Cut Line Spring Cleaning


On Sunday Phil Mickelson touched hearts and performed heroically to win his third green jacket, Tiger Woods made a sound debut both on and off the golf course and the warm breezes of Harbour Town quickly whisked away seven days of Augusta National pollen. How’s golf doing?

If there’s been a better fortnight in the game in recent memory “Cut Line” isn’t aware of it. So much so, in fact, that this week’s edition is a tad light in the “Missed Cut” department. But then the week is still young.

Made Cut

Phil Mickelson. Anyone who watched Sunday’s high-wire act at the 13th and didn’t feel a jolt of adrenaline needs to seek medical attention. Lefty at his best is a cure for low blood pressure and a third green jacket was the tonic for a golf season that seemed to be held hostage by a pair of distracted headliners and a down economy.

The difference between the “I’m such an idiot” Mickelson at Winged Foot and the guy who pulled victory from the pine straw at Augusta National is indistinguishable, a perfectly paired package of brilliance and bone-headiness. The ultimate tragic hero.

“I wish I could play like him,” said one Tour player at Harbour Town. “With no fear. Like nothing really matters.”

We wish every Tour pro could.

U.S. Golf Association. As if we needed yet another reason to count the days until the first tee shot goes in the air at Pebble Beach – 63 for those keeping score at home – the sometimes dogmatic folks at the USGA pulled the ultimate trump card this week when they offered Tom Watson an exemption into June’s U.S. Open.

If Old Tom’s performance at Turnberry wasn’t enough to seal the deal, Watson hung around much longer than anyone, including Watson, thought possible last week at Augusta National and if one believes in karma the 60-year-old may be too charmed to pass up in office pools everywhere.

Watson played his first Open in 1972, at Pebble, won his most dramatic major in 1982, at Pebble, and finished tied for 27th in 2000 at 50 years old, at Pebble. Simply put, Monterey has never looked so magical.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Jerry Rice. The former NFL star may have injected this week’s Nationwide Tour stop in Hayward, Calif., with some rarely-seen life, but we’ve seen these stunts before and aren’t amused.

Rice began his first round with a double bogey, played Nos. 13-17 in 7 over and is 151st in a field of 151. Golf Channel analyst Curt Byrum gave Rice a 1,000-to-1 shot at making the cut and after his first-round struggles those odds seem way too generous.

Michael Jordan learned this lesson playing in the Southern League years ago, athletic ability is no substitute for talent. And marketing stunts do nothing for the competitive credibility of the game.

Tiger Woods. His performance on Monday at Augusta National before a packed house of mainstream media may be the highlight of the week but the world No. 1’s tie for fourth place was better than many expected and a victory of talent, if not toughness.

Woods also deserves a nod for what is a dramatic change in MO. His announcement on Thursday that he plans to play the Quail Hollow Championship in two weeks puts a neat end to what would have been rampant speculation and is one of the most telling examples of the new Tiger.

Normally Woods waits until the last minute, 5 p.m. (ET) the Friday before, to commit to an event, leaving tournament officials little time to make the most of his marquee. But now Quail Hollow officials have time to market the “return II,” and that’s good for the game.
Missed Cut

PGA Tour. Times are tough all over and it’s hard to single out one tournament for special consideration in the great sponsorship chase of 2010, particularly when the post-Masters spot on the schedule is so attractive to other events.

However, the Heritage is different, not because the event has 42 years of history or a “who’s who” list of winners or a quirky cool golf course, but because players look forward to Harbour Town like a 7-year-old pines for Christmas morning.

“As a player it stinks that the (Tour) can't help them out,” said Boo Weekley, a two-time Heritage champion and as good a spokesman as one could find for the Lowcountry staple.

“Why can't the PGA Tour, they help everything else out, why can't they come in here and say, we're going to help you all raise enough money to do this? We are in a crisis right now with the way the market is. Why can't we come back and say, hey, look, we're going to cut back on some prices on this or cut back on the cash? It would be fine.”

New groove rule. Hitting fairways would become important again. Hitting golf shots would matter. Swinging from one’s toes would be less attractive than swing with a purpose. So the reasons went for dialing back the grooves in the modern professional’s short irons. But four months into the experiment the only thing that’s been impacted is the manufacturer’s bottom line.

The new rule cost club makers millions of dollars and yet winning scores have remained the same (Geoff Ogilvy, 22 under at Kapalua; Bill Haas, 30 under at the Bob Hope; Dustin Johnson, 16 under at Pebble Beach; Mickelson, 16 under at the Masters) and hitting fairways – see Mickelson, Phil, 2010 Masters – is still largely an afterthought.

“It's just an adjustment. And the best players, Tiger and Phil, are still going to be the best players,” said Davis Love III, a member of the Tour’s Policy Board. “The disappointing thing is I played with a young man that's one of the best college golfers, and he's going to play in a Nationwide event in two weeks, he has to switch wedges. That's the problem with it.

“I don't think it's the big deal that they thought it was going to be.”
Tweet of the Week:
@IanPoulter “Not talking about football after being beat by the yids.”

Seems the term “yid” is an anti-Semitic taunt against the fans of Tottenham, which beat Poulter’s beloved Arsenal on Wednesday. Poulter later apologized in a separate Tweet, but a Tottenham Supporters’ Trust spokeswomen told The Sun in the United Kingdom: “He should know better – but we’ve never known an Arsenal fan to be gracious in defeat.”

Ouch, and Stateside we thought that Yankees-Red Sox rivalry could get nasty.