Cue Jim Mora: Playoffs? Playoffs?!? You kidding me? Golf’s postseason returns and this week’s Cut Line examines what’s new, and what should change, for this year’s playoffs.
A final golden moment. Justin Rose joked before leaving Rio that he planned to keep his gold medal draped around his neck for the foreseeable future, going so far as to suggest that it could even make a decent putting aid.
All jokes aside, however, the Englishman kept to his promise this week at The Barclays, where he arrived at Bethpage wearing his Olympic prize, drawing plenty of well-wishers and even a hardy hug from fellow Englishman Paul Casey.
And in case some think Rose is milking the moment, the truth is, he seemed more interested in hauling golf’s Olympic torch forward than basking in his victory.
“I was at a Zurich outing on Monday and [Rose] was there, and he goes: ‘Just for future reference, I want you to know that people that aren't golf fans who have never watched golf before, now that it's in the Olympics, received it very well,’” said Jason Day, who was among those who passed on Rio.
Rose was committed to golf’s return to the Games from the outset, which made his victory so apropos and his new role of Olympic ambassador a perfect fit.
Hard Knox. It’s safe to say most American fans are not familiar with Russell Knox, but unless European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke suffers a debilitating bout of temporary insanity that will likely change at this year’s matches.
The Scot won his first PGA Tour event last fall against a world-class field at the WGC-HSBC Champions and added his second earlier this month at the Travelers Championship, yet is still considered in some circles a long-shot to be one of Clarke’s three captain’s picks.
Armchair captains point to a European squad that already has five rookies poised to make the team on points and that Clarke might be reluctant to add another first-timer with one of his picks.
“I don’t see Russell as a rookie,” Paul Casey told Golfweek magazine this week. “He’s been out here long enough and besides, rookies aren’t scared anymore. Rookies aren’t what they used to be.”
If nothing else, Casey’s comments should ring familiar for Clarke. In 2010, European captain Colin Montgomerie didn’t pick the then eighth-ranked player in the world – Casey. The Continent won those matches at Celtic Manor, but Casey’s snub has haunted both player and captain ever since.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Medal Mea Culpa. The questions were as predictable as they were pointed.
One by one, those who chose not to make the trip to Rio for this year’s Olympics were asked if they regretted the decision considering that golf’s return to the Games was widely considered a success.
Some of the answers were surprisingly honest.
“At the time I made the decision, it was the right decision for me. And I told you guys in that press conference, it was the hardest thing I've had to do,” Jordan Spieth said. “The potential for regret was going to be there and it certainly was while I was watching, so that's why I tweeted out, ‘I'm looking forward to setting it as a goal to be there in 2020.’”
Some of the responses were a bit more guarded.
“I don't have any regrets. The decision was the decision. It was based on family and you don't have any regrets whenever you base your stance on something bigger than yourself,” Day said.
All, however, echoed a familiar theme. In 2020, when golf returns to the Olympics in Tokyo, it’s safe to say participation, at least for the top male golfers, will improve.
The Flux Cup. It’s been a decade since the Tour began its post-season experiment, and while most seem to have embraced the basic tenets of the playoffs – which were essentially to bring the game’s top players together during a time of year when interest in golf is normally waning – the FedEx Cup is still a work in progress.
New to this season is a reduction in how many points will be awarded during the four playoff events, from five times the amount awarded at regular season, non-major, non-WGC events to four times the normal amount.
The move was designed to reduce the amount of volatility in the ranks and put more of a focus on a player’s regular season performance. Whether the changes enhance the playoffs is a matter of taste – we would rather see more playoff movement, but we will withhold judgment until after this year’s post-season. What is clear after a decade of trial and error is that the Tour is not content with the status quo.
One size doesn’t fit all. It’s a common theme on Tour that bigger is always better, but the circuit’s tendency for long golf courses has been pushed to the extreme for this year’s playoffs.
Starting with this week’s stop at Bethpage Black, the average length of the four playoff courses is 7,349 yards, with the New York gem coming in at 7,468 yards which is still shy of the sprawling Crooked Stick layout which was extended by 70 yards since 2012 to 7,567.
East Lake, site of the finale, is the runt of the bunch at 7,154 yards but plays to a par of 70.
The distance players hit the golf ball today requires the additional real-estate, but if you’re trying to identify the best players the Tour should consider throwing in an occasional Harbour Town or Colonial to mix things up.
The likes of Bethpage and Crooked Stick will always have a place in the modern game, but it’s time the Tour learns that not everyone loves vanilla.
Tweet of the week: @ColtKnost “@realDonaldTrump can you build one of those walls around Bethpage Black to keep the short hitters out. We don't belong!”