CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The storm that halted play on Friday at Quail Hollow provided an apropos backdrop on a somber day that was dominated by news that Seve Ballesteros had fallen behind in his match against a brain tumor.
Saturday came the news of Ballesteros' death at age 54. Even before his passing, everything else seemed inconsequential. It is just golf, after all.
Seve Ballesteros. The resume misses the point. The five major championships don’t begin to illustrate Ballesteros’ swashbuckling drive and his Ryder Cup record rings hollow when one considers what he meant to the biennial matches.
All total Ballesteros influenced an entire generation and then some with a flair that no one, save Arnold Palmer, could rival, and the news prior to his death that he had suffered “a severe deterioration” in his condition 2 1/2 years after he had multiple surgeries to remove a cancerous brain tumor hit the European contingent at Quail Hollow particularly hard.
“He was so nice to me,” an emotional Casey said. “He was my idol. I don’t know, it just makes me sad.”
Sergio Garcia, a protégé of the fellow Spaniard, was equally distraught. “He’s fought for so long. It’s a tough illness. We’ll see,” he said before his second-round tee time.
To Europeans, and particularly Spaniards, Ballesteros is their Jordan and Palmer, a larger than life personality that has given much more than he took.
Tiger Woods. Two and a half hours before Friday’s 5 p.m. (ET) deadline the circuit’s most high-profile Achilles had mended enough for the one-time champion to commit to next week’s Players Championship.
A healthy star is always good news, particularly for a tournament that was already sans a world No. 1 (Lee Westwood) and possibly a defending champion (Tim Clark, who withdrew from this week’s Wells Fargo Championship with an ailing elbow).
Whether Woods, who is one start short from being 0-for-a decade at the “fifth major,” is healthy enough to get off the TPC Sawgrass schneid remains to be seen. On Friday at Quail Hollow his swing coach Sean Foley confirmed that he has not worked with Woods since the Masters and that “as far as I know” he’s still wearing a protective boot on his left foot.
Woods may well be day-to-day, but is at least fit enough to give it go – which is good for golf, and even better for Woods.
U.S. Golf Association/Royal & Ancient Golf Club. Perhaps golf’s ruling bodies have become too reactionary for some, but for a book with more arcane rules than a chainsaw owner’s manual the new sensitivities to old issues is refreshing.
Late Sunday afternoon Webb Simpson was penalized a stroke on the 15th hole at TPC Louisiana when his ball moved after he had grounded his putter. Simpson finished 72 holes tied with Bubba Watson and lost on the third playoff hole.
A little more than 12 hours later Tom O’Toole, the chairman of the USGA’s championship committee, announced the association, along with the R&A, have made the rule (18-2b) a “point of discussion” since at least 2004.
For an organization that still believes in an 18-hole Monday playoff to decide a worthy champion, that’s progress.
Tweet of the week: @geoffogilvy: “Have been in a hyperbaric chamber (the) last two days and I must say I do feel very oxygenated.”
Another bit of good news for the folks at TPC Sawgrass.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Quail Hollow. The jewel of the Tour’s spring regular-season schedule has it all. A revered, or maybe it’s feared, golf course, loads of player amenities and a locker room full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Everything, that is, except a concrete future beyond 2014.
The PGA of America has tabbed Quail Hollow as the site of the 2017 PGA Championship, a move long in the making, and the tournament’s contract with Wells Fargo expires after the 2014 event.
There are other Charlotte-area options, but once you’ve played at Wrigley Field a tilt at U.S. Cellular Field just doesn’t have the same ring. Club president Johnny Harris created a bonafide mid-major at Quail Hollow. Just hope he doesn’t trade it in permanently for a semi-regular proper major.
PGA Tour. Whether Rory Sabbatini will be suspended for misbehaving last week in New Orleans, as reported by the Associated Press earlier this week, will likely never be known, and that’s a problem.
It’s time for the circuit’s veil of secrecy when it comes to all things disciplinary related to end if, for no other reason, the current system doesn’t work as a true deterrent.
It’s called recidivism and when it comes to the Tour’s chronic slow play issues or Sabbatini’s habitual misbehaving the only way to curb the trend is to add a measure of public scorn. A one-line statement “Rory Sabbatini has been suspended for violating the Tour’s policy for player conduct” may not fix the problem, but it can’t hurt.
Heritage. Reports of Harbor Town’s survival appear to be greatly exaggerated.
“It's not the truth,” tournament director Steve Wilmot said of multiple reports that the Royal Bank of Canada was poised to step in and save the Lowcountry staple. “The Tour and us are both having difficulty with the matter. We continue to search for that title (sponsor).”
According to various sources there are at least three potential companies currently in negotiations to sponsor the event but there is no signature which means there is no imminent survival for one of the circuit’s most unique events.
Which poses a more esoteric question: if the Heritage isn’t worth saving then what is?
Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggardGC