This week’s Cut Line is all about extremes, with the rule makers keeping it simple with the most recent edition of the Rules of Golf, while things have gotten far too complicated for officials trying to bring an East Lake-like revival to New Orleans.
Young and restless. There are those who will attempt to characterize rookies winning the first two events on the PGA Tour schedule as a recent trend, but in truth it’s all part of a larger narrative that’s been building for some time.
Before we dub the 2015-16 season Gen Next’s turn, consider that the average age of the top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking is 25 and the last two Player of the Year award winners were in their 20s.
Emiliano Grillo, winner of the season-opening Frys.com Open, and Smylie Kaufman, last week’s champion in Las Vegas, are extremely talented, fearless, young and all part of a larger move in professional golf that has become a reality – 25 is the new 35.
Favorable rulings. With the exception of the impending ban on anchoring, this week’s release of the 2016 edition of the Rules of Golf was a victory for common sense.
The R&A and USGA adjusted the rules for signing an incorrect scorecard, the movement of a golf ball at address and the use of a training aid or artificial device during a round, all with an eye toward equity and general fairness.
It’s all part of a movement among the game’s rule makers to simplify a game that is, at least to your average fan, undermined by the small print of the rulebook.
“The stated objective is to find a way to simplify the rules, that’s our primary focus moving forward,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf. “It’s a balancing act of inserting fairness, but also the ultimate goal of making it more simple.”
Count this as unsolicited advice, but Cut Line would like to see the powers that be take a hard look at “stroke and distance” penalties and something called a “match adjustment.”
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Rory resurfaces. There have been concerns about his putting and doubts he has completely recovered from the ankle injury that caused him to miss the Open Championship, but all along Rory McIlroy has remained at ease with his comeback.
So far this week at the Turkish Airlines Open he’s shown why pundits and couch potatoes alike should stay away from the panic button, opening his week with back-to-back 67s for a spot inside the top 10.
In a relatively short amount of time McIlroy has proven himself adept at enduring the ebb and flow of the game; whether one chooses to acknowledge his track record doesn’t change the facts.
Park place. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina officials in New Orleans moved to turn City Park, a sprawling public park with multiple golf courses adjacent gto a public housing development, into an East Lake-like project complete with an 18-hole championship golf course.
The $13 million course is being designed by Rees Jones and has been cited as a possible host of the Zurich Classic by 2020, but ongoing resistance to the project, including local opposition to green fees that will range between $45 and $125, has again slowed the project.
Tom Cousins, who led the restoration of East Lake in Atlanta and the surrounding area and has now turned his attention to bringing the concept to other cities, once told Cut Line that City Park was perfectly positioned for an East Lake-like transformation, but the politics of the Crescent City has proven to be a formidable opponent.
Even if you don’t play golf, or see the need for an 18-hole championship course, anyone who has ever marveled at the state-of-the-art Charles R. Drew Charter School adjacent to East Lake can attest to what golf can do for a community.
Turf wars. Although not exactly a cold war, the gulf between the PGA Tour and European Tour has become much more chilly in recent months.
The rift began when the Tour released its crowded 2015-16 schedule which included the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational played opposite the European Tour’s French Open, which is one of that circuit’s premier events.
The European Tour responded by removing the World Golf Championship event from its schedule and declaring that any earnings won at the Bridgestone by European players wouldn’t count toward the Ryder Cup points list or Race to Dubai.
“Europe had to take the position they couldn’t sanction it, which was unfortunate,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “It was a ripple effect of the Olympics and hopefully we’ll figure out a solution for next time.”
The transatlantic turf war seems to have escalated in recent weeks, with players such as Ian Poulter and Paul Casey wedged between the two circuits.
Some have even suggested the European Tour should yield to this pressure and reduce its minimum number of events (which is now 13), but many of the circuit’s core players see no need, including Poulter.
“You can’t expect the European Tour to roll over and allow all their guys to disappear,” Poulter said this week in Turkey. “It really is the one thing that’s kept the European Tour together, the Ryder Cup.”
Perhaps a global tour, a Darwinian amalgamation of the game’s top tournaments, is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean the European Tour shouldn’t have a say in what that future looks like.