There’s no official event this week on the PGA Tour – no cut, no problem. The beat continues thanks to Rory McIlroy, who made news with clubs that he may or may not be playing next year, and John Daly, who plans to take his talents across the pond in 2013, but not to Q-School.
End of an era. By definition change is not toxic, it’s the ambiguity of the unknown that leads to bouts of nostalgia and trepidation.
Perhaps the PGA Tour’s new qualifying system that begins next year will be an improvement over the current model, but as the circuit inches toward a new era it’s hard not to wonder what was wrong with the old system.
The week’s Web.com Tour Championship, combined with the final stage of Q-School, has always been one of the most compelling tournaments in golf – reality TV without a script.
Consider the leaderboard at this week’s finale in McKinney, Texas, features Tag Ridings, No. 51 on the money list, No. 44 Justin Bolli, No.38 Cliff Kresge, No. 30 Michael Putnam, No. 21 Brad Fritsch and No. 11 Justin Hicks.
You may not know the names but you are keenly aware that all of them are playing for their jobs next year. The new system may be a better way to dole out Tour cards, but it’s hard to imagine how it’s more entertaining.
Tweet of the week: @VijaySinghGolf “Been home for two days now, it feels good to not have to leave again for a while #relaxsingh”
Count that as a hash tag Cut Line never thought he’d see.
Warning signs. As a general rule, our sports heroes disappoint.
It’s become the status quo in recent years that if an athletic accomplishment seemed too good to be true, it normally was. From Alex Rodriguez to Barry Bonds and now Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles this week following the release of an exhaustive report detailing an amazingly sophisticated doping program.
But for Cut Line that cynical catch-all almost always leads back to Tiger Woods, who likely pushed the Tour to begin testing for performance-enhancing drugs in 2008 and was asked about Armstrong this week in Asia.
“I know we don't do any blood work like some of the other sports do. Right now it's just urine samples, but that's certainly a positive step in the right direction to try and validate our sport,” he said. “This is a sport where we turn ourselves in on mistakes . . . that's one of the neat things about our great game, and I think with the testing, it's only enhanced that respectability throughout all of sport.”
No, Woods is not perfect, but on this he seems to be the moral exception to the deeply disturbing rule.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Follow the money? Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III doesn’t sidestep trouble this deftly, but then Rory McIlroy is becoming adept at avoiding landmines.
Last week in Asia it wasn’t the continued drama over who he will play for at the 2016 Olympic Games. Instead, the issue du jour for the Ulsterman is whether he plans to bolt Titleist for Nike Golf.
Numerous reports suggest the two-time major champion is poised to sign a 10-year deal with the swoosh worth $250 million at the end of the year, and by the looks of the endorsement landscape it appears Nike Golf is clearing “salary cap” space for such a deal. Although it’s worth noting that sources familiar with McIlroy’s contract with Titleist tell Cut Line he still has multiple years remaining on his current equipment deal.
Market value being the ultimate arbiter, McIlroy deserves whatever mega-deal his management team can conjure up. But this is delicate ground. The game’s historical footnotes are filled with players who made ultimately harmful equipment decisions based on money and not competitive necessity.
As one Tour type told Cut Line, “He needs to ask himself if this is best for his game? Maybe it is, but that has to be the ultimate reason, not the money.”
Daly edition. Maybe it’s time to place a moratorium on John Daly items and simply accept the fact that he is the embodiment of the self-entitled athlete, but the big man makes it too easy sometimes.
Daly told The Associated Press last week that he plans to focus on the European Tour in 2013, “I have no goals (on the PGA Tour) because I don't get in anything. Everyone turned me down on the West Coast.”
That’s right, Daly plans to play the European Tour because tournament directors on the West Coast didn’t give him sponsor exemptions. Never mind that he hasn’t finished inside the top 125 in earnings since 2005 and yet has refused to play Q-School and try to earn his card the old fashion way.
Of course he did say he would play next year’s finals series, a four-event playoff-like format that will combine the top players from the Web.com Tour and Nos. 126 to 200 in PGA Tour earnings, “If I was exempt.”
The only way for Daly to be exempt into the finals series, however, is via sponsor exemptions, which he doesn’t seem to be getting enough of, or playing this year’s Q-School, which he’s not doing.
Mark this as reason No. 346 why Cut Line already misses the old Q-School.