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Cut Line: Tiger, Trump and the PGA Tour

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In this edition of Cut Line, The Donald gets his major championship, The Lefty can’t get a tee time at Pinehurst and The Players asks the eternal question – Why is the grass always greener elsewhere?

Made Cut

Bounce back. The early-week theme at next week’s Players Championship is sure to focus on grass, or lack of it, on some of the putting surfaces following a particularly cold and wet winter.

It was a similar story last year for Quail Hollow Club’s greens prior to the Wells Fargo Championship, which makes this week’s event that much more endearing.

Tom Fazio’s makeover of Quail Hollow in the run up to the 2017 PGA Championship, which the club will host, has been widely applauded by players this week and scores on Day 1 in Charlotte, N.C. (45 players were under par) suggests the club was looking for better, not harder, which is a key distinction in today’s world.

“It’s one of the best tee‑to‑green golf courses in the world, and what Tom Fazio has done is just perfect, just perfect,” Phil Mickelson said.

Note to TPC Sawgrass officials: It’s better when folks are talking about the championship and not course conditions.

On the mend. Sources confirmed to Golf Channel last week that Tiger Woods is targeting a return to competition at the Open Championship in July at Royal Liverpool.

Woods had microdiscectomy surgery in March to repair a pinched nerve in his back and indicated at the time that he planned to return to the PGA Tour “sometime this summer.”

Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg confirmed to ESPN.com that the world No. 1 experienced “zero” setbacks following his surgery and had resumed “light” chipping and putting.

Although Steinberg said, “absolutely no target date has been set,” it is encouraging that Woods is at least looking at the calendar. With these types of injuries caution is always the better option, but golf is better with Woods.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Trumped. OK, nobody wants to see a two-story fountain dug into the middle of the wee course at Turnberry (see Doral, Trump National) or The Donald’s logo emblazoned across Ailsa Craig, but if this week proved anything it is that Trump is in golf to stay.

In the same news cycle, Trump announced he’d purchased the iconic course on the Firth of Clyde and sealed a deal with the PGA of America to host the 2022 PGA Championship at his course in New Jersey as well as the 2017 Senior PGA at another of his properties in the Washington, D.C., area.

Perhaps Trump and his grandiose style isn’t your cup of whiskey, but after his ultimate makeover of Doral in recent months and his genetic predisposition to do everything to the extreme we may as well settle in for the show.

The Wanamaker-Trump Trophy has a nice ring to it.

Tweet of the week:

 

Lefty-out. With Tiger Woods on the extended DL and a notable lack of star power in men’s golf this year, Phil Mickelson will be the undisputed headliner heading into next month’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

Lefty’s career is closely tied to the Donald Ross masterpiece following his runner-up finish to Payne Stewart in 1999 on No. 2 and his quest for the career Grand Slam, which would be complete with a victory at Pinehurst this summer.

That kind of history, however, doesn’t seem to carry much weight in the Pinehurst pro shop.

“I’ve been trying but the course is booked,” Mickelson said when asked if he’d made a scouting trip over to Pinehurst, which has been dramatically redesigned since the layout hosted its last U.S. Open in 2005. “There are 300 people on the golf course. They won’t let me out there.”

When pressed, Mickelson admitted he probably could have gotten a tee time but with so much play he wouldn’t have been able to prepare the way he normally does.

“It will be closed the weeks prior to the tournament and I’ll go then,” he said.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this story is that with all the play these days at No. 2, nobody was looking for a fourth this week?


Missed Cut

Fun with math. Rory McIlroy dropped outside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in 169 weeks, which is reason No. 562 to question the numbers that factor into the ranking.

Although the Ulsterman struggled throughout much of 2013, he’s been on the rebound this season to the tune of eight global starts and not a single finish outside the top 25.

McIlroy finished tied for eighth at the Masters, was a runner-up at the Honda Classic and in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour, and won the Australian Open in December to finish his ’13 campaign.

The world ranking is weighted toward winning, maybe justifiably so, but shouldn’t a little more importance be placed on solid, consistent play?

It’s not easy being green. Particularly at TPC Sawgrass, home of next week’s Players Championship.

Through the combination of a particularly cold, wet winter, foot traffic and the “misapplication” of a mysterious product, five of the Stadium course’s greens were less than championship-ready a little more than a week before what is considered the “fifth major.”

The agronomic snafu has prompted the Tour to plan a dramatic makeover of the Stadium course’s greens after the 2015 Players, including regressing the putting surfaces, expanding some greens (specifically Nos. 4, 9, 11 and 12) and the removal of more trees.

Stadium Course superintendent Clay Breazeale is sure to take heat next week for the quality of some greens, but if players want someone to blame they should consider starting with the economics of scale – too much play, too little sunlight.