Cut Line: Analyzing the Ryder Cup task force changes

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In an all task-force edition, Cut Line examines the good (Davis Love III), the bad (Fred Couples) and the ugly (fall schedule fallout) of the group’s sweeping changes.

Made Cut

Task masters. While some have dismissed the task force as an overreaction to another American loss, the alternative was not an option.

Whether the changes the PGA of America initiated – everything from a legacy program for future captains to a revamped points structure – produce positive results really doesn’t matter since the only other option was to continue the status quo and hope for better.

“Look, Europe is a very talented team and they are very well structured and they have great leadership. Some of those guys play better in the Ryder Cup than they’ve ever played individually,” task force member Phil Mickelson told GolfChannel.com. “They were beating us when we were a better team, and now they are arguably a better team.

“For us to compete we have to bring out our best golf. We have to play together as a team; we have to be put in positions to succeed. We can’t have challenges to overcome and expect us to beat such a good team.”

Opening Day. With a nod to the realities of the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule, the Frys.com Open – which kicked off the circuit’s 2014-15 season in October – and Hyundai Tournament of Champions – the first event of the new year – felt more like soft openings than a big kickoff.

By comparison, consider this week’s Honda Classic where Danny Lee, currently No. 49 on the FedEx Cup point list, is making his 13th start of the season while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy is embarking on his debut.

This week’s field includes 27 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, including the winners of three of last year’s four majors, and is another measure of how far the Honda Classic has come in the last decade since moving to PGA National.

From a second-tier event bouncing from bad golf course to bad golf course, to the Tour’s unofficial opening day, not a bad climb.

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Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Captain obvious. While it’s now clear that Davis Love III was an overwhelming favorite to captain the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team – according to various sources the only member of the task force that didn’t vote for Love was Love – it’s still not clear why Fred Couples was never seriously considered.

“When they all got home, they said, ‘We need you to do this,’” Couples told Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte in November.

Just days later, however, at the task force’s first meeting Love quickly emerged as the only choice.

“I don’t think it’s a question of why it’s not Fred, or why it’s not someone else. It’s why it’s Davis. He seemed to be the right person at the right time for what the Ryder Cup is trying to do,” PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua told GolfChannel.com. “When you are talking to the players and captains he was the person who emerged. It felt like an obvious choice.”

Maybe Freddie lacked the organizational skills to lead America into a new era, as some observers have opined, and it’s clear Love was the players’ choice, but if Couples really wasn’t the answer to the U.S. side’s woes Cut Line isn’t sure what the question was.

Law and disorder. The busiest offices at Tour headquarters this week weren’t the rules staff or agronomy department. If the recent frenzied give-and-take is any indication, it has been the legal department that is putting in the overtime lately.

The Tour is dealing with lawsuits on two fronts and last week both cases heated up, with attorneys for the circuit challenging Vijay Singh’s ongoing deposition phase with as many as nine additional Champions Tour players with “affiliations” with S.W.A.T.S., the company that provided Singh with the deer-antler spray that sparked his brush with the Tour’s anti-doping policy.

Attorneys for the Tour also informed lawyers for the caddies in an ongoing class action lawsuit that the circuit plans to request a change of venue, from the Northern District of California to the Middle District of Florida, where the Tour is headquartered.

We live in a litigious world, but it’s getting to a stage where success on Tour will be measured in billable hours, not points lists or money earned.


Missed Cut

Fall-ing away. One of the more subtle yet telling moves made by the Ryder Cup task force was to rework the points structure for Team USA qualifying.

Amid the small print came the realization that the Tour’s fall events are irrelevant, as evidenced by the fact that none of the money earned during the fall will be reflected on the Ryder Cup points list.

Players will earn 1 point for every $2,000 won in the World Golf Championships and The Players in 2015 and 1 point for every $1,000 earned in this year’s majors.

Beginning in January 2016, players will earn 1 point for every $1,000 in “stand-alone sanctioned events” and 2 points for every $1,000 earned in next year’s majors.

Lost in that structure, however, are the fall events in the Tour’s wrap-around schedule.

“If you count money for those last three or four months, you're giving the bottom half of the Tour a three‑month head start over ultimately the top guys,” Mickelson explained. “So you wanted to start that money in 2015 but the money list on the Tour list starts in September or October. So it was getting confusing.”

Perhaps, but what’s truly confusing is Love’s involvement in a make-over that robs fall events of any relevance. It’s a move that hurts events like the McGladrey Classic, which Love hosts.