Cut Line: Too close to call


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – In honor of the season-ending numbers crunch that is the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, Cut Line tries to channel his inner Nate Silver, the statistician and New York Times blogger who correctly predicted the presidential election in 49 of 50 states (with Florida still counting votes), and calculate Sunday’s outcome.

In the rush to crack the top 125 on the money list and secure status on Tour in 2013 one stat stood out – 76 of the 127 eligible players at Disney are currently outside the top 125. Prediction: expect plenty of two-way traffic on Sunday at Disney.

Made Cut

Perspective. Regardless of whether Gary Christian becomes a casualty of the season-ending money crunch, Cut Line would like to nominate the affable Englishman for the season’s Reality Check Award.

At 127th on the money list the 41-year-old rookie was facing a return trip to Q-School following a first-round 71 at Disney but on Wednesday he cut through the normally insular attitudes found at the season finale with a rare sense of perspective among the play-for-pay set.

“It's a dream come true,” Christian said. “If I hear anyone whining about anything on the Tour, they need to get their head examined.”

For Christian, Disney really is the happiest place in the world even during one of the year’s most stressful weeks.

Unity. As speculation increases in the buildup to the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s announcement regarding anchoring later this year the pressure is escalating on PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to break with tradition and revert to a set of “Tour rules.”

But if bifurcation of the Rules of Golf is the answer, as many have suggested, Finchem seems categorically opposed to the idea for all the right reasons. Earlier this summer the commish dismissed the idea of a set of “Tour rules” at a meeting of the circuit’s Player Advisory Council.

“He made it clear we would follow whatever (the USGA and R&A) did,” said one PAC member.

Whether Finchem’s decision is based on a sense of tradition or a fear of legal action doesn’t matter as much as what his stand means – a unified voice at a pivotal moment.

Tweet of the week: @LukeDonald late Tuesday. “Wow this is getting close. I just don’t know which way the decision will go. Will they or will they not ban the long putter!”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Enough Blayne to go around. For those who have attempted to keep pace with the bizarre tale of Blayne Barber it has been difficult, if not impossible, to form a lasting conclusion.

The facts are these. Barber appeared to advance out of the first stage of PGA Tour Q-School at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., despite a penalty on the 13th hole in Round 1 when he appeared to brush a leaf in a bunker.

Although Barber wasn’t sure he’d brushed the leaf – his caddie/brother said he had not – he assessed himself a one-stroke penalty only to discover later that night that it was a two-stroke penalty, which meant he’d signed for a lower score which would result in his disqualification.

Here’s the rub, Barber waited six days after the tournament ended to report the infraction, which resulted in his disqualification and opened the door for six additional players to advance to second stage.

“I wanted to believe I didn’t hit it, but I was going back and forth between this uncertainty in my mind. I didn’t want to start my entire career with this uncertainty in my head …” Barber told this week. “I was definitely pretty torn up about it; it was weighing on me pretty heavily.”

The subject was a hot topic on the practice tee this week at Disney with concerns ranging from Barber’s lack of knowledge regarding the Rules of Golf to the six-day delay in reporting the infraction. As one player said, “I’m glad he did the right thing, but I’m just not sure why it took him so long to get there.”

The long wait. And you think slow play on the golf course is a concern.

Although officials with the U.S. Golf Association have said a decision regarding long putters and anchoring will be made before the end of the year, the game seems caught in the limbo of the unknown.

According to various sources the powers that be plan to ban anchoring, and by definition the use of long putters, but the wait has sparked a wider debate over the legality of such a ban (see Bradley, Keegan) and even the inequity of such a move.

“It’s not an issue that I’m involved with, I understand both sides,” Phil Mickelson said this week. “It’s just that I don’t think you can take away what you’ve allowed players to use, practice and play with for 30 years. I think it is grossly unfair.”

Davis Love III, one of four player directors briefed by the USGA last month on the potential ban, urged officials to move quickly, whatever the decision, to avoid prolonged speculation and debate. We’re starting to understand what Love meant.

Missed Cut

No Magic. After 41 years the Tour’s annual stop at Walt Disney World appears to be on life support. The Disney stop loses the Children’s Miracle Network as sponsor this year and the event was not on a tentative 2013-14 schedule that  Cut Line  got a peek at last month, although officials stress there is still time to find a replacement.

Given the new reality of the circuit’s split-calendar schedule it’s difficult to imagine a last-minute reprieve. Beginning next season the Fall Series events will move into the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule, which means Disney would need to increase its purse all the while losing the cachet of being the circuit’s final event.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., may in fact find some magic for the Magic Kingdom, but in the land of Mouse this week that option seemed straight out of Fantasyland.

Trying to find more from less. One of the casualties of next year’s split-calendar schedule will be fewer playing opportunities for Tour types in 2013.

Because of the loss of the four Fall Series events and the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which will move from February to the fall, officials estimate there will be about five fewer starts in 2013 for players in the Tour and Q-School category.

Although this is a one-off anomaly, and officials have tried to mitigate the losses by expanding fields at some events and limiting unrestricted sponsor exemptions, that will do little to help players hard pressed for playing opportunities.

One suggestion to lesson this impact was to expand playoff-event fields to 144. Under the proposal the number of FedEx Cup-eligible players would remain the same – 125 at Barclays, 100 at the Deutsche Bank Championship and 70 at the BMW Championship – while the rest of the field simply played for money-list status similar to what NASCAR does during its “Chase for the Sprint Cup.”

That suggestion, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears, primarily because of the timing of the new qualifying system that is scheduled to run concurrent with the playoffs. “They didn’t want to hear it,” said one member of this year’s Players Advisory Council.

Just a hunch, but as playing opportunities dry up next season Tour officials should expect to hear plenty more about this topic.