Cut Line: Main characters


ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Count this Fall Series as a victory for unintended consequences, not that tournament organizers from San Martin, Calif., to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., are lamenting their good fortune.

For the first time since 2003 the season-long money race – the preferred measure of success in golf before points became all the rage a few years back – will come down to the final event. It has become a Fall Series to remember, not that many recall previous editions.

From Tiger Woods’ fall cameo last week in California to Luke Donald and Webb Simpson’s impending cash title bout, the little series that couldn’t finally delivered.

Made Cut

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Chances are Donald was going to play Disney all along, he just wanted Simpson to make the first move. Classic match play.

When Simpson, who trails Donald by $69,000 on the money list, opened with a 7-under 63 on Thursday at the McGladrey Classic, Donald’s choice was clear – if he wanted to make history and win both the PGA Tour and European Tour’s cash crowns he’d have to play Disney. Simpson followed the Englishman onto the commitment list Friday afternoon setting up a rare showdown.

Just once since 1990 has the money list lead changed hands in the final week of the season when Tom Lehman won the 1996 Tour Championship and overtook Phil Mickelson by $82,000.

It’s nothing short of windfall for the Fall Series, which has been downsized from seven events in 2007 to four this season and faces a difficult economic reality on the post-Tour Championship schedule.

“It shows the value of the Fall Series,” Disney tournament director Kevin Weickel said. Open. The six-hole playoff was solid stuff, but there is no escaping the value of a tie for 30th place. That’s where Woods finished at CordeValle, not that it mattered to the masses who trailed his every move last week.

Ratings for the broadcast were up 165 percent over last year, and even the media attention created by Sunday’s wrangle with infamous hot dog hurler Brandon Kelly was a marketing type’s perfect incident – no injuries, plenty of exposure.

The proved that even a struggling Woods can carry an event and has ignited a familiar debate.

“That’s why I’ve always been a proponent of the one-in-four rule (which would require players to participate in every Tour stop at least once every four years),” said one player at the McGladrey Classic. “Imagine if the folks at John Deere knew they were going to get Tiger once over the course of a (four-year) contract? That’d be huge.”

You won’t find anyone at Frys that would disagree.

Tweet of the week I: @LukeDonald “There was never really a decision to be made, I have a chance of making history. See you all at Disney next week. #bringiton”

Trash talk Twitter style.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Zack Miller. Although the Tour rookie faded on Friday, his opening 63 at Sea Island Resort was his first silver lining in months and exposed the assembled scribes to one of the game’s sneaky-good interviews.

When asked about a particularly solid stretch early Thursday (Nos. 13-16) which he played in 5 under, the self-deprecating stylist described his birdie at the 13th hole: “I hit to a foot, and that's right around the range where I can get it almost every time,” he deadpanned.

Miller also chronicled his time on the Korean Tour: “They provided caddies for you, and they're all women, so it was a little different. It was kind of nice. We didn't talk much, but it was actually quite enjoyable.”

Good guy that Miller, but he may be taking that “show up, shut up and keep up” thing a tad too far.

Tweet of the week: @elkpga (Steve Elkington) “Tim Finchem’s World Golf events, FedEx Cup has washed out everything great about following the Tour . . . (Player of the Year), Vardon Trophy, money winner.”

Missed Cut

Almost famous. It was over before the processed meat hit the putting surface, a surreal moment followed in short order by a quick surrender. Brandon Kelly, 31, said he was motivated to charge onto the seventh green at CordeValle last Sunday and toss a hot dog in Woods’ direction because of the movie “Drive.” Kelly may have missed the point of that movie.

Kelly was quickly carted off by authorities who charged the California resident with a misdemeanor because of the lack of alcohol involved, an aggravating element by any measure in Cut Line’s book.

It’s the lack of alcohol, and presence of premeditation, that concerns your correspondent. A drunken lapse we can accept, an elaborate scheme is concerning. Today it’s a hot dog, tomorrow you’re dealing with flying Italian sausages and assorted lunch meats. Where does it all end?

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic II. Sponsor exemptions, particularly for late-season events, are delicate, and often dubious, decisions. Tournament officials must balance the competing interest of the player with the needs of the tournament. However, Disney’s choice to grant Tom Lehman a freebie into next week’s finale is as senseless as it is surprising.

Although one of the game’s most well-spoken and engaging pros, Lehman is a part-time PGA Tour player at best having participated in just four events this season as he makes his way on the Champions Tour.

In Disney’s defense Lehman is more of an attraction than an Adam Hardwin or Bud Cauley, a pair of up and comers attempting to play their way onto the Tour, or any number of regulars vying to stay inside the top 125, but it’s not exactly a bulletproof choice when it comes to the competitive integrity of an event.

Sponsors spend a lot of money for those exemptions, we just wish they spent more time thinking about who they give them to.