Cut Line: Playoff punches


To hear the chorus of discontent from PGA Tour types, one would think Rees Jones is to blame for everything from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 to the Cubs prolonged pennant curse. Meanwhile, the long putter was dubbed by a member of American golf royalty as the game’s real toxic asset.

In short, it was a tough week for scapegoats or public enemies, depending on one’s point of view.

Made Cut

A senior moment. No, not Vinny Giles’ gloves-off take on long putters - although lost in the amateur legend’s claim that the U.S. Golf Association is “gutless” for allowing long putters - is his own use of the offending implement.

Instead we leave the last word on longer-than-standard-length putters to Dave Stockton Sr., who has become the game’s preeminent putting guru and a self-titled “old school guy.” Yet when asked his thoughts on long putters this week Stockton’s take was surprisingly measured and refreshingly realistic.

“The ball is in the USGA’s court, they can’t do anything. They can’t scale back now. You can’t say Freddie (Couples) we don’t want you to use it anymore, Phil (Mickelson) we don’t want you to use it anymore,” Stockton said. “It’s not going to putt it for you, you still have to do it right.”

A surprisingly calm head amid all the hyperbole.

Unintended consequences. In this Russell Henley is a victim of time and space. When the University of Georgia senior won the Nationwide Tour’s Stadion Classic in May he likely wasn’t lamenting his bad timing. But when his Georgia teammate Harris English followed him to the winner’s circle in July at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational the clerical truth began sinking in.

When English turned pro last week after the Walker Cup he was able to accept full membership on the secondary circuit since his 60-day window to do so had not lapsed. Henley, however, was beyond his 60-day window and must wait until the 2012 season to take up Nationwide Tour membership.

Give credit to Nationwide Tour officials, who are currently reviewing the rule.

“The Policy Board is entertaining the idea of taking the 60-day window through the entire year,” Nationwide Tour tournament director Jim Duncan said. “It’s an odd situation when you have two amateurs, from the same team, win.”

It ‘s worth noting that in this era of increased scrutiny on college athletics that it would be golf trumpeting fewer restrictions and more common sense.

Tweet of the Week: @PaulAzinger “95 (percent) of Tour players loved Cog Hill. Now a high percentage don’t. Anyone can make a course harder. Not everyone can make it harder and better. #itsworse”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Playoff particulars. The Tour wanted to entice the top of the marquee to play more in the fall. Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., wanted the Tour Championship to mean something. And finally the circuit’s suits wanted to cut back on its losing head-to-head battle with football. Check, check and check.

But if the game’s fringe fans were looking for a reason to tune out the playoffs it may be fast approaching. Three of the current top 10 players on the FedEx Cup points list are winless in 2011, creating the very real possibility that this year’s cup champion will cash the $10 million lottery ticket without having crashed the winner’s circle this season.

It could have happened last year, when Luke Donald finished third on the points list and Paul Casey was sixth, both without a “W” in 2010.

The current points system is widely considered an improvement over previous editions, but until the circuit’s mathematicians find a way to close the winless loophole the playoffs are one bad fall away from an untidy finish.

Trouble in paradise. It is a measure of how important the season-opening event is to Mark Rolfing that when pressed by “Cut Line” last week for details of his split with the event the Kapalua resident simply shrugged, “It’ll all work out.”

Perhaps, but organizers of the winner’s-only event don’t have a lot of time to make it work out for the 2012 event, which is why the PGA Tour’s Championship Management division will step in to run the tournament, at least in the short term.

“It is a lengthy application process where the IRS gets your not-for-profit status and that will take us several months,” Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations, said last week.

“As we contemplated the best approach to the 2012 tournament we thought we had to re-evaluate our earlier thought of hiring an executive director and pursuing what I would call the standard PGA Tour-tournament model.”

There was a sliver of good news last week. Pazder said the Tour is considering increasing the number of events non-members can play, which may persuade players like Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke to make the trip to Hawaii for the season opener.

Well, that, and a limited-field, no-cut event in paradise with a $5.6 million purse.

Missed Cut

Hall pass. This year’s Hall of Fame ballot came out last week with a deep field that included Tony Lema, Jug McSpaden, Don January and . . . Phil Mickelson. Last we checked Lefty was still looking for answers with a belly putter, not keepsakes to fill his HoF locker in St. Augustine, Fla.

Ditto for Davis Love III, who thought long and hard about taking the captain’s job for next year’s Ryder Cup because he still wants to play on a team, and Retief Goosen, one of 10 players on the international ballot and currently the 30th-ranked in the world.

There’s little doubt Mickelson - and probably Love and Goosen - is a lock for the Hall of Fame, but what’s the rush? Particularly when there are equally deserving candidates, like Stockton and Ken Venturi, who may get overlooked on the needlessly crowded ballot.

This is simple: potential Hall of Famers go on the ballot the first year after they play fewer than 15 PGA Tour events or when they turn 55 years old, whichever comes first. If you don’t qualify for the early-bird special at Denny’s, you shouldn’t qualify for the Hall of Fame.

September swoons. “What do you want?” barked Rees Jones, the normally affable architect turned understandably defensive by a storm not entirely of his own making.

Normally it’s the Cubs breaking hearts this time of year in the Second City and one man hasn’t shouldered this much collective hatred in Chicago-land since Steve Bartman reached over the fence at Wrigley Field.

Sure Jones’ nip/tuck of Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course has been widely panned by the Tour’s rank-and-field and even Steve Stricker, whose next ugly word will be his first, couldn’t avoid the roasting.

“The redo is not conducive to our tournament there. It was a little severe,” Stricker said. “It’s playable, but a little tricked up and goofy in spots. I feel real bad for the Jemsek family (owners of the course). They stuck a lot of money into (the renovation), and they’re great people. I liked it before, but the players just don’t like it. The redo isn’t good. It’s sad for the Jemsek family.”

“Cut Line,” however, can’t help but think that Jones and his handiwork at Cog Hill have become a diversion from the real problem in Chicago. The Tour is scheduled to move the BMW Championship to Indiana next year and Denver in 2014 and there is currently no official Chicago-area venue.

It’s also worth pointing out it was the Tour that relocated the BMW from its traditional July date, a much more popular spot on the Chicago sports calendar, and the Jemsek family that asked Jones to make a monster worthy of hosting a U.S. Open.

Maybe Jones went over the top at Cog Hill, but he didn’t trade away the Cubs’ bullpen, the Bears’ backfield or Chicago’s Tour stop.