Cut Line: Singh, Paddy part of bizarre week


Vijay Singh was cleared to play by the PGA Tour’s anti-doping lords, but decided to withdraw from the Wells Fargo Championship; Padraig Harrington doesn’t approve of  long putters, but used one on Thursday at Quail Hollow; and golf’s rule makers approved of Augusta National’s use of Rule 33-7 last month, but have never used the mulligan clause themselves. It’s all part of a bizarro world edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

Gratitude. This much hasn’t been made of dead grass since the 2004 Shinnecock Hills Open.

A total of eight players withdrew from this week’s Wells Fargo Championship following Friday’s commitment deadline. Perhaps all of those early exits were injury related (Vijay Singh, sore back; Dustin Johnson, irritated left wrist; etc.), but the perception up and down the Quail Hollow Club practice tee this week was that they didn’t want to putt on the course’s less-than-perfect greens.

To be sure, the conditions at Quail Hollow are not what players have come to expect at what qualifies as a bono fide mid-major, but in fairness the course begins a major overhaul on Monday to begin preparations for the 2017 PGA Championship and some moving pains were inevitable.

“This tournament does everything as well as you can do it, whether it's for the fans, whether it's for the players, the media, everything is so good,” Phil Mickelson said. “I hate to see one off-year the tournament take a beating, because this place has meant a lot to the Tour because it's made everybody else compete with this tournament.”

And before we declare the Charlotte gem a goat track, consider that the layout ranked 14th on Tour last year in putting average (1.800). Thursday’s average at the Wells Fargo was 1.844.

There may be greener grass, but not many tournaments that are better than the Wells Fargo.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

PGA Tour. Backed into a corner by a suddenly vague testing agency and faced with the unenviable option of suspending a Hall of Famer based on a dubious doping violation Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., played the only hand they had.

The Tour’s decision not to sanction Vijay Singh – who admitted in January to taking a supplement that contained a banned substance (IGF-1) – may leave everyone in search of a shower, but after the World Anti-Doping Agency did an 11th hour head fake it was the lesser of various evils.

The larger concern, however, is the cloud of uncertainty left behind by WADA’s decision. In one breath, the agency told the Tour IGF-1 is “not considered prohibited,” but went on to explain “Players should be warned that in the case of a positive test for IGF-1, or HGH, it would be considered an adverse analytical finding.”

In the world of anti-doping, mixed messages can lead to mangled legacies. And that just won’t do.

Vijay Singh. Maybe the Fijian’s back really did go south this week at Quail Hollow, but there is no escaping the fact that it did so just as the Tour announced it would not be sanctioning him for his use of the infamous deer-antler spray.

Singh doesn’t owe the media, or anyone else, an explanation or a statement regarding his bout with the circuit’s anti-doping laws, but he could certainly aid the healing process with an honest and public account of what transpired.

It seems Singh made an honest mistake and had no interest in gaining a competitive advantage through his use of the deer-antler spray, but even his own frat brothers were left with the feeling that the Tour played favorites.

“I’ve got nothing against Vijay – he’s done a lot; he’s a Hall of Famer – but you just don’t come out and admit that you used a banned substance, then Mr. Finchem and the Tour don’t punish him for it,” Tommy Gainey said Wednesday. “I’ve got a problem with that as a player. Because now it’s on the banned substance list, so there’s no gray area. Either he did or he didn’t. He admitted he did, but he got no punishment. I just think it’s going to open the door for a lot of bad things to happen.”

Maybe a media mea culpa by Singh won’t help that perception, but it can’t hurt.

Tweet of the week: @BobEstesPGA “One of the main lessons to be learned from this whole fiasco is that deer-antler spray (or even the mention of it) is not good for your back.”

Have always been a fan of Estes’ candid take on all things Tour related, but we just realized he’s a “must follow” thanks to missives like this.

Late to the party. Although Padraig Harrington’s decision to add a belly putter to his bag for this week’s stop at Quail Hollow is understandable – he ranks 96th on Tour in strokes-gained putting – the Irishman’s take on the equipment change was all at once enlightening and confusing.

“The R&A and USGA support the Rules of Golf, and (anchoring) is well within the rules,” Harrington said. “I think (anchoring) is bad for the game of golf. But if something’s going to help me for the next 3 ½ years, I’m going to use it. It’s the same as the box grooves. It’s hurt me deeply having the box grooves banned. I knew it wasn’t good for my game, but it was for the good of the game.”

Of course, that he opened with an 80 on Day 1 at Quail Hollow and had 32 putts anecdotally suggests Paddy’s belly putter may not survive 3 ½ years.

Missed Cut

After further review. Tiger Woods’ incorrect drop and the curious decision that led Augusta National to forgo his disqualification at last month’s Masters continues to generate reaction and headlines.

On Wednesday, the USGA and R&A supported the decision and issued a joint statement on the issue.

“Given the unusual combination of facts – as well as the fact that nothing in the existing rules or decisions specifically addressed such circumstances of simultaneous competitor error and committee error – the committee reasonably exercised its discretion under Rule 33-7 to waive the penalty of disqualification,' the statement read in part.

While it is encouraging to see golf’s power brokers agree on, well  . . . anything these days, it is curious that the decision came a full 19 days after the offending drop by Woods. It also should be pointed out this is not the “joint statement” we were expecting from the USGA and R&A. #Anchoring?