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Cut Line: Change is inevitable on PGA Tour

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In honor of this week’s Zurich Classic, Jazz Fest and the bottomless plate of BBQ shrimp, Cut Line is taking a soulful approach to this week’s edition, starting with a call for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to embrace the future and the possibility of a new start for the circuit in the “City That Care Forgot.”

Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Made Cut

Hugs. All this time we thought professional football’s popularity in relation to golf was a byproduct of the game’s violence and the inherent loyalties of a team sport when in fact the NFL’s dominance seems born from a softer side that begins at the top.

There it was in HD clarity, over and over again, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell embracing the next pick in Thursday’s draft with emotion that would make Dr. Phil proud.

If the Tour really wants to cut into football’s popularity we suggest marching Finchem out to the 18th green at Q-School this year ready to dole out a Tour card, a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., cap and a hug.

Peter Dawson. It is, as far as the PGA Tour is concerned, a dead issue. As long as the current regime remains in Ponte Vedra Beach the circuit’s policy to not publish fines or disciplinary actions will remain the status quo, but it is worth revisiting when the chief of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decides to swim upstream.

“I have gone on record saying that more public sanctioning would not be a bad thing,” Dawson said this week. “One would have thought more public sanctions would be more likely to lead to a correction of behavior rather than private sanctions.”

For the record, the Tour’s policy is to only publish fines and punishments when a player violates the circuit’s anti-doping program – and only then when the offending drug is considered performance enhancing, not recreational.

Imagine, however, if the Tour published the list of players who had violated its slow play policy. A private monetary fine is one thing, the public scorn of being labeled a snail in print – now that’s preemptive.

Bayou District Foundation. News this week that the plan to create an East Lake-like neighborhood in New Orleans’ City Park is a reason to “second line” on many levels.

The planned Rees Jones-designed course promises to be a dramatic upgrade over the Zurich Classic’s current home. Moving the event to City Park, which is just minutes from downtown and the French Quarter, would improve the event’s appeal to local fans and let’s be honest, there’s little chance Jones could design something worse than the TPC, which ranked 45th out of 52 Tour courses in a player poll last year.

“One of the courses (in City Park) is going to be designed as a championship venue,” said Joe Ogilvie, who has been involved in the City Park initiative since his days on the Tour Policy Board. “I’m guessing that’s the city’s goal (to host the Zurich Classic at City Park). It would be a big bonus if the Zurich moved to City Park, but the project is going to get done either way.”

Even if the Zurich stays put on the wrong side of the Mississippi River the Bayou District Foundation, which has spearheaded the restoration project, has already been a success having transformed the neighborhood surrounding City Park.

Tweet of the week: @WestwoodLee “Retief grey goose (Goosen) on the Robert rocks (Rock) with a slice of Jose Phillpe [sic] lime (Jose-Filipe Lima). Can’t get better than that! #BoozyFourBall.”

Westy may be ranked third in the Official World Golf Ranking, but the Englishman is the undisputed leader in the Twitter index.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bubba Watson. The in-demand Masters champion got back to work this week in New Orleans and the not-so-bashful-prince deserves style points for honoring his commitment to play the Zurich Classic.

Where Watson seemed to get sideways was during his press conference on Tuesday at TPC Louisiana when he made at least nine references to “the media’s” short attention span and its penchant to distort facts.

While much of the media’s reputation is well deserved and many of Watson’s references were made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, there was a curious and concerning undertone to his comments.

By almost all accounts Watson has been dubbed a media darling since slipping on the green jacket and even before his major breakthrough Cut Line can think of just a single episode – during last year’s French Open when he ran afoul of the local press when he referred to the “big tower” (Eiffel) and “some archway” (Arc de Triomphe) – when he hasn’t been given the benefit of the doubt by the press.

Watson has made a decision to embrace the spotlight, which is certainly his right and infinitely understandable, but he must understand that scrutiny and stardom are not mutually exclusive.

Olympic effort. It is difficult, if not impossible, to question U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis’ U.S. Open handiwork in recent years (see Torrey Pines, 2008), but the organization’s last-minute scramble to add a fairway bunker to the Olympic Club’s 17th hole is at the least a reason to sit up and take notice.

Davis authorized the new hazard on the 17th, which will play as a par 5 for this year’s championship, in a strategic attempt to persuade more players to go for the green in two shots.

Although the idea (the potential for more late-round excitement) is compelling, the execution (less than two months before the Open) is concerning.


Missed Cut

World golf ranking. We’ve wasted no small amount of space in this column railing against the math and madness that is the ranking, but last week’s calculations deserve a “Missed Cut” encore.

At issue is the payment of appearance fees by international tours, a practice that essentially allows events to pay for world ranking points. Consider Lee Westwood’s victory at last week’s Indonesian Masters, a haul that landed him 20 ranking points. On the other side of the globe Ben Curtis ended a title drought at the Texas Open and collected 24 points.

With respect to the Asian Tour, if the difference in field quality between the two events is a mere 4 points the folks in San Antonio may want to consider asking for a bit of a refund for their $6.2 million purse.

One longtime Tour observer suggested a possible fix that would remove whatever points the two highest-ranked players bring to the table in every field each week. It may not be the solution to the pay-for-points problem, but it’s a start.