CROMWELL, Conn. – Thoughts and therapy on the road from Merion to TPC River Highlands.
The little tournament that could. The Tour doesn’t dole out “most improved” awards to tournaments, but if it did the Travelers Championship would be a perennial contender.
The “small market” stop regularly draws record crowds – in 2012 the Travelers gate was the second-best on Tour behind only the Waste Management Phoenix Open – via a collection of creative campaigns and programs, including a chatter flight from the U.S. Open to Hartford, Conn.
This week, however, the tournament once again exceeded expectations.
Following the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December in Newtown, Conn., about 48 miles from TPC River Highlands, tournament officials reached out to the community and asked what they could do to help.
“We met with a few families and the town and said, ‘What could we possibly do for you?’” said tournament director Nathan Grube. “Some of it is completely off the radar that they have asked to keep private, but there are other parts of it that are great.”
The tournament has pledged to indefinitely fund a First Tee program in Newtown and summer camps beginning this summer.
“We are going to stay in touch with them for years and years and years. We want to be a part of the recovery,” Grube said.
Justin Rose. On Tuesday the U.S. Open champion delivered the iconic “Top 10” list on the 'Late Show with David Letterman' (as an aside, that list wasn’t Dave’s best work).
Two days later Rose picked up where he left off at the Travelers Championship and had some trying to come up with a “Top 10” list of their own as to why he couldn’t become the first player since Ernie Els in 1997 to win the week after hoisting the Open trophy.
Even three bogeys through his first six holes on Thursday couldn’t slow Rose’s momentum. He finished with an opening 67 and has quickly proven himself adept at sidestepping the pitfalls that come with a maiden major.
Even Rose’s curious move to Excel Sports Management from 4 Sports & Entertainment this week was mitigated by the Englishman’s honesty.
“The timing is kind of ironic, I suppose, with everything that's happened,” Rose told Cut Line. “But it’s a decision I made quite some time ago and things take some time to figure themselves out.”
The best players are not always the best people, but in Rose’s case he seems as adept with a microphone as he is with a putter.
Sean Foley. The introspective swing coach knew when he signed on to work with Tiger Woods the fishbowl would be intense, and he has taken the nonstop analysis in stride.
What is lost in many reviews of Foley’s work, however, has been his ability to help a diverse group of players improve. Consider Rose and Hunter Mahan, who teed off in the last group on Sunday at Merion and opened his week at the Travelers with a 62.
“It’s a testament to Sean that what Justin is doing and what I’m doing and what Tiger is doing are completely different things,” Mahan said Thursday. “We all do different things and Sean has been able to help all of us.”
Lost in all the analysis is the only thing those three have in common – winning.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Merion. Maybe the setup wasn’t perfect, the logistics were less than accommodating and the bottom line not exactly what the USGA would prefer, but from a pure competitive point of view the long awaited return of the U.S. Open to the East Course was a success.
Just ask Zach Johnson, one of the more outspoken critics of the USGA’s setup last week. “Oh, I hope so,” he said when asked if the Open should return to Merion.
The East Course may not be a perfect fit for a regular spot in the U.S. Open rotation, but let’s hope it’s not another 32 years before the national championship returns to Merion.
Slow play. While reporting a story this week on the PGA Tour’s pace-of-policy it occurred to Cut Line that the circuit and its players don’t seem to be having the same conversation.
Officials will tell you it’s a math problem, that 26 groups (with a 156-player field) on an 18-hole golf course adds up to only one thing – slow rounds. But many players contend it’s a policy and implementation problem.
“A guy comes in, makes the cut on the number. An official is standing there and says, ‘You know what, actually you shot 1 over today not even. You had a bad time on (No.) 14 and you missed the cut.’” Lucas Glover said. “He would probably play faster next time.”
We don’t know the answer to the circuit’s slow-play problem but this much is clear, until the Tour and its players start having the same conversation the perception will remain that the pace-of-play problem in golf starts at the top.
Tweet of the week: @PaulGoydosPGA “We’ve been plagued by slow play for years, and it turns out it was a 14 year old that was the problem.”
Goydos actually tweeted that missive in April after Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang was assessed a stroke penalty for slow play at the Masters, but it seems apropos given the ongoing debate on how to speed up play on the PGA Tour.
Small print. While Cut Line is not litigious, the Tour’s move on June 12 to nix Vijay Singh’s lawsuit following his dust-up with the circuit’s anti-doping policy sets a curious precedent.
Singh sued the Tour in May claiming the circuit “(violated) its duty of care and good faith” after he admitted to using the Ultimate Spray, which contained IGF-1, a growth factor like human growth hormone that is on the circuit’s banned substances list. Although Singh was later absolved of any doping violation, he filed the lawsuit on the eve of this year’s Players Championship.
The Tour moved this month to dismiss the suit in New York Supreme Court, claiming that when players sign their membership application they agree not to sue the Tour and adhere to all aspects of the Tour’s anti-doping policy, which doesn’t have a provision for outside legal action within its appeal guidelines.
The Tour declined to comment on the motion, and a quick survey of players on the TPC River Highlands practice tee on Friday suggests that if the circuit is legally protected from its members that is news to them.
Here’s a line we never thought we’d pen: It may be time to consider a union in golf.