This week’s stop in New Orleans marks the turn for the 2013 season, the 18th regular-season event out of 36. The eventful first half has been dominated by a surprisingly contentious debate over the use of long putters, long weather delays on the PGA Tour and a long awaited return to form for Tiger Woods.
Tiger Woods. Winning three of your first six PGA Tour starts and finishing tied for fourth at the year’s first major qualifies as a solid start, regardless of how inflated the expectations may be.
But Woods aced the first half of 2013 outside the ropes as well, going public with his first relationship since his 2010 divorce and quietly solidifying his place as one of the game’s preeminent philanthropists.
The Tiger Woods Foundation announced this week it will manage the Deutsche Bank Championship, officially making TWF president and CEO Greg McLaughlin the busiest man in golf.
The playoff stop has benefited the TWF since its inception in 2003 and becomes the third event managed by Woods’ foundation, joining July’s AT&T National and the World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif., in the fall.
“We had been involved since Day 1 and for us it was a great opportunity to build on what we had done on the charity front,” said McLaughlin, who estimates he spent 180 days on the road last year. “From Deutsche Bank’s point of view they felt the timing was right after 10 years to expand the relationship.”
The red, white and blue. Prior to Martin Laird’s victory at the Shell Houston Open, American players had swept the first 13 events of 2013 and Stacy Lewis became the first player from the U.S. to claim the top spot in the Rolex Rankings on the LPGA since 2010.
Adam Scott’s victory at the Masters has been the lone bump in the road this season for the U.S., but even at Augusta National Brandt Snedeker teed off in the final group on Sunday and Matt Kuchar and Woods both finished inside the top 10.
It would have been hard to imagine such a start last September following America’s Sunday meltdown at Medinah.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Rory McIlroy. However unrealistic the expectations may have been, the Ulsterman set the stage for disappointment when he was introduced as Nike Golf’s newest staff member in rock concert news conference in Abu Dhabi.
What followed was a missed cut in Abu Dhabi, a first-round loss at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and an ill-advised withdrawal from the Honda Classic.
McIlroy rallied with a runner-up showing at the Shell Houston Open and a steady, if not spectacular, week at Augusta National (T-25), but after the way he finished 2012 his start to 2013 is best characterized as an incomplete.
Luckily for the world No. 2, he has historically played his best golf in the second half.
Mother Nature. Golf is an outdoor game, but that harsh, cold and often wet reality was driven home this year.
From the high winds that sent the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions into a Tuesday finish to February’s snow storm at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, eight events have been impacted by inclement weather this season.
Marine layers (Torrey Pines), frost (TPC Scottsdale) and what felt like a monsoon (Bay Hill) have kept Tour meteorologists busy and players well-layered to protect themselves against the elements.
As Jim Furyk told Cut Line at the Match Play, “There is a reason we don’t play in cold weather. Follow the sun, isn’t that it?”
Due process. As Draconian as the sports world’s anti-doping policy may seem, a player is still innocent until proven guilty, which is why the protracted investigation of Vijay Singh’s apparent violation of the PGA Tour’s performance-enhancing drug policy has been largely accepted.
Lady justice may be blind, but no one ever accused the old girl of being fast.
But it’s been 13 weeks since Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray, which reportedly contains a substance that is banned by the Tour’s doping policy. Even if the process went the distance through a series of hearings and appeals, three months of legal wrangling seems a tad excessive.
This week a Tour official told GolfChannel.com that no decision has been reached in the case, and it may be time to consider the possibility that Singh will not be found in violation of the circuit’s anti-doping policy. Not that we will ever know if that’s the case, the Tour doesn’t report non-violations.
Tweet of the week: @JasonDufner “What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing. #dufnering”
Unfortunately for Dufner, the viral buzz caused by “Dufnering” has been the lone highlight of a surprisingly inconsistent year.
Cooperation. Political gridlock came to golf in the outward loop of the 2013 season.
It’s become clear the USGA and R&A got more than they bargained for when they opened the floor for public comment regarding a proposed rule to ban anchoring. In chorus, the PGA Tour and PGA of America came out against the ban and bifurcation went from being a solid Scrabble answer to a real possibility.
“Bifurcation seems destined if (the proposed ban) is implemented,” PGA president Ted Bishop wrote in a column in March. “It has become one of the most divisive issues that modern-day golf has seen.”
R&A chief executive Peter Dawson fired back this week, “I'm disappointed at the way that campaign was conducted. It put rule-making on to the negotiating table. People have taken positions that they will now have to back off from or maintain. The negotiating table is no place for rule-making. Obviously, feelings are strong. We shall have to see where it goes.”
Differences of opinion on such a polarizing issue were to be expected, but it seems Dawson was only interested in supportive comments.