Open hangovers tend to last longer than jet lag and international layovers, and last week’s frenzied finish at Muirfield has required more retrospective than normal. In no particular order, the week that was on the Firth of Forth:
Left field. This was the one Phil Mickelson was never supposed to win. Consider that in his first 17 Open starts Lefty had just one top-10 finish, and yet there he was late Sunday hoisting the claret jug and talking about his legacy.
In less than a month the conversation changed from Mickelson’s heartbreak at Merion, where he posted his sixth runner-up finish at the national championship, to his place among the game’s greats as he eyes a career Grand Slam, which has been accomplished by only five others.
“Those five players are the greats of the game. You look at them with a different light,” Mickelson said at Muirfield. “If I were able to ever win a U.S. Open, and I'm very hopeful that I will, but it has been elusive for me. And yet this championship has been much harder for me to get.”
The only aspect of Mickelson’s game that has ever truly been in question is his motivation, but following last week’s British breakthrough it seems he will have no trouble remaining properly inspired to collect that last piece of the Grand Slam puzzle – the U.S. Open.
Muirfield. The list of Open champions at the East Lothian links remains beyond reproach following Mickelson’s torrid finish and after a week walking the dusty track it’s easy to see why.
Muirfield is widely considered the fairest of all Open rotation courses and the hard and fast conditions only added to the layout’s shot-making aura. As one player explained to Cut Line on Monday, if you hit a good shot you were rewarded, while bad shots were punished, sometimes dramatically.
Bad bounces are part and parcel of the links golf experience, but at Muirfield the rub of the green seemed to be mitigated by a straightforward test and solid ball-striking.
It’s enough to make one wish we saw the Scottish gem more than once a decade.
Tweet of the week: @JohnHurleyGolf (Web.com Tour player John Hurley): “Has anyone ever had the luxury of making par on the last two for 59 in a tour event? Great work (Russell Knox).”
Knox went out in 30 on Friday at the Boise Open on the Web.com Tour (he started on the back nine), eagled the second and birdied his next five to get to 12 under. We can hear the punch lines now, how’d you shoot 59? Easy pars at the last two. #Classic.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Adjustments. Before we go all Draconian on another major miss for Tiger Woods last week – he has now gone 17 Grand Slam stops without a “W” – it’s important to keep things in perspective.
Woods is the only player this season with four victories and during that 0-for-17 major slide he has nine top-10 finishes, which hardly suggests it’s time to reinvent the wheel. There is, however, a concerning theme that seems to regularly crop up for the world No. 1.
“I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds,” Woods said on Sunday of Muirfield’s putting surfaces.
Last month at Merion, where he finished tied for 32nd, Woods had a similar take: “I struggled with the speed all week.”
And at the Memorial: “I didn't putt very well. I had bad speed all week.”
Ditto for this year’s Masters: “I had a hard time getting the speed ...”
You get the point. Woods’ swing has largely been up to the task (he ranks 20th on Tour this season in ball-striking and total driving), which means the only difference between the current version of Woods and the one who collected 14 majors is lag putting.
R&A. The week began with R&A chief Peter Dawson clumsily picking his way through the all-male minefield that bringing the Open Championship back to Muirfield wrought and then took the golf course too close to the line and had to douse the dust-up with copious amounts of water.
It’s no wonder Dawson & Co. canceled the traditional Monday morning news conference.
For Dawson, there is no easy answer to the all-male issue that promises to flare up again in 2016 when the championship returns to Royal Troon, but he will have to do better than “we've been through over 250 years of existence without getting into political comment, and I don’t really intend to break that rule here.”
Reality is they have made political hot spots part of their job. As for the agronomic hot spots that beset Muirfield’s greens let’s hope they are a little quicker with the water hoses next time.
Legal fees. We will spare you the details of the ongoing legal wrangling between Vijay Singh and the PGA Tour, but the most recent motion, filed by the Tour in the commercial division of the New York County Supreme Court last Friday, is an indication of how contentious and esoteric things have gotten.
The motion, an ongoing legal slugfest since the Fijian sued the Tour in May following his run-in with the circuit’s anti-doping policy, argues to dismiss Singh’s claim that players had no say in the implementation of the anti-doping policy.
“(Players) act principally through the PGA Tour policy board, which consists of four players elected by the full Tour membership, four volunteer independent directors and one member from the PGA of America. The Player Advisory Council – which Singh himself served on in 2009 ... – consults on policy issues with the Policy Board. It was the Policy Board (in consultation with the PAC) that approved the program in 2007.”
Cut Line still figures this case is headed toward a settlement, but at this rate it won’t be anytime soon.