Cut Line: Captain's choice


One woman’s genius is another man’s gamble, but then no amount of over-analysis will change the reality that success or failure will ultimately be decided on the field of play. In the short term this much is certain, U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples seems stuck in the past while his Solheim Cup counterpart Rosie Jones has brazenly ignored the status quo in favor of unproven youth.

The competing styles are as divergent as they are defining, and a perfect place for Cut Line to begin and end this week’s recap.

Made Cut

Rosie Jones. Unlike Couples, who removed the lion’s share of drama from the Presidents Cup selection process and made Tiger Woods one of his wildcard picks, the American Solheim Cup captain went outside the box when she selected rookie Ryann O’Toole for this year’s team.

Cut Line has never been a fan of captains who toe the line and make their picks straight off the points list. With O’Toole, Jones eschewed the safe pick and went with the hot hand that wields a monster driver.

If O’Toole gets shut down later this year in Ireland and the United States falls to Europe expect Jones to become public enemy No. 1 in the American press. Until then, we’ve got her penciled in for “Captain of the Year.”

FedEx Cup playoffs. It’s easy to nitpick – and if one is looking for a conversation starter may we suggest a postseason that includes 125 players, no other major sports league begins its playoffs with 100 percent participation – but from a conceptual point of view it’s difficult to find much fault in the Tour’s grand experiment.

Sure, the Tour probably didn’t put much thought into a postseason without the likes of Tiger Woods but there’s not much commissioner Tim Finchem could do to change that short of a few mulligans and a putting lesson.

Still, considering the pre-playoff alternative, a season-ending Tour Championship with virtually no drama, we’ll take the current model. In the next five weeks the Player of the Year race will be decided, the final 11 spots on the U.S. Presidents Cup team will be finalized (it seems only Tiger Woods is assured a spot at Royal Melbourne right now) and golf fans will go cross-eyed trying to follow the overly complicated points system . . . well, two out of three isn’t bad.

Tweet of the Week: @StewartCink: Note in yardage book from yesterday’s practice round here in N.J., “10th tee shakes violently for about 40 seconds every 1,000 years.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Nationwide Tour/Q-School makeover. At ground level this looks like a solution looking for a problem. It seems the only thing that is broken here is an economic model that is about to have serious cash-flow issues when Nationwide pulls the plug on its umbrella sponsorship of the secondary circuit in 2012.

But the Tour continues to dig in on a proposal that would make the Nationwide Tour the primary avenue to a Tour card. During Wednesday’s Player Advisory Council meeting at The Barclays the Tour presented multiple versions of the plan.

At issue is how to seed players from the Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour for a three-event, playoff-like run that would dole out 50 Tour cards. For example, did the regular-season money leader on the Nationwide Tour have a better year than the guy who finishes 126th on the PGA Tour money list? Depends on who you ask.

“They seem to be going forward with it,” said one Tour player with knowledge of the meeting. “It’s still going to be tough to get passed.”

Hurricane Irene. The Tour certainly had good reason to shorten this week’s Barclays to 54 holes with a 100-year storm, not to mention this week’s 1,000-year earthquake, closing in on the New Jersey/New York City area, but the move did rekindle an ongoing debate about the playoff’s East Coast bias.

The postseason features stops in New Jersey, Boston and Atlanta with Chicago’s BMW Championship the closest thing to a Left Coast stop.

“Novel idea, how about a playoff event or two on the West Coast. Weather is perfect this time of year. #NoHurricanes,” Arron Oberholser tweeted on Thursday.

The bad news: the competitive integrity of the first playoff event takes a hit. The good news: the Tour is out of New Jersey.

Open spaces. The U.S. Golf Association’s Mike Davis has not been shy about his affinity for Erin Hills, site of this week’s U.S. Amateur, and set-up kudos are certainly in order following the stroke-play portion of the event.

Gregor Main tied the championship’s 36-hole qualifying record with a 10-under total despite an Erin Hills design that can be stretched to a super-sized 7,760 yards. Still, if 7,700 yards is the answer to the modern game, one has to wonder how courses without the luxury of unlimited real estate will survive on the competitive landscape.

The U.S. Open is scheduled to arrive at Erin Hills in 2017 and we can already hear the player rants. The only good news is that Phil Mickelson won’t have Rees Jones to kick around at Erin Hills.

Missed Cut

PGA Tour. It would seem Camp Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) would have their hands full right now, what with the start of a new round of network television negotiations beginning and a radical new Nationwide Tour/Q-School proposal still on the drawing board. Yet the circuit’s fashion police somehow found time to needlessly meddle this week.

Caddies at this week’s Barclays were told they could not wear bright-orange colored shoes, which were given to the bagmen by adidas as part of a promotional campaign to launch the company’s new Tour 360 model.

“I think some people don’t have enough to do around the Tour,” said one caddie. “Last I checked I was an independent contractor.”

Let’s get this straight, caddies can’t wear orange shoes but it is fine for John Daly to show up wearing the living room drapes?

It’s the process, stupid. It’s easy to turn on captain Couples, who made a mini-mockery of the Presidents Cup selection process on Thursday when he decided to forego the prescribed order of things and dole out one of his two captain’s picks to Woods.

“I’ve told him that he’s going to be on the team,” Couples said. “There is no reason for me to wait until Sept. 26 to pick Tiger. He’s the best player in the world forever.”

Fair enough, and truth be told it won’t be until after the matches are played in November that we will know the full extent of Couples’ genius or miss-guided generosity. The real problem seems to be the selection process.

Unlike the Ryder Cup selection process, which was given an extreme makeover courtesy of Paul Azinger before the 2008 matches, the final Presidents Cup qualifying tournament will be the BMW Championship, some nine weeks before the matches are played at Royal Melbourne.

For his captain’s picks Couples has until Sept. 26, the Monday after the Tour Championship which is seven weeks before the matches. By comparison, Azinger had the luxury of making his picks just two weeks before the ’08 Ryder Cup and a system that was weighted heavily in favor of recent-year finishes.

Of course a new system wouldn’t have done Couples much good considering that he made up his mind to make Woods a pick about 30 seconds after being named the 2011 captain. Still, it would have been nice to have some options.