This week’s edition of Cut Line focuses on short stories – like Harbour Town’s comparatively short, 6,973-yard test, Vijay Singh’s short-sighted Olympic decision, and Dawie van der Walt’s short fuse.
Safe Harbour (Town). Last week at Augusta National, Jack Nicklaus made what has become his annual stand against distance gains and the length modern pros hit the golf ball.
“I think with the length the guys hit today, the simplest solution is change the frigging golf ball,” Nicklaus said. “The golf ball goes so far. Augusta National is about the only place, the only golf course in the world, that financially can afford to make the changes that they have to keep up with the golf ball.”
Although no one is disputing the Golden Bear’s take, it is worth pointing out that there is still a place in the game for the short and subtle.
The par-3 12th hole at Augusta National, the shortest hole on the iconic golf course at 155 yards, decided the outcome of the Masters when Jordan Spieth deposited two golf balls in Rae’s Creek.
And at only 6,973 yards, Harbour Town, among the Tour’s shortest layouts and the site of this week's RBC Heritage, regularly proves a worthy test of the game’s best.
“It's a classic Pete Dye, one of his earlier [designs],” first-round co-leader Luke Donald said. “Not very long, small greens. You get some wind here. Anywhere from 10 to 14 [under] wins here. He had a blank canvas to work on Whistling Straits - 8,000 yards, bunkers everywhere, and what does Jason Day shoot? It's built to be a major championship and he shoots 20 under.”
Length has always been an advantage in golf, but there is still something to be said for big things coming in small packages.
The Bohn Revival. Jason Bohn, who ordinarily would not be considered one of the sullen types on Tour, was particularly bouncy this week at the RBC Heritage.
The 42-year-old was making his first start since suffering a heart attack in February at the Honda Classic, and the opportunity to return to the Tour was something to be savored.
“The opportunity that I have to play again is huge,” Bohn said. “The fact that I did it this quickly is a little surprising to me. I thought I might be out for a few months. Very grateful and thrilled to be here.”
According to Bohn’s doctors, the two-time Tour winner’s left anterior descending artery, also known as the “widow maker,” was 99 percent blocked and he needed surgery to insert a stent.
Bohn has never been the type of player lacking perspective, but his brush with mortality certainly gave him a reason to expand his outlook.
“It's definitely put life into a bigger picture, just realizing how quickly it can all go away,” he said.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Olympic games. With the notable exception of Adam Scott, players likely bound for this year’s Olympics have said all the right things, explaining the importance of golf’s return to the Games and the benefits of playing for country and medals.
This week, however, Vijay Singh broke rank and – along with Miguel Angel Jimenez, the first alternate for Spain – withdrew his name from the Olympic pool.
“The timing of it, you know I have to focus over here [the PGA Tour]. I would like to play the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know and all that crap,” Singh told Golf Channel.com.
Singh also mentioned the distance athletes will have to travel to participate in this year’s Rio Games as a reason to skip the Olympics, and it’s hard to question the Fijian’s decision.
Still, for Olympic organizers Singh’s withdrawal may set a dangerous precedent for other players who have said all the right things publicly, but privately questioned many aspects of this year’s Games.
Captain conundrum. This week’s announcement that Steve Stricker will captain the U.S. Presidents Cup team next year was met with a chorus of kudos from those he may lead next fall at Liberty National in New Jersey, but the move did prompt other questions.
Stricker was named one of Davis Love III’s vice captains for this year’s Ryder Cup and would seem to fall into a legacy role as a future Ryder Cup captain.
The problem is this: Only Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have captained both teams, and on both occasions they led the Presidents Cup squad after taking their turns as Ryder Cup captains.
“I think what we went through with the task force and the committee, we're going to look at the most qualified guy, no matter what,” Love said this week. “I think when you've seen the last two Ryder Cups are [Tom] Watson and me, it's a blank sheet of paper.”
Stricker would be a popular choice in either role, and it turns out he may be a trail blazer.
Tweet of the week: @Dawie1983 (Dawie van der Walt): “Gota [sic] love a guy who gets an invite into a Tour event and then WD after the first round. #hangitupmike”
The South African was referring to Mike Weir, who was playing this week’s RBC Heritage on a sponsor exemption but withdrew from the event after an opening 78.
Van der Walt, the second alternate into this week’s field, didn’t end up getting a tee time at Harbour Town and frustration boiled over onto social media. He later clarified his statement with a second tweet, “I should not have said that, it’s nothing against [Weir] it’s just you’re hurt and WD and other could have played.”
For Weir, who has dealt with a litany of injuries in recent years, his withdrawal is hardly surprising or suspect, and van der Walt’s frustration seemed to have less to do with Weir than it does an increasingly limited schedule for Web.com Tour graduates as the circuit inches toward the summer months.
Riding the bench is never easy for an athlete. Doing so with access to Twitter can be explosive.