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Cut Line: Examining golf's 'C' word, Garcia's incident

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Nothing gets Cut Line’s laptop buzzing like the “C” word, and although suggestions this week that Sergio Garcia cheated were wildly unfounded and utterly inaccurate the Spaniard did rekindle the debate over instant replay and viewer call-ins to secure his spot among this week’s winners and losers.

Made Cut

Open dialogue. Give credit to the U.S. Golf Association, which seemed a little slow to respond last year when the then-proposed ban on anchoring went from being an idea to a lightning rod, for stepping in to fill in the blanks regarding Pinehurst and this year’s championship fortnight.

USGA executive director Mike Davis plans to meet with LPGA players in March at the Founders Cup to answer questions regarding the U.S. Women’s Open, which will be played a week after the U.S. Open on the venerable No. 2 course.

“I have questions and so do some of the players, about practice, when can we practice?” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell this week.

“What happens if there’s a playoff and they’re playing on Monday? What about course setup? Are the landing areas into the greens going to be pretty beat up? Is the range going to be OK for us? How much access are we going to get? How comfortable is the USGA going to be with us trying to create more awareness for us in week two during week one? What about accommodations? Is it going to be difficult for us and our players to find accommodations, especially the weekend before?”

Perhaps the USGA, and more so the Royal & Ancient, didn’t stay on topic during last year’s heated anchoring debate, but it appears that Davis & Co. certainly learned from that episode.

The Answer. Although it is still early, for the sake of historical fairness Rory McIlroy deserves kudos for his solid start in Abu Dhabi this week.

The Northern Irishman opened with rounds of 70-67 and is tied for fourth midway through his 2014 debut. If that doesn’t exactly sound like a reason to celebrate, consider that at this point last year he’d signed for matching 75s in Abu Dhabi and was headed home from his less-than-auspicious debut as a Nike Golf staff player.

After ending 2013 with three top-10 finishes in his last five starts, including his only victory of the year at the Australian Open, McIlroy seems to be on his way to finding the answers to all those questions that dogged him last season.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

After further review. Seems PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is not the only person with a growing distaste for instant replay and viewer call-ins.

Sergio Garcia was likely swayed into that camp after getting sideways with armchair rules officials everywhere on Thursday in Abu Dhabi.

The incident involved footage of Garcia taping down a mark on the 18th green during Thursday’s opening round at the European Tour event. After being alerted to the possible violation by viewers, European Tour officials had Garcia show them what happened and he was absolved of any wrongdoing.

What was not caught on film was Garcia fixing a pitch mark on the green, only the final stages of taping down the damage which prompted the call ins and a host of misleading reports that suggested he had cheated.

“It's fine to call in when you can see that someone has cheated. But to say that about someone without knowing all the facts is wrong,” Garcia said. “Being related to that word is the most disgusting thing that can happen to any golfer. So it was a little disappointing. I'm happy it was cleared up and I was able to play today.”

In golf “cheating” is the one word that doesn’t wash off and Garcia was understandably disturbed by the episode. But what El Nino doesn’t grasp is that the system worked as it should. The viewers questioned, officials investigated and life went on.

As for the background noise, you would think the iconoclastic Garcia would have learned to ignore that by now.


Tweet of the week: @StewartCink “Apparently my glowing head has received some attention today. It’s nice to be (in) the spotlight.”

Cink’s dome, complete with its distinct tan line, became a social media sensation following a particularly unflattering shot of the former Open Championship winner last week at the Sony Open. May we suggest a visor, and lots and lots of sunscreen?


Missed Cut

Show me the money. In the uber-competitive world of hosting professional events the dirty little secret is that not all tournaments are created equal.

For PGA Tour stops the guidelines are clear. Tournament directors can offer enormous purses and quality golf courses to woo the top players. Period. In Europe, however, organizers are also allowed to sweeten the pot with appearance fees that regularly drift into the seven figure neighborhood for the world’s best.

The problem with this “money talks” duplicity is that these European Tour events, like this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, are essentially paying for World Ranking Points, as well as a handsome marquee.

Consider this week’s stop in Abu Dhabi will award 48 World Ranking points to the winner, compared to just 40 for the champion at the Humana Challenge. In fact, of the three PGA Tour events played in 2014 none offered as many ranking points as players will receive in Abu Dhabi, and it will be a similar story in a few weeks in Dubai when world No. 1 Tiger Woods makes his ’14 debut.

There is too much riding on the World Ranking these days to allow points to go to the highest bidder.