The PGA Tour takes a pause in the action before next week’s season finale, but Cut Line remains on the clock.
Picking your battles. Rory McIlroy has endured his share of slings and arrows this season, with much of the criticism focused on a pedestrian putter.
But after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship earlier this month, the Northern Irishman said it wasn’t the criticism about his putting that has bothered him as much as the second-guessing about his fitness program this season.
“For me getting in the gym, that's my pet peeve,” McIlroy said. “Someone that says to me you're in the gym too much, the reason that I play at such a high level, and hopefully will continue to play at a high level for the next 10, 15 years is because of the work I did in the gym.”
On some fronts, the modern tour player’s affinity for fitness is seen as a generational divide, but this week Jack Nicklaus had a slightly different take on the subject.
“When I grew up not even the football players lifted weights,” Nicklaus told ESPN Radio 980 in Washington, D.C. “My workout was playing other sports, today guys get into the single-minded, one-sport routine, I can’t stand that. Most athletes are gravitating to golf because it is such a difficult sport.”
Nicklaus’ take was neither an endorsement for nor an indictment against fitness, just a balanced perspective from someone who knows.
Two-way traffic. After nearly 10 years of tinkering the Tour seems to have found a balance between too much volatility and not enough movement in the playoffs.
Five players moved into the top 100 on the points list at The Barclays, six broke into the top 70 at the Deutsche Bank Championship and four cracked the top 30 with their play at the BMW Championship.
“I think we have it right now, or at least close to right,” Kevin Streelman said. “The movement seems about right, we had it a little too volatile a few years back and not enough movement at the beginning. You need to perform in the playoffs to move on.”
Finding a balance between rewarding regular-season play and the essence of a playoff has always been a challenge for golf, and there are some who still contend there’s too much movement. But at the moment, give the Tour credit for pulling off the unlikely – making (almost) everyone happy.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Center stage. For a tour that sometimes gets lost on a crowded golf calendar, this week’s Evian Championship is a chance for the LPGA’s best to savor a solo moment in the spotlight.
Thanks to the pre-Tour Championship “off week,” the LPGA’s Grand Slam finale in France is an opportunity for the circuit to make a statement without the distraction of a competing PGA Tour event.
That’s not always the case for the LPGA’s top events. The ANA Inspiration was played the week before the Masters this season; the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was played the week before the U.S. Open; the U.S. Women’s Open was played the week before the Open Championship; and the Women’s British Open was held the same week as the PGA Championship.
The modern calendar makes its difficult for the LGPA to separate itself from the game’s other marquee events, but this week should give officials motivation to be more flexible and creative in the future with scheduling.
Pick of the bunch. If Monday’s captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team didn’t exactly ring of a fresh start it’s because the three selections were well short of groundbreaking.
Captain Davis Love III went with Rickie Fowler (who was a pick in 2010), Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes (a pick in 2008). If’s far too early to consider Love’s picks either mistake or masterpiece, let there play decide that, but it is clear the bold choices some expected following last year’s Ryder Cup task force felt more like the status quo on Monday.
Love has a final pick to make following next week’s Tour Championship, and Captain America could still surprise some with that 11th-hour selection. But for now, the new-look U.S. team looks a lot like the old versions.
Odds and ends. Dustin Johnson’s three-stroke victory at last week’s BMW Championship was the likely walk-off in the Player of the Year race, with the bomber grabbing his third Tour victory to tie Jason Day, with DJ holding a U.S. Open high card.
It is strange, however, that there’s not as much of a consensus for the Rookie of the Year race. Emiliano Grillo would seem to be the easy choice. The Argentine won his first start as a Tour member last fall at the Frys.com Open, finished runner-up at The Barclays and, along with Si Woo Kim, is one of just two rookies to advance to the Tour Championship.
Despite that resume, a recent poll by your scribe indicated that Grillo was not a lock for the Rookie of the Year award, with some players mentioning Smylie Kaufman, who also won on Tour this season but finished the year 43rd on the FedEx Cup points list. Kim, who rallied late in the season with a victory at the Wyndham Championship, is also getting some RoY attention.
Kaufman is one of the Tour’s bright young players and enjoys an enthusiastic fan base, but this is not a popularity contest. Box up the RoY award and send it to Grillo.