Cut Line: Rors returns just in time


There is no cut this week at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge or the Nedbank Golf Challenge, but between Rory McIlroy’s late-season heroics in Oz and the ongoing legal dust-up between the PGA Tour and Vijay Singh, Cut Line has more than enough material to fill in the blanks.

Made Cut

More “Rors.” Like clockwork the media has detailed every one of Rory McIlroy’s missteps this season, both on and off the course, and perhaps for good reason.

Signing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike was always going to bring scrutiny, and his continued issues with his former management firm, the second agent he’s dismissed in his young career, is concerning.

Fair play, however, demands the critics give credit where it is due, and the Northern Irishman’s victory last week at the Australian Open is an unmistakable sign of progress. Although the Open field was not the deepest, McIlroy out-dueled perhaps the hottest player on the planet, Adam Scott, to claim his first title of 2013.

McIlroy’s 2013 campaign was disappointing, but a little perspective can be helpful. The Ulsterman remained virtually the same in nearly every major statistical category in 2013 compared to ’12 with one exception – strokes gained putting.

And the cavernous difference between seasons? His average was .196 strokes higher in that category in ’13 compared to the previous season. Or, put another way, he was .196 strokes on the wrong side of the thin green line.

Doing right by rookies. Although it took some time, the PGA Tour finally got around to filling in a hole that had affected the Rookie of the Year Award for some time.

Starting with the 2013-14 season, the circuit will define a rookie season as the year when a player participates in 10 or more events as a member or finishes in the top 125 as a member on the money list.

New to 2013-14, however, is a stipulation that would remove a player from rookie-of-the-year consideration if he played in more than seven events on Tour as a pro in any prior season.

Call it the Trevor Immelman addendum. In 2006, the South African won the Rookie of the Year Award having played 14 times on Tour in ’05 and 12 times in ’04 and ’03. While Immelman’s 2006 season was impressive - he won the Western Open and finished runner-up on two other occasions - he was, by most definitions, a Tour veteran.

Still, that it took a half-dozen years to close this loophole is baffling. And you thought slow play was an issue only between the ropes.

Tweet of the week:

@JasonDufner “Since @TigerWoods is not being nice, I need your bag @PGA_JohnDaly that has the TV on it for next Saturday.”

The Duf was concerned that he would miss his beloved Auburn Tigers playing Missouri in the SEC Championship game on Saturday. The PGA champion had jokingly “petitioned” Woods, the host for this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, to play 36 holes on Thursday and Friday so he wouldn’t miss the game. According to Dufner, the host was less than accommodating. He must still be upset over Stanford’s loss to USC.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

So long to Sherwood. This week’s World Challenge at tony Sherwood Country Club will be the last, ending a 13-year run for Woods that was his only competitive tie to his Los Angeles childhood.

The event will move to Isleworth near Orlando, Fla., in 2014 and reports suggest it will head to the Bahamas after that, a move that seems to have been prompted more by financial realities than geographic sentimentality.

“It was just a lot of factors, but certainly title sponsorship is a key part of it,” explained Greg McLaughlin, president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation. “So definitively, if we had someone who said, ‘You have to stay here,’ then we’d stay here. But that wasn’t the case.”

Sponsorship realities aside, this week’s World Challenge will likely be Woods’ last L.A. area start for some time and the host, who grew up in nearby Cypress, Calif., admitted this would be an “emotional” Sunday.

Unless caddie Joe LaCava can talk his boss into playing the Northern Trust Open or the powers that be at the PGA of America or U.S. Golf Association decide to bring a major back to the area, Sunday may be Woods’ competitive swan song from the City of Angels.

Missed Cut

Spike-mark gate. The unsavory episode involving Simon Dyson and the infamous tapping down of a spike mark during the BMW Masters in October came to a confusing conclusion this week.

The European Tour’s disciplinary panel ruled “that act was committed by him in knowledge of the rule forbidding such act.”

Yet a few paragraphs later the panel stated that Dyson’s “conduct on the occasion in question involved a momentary aberration on his part, not a premeditated act of cheating.”

It all added up to a two-month suspension that will be deferred for 18 months as long as he avoids another rules snafu. If he weathers his 18 months of probation the suspension will be dropped.

Not for nothing, but Dyson should be more flummoxed by a £30,000 fine, and £7,500 in administration fees, the panel slapped on him. For £37,500 one would have expected something a little more definitive.

Testy times. While attorneys for Vijay Singh and the PGA Tour await a New York judge’s ruling on the circuit’s motion to dismiss the Fijian’s lawsuit, the stakes were elevated last week as the sides settled in for what promises to be a prolonged discovery clash.

Singh’s lawyers, in their attempts to show the Tour’s anti-doping policy is arbitrary, have requested a litany of documents – including anything related to a “possible or actual violation of the program” by five specific players.

On Tuesday, the Tour fired back.

“These individuals have nothing to do with this litigation,” the Tour’s attorney Jeffrey Mishkin wrote in a brief that was filed on Dec. 2. “Singh cannot and should not be permitted, in the guise of discovery, to engage in a fishing expedition that risks further harm to the interests of these and other third-party golfers.”

It seems about right that one of the most contentious years in golf would end with even more vitriol.