.
But “Long John” is doing little to help chances by pressing ahead with his lawsuit against PGA National Resort, site of this week’s Honda Classic, following an incident at the 2007 event when a fan snapped a photo of Daly during his backswing which led to an injury. He’s asking for $15,000 in damages, or 150 FedEx Cup points, whichever is easier.
Can’t help but think that maybe more tournaments would be willing to give the big man a freebie, but he’d have to sign a “hold harmless” clause along with his scorecard after each round.