Cut Line: Woods remains front and center


SAN DIEGO – It’s not always sunny in Southern California, as Tiger Woods learned on Thursday, but the legal clouds certainly parted in the United Kingdom for Rory McIlroy. The game’s top two draws highlight this week’s Cut Line.

Made Cut

Settle-ing in. So maybe it cost Rory McIlroy $20 million, can you put a price tag on clarity of thought when you’re closing in on golf history?

That’s how much it cost the world No. 1 to settle his lawsuit with his former management firm, Horizon Sports, this week.

The trial, which stemmed from a contract McIlroy claimed charged excessive fees, would have been a distraction as the Northern Irishman prepared to win the final leg of the Grand Slam in April at Augusta National.

There is no sugarcoating this – $20 million is a steep price to pay – but if McIlroy slips a green jacket over his shoulders in April it will have been worth every penny.

A legend’s legacy. Charlie Sifford died on Tuesday. He was 92.

Sifford was the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour, earning him the distinction of being dubbed the “Jackie Robinson of golf” when he broke the game’s color barrier in 1961.

The two-time PGA Tour winner was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November and his impact on the game became even more evident on Wednesday when Woods addressed his passing.

“As I've alluded to in the past, he's like my grandpa that I never had,” Woods said. “It's been a long night and it's going to be a long few days. But he fought, and what he did, the courage it took for him to stick with it and be out here and play, I probably wouldn't be here, my dad would never have picked up the game, who knows if the clause would still exist or not. But he broke it down.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Withdrawal. Why an MDF for Woods? Because Cut Line doesn’t dole out incomplete grades.

For all the grassy knoll conspiracy types, know this – Woods was hurting (although in text messages with Golf Channel’s Notah Begay he said it was not an injury that forced him to withdraw, just tightness) at Torrey Pines. From his second tee shot until the moment he climbed the fairway to his 11th green, the pain was evident.

And for those who seem to think Woods withdrew because he was playing poorly – he was 2 over par when he bolted the course – consider that things were much worse last Friday when he posted his highest score on Tour as a professional (82) and yet he finished the round.

“It's frustrating that [his back] started shutting down like that. I was ready to go,” Woods said after his third withdrawal in his last eight official PGA Tour starts. “I had a good warm-up session the first time around. Then we stood out here and I got cold, and everything started deactivating again.” 

Until Woods is healthy and plays something close to a sustained schedule there is no way to accurately assess his game, although it should be pointed out that play stoppages and delays are a part of professional golf and dealing with them is a job requirement.

One thing you can say for Woods, he changed the conversation. On Friday at Torrey Pines no one was talking about the yips.

The task at hand. As well intentioned as the U.S. Ryder Cup task force was following another American loss last September, the 11-member panel may be reaching a point of diminishing returns.

Following multiple meetings, including Monday’s gathering in San Diego, they seem no closer to a solution and one source familiar with the meetings told Cut Line not to expect any announcement until the spring.

“I’d love to do it. Whoever is the next captain I believe they want other players involved who would be the next few captains,” Fred Couples, a consensus favorite to captain the next U.S. team in 2016, told Cut Line this week. “It would be fun.”

There are baffling rumors that the PGA of America is not leaning in Couples’ direction, which would suggest a continuation of the status quo and an indication that the task force’s conversations have taken a wrong turn.

Missed Cut

A bad loop. For the last few months the Tour has met every request from the Association of Professional Tour Caddies with varying degrees of cynicism and outright subterfuge, according to recent legal filings.

Those unproductive meetings have sprung a lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, that challenges the Tour’s practice of not compensating the caddies for wearing bibs.

While most lawsuits are contentious, this one has all the markings of a particularly nasty episode, with the lead lawyer for the caddies sending a letter to Tour players on Thursday claiming the circuit is “blowing smoke and creating havoc.”

Although the issue is complicated, considering the nuanced relationship between independent contractors (players) hiring independent contractors (caddies), it is worth mentioning that this is the same court that ruled against the NCAA in the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case last year – a suit which argued that upon graduation, a former student athlete should become entitled to financial compensation for NCAA's commercial uses of his or her image.

The Tour, a similarly powerful organization with unlimited resources, may want to stop talking about what this may cost the players and consider what it could cost the Tour.

Tweet of the week:

Too many cooks. There may not be a more lonely man than a struggling golfer, but that only applies during a round.

Otherwise, the Tour is filled with well-intended, would-be helpers who are more than happy to offer advice. Even if the player in need of help is Woods.

Prior to Wednesday’s pro-am, as Woods mulled around the Torrey Pines practice tee, there was no shortage of players who approached the former world No. 1 offering pro bono advice on his chipping woes.

“I don’t know much about the swing. I did notice there was a lot going on.” Couples said. “On the range we stood there in the fog and he had a lot of people try to help him and stuff. I just thought it was kind of funny.”

Misery, it seems, attracts company.