Cut Line Crime and Punishment


Elliot Saltman gets three months off and Padraig Harrington has an extra three days to practice. Neither hiatus feels right. From two choice Ryder Cup captains to more rules nonsense, there was more than enough to keep “Cut Line” buzzing this week.

Made Cut

Ryd-ing high. Following two years of contentious press conferences, snide remarks and general ickiness the powers that be seemed intent on making the 2012 Ryder Cup fun for the entire family with this week’s announcements that Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III will captain their respective squads.

A member of Love’s camp told “Cut Line” after the announcement that this “Captain America” intends to “have fun and he’s going to make sure the players have fun.”

Ollie and DL3 are on the “G rated” side of say, John Calipari and neither will light up the press center. “Cut Line” already misses Monty, but they will bring out the best in the players, and the matches.

Old habits. OK, so Tiger Woods’ Wednesday commitment to the Farmers Insurance Open was hardly worth a double take and two days before the deadline is not exactly what some consider an early warning, but it’s a start and will certainly help tournament officials market the event.

According to Farmers Insurance tournament director Tom Wilson ticket sales were already up 15 percent over last year on “rumors” that Woods would return to Torrey Pines for the first time since 2008, and Team Tiger had dropped as many hints as they could.

“(Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg) gave me as much of a heads up as possible,” Wilson said. “We had an idea, so it’s been nice.”

For the record, Woods would not have been the centerpiece of the event’s marketing campaign even if he would have committed two months ago. That honor, as always, goes to the defending champion – someone named Ben Crane.

Tweet of the Week. @PaulAzinger “Davis and Ollie will be terrific captains. Won’t be the usual finger pointing at captains. Press will have to blame players.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Sawgrass saga. How is it that everybody has staked out the high ground in the ongoing Lee Westwood v. Players Championship spat and yet the debate still feels petty and political?

Lee Westwood, the game’s current No. 1, can play whatever schedule he wishes, and if that means skipping the so-called “fifth major” to be better prepared for the established Grand Slams then play away.

The PGA Tour, however, has an obligation to its members and would be ill advised to change its rules, again, to better accommodate non-members. The circuit scrambled late last year to exempt The Players from the 10-tournament maximum for non-members, a not-so-veiled move to keep Westwood and Rory McIlroy in The Players fold.

Still, if everyone is right how come this feels so wrong?

Worlds apart. Greg Norman isn’t going to like this. Ditto for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, but professional golf is inching its way toward a global tour.

That is, of course, unless Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., would rather bury its collective head in the Palm Springs sand. Three of the top four players in the world and all four major champions from 2010 are playing on the European Tour this week and the crowded calendar is starting to produce casualties.

This year’s Presidents Cup will be played the same week as the South African Open, a scheduling anomaly that will force the game’s top South Africans to choose between a team event and their national championship. And this is not an isolated incident.

A world tour is coming, just don’t tell Norman.
Missed Cut

Crime and punishment? Elliot Saltman, the Challenge Tour player accused of incorrectly marking his ball on at least five different occasions during an event last year, was banned from European Tour play for three months, which, considering the gravity of the accusations, is not exactly the death penalty.

Saltman originally acknowledged his mistakes at the Russian Challenge Cup, where two players paired with the Scot refused to sign his scorecard after the round. He later recanted his admission and was in Abu Dhabi to challenge the ruling.

Five separate violations is not accidental behavior and three months for such a blatant breach seems a tad light. Judge Judy would have come down harder than that. Shame on Saltman. Shame on the European Tour.

RIP common sense. Another viewer, another phone call, another baffling disqualification. But this time it isn’t about Padraig Harrington, who was bounced from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after a viewer called in a violation from Thursday’s play, or even the viewer with far too much free time.

No, the problem is the convoluted Rules of Golf, which completely ignore intent and common sense.

Just take it from Jack Nicklaus, who told Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” crew earlier this week, “Probably the whole book of the Rules of Golf should be changed. If you try to figure it out, it should be common sense, yet common sense never seems to prevail.”

Holding out Hope. There will be plenty of indignant ink and even more eye rolling at this week’s Bob Hope Classic, which has become a perennial second fiddle to the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi stop.

But know this about the once-storied event, many of its problems are self inflicted.

The tournament’s ill-advised move to the Classic Club lingers among the rank and file, the five-round pro-am format is the professional golf equivalent of liver and onions and the ousting of George Lopez as tournament host in 2008 was simply baffling.

The Hope may deserve better, but so do the players and fans.