Cut Line: Woods enjoying Congressional's difficulty

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BETHESDA, Md. – A particularly heated week at Congressional got off to a sizzling start with consecutive hurried news days that featured everything from a new umbrella sponsor for the PGA Tour’s secondary circuit to a Ryder Cup assistant captains announcement that seemed a month late.

No wonder Adam Scott overslept on Thursday and nearly missed his tee time. He was exhausted.

Made Cut

The imperfect host. Welcome to my tournament, now go home.

OK, so AT&T National host Tiger Woods isn’t to blame for a Congressional course that has been set up on the cruel side of demanding, in fact he wasn’t even part of last year’s scoring barrage at the U.S. Open that many feel led to this week’s demanding conditions.

“A little retribution for what happened last year,” Woods smiled on Thursday. “Don't be mad at me, I didn't play (the 2011 U.S. Open).”

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t savor this week’s conditions or his renewed chances to win his second AT&T National title and his second consecutive tournament at Congressional.

“It’s a great test,” he said following a steady 68 on Day 2 to move to within a field goal of the lead.

Of all the titles Woods wears, he’d take champion over gracious host every time.

(Assistant) Captain Cool. For Davis Love III this was easy – whatever Fred Couples is having, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain will have two and DLIII saw no reason to postpone the inevitable.

On Wednesday at Congressional Love named Couples and Mike Hulbert the first of his four assistant captains for this fall’s matches. The unprecedented move to name a sitting Presidents Cup captain as a Ryder Cup assistant was easily explained given Couples’ recent cup run.

Couples is 2-0 as a Presidents Cup captain and connects with Tiger Woods, who is crucial in any team match, better than anyone.

Of course, Love may want to keep Couples – who informed the media masses last month that he would be alongside Love later this year at Medinah – away from an open microphone for the next few months. When Cut Line jokingly asked when Couples planned to announce the next two captains, Love joked, “I hope I told him the right two names.”

A Royal point. Following consecutive major victories for Northern Irishmen last year Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, was asked if it was time to bring a British Open back to Royal Portrush, the only course in Northern Ireland to host the world’s oldest major.

“Portrush is a terrific golf course, may well be strong enough for an Open, but as we all know, there are other issues of infrastructure, accommodation, roads, what would the commercial success be that need consideration,” Dawson said last July.

After two days of perfectly Open weather on the venerable links and record crowds at this week’s Irish Open Dawson should have enough answers to move from the theoretical to the practical. Royal Portrush is more than just a worthy Open venue, it’s the right thing to do.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A dot.com do-over. News this week that Web.com, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based Internet services company, has signed on to be the umbrella sponsor of the PGA Tour’s secondary circuit is an accomplishment of Herculean proportions given the current state of the economy.

Yet Cut Line couldn’t help but pause when one Tour official accidentally, and understandably, referred to “Buy.com” during the announcement, bringing back memories of the circuit’s failed experiment with the Internet retailer a decade ago.

That arrangement ended prematurely amid a flurry of lawsuits and accusations and gave way to nearly a decade of stability with Nationwide as the umbrella sponsor.

Many involved said that this time will be different, and on Wednesday it certainly felt that way. For the sake of hundreds of aspiring Tour players we hope they are right.

Internal alarm clocks. Adam Scott would not have been the first player penalized for missing his tee time on Thursday at the AT&T National, but he may have been the first for punching his internal snooze button.

Scott, who told The Associated Press that he has the uncanny ability of telling his body when he needs to wake up, awoke at 7:20 a.m. and faced a 45-minute commute from Georgetown for his 8:02 a.m. tee time at Congressional.

He arrived at 7:55, rushed to the 10th tee – his first hole of the day – without warming up and avoided a two-stroke penalty for being late for his tee time. In a related item, Scott’s caddie Steve Williams said his man’s opening-day 75 was the best 4-over-almost-late card of his career.

Tweet of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “Sometimes it feels like we spend as much time walking backward to the new back tees as we do actually playing golf.”

Congressional is one our favorite courses, but not the best of routings. On Thursday, Cut Line paced off 217 uphill steps from the 17th green to the 18th tee. As Phil Mickelson might say, that fails Routing 101.


Missed Cut

Change for the sake of change. It was curious timing that one day after the Tour announced it was still mulling a new plan to dramatically transform its qualifying process, making the Web.com Tour the primary path to the big leagues, news of Web.com’s 10-year deal was unveiled.

The new qualifying plan, you see, was supposed to make the secondary circuit more attractive to a potential umbrella sponsor by aligning the two tours more closely and putting more focus on the three-event finals series. But on Wednesday it sounded as though the new plan was just a bonus, not a be-all, for the new deal.

“Certainly we think it's very beneficial, but that decision had already been made by the Tour when we engaged,” said David Brown, CEO and president of Web.com. “So it was nice to have but not a fundamental part of our decision-making process.”

If that’s the case, then why are we changing?