Cut Line: Tiger is the new Mr. October


No one has ever accused Tiger Woods of being golf’s Mr. October – truth is just six of his 71 PGA Tour tilts were collected in October – but the game’s most polarizing figure delivered on many levels with his first Fall Series appearance this week.

Although rounds of 73-68 were probably not what Woods, or Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, had in mind, his presence at CordeValle dramatically elevated an event that was little more than an afterthought on the Tour lineup and his persistence, if not his play, gave those pining for a comeback a reason to be optimistic.

Made Cut

Tiger Woods. No one dominates the news cycle like red shirt, and you have to give Woods credit for changing the conversation, although not entirely for the better.

The media masses are no longer fixated on his divorce or shattered endorsement portfolio. The current talking points are about birdies and bogeys, although there are far too many of the latter and not near enough of the former. His second-round 68 featured more putts (29) and fewer fairways hit (six) than his opening effort.

But whatever Woods’ motivations for playing the Open, his fall cameo suggests he’s more interested in competitive progress than the historical significance of a particular event. And after the last two years, that’s progress.

John Fry. In a refreshing twist to the old tale of sponsors complaining about weak fields and the PGA Tour sidestepping the elephant on the tee sheet with fast talk and slick video pleas from the commissioner, the patriarch of the northern California stop has a plan to make his Open special and all it will take from the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., brass is an open mind.

Although Fry is famously reluctant to speak with the media, sources familiar with the proceedings have suggested that his plan is to move the event to the ultra-exclusive Institute golf course in 2013 and have the tournament serve as the start of a new season, instead of the anticlimactic end to the current calendar.

Imagine how much better fields will be in the fall if players could get an early jump on the FedEx Cup points list, to say nothing of a possible Masters invitation with a victory?

Tour officials often lament the limited space on the current golf calendar, so Fry offered a solution – create your own calendar.

Tweet of the week I: @JasonGore59 “Three Apples that changed the world: the one that Eve ate, the one that fell on Newton’s head and the one that Steve (Jobs) built. God speed Steve Jobs.”

Just out of curiosity we searched the iTunes “app store” for golf-related apps and got tired of counting somewhere around 500. Jobs didn’t play golf, he just made the game easier for the rest of us.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Crowds. Rounding up the world’s top players for some serious face time is always a noble pursuit – it was, after all, the impetus behind the FedEx Cup playoffs – but a new event in Asia promises to add to an already crowded year-ending calendar.

The Shanghai Masters, known to most players as the Lake Malaren event after the exclusive club that is scheduled to host the tournament through 2015, will be played Oct. 27-30 with a 30-player field. According to various sources, the field will consist of eight Chinese players and 22 “world players,” including the likes of Retief Goosen and Paul Casey.

The IMG-run event will be played the same week as the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, a limited-field, co-sanctioned PGA Tour tournament. Because the event is co-sanctioned and not televised in the United States, Tour players are not required to request a competing-event release, a reality that will likely hurt the field in Malaysia.

Economics will also take a toll on the field in Malaysia. Last year Ben Crane won $1 million at the CIMB event. The winner of this year’s Lake Malaren stop will net $2 million for his troubles. Good news for the soon-to-be millionaire, not so good for the folks in Malaysia.

Rolex. The watchmaker pulled Woods back into the fold last week with a deal that is reported to be in excess of five years, becoming the first major post-November 2009 endorsement for the former Teflon kid.

Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg with Excel Sports Management said of the deal, “This makes a big statement. I think this shows me where people are with Tiger Woods.”

Cut Line sees where this is heading. Watchmaker Tag Heuer drops Woods in the wake of his November 2009 crash and he signs on with Rolex. What’s next? Trade in his former Gatorade deal for a “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” endorsement? Out with AT&T, in with Verizon and the ultimate marketing campaign, “Can you hear me now?”

Tweet of the week II: @Andres_Gonzales “@TigerWoods putting contest on the putting green . . . NOW!”

Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down.

Missed Cut

Belen Mozo. No one has ever accused Cut Line of being a prude and ESPN: The Magazine’s “Body Issue” is always a must-read . . . or, whatever, but news that the LPGA rookie will be featured in this year’s edition seemed a bit contrived.

Mozo is a fine player but shouldn’t the criteria for entry into the “Body Issue” be based on performance as well as attractiveness and body type?

In 13 events on the LPGA this year the Spaniard’s best finish is a tie for fifth and she missed the cut in seven of her first nine events. Maybe Cut Line is getting old, but we prefer a dollop of substance mixed in with our style.

Fred Couples. How’s that pick looking? Of course, that’s if Couples even noticed Woods’ play in California between updates on Steve Stricker’s ailing neck.

The danger of picking Woods, and strong-arming him into playing a Fall Series event, was the possibility that the captain’s choice would not deliver at CordeValle, which would bring more questions than answers for Captain America.

Last week Couples said of the pick, “I'm just thrilled that Tiger is healthy and ready to play and wants to be on the team.” Left unsaid, but implied, was the captain’s confidence that his man would find his form, but his sluggish start at the Open was a clear sign Woods’ action is still a work in progress.

Woods’ mind and body are willing. Unfortunately for Couples, his game has not been as accommodating.