A rare “bye” week on the PGA Tour calendar demands we pause to recap the first two turns on the playoff schedule. And for those who prefer the long view, know that we are only a month away from the start of the 2013-14 season.
The Iceman cometh. Few tales in sport are as compelling as a bona fide comeback and Henrik Stenson’s rally in 2013 qualifies as one of the best in recent memory.
Within the two-year world golf ranking rolling window, the affable Swede had plummeted all the way to 222nd in the ranking and appeared truly adrift atop the professional golf trash heap.
Since July, he’s finished outside the top 3 in just one of his last half dozen starts. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship with a combination of ball-striking brilliance and clutch lag putting and moved to sixth in the world ranking, first on the FedEx Cup points list and continues to lead the European Tour’s Race for Dubai.
“I know there are still things that I can improve on,” he told “Cut Line” on Wednesday as he readied for a weekend of work with swing coach Pete Cowen.
The Tour hasn’t doled out the Comeback Player of the Year Award since 2010, but we’d like to humbly suggest the circuit avoid the holiday season shipping rush and send the hardware along to Stenson.
While they are at it, they may want to keep the FedEx Cup chalice close at hand as well. Perhaps they can secure a package deal from FedEx to save on shipping cost.
Captains courageous. Making a captain’s selection may be the most difficult and most profound move a skipper makes during an international team tilt.A pick may not win a cup for country and captain, but a couple of dogs can certainly go a long way to losing it. All of which makes U.S. captain Freddie Couples and International counterpart Nick Price’s picks on Wednesday truly inspired.
Price went with Marc Leishman and Brendon De Jonge, Nos. 12 and 14, respectively, on the points list. Both will be Presidents Cup rookies and have a combined one Tour victory between them. Yet both have proven themselves consistent performers and were probably the hottest hands going into the selection process, which Price said would be the deciding factor.
Couples went even further outside the box, if not with the consensus, with his selection of No. 11 Webb Simpson and No. 22 Jordan Spieth. With half the time to earn points, Spieth made a statement this season that was impossible for “Boom Boom” to ignore.
The common urge for captains is to travel the path of least resistance – which normally means Nos. 11 and 12 on the points list. Neither captain opted for the “safe” picks. Now, if only the biennial American boat race stays relevant until Sunday’s singles matches.
National exposure. There is an urgency to team golf that can’t be replicated in the week-to-week drudge that is the 72-hole stroke play calendar, and few of the game’s team outings can captivate like this week’s Walker Cup.
There is a parity to the amateur matches that seems to elude the one-sided contests that the Presidents Cup (United States) and Ryder Cup (Europe) have become, and for good measure this year’s Walker Cup will be played at the National Golf Links of America.
The Southhampton, N.Y., layout is considered by many America’s true architectural gem, and for most of us this may be as close as we get to the classic course.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
A lifeline, a letdown. Word Friday that the Tour had secured a new title sponsor (Valspar) for the Tampa-area stop was certainly good news for any frat brother who enjoys the Copperhead Course, but at the same time it was hard not to feel for the folks in Puerto Rico.
For months, the rumor was the Tour’s inability to land a long-term sponsor for the Tampa stop – Valspar is the sixth different sponsor in the last 11 years – would lead the circuit to upgrade the Puerto Rico stop, which has been played opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship and has struggled to attract a marquee field.
“Obviously, we are very disappointed as over the past 18 months we were being considered and therefore we had been preparing for the opportunity to become an unencumbered event, which has always been our goal, in the event a date on the scheduled became available for 2014,” Puerto Rico Open tournament director Sidney Wolf said.
The Tour deserves credit for going the distance to save the Tampa stop. One would hope Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., works just as hard to find Wolf & Co. a standalone date.
Tweet of the week:
Got to hand it to the @PGATOUR, see they found a sponsor for Tampa Bay - glad to hear it, one of my favourite tracks of the year.— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) September 6, 2013
Nice sentiment from Donald, although it should be pointed out he won the event in 2012 and has never missed a cut at Innisbrook. #HorsesForCourses
Two-way traffic. According to multiple members of the player advisory council, the Tour seems poised to tinker with the playoff points structure for the playoffs – again.
Seems some don’t like the amount of volatility that the current system has created and the idea is to reduce the number of available points from “five times” the amount offered for a regular-season event (500 for a victory) to a formula closer to 3 ½ or four times.
“The only thing on the points right now we are focused on is whether the amount of volatility because of the amount of points in the playoffs is a little too strong,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told Golf Channel last week. “We’ve been talking about this the last couple of years. We may, this fall, make a decision to not have quite as much volatility.”
When did two-way traffic become a bad thing? Monday’s action may have been a tad extreme for the likes of Ryan Palmer – who began the week 60th on the points list, missed the cut and slipped outside the top 70 to miss advancing to the BMW Championship – but it was about as compelling as math can be.
The playoffs have delivered the top players to four major markets after the PGA Championship, let’s leave the calculators and algorithms out of this. If it’s not broken, well ... you know.