Cut Line: Hope for America's future in Ryder Cup


The PGA Tour’s 15-minute offseason is winding down, the first shot of the 2014-15 season goes in the air Thursday morning at the Open, but the break was hardly event-free. In a “hot stove” edition of Cut Line we take a look back at America’s Ryder Cup woes and the possible future of the WGC-Match Play.

Made Cut

Ole, Ole, Ole. Give the Continent full style points, for the European team’s five-point triumph last week at Gleneagles, and the seamlessness of how 12 players from vastly different backgrounds and countries meld so easily every two years.

All week captain Paul McGinley told anyone who would listen that it was the European template, not his leadership, that united and focused his team. Perhaps, but there was no denying the Irishman put his own stamp on the proceedings.

“Complacency, concentration,” Rory McIlroy offered when asked about the European team’s secret formula, followed by Graeme McDowell’s take, “Wave after wave.”

“When the storm comes, we'll be the rock,” Justin Rose offered.

“Have fun,” Lee Westwood smiled.

It was all part of the larger message and a winning template that McGinley may not have invented, but he certainly perfected it.

Lefty right on mark. Maybe Phil Mickelson should have kept America’s dirty sweater vests behind team room doors. Maybe the man who is so adept at reading a room miscalculated.

But know this about Lefty’s subtle indictment of the current U.S. Ryder Cup system, if eight losses in the last 10 matches have taught us anything it is that the process is broken and only a major change of course can fix it.

Mickelson, the only U.S. player to participate in 10 Ryder Cups, knows this better than anyone. He also knew that Sunday’s post-cup news conference was going to be the biggest stage he would ever have to be an agent of change.

The exchange, which began with Mickelson suggesting that the U.S. go back to the model Paul Azinger used in 2008 at Valhalla, was uncomfortable and even a little contentious, but if his words lead to real change it will have been worth it.

Tweet of the week: @PaulAzinger “Momentum is like the wind. You can’t see it, but it’s very powerful!”

Azinger was referring to the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s start on Day 1 at Gleneagles, but in retrospect considering the groundswell of support for his return to captain the Americans again in 2016 it could become an apropos forecast.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Best intentions. To be clear, the blame for the U.S. team’s loss last week in Scotland should be shared equally between the 12 players – many of whom failed to earn a full point in two foursomes sessions – Tom Watson and PGA of America president Ted Bishop.

Watson was ill equipped for the nuances of a modern Ryder Cup, and Bishop overestimated the legend’s cachet among today’s players. Any other mistakes, either real or perceived, are just background noise.

Lost in the vitriol, however, is the obvious notion that Bishop, Watson & Co. embraced this year’s matches with the best of intentions.

“I think the PGA of America is willing to change from a certain stand point,” Bishop told this week. “We are willing to try to put all the appropriate pieces into place to collectively make a good decision going forward.”

The Watson experiment did not work, but that doesn’t mean their hearts weren't in the right place.

Musical WGCs. Professional golf’s version of March madness has been in a state of perpetual uncertainty since Accenture pulled the plug on its sponsorship earlier this year and the Tour pulled out of Tucson, Ariz.

The circuit reinvented the event for 2015, going to a round-robin format that will include group play for the first three days and moving the championship to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

The Tour announced on Tuesday that Cadillac would step in and sponsor the event for one year, a short-term lease the circuit normally tries to avoid, and has made it clear the move to Harding Park is a “one off” transition.

Donald Trump, whose complex at Doral currently hosts the WGC-Cadillac Championship, has expressed interest in swapping out the 72-hole stroke play event for the Match Play, which would suggest a move to south Florida could be in the making.

The only thing that is certain is that the game’s most volatile event is still a tournament in transition.

Missed Cut

Hope returns. In other tournament news, the Tour announced that Humana would be ending its sponsorship of the Coachella Valley event because the company’s “business is changing rapidly.”

Humana was contracted to sponsor the event through 2019 and may have been one of the circuit’s best partnerships considering the tournament’s health care theme and collaboration with The Clinton Foundation.

The loss, however, leaves the Tour with an opportunity to make things right. When Humana took over in 2012 officials stripped Bob Hope’s name from the event.

Hope’s name had been associated with the event since 1965, and whoever steps in after Humana should make it a priority that the comedian returns to the top of the marquee.

Sign-ing off. It wouldn’t be a golf season without a bizarre scorecard snafu, and the LPGA stepped in late to fill the void last week.

At the second stage of Q-School, Holly Clyburn shot a first-round 71 in Venice, Fla., and slid her scorecard to playing partner Justine Lee to sign, but Lee – who was reportedly frustrated after an opening 78 – failed to affix her “John Hancock” and Clyburn was disqualified under Rule 6-6b.

While there are plenty of victim-less crimes in golf, Clyburn’s fate seems entirely unjustifiable. In the age of electronic scoring for a player to be held accountable for another’s miscue is blatantly arcane and capricious.

Clyburn’s career, at least in the short term, is now on hold because of an honest mistake. In this case, the punishment certainly doesn’t match the crime.