Cut Line: PGA Tour removes fun, but keeps secrecy

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With the lines blurred between split-calendar schedules and overlapping seasons it’s encouraging to see the world’s top players back in action this week in Abu Dhabi and Hawaii. To mark the occasion, consider this the “opening day” edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

Now boarding. What in the world was written on that boarding pass?

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy revealed this week that, like previous seasons, he penned his objectives for 2015 on the back of his boarding pass en route to his season debut in Abu Dhabi.

Whatever it was that McIlroy wrote it seemed to work following opening rounds of 67-66 to move within two strokes of the lead along with his first hole-in-one in competition as a professional on Friday.

“I haven’t kept those boarding cards – once I don’t need them anymore, they are just discarded. It’s funny: The numbers of the seats have gradually gotten less and less … 13B, 12A, it’s been nice. And yes, this one in my back pocket is 1A. One day I won’t need a boarding pass – that’s the ultimate,” McIlroy smiled.

Interestingly, Cut Line has a similar tradition, although for the last 20 years we’ve had vastly different objectives. Our goal is to actually see what seat 1A looks like.

Latin flair. This week’s Latin America Amateur Championship is the kickoff to what promises to be an eventful time for golf in the region leading up to next year’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

The winner of this week’s event in Argentina will receive an invitation to play in the Masters and the reach of Augusta National was evident when club chairman Billy Payne arrived in his green jacket.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to this year’s Masters and Payne, along with R&A chairman Wilson Sibbett, were asked when Tiger Woods would win major No. 15? Predictably, Sibbett suggested the former world No. 1’s history on the Old Course, which will host the Open Championship this year, would make St. Andrews the obvious choice.

Payne had another idea.

“Well, we happen to be the next major that's competed, so I'll vote for the Masters,” he smiled.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Casey in point. In an interview with GolfChannel.com last year, Paul Casey became emotional when asked what the Ryder Cup meant to the Englishman.

It’s a sign of the times that Casey announced this week he had given up his European Tour membership, and with it his chance to play the Ryder Cup.

“It's a very tough decision. For as long as I've been professional I've been a member of the European Tour,” Casey said on Thursday at the Sony Open.

“I've been trying to play both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, and some years I've done it brilliantly, and other years I've failed miserably ... not being in the top 50 (in the Official World Golf Ranking) is really difficult to play both tours.”

When practicality trumps passion there’s something wrong with the system.

Tweet of the week:

 

Still locking down that 1st alternate spot, but just got some great advice from Tonya Harding on how to best deal with the situation.

— Steve Wheatcroft (@wheatiePGA) January 14, 2015

 

Wheatcroft would land a spot in the Sony Open, and open with a 2-under 68, and, thankfully, no professionals were injured in the making of this item.

Missed Cut

NFL (No Fun League). In what we can only assume is a continuing effort to rid the circuit of all frivolity, the PGA Tour announced this past week that players were no longer allowed to throw items into the crowd adjacent TPC Scottsdale’s raucous 16th hole at the upcoming Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“For fan safety reasons, players and caddies are prohibited from throwing, kicking, or otherwise propelling items into the crowd on the 16th hole,” the Tour-issued notice read.

While we have to assume running with scissors is already verboten by Tour regs, there are some other “risky” traditions the Tour should consider outlawing, including the caddie contest on Wednesday at TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole (have you seen some of these caddie’s swings?), the firing of the canon to begin the week at the RBC Heritage (that is unless the defending champion is experienced with that kind of firepower, like, say ... Boo Weekley) and the famous milkshakes at the Memorial (the Buckeye option is estimated to have 1 gagillion calories).

The Tour nixed the caddie races at TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole a few years ago, but if the suits in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., are serious about replacing the delirium with decorum they may want to consider toning down the sale of adult beverages.

Just a thought.

Need to know. National security secrets aren’t guarded as closely as many elements of the Tour’s anti-doping program.

This fact was magnified this week when the circuit announced that Web.com Tour player Bhavik Patel had been suspended for a year for violating the Tour’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

“In an effort to overcome an injury, I made a lapse of judgment. I regret my decision but have learned from the experience and look forward to returning to competition,” Patel said in a statement.

What seems certain is that Patel is the first bona fide player to run afoul of the anti-doping policy. Although Doug Barron was the first player suspend for violating the program in 2009 he was later granted a therapeutic use exemption for at least one of the substances that caused his suspension.

What we don’t know is what substance caused Patel’s violation. Unlike most other major sports leagues, and the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Tour doesn’t release that information.

The circuit’s original anti-doping manual called for the release of the substance that caused the violation, but the Tour removed that provision from the policy the next year.

When it comes to testing the Tour values secrecy over sunshine.