Cut Line: Paying for Tiger and Phil


In this week’s lineup, Dottie Pepper gets a much-deserved second chance for Solheim Cup glory, appearance fees on the PGA Tour endure a second look and the math and magic of the world golf ranking screams for a second opinion.

Made Cut

A dash of Pepper. It was a momentary lapse into what she thought was a closed microphone that led to five years of regret for Dottie Pepper, but on Wednesday U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon took the high road and named Pepper, one of America’s most fiery competitors, an assistant captain for next year’s matches.

Pepper had been on the Solheim Cup persona-non-grata list since she referred to the U.S. side during the 2007 matches as “choking, freaking dogs.” The comment rightfully rankled many U.S. players and Pepper, once considered a shoo-in captain, was cut out of the event.

On Wednesday, an emotional Pepper admitted that she has regretted the comment every day for five years.

“I was delighted for Dottie,” Annika Sorenstam said on Thursday’s “Morning Drive.” “She is such a large part of the Solheim Cup and she brings a lot of intensity.”

High praise considering that Sorenstam once taped a picture of Pepper onto a punching bag during one particularly heated Solheim Cup.

Tweet of the day: @HunterMahan “(Steve) Nash to (the Los Angeles) Lakers? Oh happy day! I loved Canadians before this day, now I want dual citizenship!”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Appearances. Despite reports to the contrary, the PGA Tour doesn’t allow appearance fees, but as tournament officials have become more savvy the practice of doling out back-door appearance fees has become common.

The theory is simple: you don’t buy a pair of Super Bowl tickets for $5,000, you buy an envelope for $5,000 that just happens to have two tickets in it. Word on the practice range this week is that both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson received “show up” money for this week’s Greenbrier Classic. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is that some have used the occasion to suggest it may be time to open Tour tee sheets up to the highest bidder.

The problem with appearance fees, either overt or otherwise, is the impact they have on events that can’t or won’t sign big checks for big names. Next week’s John Deere Classic, for example, is a small-market stop that soldiers on without the occasional cameo from Woods or Mickelson.

If appearance fees were to become commonplace on Tour boutique events like the John Deere would likely move from being a success story to an endangered species.

Blind Justice. Greenbrier owner Jim Justice has, by all accounts, dusted off The Greenbrier resort, and the Old White TPC, and recreated an American gem, but the ambitious owner may have overstepped this week when he told that he has his sights set on hosting a U.S. Open.

“We have just barely got into the infancy of having dialogue in regard to the U.S. Open,” Justice said. “I’ve put out some feelers with others toward the USGA, but I have not had any direct communication whatsoever.”

While crowds this week have been impressive, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is closer to the middle of nowhere than a major metropolitan market and this is, after all, the same course that yielded a 59 to Stuart Appleby just two years ago.

Besides, there would be something inherently icky about a course with a “TPC” in its title hosting the national championship.

Turkey and Tiger. The idea is high-minded enough: bring together eight of the world’s top players for a showcase event in Turkey, which will use the event to help woo the 2020 Olympic summer games.

The event, which will be sponsored by Turkish Airways and feature a $5.3 million purse, is the work of European uber-agent Chubby Chandler with International Sports Management and, according to initial reports, would include the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

Although the event is heavy with upside, Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg said the reports were a tad preliminary and that details remain to be worked out, and Chandler admitted this week on “Morning Drive” that the event has created a bit of a scheduling “mess” this year.

This year’s event, which will feature a match-play format and award $1.5 million to the winner, will be played nine days after the Ryder Cup, but Chandler was confident a better date could be found.

Admittedly the event has found a balance between high-minded and high-dollar, but considering the logistics of an already crowded golf schedule it could quickly go from being a solution for Turkey to a problem for professional golf.

Missed Cut

Diamond roughed up. News last week that Barclays CEO Bob Diamond has stepped down amid a flurry of fines and accusations that the financial giant rigged an important interest-rate benchmark sent ripples of concern through the golf world.

Barclays has been a key player in the game for some time and currently sponsors the first FedEx Cup playoff event on the PGA Tour, an event on the European Tour and Phil Mickelson.

On Wednesday, Mickelson said the resignation would not impact his endorsement agreement with Barclays and he told one Golf Channel insider that he felt Diamond was being made a “scapegoat” for the scandal that surfaced four years ago.

“Personally I’m crushed because I have really enjoyed my time with Bob,” said Mickelson, who first signed a multiyear deal with Barclays in 2008.

Golf has established itself as a risk-free sponsorship property for some time. Too bad some of those who have subscribed to that theory haven’t been as risk-free.

Math. The world golf ranking debate is becoming as repetitive as it is ridiculous, but last week’s calculations became too much for Cut Line to ignore.

Following his victory at last week’s AT&T National, a haul that netted 48 ranking points, Woods vaulted from fourth in the ranking to . . . well, fourth. Mathematicians will explain that Woods’ lack of mobility has everything to do with the ranking’s minimum divisor (40) and his limited playing schedule over the past two years (33 events).

Fair enough, but when a player has won three out of his last seven starts and yet remains mired at No. 4 it may be time for a makeover. A 52-week ranking window may not be the answer, but it seems like a good place to start to the conversation.