NORTON, Mass. – Golf finally has an answer for that age-old question: If a PGA Tour player misses his pro-am tee time would anyone hear about it? The answer, at least if you’re Jim Furyk and you have Phil Mickelson as your champion, is a resounding yes.
Pro-am-gate reached a crescendo this week, interrupted only by Colin Montgomerie’s curious captain’s picks and a hurricane named Earl. And the Tour was worried about the start of football season overshadowing its playoffs.
Playoff volatility. Six guys played well at The Barclays and moved into the top 100 and into Boston for the second postseason event. Conversely, six guys meat-handed their way out of a TPC Boston tee time. If that doesn’t scream playoffs, we’re not sure what would.
Although the playoff experiment still seems to be a work in progress, the volatility the Tour tinkered so hard to achieve has created the desired movement, that is to say two-way traffic.
In fact, one could argue that there is not enough volatility. Consider Tiger Woods began the playoffs 112th on the points list, finished tied for 12th at The Barclays to move on to Boston and likely needs to finish better than 57th this week to make it to the BMW Championship. For a Tour player, any Tour player, that’s not exactly do-or-die time.
U.S. Amateurs. On Sunday Peter Uihlein won this year’s U.S. Amateur, former champion Matt Kuchar hoisted a 7-iron to inches in a playoff at Ridgewood and the most important hardware of his career and Edoardo Molinari blindsided a field in Scotland, to say nothing of Monty’s wildcard selection party.
Jack Nicklaus often counts his two U.S. Amateur titles among his Grand Slam accomplishments. Sunday was certainly a major day for U.S. Amateur champions past, present and future.
Tweet of the Week. @stewartcink “Weather must be deteriorating at TPC Boston now. I’m pretty sure I just saw (Weather Channel reporter) Jim Cantore by the range.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Phil Mickelson. Tiger Woods may still be the world No. 1 and the game’s alpha male, but Lefty has become the Tour’s E.F. Hutton, and when he spoke out against the pro-am rule that sent Jim Furyk packing from The Barclays Camp Ponte Vedra Beach listened.
But when Mickelson bailed from this week’s pro-am under a provision that gives top players two get-out-of-a-pro am cards it just seemed like overkill.
Perhaps Lefty had a legitimate reason to miss Thursday’s outing, the second time this year he’s used the provision, but it just seems like he was trying to make a point that had already been made.
European Tour. Competitive integrity has become the new buzz word on Tour these days and the decision to announce Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie’s three wildcard picks just as things were getting interesting at The Barclays smacks of indifference, or worse, petty politics.
Luke Donald, who landed one of the coveted picks, charged out with a 28 on Ridgewood’s front nine, learned he’d gotten Monty’s nod at the turn and proceeded to bogey his next two holes and finished with a 40.
Paul Casey figured he’d gotten passed over when he saw Padraig Harrington’s wife give the Irishman a thumbs up and struggled to keep his emotions in check.
The announcement could have waited until the day after the final round like they do on this side of the pond. It’s the right thing to do, if not for the PGA Tour than for Europe’s own players.
Nationwide. The insurance giant has been a good corporate partner for the Tour for nearly a decade and maybe it was time to move on and leave sponsorship of the Tour’s secondary circuit to someone else.
It’s just that the move this week has the feel of a jilted prom date when combined with Nationwide’s new commitment to the Memorial tournament.
“We’ve been very, very happy over the last eight years with the Nationwide Tour, but when we had the opportunity to step up and become sponsor of the Memorial it was too good to pass up,” said Jim Lyski, Nationwide’s chief marketing officer. “When you look at that and the inventory we have in golf you reach a point of diminishing returns if you just keep adding and adding.”
Our gut tells us the 200 or so guys who play the Nationwide Tour are about to learn a thing or two about diminishing returns.
PGA Tour. Nothing happens fast in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., not rounds at TPC Sawgrass, not traffic on A1A and certainly not decisions within the circuit’s halls of power. All of which made last week’s real-time 180 on the pro-am rule that cost Furyk his start at The Barclays curious.
In six years, only seven players have been disqualified for missing their pro-am tee time and it happened just once this year (Furyk), which means the problem was neither chronic nor pressing.
Even Woods, who normally avoids controversial Tour issues, suggested the move was premature, while others were stunned.
“I’m embarrassed the commissioner waffled so easily on the rule that he convinced the (Player Advisory Council) and the player directors was so desperately needed,” one veteran member of the PAC said.
Colin Montgomerie. Some suggested Monty could throw three darts at a board and come away with a threesome of fine captain’s picks, and yet somehow his selections just seemed wrong.
Harrington and Donald certainly deserved consideration, but when the ninth-, now eighth-, ranked player in the world (Paul Casey) and another who has won two marquee PGA Tour events this year (Justin Rose) will be watching the matches from the sidelines something is wrong.
Even Paul Azinger, Captain America who knows a thing or two about wildcard picks, knows that dog won’t hunt. “Shocking, Monty leaves Rose and Casey off team for arguably third-best Englishman to not qualify,” he Tweeted.