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Captain Am-error-ca

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In this week’s edition, the PGA Tour gets an injection of new talent courtesy the Nationwide Tour, Yani Tseng gets her chance at history and Fred Couples gets a rare “missed cut” for his missed opportunity.

Who says the silly season is all fun and games?

Made Cut

Class acts. Note to PGA Tour: This is how a Tour Championship is supposed to feel. Sunday’s big finish at the Nationwide Tour finale left no unanswered questions, unlike the primary circuit’s closing frame at East Lake, and produced an avalanche of compelling storylines heading into 2012.

Billy Hurley III, the U.S. Navy lieutenant turned Tour card holder, held on to the final spot on the money list and will begin his Tour career where he ended his Navy resume – in Honolulu at the Sony Open.

Two-time heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton can try on a long awaited new title – Tour member; and 42-year-old Ken Duke won the finale to crack the top 25 and earn a return trip to the Tour.

The cream of the ’11 class, however, may be Jason Kokrak. Sure the 26-year-old is crazy long (his 318-yard average led the Nationwide Tour) but there is a compelling softer side to this prospect.

“Everybody talks about how far he hits it,” Kokrak’s father, Kenny, said last Saturday, “but he’s got a great short game. He works so hard at it.”

Think a John Daly crunchy shell around a Luke Donald-like soft center. We call it the mash-mallow.

Tiger Woods. Some will interpret the comments from “Red Shirt” this week in Asia as an excuse, but the world No. 56 made an interesting point when asked to reflect on the last year.

“You look at everyone’s career, you have these ebbs and flows,” said Woods, who turns 36 in December. “We don’t play well all the time.”

If that sounds like a plea, consider the career of Jack Nicklaus, who Woods will forever be measured against. In 1979 the Golden Bear was 39 and a year removed from being named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, yet he played just 12 events, failed to win a Tour event for the first time since he turned pro in ’62 and finished 71st in earnings. The next season Nicklaus won two majors (Nos. 16 and 17).

It remains to be seen if Woods’ next move is a “flow” but history suggests we should withhold judgment until all the votes are counted.

Tweet of the week I: @bencranegolf “Met prime minister of Malaysia. Good dude. He pretty much just wanted to know how to swing it like a boomerang-a-tang.”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Yani Tseng. Call it a publicity stunt. Call it a pipe dream. Whatever you dub it, the one thing you can’t call Tseng’s flirtation with the PGA Tour is unwarranted. Eleven worldwide victories this season and two major championships is enough to open any door.

It’s just the Trump International layout in Puerto Rico may not be the best venue for Tseng to go next level. It’s long (7,569 yards) and often wet and the tournament is played opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

If Tseng wants to take her shot against the men she should do so on her terms on a course that offers her the best chance for success (Harbour Town in South Carolina, Colonial in Texas and Riviera in California immediately come to mind). Tseng has earned the right to test her game against the Tour’s best without any asterisks (opposite-field event) or excuses.

Player Advisory Council. If Luke Donald considered the Tour’s move to delay the release of this year’s ballot for Player of the Year “sketchy,” news that the ballot will not include nominees for the Comeback Player of the Year award is downright stupefying.

The Tour decided to make the CPOY award an optional honor after Steve Stricker won it in back-to-back years and in 2009 the 16-member PAC, which nominates players for the year-ending awards, decided there wasn’t a reclamation project worth recognizing.

But the move to forgo this year’s comeback award has flummoxed many who point to the progress that players like Aaron Baddeley, David Toms and Harrison Frazar made in 2011.

Baddeley began the year ranked 271st, won the Northern Trust Open and finished third at the Tour Championship to earn a spot on Greg Norman’s Presidents Cup team; Toms had slipped outside the top 100 before finishing 2-1 at The Players and Colonial, respectively; and Frazar emerged from hip surgery in 2010 to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Maybe that’s not exactly Cinderella stuff, but that PAC is one tough crowd.

Tweet of the week II: @southpaw444 (Steve Flesch) “Stricker has them (Comeback Player of the Year awards) all up in Madison (Wis.). None left!”


Missed Cut

Faux WGCs. Despite the Tour’s attempt to include results from this week’s HSBC Champions in the Player of the Year voting there is no escaping the feeling that the China stop is a WGC in name only.

Three years into the WGC experiment the event still does not award official Tour money, small print that at least partially explains poor attendance from the American contingent.

China was a bold move to put the “World” back in the WGCs, but unless something changes – either a dramatic makeover of the Tour schedule or a date swap for Shanghai – the faux World Golf Championship will never get the respect it deserves.

Fred Couples. Golf’s “Most Interesting Man” is already 1-0 as a Presidents Cup captain and is making things interesting this week at the Champions Tour finale. But as the matches inch closer it seems Captain America missed his chance to nurture a future Presidents Cup prospect and assure the U.S. side doesn’t have to play shorthanded at Royal Melbourne.

When asked on Wednesday if he considered offering Keegan Bradley, who was bypassed for a captain’s pick, a special role on the American team, like that enjoyed by Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer at recent Ryder Cups, Couples said he didn’t think that was appropriate.

“Sergio asked to be there. They didn’t call Sergio. If Keegan were to call me I would fall down backwards to have him there,” Couples told GolfChannel.com.

Kaymer, who was passed over by European captain Nick Faldo for the 2008 Ryder Cup matches but was included as a special assistant at Valhalla, seems a more apropos comparison.

Perhaps Bradley has no interest in carrying a walkie-talkie in Australia. Sadly, we’ll never know.

Tweet of the week III: @WestwoodLee “First-round 69, four behind playing partner (Bradley). The U.S. must have a really good team for the Presidents Cup if he’s not on it!”