DJs on the practice range at European Tour events, record scoring has some seeing red and Rory McIlroy takes to Twitter to prove his point, all of this and more in this week’s Cut Line.
Trailblazer. Last year he introduced shorts during practice and pro-am rounds and now DJ K-Pell, sorry European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, has set his sights on livening up life on the practice tee.
Pelley and the European circuit debuted a DJ on the range this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, playing assorted tracks while players warmed up, and “walk up” music when competitors made their way to the first tee.
“We're in the entertainment business,” Pelley told the Associated Press. “As long as you are always conscious of the integrity and protection of the game's magic. But you are always looking to improve your product, in any business that you run.”
Reaction from players was largely positive with the lone exception being Paul Lawrie, who said, “I didn’t like it on Tuesday.” May Cut Line suggest the 48-year-old’s “walk-up” song be “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel.
Lefty’s return. It won’t garner as much attention as Tiger Woods’ return to the Tour next week at the Farmers Insurance Open, but Phil Mickelson’s start this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge is noteworthy on many fronts.
For starters, following multiple surgeries to correct a sports hernia in the off-season it’s encouraging to have the southpaw back in action for his 26th season. But it’s Mickelson’s decision to play the old Bob Hope that is the real shot in the arm for officials.
Mickelson took over this year as ambassador for the event, which has been searching for an identity since Hope died in 2003.
According to various sources, Mickelson wants to get the community more involved with the Tour stop that dates back to 1960, and given Lefty’s status as one of the circuit’s elder statesmen his association can only help the field.
“I love the golf courses here, it's a great place to come out and start the year,” Mickelson said after an opening-round 68. “You don't have to be perfect, like I wasn’t [perfect] today, to still score.”
A perfect punch line, Hope would like that.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Hazeltine hangover. There was no task force, no committee designed to forge change, but the European Tour didn’t let last year’s Ryder Cup loss go unanswered.
The circuit reduced the minimum number of starts required to maintain tour membership, which is required to play for the Continent in the biennial matches, and gave captain Thomas Bjorn an extra pick, to match the number [four] that U.S. captain Jim Furyk will have in 2018.
The four events required for membership don’t include the majors or World Golf Championships and could persuade players like Paul Casey, who plays mostly in the United States, to return to the circuit.
Both moves are aimed at assuring Europe’s best 12 players make the team in ’18. Last fall, for example, both Casey and Russell Knox were ranked inside the top 20 in the world ranking but neither were on the Continent’s team at Hazeltine National.
Tweet of the week. Full disclosure, we are neither a TrackMan maestro nor a swing expert, so we’ll stay well clear of the technical mumbo gumbo behind the spat, but this week’s give and take between Rory McIlroy and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee – which began when Chamblee tweeted that the best players drive the ball with a level or descending strike – was worth the price of admission.
McIlroy countered with a tweet that included plenty of data to support his take, “To get the most out of modern equipment you need to hit up on the driver. #fact”
The world No. 2 finished with a tweet showing his rank in the strokes gained: off-the-tee category last year (first).
Off course, again. While the golf world is still reeling from news late last year that the Olympic Golf Course in Brazil is already in financial trouble, this week officials with the International Golf Federation are facing another golf course issue.
A non-profit golf council in Japan has challenged the venue for the 2020 games outside of Tokyo because of the club’s all-male membership policies.
Although officials at the club said they are prepared to review its membership policies if asked to do so by the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese non-profit contend that having a private course host the golf competition is not in the “spirit” of the Olympic legacy.
Although officials have plenty of time to work out any issues before the 2020 Games, it’s curious that handball and table tennis never seem to have these kinds of venue issues.
Are you not entertained? There was plenty of handwringing last week as the Tour’s best and brightest took apart Waialae Country Club one record round at a time.
The week began when Justin Thomas, the hottest player on the planet right now, shot an opening 59, and on Saturday Kevin Kisner narrowly missed a 9-footer for eagle on his final hole that would have made him the eighth player in Tour history to post a sub-60 round. Chez Reavie completed the assault, with a 61 on Sunday that included a bogey on his 15th hole.
Golf purists weren’t impressed, taking to social media to decry the distance modern players hit the golf ball and lament the loss of classic courses as a challenge to the game’s best.
Lost in all this, however, was the entertainment value of good golf. If grinding pars and good bogeys are your thing, there will be plenty of that at the U.S. Open.