In this week’s learning experience edition of Cut Line, the European Tour shows the world that there are answers for slow play, freshly minted professional Ryan Ruffels learns that some things are better left unsaid, and world No. 1 Jordan Spieth is discovering that being well-traveled is not necessarily a good thing.
On the move. Following his one-stroke victory in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, Rickie Fowler boarded his flight bound for SoCal at 2:30 a.m. and arrived in time to co-host a clinic on Monday.
It was all part of whirlwind journey for Fowler, but it’s been his climb up the Official World Golf Ranking that is even more impressive.
His victory in Abu Dhabi over the likes of Spieth and Rory McIlroy vaulted Fowler to fourth in the world, his highest career ranking, and squarely into a conversation that had been largely focused on a new “Big 3.”
“It’s amazing, about how much talk there is,” said Fowler, who has four worldwide victories since last May, including the Players Championship. “Whether it’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re talking about it.”
It’s 8,456 miles from Abu Dhabi to San Diego, but that’s nothing compared to the ground Fowler has covered since being voted the PGA Tour’s most overrated player last spring.
On the clock. The European Tour unveiled its new pace of play policy last week and immediately drew equal amounts of compliments and criticism when Spieth was the first player issued a “monitoring” penalty.
Although it’s probably a bit early to claim complete success, there were anecdotal improvements last week that would suggest the policy has the potential to legitimately impact slow play.
A total of 18 groups were monitored on Day 1 in Abu Dhabi, but by Sunday officials had only put six groups on the clock after two additional players (England’s Daniel Brooks in Round 2, and France’s Benjamin Hebert during Sunday’s final round) were issued penalties.
When European Tour officials announced the new policy, they conceded that it is nothing more then a first step. After seeing the new rule in action, it appears to be the first meaningful step taken against slow play in decades.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
The first rule of fight club. Ryan Ruffels has plenty to learn as he begins his professional career, starting with this week’s Farmers Insurance Open.
For example, the 17-year-old will likely avoid further discussion of his match with Phil Mickelson last month.
According to a story in the Sydney News Herald, Ruffels had a $2,500 bet at 2-to-1 odds with Mickelson last month and birdied six of his last seven holes to beat Lefty.
On Wednesday at Torrey Pines, Mickelson had a different spin on the match, saying, “He’s young and he’s got some things to learn.
“One of them is you don’t discuss certain things. You don’t discuss specifics of what you play for,” Mickelson continued. “And you certainly don’t embellish and create a false amount just for your own benefit. So those things right there are – that’s high school stuff, and he’s going to have to stop doing that now that he’s out on the PGA Tour.”
You know the deal - the first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club.
Jet-setback. Dating to November’s WGC-HSBC Champions, Jordan Spieth’s frequent flyer account has received an impressive boost considering his last six events have been played in six countries.
There were stops in China (HSBC Champions), Australia (Emirates Open), the Bahamas (Hero World Challenge), Maui (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship) and this week at the Singapore Open.
It’s a run that has taken its toll, as Spieth admitted last week, and it's something he won’t likely duplicate next year.
“It won't be something that I do in the future, to bounce back and forth from Asia as much as we did or Australia,” he said. “I'm very tired right now. As a team, we are kind of beat up mentally. Physically, we're not 100 percent right now.”
In Spieth’s defense, he’s not exactly showing any signs of jet lag, winning by eight strokes in Maui and tying for fifth last week in Abu Dhabi. But when it comes to scheduling, less is almost always more.
Nip/tuck. Paired with Fowler on Sunday in Abu Dhabi many golf fans got a glimpse of Thomas Pieters, another Belgium bomber who appears destined to find his way onto a PGA Tour leaderboard this year.
At 6-foot-,5 Pieters is an imposing figure, but it was his hair that caused a stir on this side of the Atlantic when it was discovered the PGA Tour had tinkered with his headshot to make the 23-year-old look a little more clean cut.
“In the standard process of prepping new headshots for broadcast TV, electronic scoreboards and other uses – which always requires a bit of retouching and color-correction – our vendor was a bit too heavy-handed in the editing of Thomas Pieters’ photo,” a Tour spokesman said.
“The image has been returned more closely to the original photo – although some editing is always required – and reissued to our database. We regret this sequence of events and meant no disrespect to Thomas. We think he has a great head of hair.”
While Pieters seemed to be fine with the alteration, Cut Line can’t help but be curious as to why no one ever thought to give Miguel Angel Jimenez an electronic trim?
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