Cut Line’s cup is half full, or empty, depending on your point view. As golf inches toward its big finish, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are giving us a glimpse of what could be at the FedEx Cup opener in New York, and Padraig Harrington is offering European captain Jose Maria Olazabal a snapshot of what could have been at next month’s Ryder Cup.
Augusta National. Whatever it was that finally prompted officials at the venerable club to end 80 years of all-male membership, the end result is a clean slate.
Each April the golf world gathers amid the azaleas and each spring the club chairman is subjected to a barrage of questions regarding the club’s membership – 12 of 24 questions during last year’s pre-tournament media meet-and-greet for those keeping track.
That it was Hootie Johnson – the club chairman in 2002 who answered Martha Burk’s demand to end the all-male policy by saying Augusta National would not be forced to change “at the point of a bayonet” – who recommended South Carolina financier Darla Moore, along with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to become the club’s first female members offers a surprisingly insightful glimpse into the club’s inner workings.
It was inevitable the club would arrive at Monday’s announcement. And just as inevitable that they would get there on their own timetable.
Rivalries revisited. True rivalries are measured in decades, and we will not know the full extent of Woods and McIlroy’s history for at least another 10 years; but it was impossible not to watch the game’s two alpha males march out early Thursday together at Bethpage and not imagine the possibilities.
At 23, McIlroy looks as comfortable as anyone playing alongside Woods and his playful jab on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to be paired against the 14-time major champion in Sunday singles at next month’s Ryder Cup – “I’d love Tiger to go out first and kick his ass”– is further evidence of how good this could be.
There have been no shortage of false-rivals for Woods over the years, and these things must be allowed to grow organically, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hope for the best.
Tweet of the week: @AronPricePGA “No expert on the topic. But if Lance Armstrong passed all his drug tests for 15 years of cycling and throughout (his) seven (Tour de France) wins how is he in trouble?”
Not an expert either, but that’s a good question?
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
FedEx Cup. At this point it just seems like nitpicking. By any measure your postseason party is a vast improvement over the alternative, which before 2007 was a Tour Championship that had all the suspense and intrigue of a Skins Game.
The problem is 250. That will be your points leader’s advantage heading into the season finale in a few weeks at East Lake. If Woods wins all three playoff events before then his lead will be 250. If he finishes T-30 at the next three stops, and no one else makes a move to pass him atop the points, his lead will be 250. You get the picture.
We understand the concept of a points reset before the Tour Championship and nobody wants another episode like 2008 when all Vijay Singh had to do was remain upright for four days at East Lake and the $10 million lottery ticket was his. This may be as close as golf gets to a true playoff, but that doesn’t mean it feels right.
Rotations. No, not the Chicago Cubs’ anemic starters, but the lineup officials have for the first two playoff events.
The Barclays first visit to Bethpage this week qualifies as a success – imagine what the U.S. Golf Association would have given for consecutive days on the New York gem in 2009 and ’02 without a weather delay – and the event returns to Liberty National in New Jersey next year. May we suggest a rotation of Bethpage, Ridgewood and Plainfield and leave Liberty National to its members.
Next month’s BMW Championship, however, should leave the vagabond concept to The Barclays. The BMW is scheduled to be played in Indiana (Crooked Stick), Chicago-land (Conway Farms) and Denver (Cherry Hills) the next three years, leaving Chicago, the nation’s second-largest market, without a regular Tour stop, not to mention a starting rotation. Chicago sports fans are used to disappointment, but this seems like a bit much.
Tweet of the week II: @JasonDufner “If this was the (Washington) Nationals’ plan, I would have started (pitcher Stephen Strasburg) starting in June. Nobody cares about baseball in April or May.”
Dufner knows something about pacing himself having imposed a sort of “inning count” on his own game this season. He’s skipping this week’s playoff opener at The Barclays to rest up for the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup.
As the Cup Turns. It’s August in a Ryder Cup year which means a European captain must be making headlines for all the wrong reasons – cue Jose Maria Olazabal.
At the PGA Championship Olazabal said Padraig Harrington needed to do something “extraordinary” to make this year’s team. On Thursday, just before the Irishman’s torrid opening round at Bethpage (64), the European skipper was asked what constitutes extraordinary? “At least a win,” he said.
So just to be clear, a runner-up showing with style – say a playoff loss to McIlroy or Woods against one of the deepest fields of the year at Bethpage – wouldn’t be enough to earn Harrington a spot on the roster at Medinah? Explain to “Cut Line” again how the Europeans have won four of the last five matches.
Royal & Ancient ways. On Monday, Augusta National ended 80-years of all-male membership. Shortly afterward the Royal & Ancient – which holds its marquee event, the Open Championship, at clubs with men-only membership policies, like Muirfield, which will host the game’s oldest championship next year – was put on notice.
R&A chief executive Peter Dawson has explained that all-male, as well as all-female, clubs are the historic norm in the United Kingdom. Perhaps, but that doesn’t make it right.
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