The Tour Championship may not be golf’s Super Bowl, just ask Tiger Woods, but it’s interesting exclamation point on three hurried weeks and a reason, finally, to look forward to East Lake.
Merion/Walker Cup. The two-day match likely slipped under many fans’ radar, and that’s a shame.
Forget about the United States’ walkover, which gives the red, white and bling a clean sweep of all the game’s major Cups right now, the event itself has been described as the purest in all golf, featured an impressive swansong for Rickie Fowler, who went 4-0 before turning pro, and showcased a classic American layout.
Jason Gore once told “Cut Line” he considered giving up Tour life not long ago and reapplying for his amateur status in hopes of playing in another Walker Cup, and if one watched any of the proceedings last week you could see why.
We also got a taste of Merion, that classic gem that had been made an afterthought by the modern game. Short and quirky with devilish greens, the U.S. Golf Association will take some attendance lumps at a Merion Open but it will be worth every penny.
As for the future of American golf, that 16 ½-9 ½ thumping says it all.
Dismantling of the grass ceiling. Some say Shoal Creek and the 1990 PGA debacle forced golf to take a hard look at its exclusionary practices, at least on the major championship level. Condoleeza Rice’s recent actions may force the game’s powers to take another hard look at the Alabama layout.
The world learned last week that Rice had become a member of the Birmingham club. While there may be too much bad blood to bring Shoal Creek back into the Grand Slam fold, Rice’s name has also surfaced as a potential member at Augusta National.
The move could also spur action at other clubs that have been excluded from the major championship conversation because of membership issues like Chicago’s Butler National and Cypress Point in California. Rice’s move may not be a game-changer, but it certainly makes the game much more inclusive.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Brandt Snedeker. It was an ugly and utterly unexpected moment for the Tennessee towhead. A two-putt from 12 feet last week at Cog Hill’s 18th hole and he’s playing next week’s Tour Championship, four unsightly swipes later he was out of the playoffs.
Snedeker cost himself at least $90,125, the two-stroke difference between a T-6 and his eventual tie for 10th and a guaranteed $2,000 for last place at East Lake, as well as starts in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, but he earned a ton of currency with the half dozen scribes and two dozen autograph seekers, or where they mourners, who he dutifully accommodated outside the clubhouse.
We once asked Roberto De Vicenzo, the author of perhaps the game’s most-glaring gaffe at the 1968 Masters, if he would do things different if he could. “No,” he said. “For 30 years it made me cry. Now, it makes me smile.”
Chicago golf. The landscape of Chicago has suddenly become very interesting. Although the $5.2 million makeover Cog Hill underwent before this year’s BMW Championship was met with mixed reviews, at best, the USGA had to like the eventual champion as well as the scoring.
Although Tiger Woods finished at 19 under, only three other players finished with double digit under-par totals on a course that didn’t play anywhere near the tips and with little rough. And Rees Jones also gave USGA set-up man Mike Davis plenty of teeing options.
Chicagoland now has two viable Open options, Cog Hill and Olympia Fields, and from what we saw of Medinah’s No. 3 course last week the PGA Championship now has a comfy second home in the “Second City.”
A generation on scholarship. The playoffs aren’t perfect, and no amount of creative math will change that. Golf has four Super Bowls and they are played in April, June, July and August. But the Tour now has a feverish finish that’s worth watching, with all the pieces of the marquee in place and a Tour Championship that, however contrived, means something.
Woods won the BMW Championship by eight strokes and had his lead cut from 1,504 points to 250 points, as good a reason as any to mail a calculator to Ponte Vedra Beach. But without the heavy-handed reset, East Lake would be about as suspenseful as an Atlanta Braves game.
The Tour also found a cure for mediocrity, as evidenced by a comment in a recent edition of Golfweek magazine by Brett Quigley. “I know I controlled my own destiny, but it’s still a little frustrating. I made the cut both (playoff) weeks and dropped 26 positions,” Quigley said.
We like Quigley, truth is it’s hard not to, but a tie for 67th (Barclays) and 61st (Deutsch Bank Championship) is, by definition, mediocre play and should not be rewarded. And that may be the best endorsement of the Tour’s current model we’ve heard.
Jim Thorpe. The Champions Tour staple pled guilty to two counts of failure to pay income taxes last week.
Thorpe agreed to pay all taxes (more than $1.5 million), interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service for 2002-2004. It’s the second time he’s run afoul of the IRS. In 1993 and 1994 Thorpe had 'significant' income, but the IRS had no record of tax returns having been filed. At the time Thorpe said he had two accountants and he thought they were handling his taxes.
An old Tour saw comes to mind. All Tour players are Republicans, until they miss a cut and then they become Democrats.