The Zurich Classic is, among other things, the official turn for the PGA Tour, week No. 17 in a 33-week regular-season calendar that will culminate at the Wyndham Championship later this summer.
Halfway through the season nothing has been decided, but the field has certainly played enough holes to trim to the top 70 and ties.
Making a marquee. It’s not as though every week has been Frazier vs. Ali, but the PGA Tour’s move to featured groups on Thursday and Friday has been a success by any measure.
From Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines to then-Nos. 1 Martin Kaymer, 2 Lee Westwood and 3 Luke Donald for two days at Doral, the tinkering has delivered a new level of intrigue and taken nothing away from the competitive integrity of the event.
Every other professional sport schemes and schedules the juiciest head-to-head matchups, it just took golf a few hundred years and some arm-twisting to catch up.
Swift justice. Call it the Camilo Villegas accord. Call it the Padraig Harrington addendum, or just call it a victory for common sense, which is normally a fifth alternate when it comes to the Rules of Golf.
Whatever you call it, the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, moved swiftly and soundly earlier this month at Augusta National to bridge a rift in the rules that modern technology had opened.
That the powers moved with such speed was the most encouraging element of the announcement.
“It needed to happen immediately,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director. “Because this was really a problem that we didn't want to wait until the next rules cycle to change.”
Europe. The Continent whipped the United States at last year’s Ryder Cup and the world at last year’s U.S. Open and PGA Championship, and continued its dominance this season, currently holding four of the top 5 spots in the world ranking.
If ever there was a time to gloat it was now. Instead, the Continent has largely taken the high road.
“It’s not European domination,” said uber-agent Chubby Chandler, who has become the unofficial European spokesman in the American press. “What’s happened is the PGA Tour gave opportunity for a lot of global players to make the top 50 (in the world ranking) and make it accessible. The rest of the world has grown up.”
Tweet of the week: @justinrose99 “The U.S. Open. So easy even a caveman can win it (with picture of bearded Lucas Glover).” That Rose is sneaky cleaver.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Tiger Woods. First, the good news. His work with new swing coach Sean Foley seems to have drifted from the mechanical phase to the make-it-mine phase, evidenced by Woods’ Sunday 31 on the outward loop at Augusta National and his second-consecutive tie for fourth place at the season’s first major.
Now, the bad. That T-4 is his best finish this season, he continues to struggle with his putter (121st in putting average) and we learned this week he will miss at least one scheduled start (Wells Fargo Championship) because of a strained left knee and ailing Achilles.
He also was fined by the European Tour for spitting on a green during the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic and no one has lost more world ranking points this year (129.44).
Woods’ body of work strongly suggests he can turn things around over the next 16 weeks, and three major championships, but only if his body cooperates.
Pro bono work. Give new LPGA commissioner Mike Whan an “A” for effort, but his proposal to play the circuit’s inaugural LPGA Founders Cup event for what was essentially Monopoly money went over like a Ben Crane-Rory Sabbatini pairing.
Whan tinkered with the concept and the rank-and-file fell in line, but not before the tour was mired in an unnecessary spat.
The concept was noble, but on this front charity starts at home.
Dustin Johnson. As a singular talent, big hitting “DJ” is a man among boys, yet we’ve been driven to distraction by his off-course drama so far in 2011.
Johnson’s season started with a curious, and completely irrelevant, report that he was dating the LPGA’s Natalie Gulbis. He continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons in Los Angeles when he arrived late for his first-round tee time and was given a two-stroke penalty. Last week Johnson and his longtime caddie Bobby Brown parted ways.
Johnson has more than enough game to make headlines. He can leave the drama to others.
PGA Tour. In a sign of the times, the Tour brass continues to struggle to fill sponsorship gaps in Hilton Head and on the Nationwide Tour.
Some believe it is that need to replace Nationwide as an umbrella sponsor after the 2012 season that is pushing a drastic realignment of the secondary circuit and Q-School. The proposal has received mixed support from the frat brothers, some of whom scoff at the plan which would make access to a PGA Tour card almost exclusively through the secondary tour.
“The thought of a guy who has been on Tour for 20 years, has one bad season and can’t get his card back via Q-School, but has to do a penalty year on the Nationwide Tour is ludicrous,” said one veteran who opted not to attend this week’s player meeting in New Orleans. “The whole point of this proposal is to attract a new sponsor (for the secondary circuit). Seems like a lot of change for that.”
Seems like the Tour brass has a lot of selling to do over the next few months.
World Golf Rankled. First Westwood unseated Woods atop the world ranking last November and some wondered if a player without a major on his mantel deserved the top spot.
Martin Kaymer overtook the Englishman in February, temporarily quieting those concerns. But last week Westwood resurfaced at No. 1 and Luke Donald, who has just two victories in the rolling two-year ranking window and no majors, came within a playoff hole of the top spot.
As a legitimate gauge of the game’s best, more so for Nos. 2-100 than No. 1, the ranking is broken, but until someone comes up with something better, it is all we have.
Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard