Cut Line: Norman, Couples steal headlines during Tour Championship


ATLANTA – Greg Norman and Fred Couples didn’t hit a shot this week at the Tour Championship – although the former seemed to have no problem taking a few swipes in East Lake’s direction – but the icons highlight this week’s playoff edition of Cut Line as the PGA Tour inches toward a FedEx finish that may leave some pining for a formula with less madness and more math.

Made Cut

Ror-ing away. Give the 23-year-old mop head credit for once again deftly sidestepping the question of whether he will play for the United Kingdom or Ireland in the 2016 Olympics, but it was his handling of Norman’s comments that lands Rory McIlroy on the correct side of this week’s cut.

The Intimidator – as Woods jokingly called him this week – once again proved to be the coolest head in the room when asked about the Shark’s take that Woods was intimidated by him, dismissing the idea if not the legend who suggested it.

“How can I intimidate Tiger Woods? I mean, the guy’s got 75 or 70-whatever (actually 74) PGA Tour wins, 14 majors … I mean, he’s been the biggest thing ever in our sport,” McIlroy smiled. “How could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him? It’s just not possible.”

The Ulsterman has created an interesting dynamic atop the world order with his play, but it’s his refreshingly straightforward take on complicated subjects that is making him a fan favorite.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Freddie’s Hall call. Couples himself nailed it, dubbing his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame a “popularity vote,” and given the historical litmus test his record of 15 PGA Tour titles and a major (1992 Masters) would suggest Mr. Cool has it right.

In short, Boom Boom is the prom king, an agelessly iconic figure who landed his spot in the Hall because of what he meant to the game, not necessarily what he did while he was playing it.

And how Couples, who didn’t receive the required 65 percent of the vote but was the only candidate to ballot better than 50 percent (51), was given the nod before Davis Love III, a 20-time Tour winner with one major who received just 38 percent of the vote, is a sad indictment on the system.

Couples’ inclusion also opens a Pandora's Box for future classes. If 15 and one is now the standard would that mean that Craig Stadler, 13 wins and a major, is destined for a spot in the Hall? What of Mark O’Meara, 16 and two, and Jim Furyk, 16 and one, and Corey Pavin, 15 and one?

Hall of Fame voting is never perfect, but the St. Augustine, Fla., institution is in danger of becoming the Hall of Good.

No FedEx Fix in sight. On this Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was clear, although strangely misguided.

Cut Line asked the commish on Wednesday at East Lake if he was at all uncomfortable with the possibility that McIlroy could win two of four playoff events, a major and finish second at the Tour Championship and still not win the FedEx Cup.

“I don't think we're uncomfortable with that phenomenon,” Finchem said. “You can't just perform here. You have to perform or the odds are very much stacked against you if you come in seeded low. The odds are very much helping you if you come in top 5. So that part of the structure we like.”

Can’t help but wonder what McIlroy will think of the “structure” on Sunday.

A “long” debate. With a decision looming from the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews on the future of long putters Finchem was asked how the Tour would handle a potential change.

Although the commissioner seemed comfortable with how the deliberations were progressing he also stressed that he didn’t feel like a change was “imminent,” which would suggest that if the ruling bodies do alter the rules the change would not be implemented until the beginning of the next rules cycle (2016).

Finchem also said that he hadn’t had many talks with the Tour frat brothers about the potential adjustment, but that seems likely to change as we inch closer to a resolution.

“He will be getting a mouthful from the players,” one Tour type figured this week. “It could create a large and long discussion about two sets of rules (one for amateurs and one for professionals).”

Missed Cut

Shark and minnows. Greg Norman has never shied away from the occasional jab at Woods, the byproduct of an estrangement that stretches back more than a decade, but last week the Shark may have taken things a step too far.

“What I'm seeing is that Tiger's really intimidated by Rory,” Norman said. “When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never.”

Neither Woods nor McIlroy wanted much to do with the debate but it was another legend who seemed to put the row in context.

“Quiet Greg, quiet. Down boy,” Jack Nicklaus told Washington D.C.’s ESPN 980. “I think Tiger had a pretty darn good year. It’s the first time he has gotten himself back in contention at the majors . . . Tiger has a lot of wins left in him.”

The only thing that seems to intimidate the 2012 Woods is the 2000 Woods. Well that and Ray Lewis.

Tweet of the week: @DanJenkinsGD (sports writing legend Dan Jenkins) “Greg Norman says Arnold (Palmer) passed the torch to Jack (Nicklaus), Jack passed it to him, he passed it to Tiger. There’s one exchange there I don’t recall.”