Golf began its countdown to the 2016 Olympics this week with plenty of talk about gold medals, while the PGA Tour seems to be missing a golden opportunity to make the Presidents Cup more competitive.
Olympic effort. Wednesday marked exactly one-year until the opening ceremony and golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years.
Officials celebrated the occasion with a media tour of New York City and a press conference at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a few potential Olympic golfers.
“It's been good for the game of golf worldwide,” said Henrik Stenson, who currently leads the Swedish contingent in the Olympic Golf Rankings.
“We've seen a lot more support in some emerging markets around the world for golf. With it being an Olympic sport, that really makes a difference in a lot of places.”
There are still hurdles for golf’s Olympic organizers (see Adam Scott item below), but after a rocky introduction that included concerns over the golf course and the format, the conversation has finally turned to the competition and what that will mean long after the medals are awarded.
11th hour heroics. Mired in perhaps his worst year on the PGA Tour, Graeme McDowell opened with a 4-under 66 on Thursday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
It matched G-Mac’s lowest round of the year on Tour and the timing couldn’t have been better with the Northern Irishman languishing at 159th on the FedEx Cup point list with just two regular-season events remaining.
Lee Westwood, currently No. 114 on the season-long list, also helped his chances with an opening 68, as did Victor Dubuisson (68), who is currently outside the top 200 in the FedEx Cup standings.
The Tour’s post-season experiment continues to search for an identity during much of the year, but the excitement transcends traditional sporting boundaries when it comes to a genuine playoff push.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Feeling the Rors. For three days now Rory McIlroy has been spoon feeding his fans a steady diet of social media tidbits as the golf world awaits word on whether the world No. 1 will play next week’s PGA Championship.
Following a series of tweets and Instagram posts the last few days – posts that ranged from pictures of him working out to a snapshot of his plane headed to the United States – all signs point to McIlroy being in the field at Whistling Straits for the season’s final major championship.
“He’s progressing well through rehabilitation,” Sean O’Flaherty, a member of McIlroy’s management team, told Cut Line.
Despite the Ulsterman’s social media updates, it does seem to be a bit of a mixed message if, and that appears to be a big if, he chooses not to play the PGA.
Tweet of the week:
Straits and narrow. While there remains over 1,000 bunkers at Whistling Straits and they will all be considered bunkers for next week’s PGA Championship, just as they were in 2010 when the championship was played at the Pete Dye design, they will not all be in play next week.
Specifically the bunker down the right side of the 18th hole, the same hazard where Dustin Johnson grounded his club during the final round in 2010, will only be “partially” in play.
“The actual bunker that Dustin was in, part of the bunker is still visible but some of it is indeed covered with a structure,” PGA chief championships officer Kerry Haigh told Cut Line via an e-mail this week. “There still remains a lot of bunkers not covered and in play.”
Haigh said the PGA built more grandstands and brought “many parts of the championship infrastructure on to the golf course with views of golf holes or Lake Michigan.”
As a public service reminder, the bunkers that do remain uncovered at Whistling Straits are still bunkers. That is all.
Wrestling with Rio. To be clear, Adam Scott is one of the game’s most forthright and well-spoken stars and it seems the Australian has come by his opinion regarding golf’s return to the Olympics after much thought.
That said, Scott’s decision to dig in regarding the Games seems shortsighted.
This week Scott told the Australian Associated Press that, “it’s absolutely a possibility I won’t go [to the Olympics] as it is not a priority in my schedule.”
Scott went a step further, calling golf’s return to the Olympics a “fun exhibition” and explaining, “[An Olympic medal] is nothing I have ever dreamed of having and it really doesn’t have any significance for golf.”
Few, if any, would argue that the ultimate accomplishment in golf is a major championship, but it is baffling how Scott seems to have overlooked the impact a gold medal can have not only on a career but to an entire country.
Presidential problems. International Presidents Cup captain Nick Price remains optimistic that the Tour, and specifically commissioner Tim Finchem, will agree to a requested format change for this year’s matches.
Price, along with former captain Greg Norman and Ernie Els, have been lobbying Finchem to decrease the number of team matches to something closer to the Ryder Cup format, but the Tour has been surprisingly slow to respond.
“[U.S. Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas] says winning never gets old. Losing certainly does,” Price said this week. “Just looking at the record of the Presidents Cup, we're 1-9-1. I think all of us on the team feel that a points change would really make it more exciting and more competitive.”
Price said he planned to meet with Finchem this week at Firestone and was hopeful the Tour would agree with his requested changes.
While Price’s optimism is encouraging, it would appear that the longer the Tour takes to make a decision the more likely it is they will stick with the status quo.