Cut Line Calm Before the Storm


ATLANTA – Considering what’s at stake this week at the home of Bobby Jones (a $10 million lottery ticket, the Player of the Year hardware and the No. 1 ranking), the Tour Championship has a calm before the storm feel to it.

We’re not saying East Lake is quiet, but there were more cheers for Friday’s Collective Soul concert adjacent the practice tee than for anything that has happened between the ropes. But that’s not to say “Cut Line” was left with an empty notebook.

Made Cut

Ernie Els. Here’s the rub, the big man from South Africa was typecast early. We called him “The Big Easy” when he won his first major in 1994, the nonchalant exterior and syrupy swing belying a smoldering core.

Know this about Theodore Ernest Els: His road to golf’s Hall of Fame was paved with grit, defeat and most of all, perseverance. No one has suffered more at the hands of Tiger Woods’ competitive brilliance than Els, who has finished runner-up to the world No. 1 more times than he cares to count. There were injuries, setbacks and finally the heartbreaking news that his son Ben has autism.

The path to St. Augustine was anything but easy – Els just made it look that way.

Jim “Bones” Mackay. One of the game’s classiest caddies took it to a new level this week, giving up his business-class seat on the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s charter on Sunday to Wales so a rookie looper could enjoy the full experience.

Mackay insisted on taking a seat in the back of the plane when he learned Rickie Fowler’s caddie, Joe Skovron, had been bumped from the flight because of a last-minute plane change that limited the number of business-class seats.

“That’s Bones isn’t it?” Mickelson’s manager Steve Loy said Friday afternoon when told of Mackay’s actions.

With that kind of unselfishness, maybe the Americans aren’t underdogs.

Tweet of the week: @PaulAzinger “Fact: 2008 ten American (Ryder Cup) players in Tour Championship, Europe had one. 2010 USA has nine in Tour Championship, Europe has one. Who’s the favorite.” “Cut Line” is really going to miss Capt. ’Zinger in Wales.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

PGA Tour. It’s nitpicking, really, but tell us again why we couldn’t have flip-flopped last week’s “bye” week and the Tour Championship?

Guys were already running on fumes and East Lake has a TPC Zombie-land feel this week regardless of last week’s R&R, so much so someone should check the Amino Vital for traces of Ambien.

So now nine Americans and one European take that daze to Wales for next week’s Ryder Cup and the luster of both events feels somehow dulled.

“I’m just trying to get through this week,” Jim Furyk said when asked about the Ryder Cup on Thursday.

Someone will win $10 million on Sunday at East Lake, a player of the year will likely be crowned and the news cycle for all these happenings will be about 20 minutes before the world moves on to Wales and the Ryder Cup.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

PGA of America. By this time next week we may be lauding Corey Pavin as a master tactician and heir to the Captain America throne held by Azinger since Valhalla, but it’s tough not to wonder what could have been had Payne Stewart not suffered a far-too-early death and the PGA hadn’t passed on a second go-around for Azinger.

Stewart, who most say would have made a brilliant captain, likely would have captained the U.S. team in 2006 in Ireland, Azinger would have gotten Valhalla and next week in Wales and Davis Love III, the leader in the clubhouse to be named the 2012 skipper, would have rounded out the team.

We hate to Friday-morning quarterback Pavin, but that trifecta would have been hard to ignore, and probably hard to beat.

Missed Cut

Colin Montgomerie. No, not the Justin Rose-Paul Casey snub, the former Englishman is taking care of that this week at East Lake. We tag Capt. Colin because the Scot decided to announce he is already locked into his Day 1 lineup and that all 12 of his men will play in the opening frame.

It’s one thing to have a plan, even a good plan, but blind allegiance is dangerous and unproductive. Maybe the Molinari tandem will be the homerun everyone thinks it will be, but does a 5-and-4 morning whipping really justify an afternoon try?

Monty should ask Hal Sutton, the author of the great Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson experiment, about the ills of getting locked into a plan.

Tiger Woods. It’s been the meanest of seasons for Woods, professionally and personally, but failing to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career is rock bottom by any measure.

New swing coach Sean Foley says Woods’ swing is coming along nicely and Steve Stricker seems inspired by the chance to be the tonic that cures the world No. 1’s competitive ills.

But there is no sugarcoating it: Between the ropes Woods missed the cut in 2010.