The year’s first cut looms today at the Sony Open and 2014’s maiden Cut Line ushers in the season with a breakdown of the good (Zach Johnson), bad (more point races) and ugly (the WGC-Match Play field) from an eventful week.
Zach Attack. Lightly recruited, undersized, largely overlooked – if that sounds like a ready-made feature for the upcoming NFL draft, then you haven’t been paying attention to Zach Johnson the last few years.
At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Johnson arrived on the PGA Tour via a path cut through the mini-tours and various secondary circuits and proceeded to outwork his competition, at times to his own detriment.
There was no pedigree and few outside Johnson’s inner circle recognized his true potential, but his victory on Sunday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was his second consecutive title, dating to last month’s World Challenge, and his third in his last six starts.
Following his Masters’ victory in 2007, the everyman demurely announced, “I'm Zach Johnson and I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.”
Although he’d never be so boastful, his new calling card is that he is one of just three Tour players to have 10 wins and a major championship, along with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, since 2007.
Refreshing Wie. The question was absurd when considered in context. Essentially, your scribe wanted to ask Michelle Wie in an interview earlier this week if she felt as if she’d under-achieved in her career?
Wie had been atop golf’s radar for more than a decade and yet has just two LPGA victories to show for it. But then you realize she’s just 24. Weren’t we all under-achievers at 24?
Yet when asked if she was where she thought she would be 10 years earlier, Wie’s answer was refreshingly honest.
“No, I am not,” she admitted. “But I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I’ve had or any of the decisions I made.”
Wie has been an easy target for the better part of a decade and time will tell if she ever lives up to the hype, but in the final analysis it is clear she’s pleased with the person she’s become if not the player everyone thought she would be.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Point missing. It’s official, all of professional golf has gone point crazy.
At least that’s the immediate takeaway from Wednesday’s news that the LPGA Tour will go to a season-long, points-based system this year (the Race to the CME Globe) similar to what the PGA Tour has used since 2007.
Lost in this rush to mathematical madness is the fact that it was the Champions Tour, with the Charles Schwab Cup, that first waded into the points pool and that the vast majority of golf fans still have little interest in the season-long sprint.
Majors and money earned have always been the benchmark in professional golf, and that’s a point many of the game’s decision makers continue to miss.
Tweet of the week:
The tweet was directed at Vanderbilt head football coach James Franklin, who was being wooed by various NFL and college teams to leave Vandy. Unfortunately for Sneds, it looks like Franklin is headed to Penn State. However, his offer may still be a boon for the Commodores. We hear Steve Spurrier will work for golf lessons.
Campus visit. It’s impossible to know for sure the details behind Matt Fitzpatrick’s decision to bolt Northwestern University after just one semester, but considering the importance he placed on receiving a quality education, as well as a quality game, during the recruiting process it was a curious move.
“The surprising part for us was how much his family valued education and how important it was to them during the recruitment at Northwestern,” Northwestern golf coach Pat Goss told GolfChannel.com’s Ryan Lavner. “His family and Matt had nothing but espoused the value of education here.”
Perhaps the reigning U.S. Amateur champion’s decision to return to England and “dedicate 100 percent of my time to the game,” will be the right choice. But given the cautionary tales that litter the golf landscape (see Wie, Michelle above) the move feels reactionary at best and potentially disastrous at worst.
No Match (Play). Be it the unintended consequences of the PGA Tour’s new wraparound season, an embarrassment of playing opportunities for the world’s top players or just a less-than-endearing golf course, this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is starting to feel less like “March Madness” than it is a February flop.
Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson have already announced they do not plan to play the year’s first World Golf Championship, and it appeared that Tiger Woods would likely skip the event to watch his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, compete in the Winter Olympics until Vonn withdrew from the Games with an injury.
If Woods plays, and that’s a healthy if, that still means three of the world’s top 5 players are out at the no-cut, big-money event.
Perhaps this is all no more than an imperfect storm, but the truth is Dove Mountain was in a deep freeze with players long before last year’s snow storm halted play. Relocation may not be the tonic to assure the Match Play lands every top player, but it would be a good start.