NAPA, Calif. – In an opening-day edition, Cut Line showcases the end of an era in South Korea, the beginning of more speculation regarding Tiger Woods and the monotony of the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule.
A class above. On Wednesday, Emiliano Grillo was named the 2015-16 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, becoming the third player from the high school class of 2011 to claim the honor in the last four years.
Grillo staked his claim to the award with his victory at last year’s Safeway Open, and the race heated up even more when Smylie Kaufman won the next week in Las Vegas.
But what turned into one of the tightest races in recent memory for the rookie award may be a precursor to this year’s class, which includes a host of blue-chip prospects including Ollie Schniederjans, Trey Mullinax, Bobby Wyatt and Wesley Bryan, a three-time winner on the Web.com Tour last season.
Because of small print in the Tour’s regulations, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm, who is in the hunt this week in Napa, don’t qualify as rookies but certainly add to the notion that a new wave of young talent is poised to make its mark.
Fit for a King. Officials with the Central Florida Expressway board announced a plan this week to rename a portion of State Road 408 after Arnold Palmer, who died Sept. 25 at age 87.
Considering everything the King meant to central Florida, the Arnold Palmer Expressway, which still must be approved by Florida legislators, seems like the least officials could do to honor him, but for your scribe this is personal.
When Cut Line isn’t following the traveling Tour circus, we always try to park as close as possible to Palmer’s personalized space at Golf Channel HQ, eat in Arnie’s Café, and now will commute to work on a road named in his honor.
Battling traffic and paying tolls suddenly seems much less concerning.
Pak’s place. Se Ri Pak played her last competitive round Thursday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea, a planned farewell to one of the game’s most inspiring players.
It was a testament to her reach that a host of players, both Korean and American, were waiting for her as she finished her emotional final turn, including Inbee Park, who wasn’t even participating in the event.
Pak’s impact on the growth of golf in Korea can’t be truly measured, but as a sign of her reach consider that in 1998 when she won the U.S. Women’s Open she was the only South Korean playing on the LPGA tour. Today that number has grown to 34.
In August at the Olympics, Pak talked of Park’s gold-medal winning performance, telling reporters the victory in Rio would create a legacy for other South Koreans to follow. After a life of leadership, she would know.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Tough choices. Nothing brings out armchair analysts like Tiger Woods; the second-guessing reached a frenzied level on Monday when he announced he would not be playing this week’s Safeway Open.
Speculation raged from those who now believe the former world No. 1 will never play another PGA Tour event, to conspiracy theories that he withdrew because officials were going to pair him with Phil Mickelson for Rounds 1 and 2 in Napa.
Both assumptions seem wildly off base. Various sources this week confirmed to Cut Line that both Woods and Mickelson, who shared leadership duties two weeks ago at the Ryder Cup, embraced this week’s potential pairing; and despite the withdrawal from Napa, Tiger remained committed to playing his own Hero World Challenge in December.
Although it’s not an official event, a start later this year in the Bahamas would qualify as a step in the right direction.
Only Woods knows his body and his game, and no athlete should be criticized for taking the long road back from injury, particularly if that athlete is Tiger.
Tweet of the week: @Bowdo83 (Steven Bowditch) “Don’t WD Tiger! Come play a couple of practice rounds with me. Your confidence will go through the roof!”
You have to give the Australian the award for most deprecating after all he endured last season. Twelve of Bowditch’s 71 rounds last season were in the 80s and he missed his last five cuts.
It turns out Woods did miss a show. On Tuesday, Bowditch made a hole-in-one during a practice round and tweeted: “One thing worse than having a hole in one on Tuesday, making it against (Boo Weekley). #Natylite #unluckytiger”
Off and running. The long wait ended this week as the 2016-17 Tour season got underway at Silverado Resort & Spa (insert eye roll).
“After five solid days off, it's exciting to start the year,” smiled Mickelson in a not-so-subtle shot at the Tour’s non-existent offseason.
It’s been exactly 17 days since the final putt of the 2015-16 season dropped at East Lake, which makes it hard to embrace this week’s event with anything even close to opening-day excitement.
Tour types will compete in the fall because they largely have to or risk falling behind in the season-long points race, but that doesn’t mean the quick turnaround is good for the players or the fans.