It’s tough, if not impossible, to dig too deep for winners and losers this week. Seventy-two holes without a cut in paradise with a limited field and only the Kona trades to contend with. Life is good.
Instead, “Cut Line” will take the long view with some predictions and unsolicited problem solving.
International incident. For the first time since 1998, the International Presidents Cup team will hoist the big gold trophy and remain perfect in the Southern Hemisphere.
Much like Paul Azinger at Valhalla, team captain Greg Norman will inspire his crew at Royal Melbourne, site of the International side’s only victory in the biennial match (the teams tied in South Africa in 2003).
As an aside, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker will lose a match but just one, dropping the super tandem to a pedestrian 7-1 in Presidents Cup team play.
A big one for Westie. Enough of the comparisons to Colin Montgomerie and questions about his health, Lee Westwood will win his maiden major at Royal St. George’s in July.
The Englishman is one of the fittest players in the game and his Open Championship record is rather clear on this. In his last two starts in the game’s oldest member-member he’s finished T-3 (2009) and runner-up (2010). And, contrary to popular opinion, he didn’t assume the top spot in the world ranking by default or accident.
In a groove. Not a single player will be asked about the new conforming grooves in irons, and no one will care.
The golf ball, however, will continue to be blamed for out-of-control distance gains, and no one will listen.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Hype and hyperbole. The next big thing will be all at once introduced and anointed by a media far too quick to hand out greatness.
Greatness is achieved over time and measured in victories, particularly at major championships. Nothing else. But in the rush to fill the void left by Tiger Woods last year the media machine labeled Rickie Fowler, an infinitely talented player with an unlimited future if given the space to develop naturally, the “Man.”
Pop quiz: Fowler, Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar adorn the cover of this year’s Tour media guide. When was the last time a non-Tour winner made it on the cover? Answer: Never.
Mathematical madness. At last year’s Tour Championship, as computers struggled to digest the dizzying array of FedEx Cup possibilities, a curious contender emerged from the fray.
Paul Casey, who’d stormed to the first-round lead at East Lake, could, at least mathematically, claim the cup and the $10 million lottery ticket if he won the finale and got some help from the likes of Furyk and Kuchar. Never mind that the Englishman was winless on Tour in 2010.
There were no changes to the FedEx formula for 2011. “I think it's in a good place,” commissioner Tim Finchem said last month, which means a Casey-like scenario could be revisited in September. And the BCS thinks they have problems.
Conflicted events. Observers will be incensed and tournament directors speechless when a handful of high-profile members are granted conflicting-event releases opposite a Tour event wanting for marquee players.
In fact, expect this scenario sooner rather than later. Phil Mickelson said he will start his 2011 campaign at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship the same week as this month’s Bob Hope Classic, one of a handful of events on Tour still searching for a title sponsor.
Major meltdown. No, not on a scorecard, we’re talking about an actual meltdown and it will be at this year’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in August.
Daytime highs the second week of August last year in the Atlanta area were around 104 degrees. That’s spontaneous combustion time for some, just ask England’s Anthony Wall who walked off midway through a round at sweltering Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., during the 2007 PGA Championship.
“I’ve never quit anything in my life, but I can’t go on,” an exhausted Wall said at the time.
More rulings, more eye rolling. Although it may not reach the fevered pitch of Dustin Johnson’s gaffe at the PGA, but sometime in 2011 a player will run afoul the Rules of Golf in a high-profile incident and . . . oh, wait.
Hate to go revisionist but it took Camilo Villegas exactly 15 holes to get on the ruling board this season. What’s baffling to “Cut Line” is that some bristle because Villegas was called out by a viewer who saw the violation on the Golf Channel telecast.
Golf is a game of honor, where competitors routinely call fouls on themselves and it doesn’t matter if a violation is reported by a rules official, caddie, fellow competitor or Jimmy Lunchbox on the couch back in Michigan – it’s a violation.
Consider it golf’s version of instant replay. And for those who claim the “call in” scenario only impacts those players shown on TV, consider the alternative – don’t play well enough to earn a spot on the telecast or, better yet, learn the Rules of Golf.
Tweet of the week: @ArronOberholser “I know why I don’t like viewers calling in. I don’t like a chop on a couch inferring that I don’t know the rules to a game I’m an expert at.”
With all respect to AO, who does know the rules and is a breath of straightforward fresh air on an all-to-vanilla Tour, if Villegas knew the rules he would be playing the second round at Kapalua, not volleyball on a beach in Hawaii.