Cut Line Return of the Thrill and the chill


  • Waste Management Phoenix OpenThere will be no cut, or thaw, it seems, on Friday at TPC Scottsdale, but like the festivities at the boisterous 16th hole, “Cut Line” must go on.

Among this week’s “dos” and “don’ts” is a rookie who learned the hard way not to poke a sleeping Tiger and a veteran who seems to have awoken from a long competitive slumber.

Made Cut

Phil the Thrill. Whether Phil Mickelson is prepared to emerge from his post-Masters abyss remains to be seen, but his runner-up showing last week at Torrey Pines was a good sign for Lefty and for golf.

As for those who mistook Lefty’s 72nd hole histrionics for theatrics, know that there was a method to Mickelson’s madness. “If you know how many times in a year he hits the pin it was a no-brainer,” said his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay of the duo’s decision to tend the pin from 80 yards at the last. “These guys hit flags and we’d be feeling pretty disgusted if it hit the flag and went in the soup.”

Now if Lefty had gone all Babe Ruth from 260 yards on his second shot at No. 18 on Sunday, that would have been over the top.

Featured groups. Last week the new initiative gave us a Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate reunion at Torrey Pines and fans at TPC Frost Delay, eh . .. Scottsdale were treated to Mickelson-Bubba Watson II for Rounds 1 and 2.

The move has delivered compelling matchups and increased fan interest with little push back from the Tour’s rank-and-file.

In fact, “Cut Line” would like to suggest a couple pairings we’d like to see: Ben Crane and Rory Sabbatini (because slow play jokes never get old), Woods and Brendan Steele (so the rookie can apologize in person), Watson-Martin Kaymer-Dustin Johnson (because Johnson never got his chance at last year’s PGA Championship) and Anthony Kim-Robert Allenby (so AK can beat the Aussie on a full night’s sleep).

Bend it like Bubba. Watson’s second PGA Tour victory was notable for several reasons, but not the least of which was the golf course on which he won.

Torrey Pines’ South Course, although not exactly up to 2008 U.S. Open standards, was dry and fast, which normally wouldn’t suit Watson’s roping style of play. Yet for the week the lanky left-hander ranked first in the field for greens in regulation despite hitting just half his fairways.

“His game is interesting,” said Jhonattan Vegas, who was paired with Watson on Sunday at Torrey. “But nobody said you have to play this game a certain way.”

Translation: repeatable, not pretty, wins.

Tweet of the week: @jamielovemark “Bets for (number) of holes played (Thursday) due to frost. Playing 18 holes: 35/1. Playing 9-17 holes: 12/1, playing <9: 1/1, iPad fully charged: 1/99.”

Odds the rookie resurfaces on “Cut Line’s” Tweet of the Week? Even money.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The man of Steele. As lessons go, this one was particularly harsh. But as many before Brendan Steele have realized (see Ames, Stephen, 2006 WGC-Accenture Match Play) anything having to do with Woods is going to be magnified to the extreme.

It’s little surprise then that the rookie is playing spin control after telling Sports Illustrated last Sunday at Torrey, “I don't think (Woods) gave it everything today. Once it started going in the wrong direction, I don’t think it had his full attention.”

Steele later said his comments were “twisted and misconstrued” and sent a letter of apology to Woods.

By all accounts Steele is a solid sort, which should help him weather the self-inflicted storm. As for Woods, “Cut Line” walked a few holes with the world No. 3 on Sunday and didn’t see a man in a hurry to make a flight, just a player who is adrift in the mean middle ground between a swing that works on the range but only sporadically on the golf course.

The Greatest Party on Grass. Whether you love or hate TPC Scottsdale’s raucous 16th hole, the one-off is an interesting diversion from the norm.

As one Tour veteran told us late Sunday on his way out of San Diego, “Me and TPC Scottsdale haven’t been on speaking terms the last few years.”

Think of the par-3 party as pro golf’s version of cabbage on New Year’s Day, once a year is fine, once a week would be grounds for a hunger strike.

Missed Cut

Designated dilemma. Mickelson said all one needs to know about the failed designated tournament proposal, “There isn't one. There isn't a policy.”

Although PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he was receiving positive feedback from players who are being asked to voluntarily add an event to their schedule they ordinarily wouldn’t play, Mickelson’s curt take on the voluntary “policy” spoke volumes.

Many observers have likened the proposal to revenue sharing Tour style, saying that a top player may add a wanting event but likely at the expense of a tournament they normally would have played.

What’s next, a lockout?

Official World Golf Ranking. “Cut Line” can’t pretend to understand the math or madness behind the ranking, but the two-year rolling window, aggravated by Woods’ competitive freefall, has created a curious lineup.

Current No. 1 Lee Westwood has just two worldwide wins in the last 12 months, while Martin Kaymer, who can overtake Westwood with a win this week in Qatar, has four “Ws” in the last five months, including his PGA triumph.

Top-10 finishes are fine to measure money list success, but when the debate turns to who is the world’s best at a particular moment it is about victories, particularly victories in majors, that matter. Nothing else.