In a “long view” edition of Cut Line, Royal Portrush’s time arrives after a half-century wait, while Tiger Woods’ time on the bench remains uncertain.
Royal return. After a 68-year hiatus the game’s oldest championship will return to one of the game’s best golf courses.
The R&A announced on Monday that the 2019 Open Championship will be played at Royal Portrush, the Northern Irish gem that last hosted the event in 1951.
Although it took plenty of leg work to bring Portrush back into the Open fold – including a dramatic restructuring of the course that includes two new holes to replace the 17th and 18th, which will be used for the championship’s corporate village – those who lobbied for the event, most notably high-profile locals Darren Clarke and Rory McIlory, proved to be too persuasive to ignore.
As an aside, if you’re looking for an early favorite to win the ’19 Open may we suggest McIlroy, who as a 16-year-old set the Royal Portrush course record with a 61.
That is, of course, if Ian Poulter makes next year’s European team and does what Ian Poulter does best, which is beat Americans in the biennial event.
Poulter, who dropped out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and lost his spot in next month’s WGC-HSBC Champions, needed to play the Hong Kong stop to maintain his European Tour status and remain eligible for next year’s Ryder Cup.
Beem, who was already in Hong Kong preparing to play the event on a sponsor exemption, gave up his spot in the field so Poulter could play.
“I saw Rich in the hotel this morning, so I went over and said, ‘That's awfully kind of you to do this,’” said Poulter after an opening 3-under 67 on Thursday. “He didn't have to, but he was nice enough to do it, and yeah, I have to thank him for that.”
If the odd turn of events leads to another historic Ryder Cup for Poulter, and another European victory, Beem shouldn’t expect the same level of gratitude from Love and the U.S. team.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Good news, bad news. Tiger Woods resurfaced this week at an event he had planned to play before being sidelined by his second back surgery earlier this year.
That’s the good news. The bad is that it’s about as close to a competition as he will get for some time.
“I'll start my rehab soon, but it's a long and tedious process. The last time, it took me a long time to come back,” Woods said at the Bridgestone America’s Golf Cup in Mexico. “Some of the guys who have had it [microdiscectomy surgery] done said it took them over a year to be pain free. I hope it doesn't take me that long to be pain free.”
Woods said he’s facing a “long and tedious rehab” and that he’s hopeful he can return to the Tour “early in 2016.” While that’s probably not what fans want to hear from the former world No. 1, after numerous starts and stops in recent years another extended break may be his only chance to finally break free from the DL.
Tweet of the week:
After watching the bombers hit it 400 yards last night, I'm convinced I need to hit it farther. #LongDrive— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) October 21, 2015
Everybody loves the long ball, even Koepka who is one of the PGA Tour’s longest, and this week’s World Long Drive Championship was certainly entertaining, but some purists used the event to lament what they see as continued out-of-control distance gains.
Tour statistics, however, suggest otherwise. Although the driving distance leaders have varied the last five years – from J.B. Holmes’ circuit-leading 318-yard average in 2011, to Luke List’s 306 yards in ’13 and last season’s 317-yard average by Dustin Johnson – the overall Tour average has remained surprisingly flat over that period.
In 2011, the circuit average was 290 yards, compared to 289 yards last season, suggesting that while the long ball is still entertaining, it is, at least at the highest level, not the uncontrollable force some think it to be.
Travel warnings. Players were warned in an email from the Tour on Thursday of potential risks associated with a recent typhoid outbreak and poor air quality in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, site of next week’s CIMB Classic.
According to the email obtained by Cut Line, there have been more than 30 cases of typhoid reported in Kuala Lumpur since the beginning of August, and players were also warned of poor air quality due to severe drought conditions.
While this is the cost of doing business in far-flung locales, and according to officials hasn’t led to rash of withdrawals, what is curious is that the Tour didn’t send a similar warning to any caddies.
Communication between the circuit and caddies has broken down this year since a lawsuit was filed in February in U.S. District Court by a group of caddies against the Tour.
Legal proceedings have a tendency to cool relationships, but issues of public safety should be above the fray.