ATLANTA – FedEx gave us 10 million reasons to pay attention, Tour brainiacs poked and prodded us into curiosity and Tiger Woods buzz killed yet another Tour Championship with one of those uber-efficient Fridays.
Seems Mother Nature and Woods have little interest in letting things get too exciting at East Lake.
There is no cut this week on the hallowed grounds where Bobby Jones learned the game, but Woods’ second-round 68 sent the pack home for the weekend metaphorically. They will go all 72, call it the Y.E. Yang exemption, but if the world No. 1 doesn’t get washed away with Saturday’s rains the Tour’s finale will suffer another flat weekend.
Tiger Woods. That second-round card was good, that impromptu putting lesson he offered Sean O’Hair was better.
“It’s what friends do,” Woods said.
Many of the game’s greatest players were not the easiest people to be around off the golf course. The only piece of advice Ben Hogan offered Al Geiberger, a rookie on the Hawk’s U.S. Ryder Cup team, was “don’t lose.”
Nick Faldo once famously said he wished he spent more time collecting friends instead of collecting trophies. Woods seems adept at collecting both.
Tour Championship. Despite Woods’ pyrotechnics, or maybe because of them, there is an uncertainty to the season finale that has been missing for the better part of a decade.
Question the math if you must, but the Tour made the Tour Championship relevant, if only for a day. We also have Woods and Padraig Harrington poised for Firestone 2.0, and European Tour official John Paramor and that infamous stopwatch are nowhere to be found.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Hit men. No, not the “Good Fellas” kind, but East Lake did seem particularly dangerous over the course of a hot and humid first round.
Woods hit a spectator at the eighth hole, Stewart Cink started his opening round by plunking a female fan in the eye, and Phil Mickelson hit everything except the green, or so it seemed, on his way to a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 14th on Thursday.
And they say East Lake was dangerous before it underwent that extreme makeover in the 1990s.
East Lake. Every corner of the clubhouse drips with history and the club’s resurrection has pulled the surrounding neighborhoods from the abyss of urban blight. The layout’s re-grassed putting surfaces, however, have left some pros pining for the days of Bent grass and gun shots.
Steve Stricker’s tee shot at the 18th hole on Friday cleared the front sand trap by 2 feet, jumped hard and raced to the back of the green. “Wow,” Stricker sighed. “I hit that high to.”
The combination of hard-boiled (greens) and soft shell (fairways) has left a golf course that may be bordering on the over-the-top side of playability. “Those greens are a joke,” fumed one longtime Tour observer.
Payne Stewart Award. The concept of honoring one of the game’s true gems is noble, it just seems this year’s recipient leaves a little too much room for raised eyebrows.
Perry is a good man, a family man and a man who is accommodating and engaging above and beyond the call for most Tour players. But his recent split with longtime caddie Freddie Sanders, which occurred without warning and via Perry’s manager, caused “Cut Line” to double-clutch.
The Stewart award recognizes a player's commitment to charity, presentation of himself through dress and conduct, and for sharing Stewart's respect for golf's traditions.
We can’t help but wonder what Sanders thinks of that.
European drama. With all due respect to our friends across the pond, the bickering that goes on around every Ryder Cup has a “Teen Beat” quality to it.
And this Ryder Cup cycle things have started early. Ian Poulter was one of several players who skipped this week’s team event in Europe – which used to be called the Seve Trophy to honor the Spanish great Seve Ballesteros – and drew the wrath of 2010 Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie.
“I just feel that when you are selected for your country more of an effort might well have been made,” Montgomerie said. “Ian Poulter, not having qualified for the Tour Championship and having been picked for the last Ryder Cup team, I felt that a little more effort might have been made to come here.”
Monty quickly tried to quiet the inevitable controversy his comments would create: “Please don’t make any big issue of this,” he pleaded.
Tim Finchem. During his Wednesday “State of the Tour” to the media at the Tour Championship, the commish said, “The BCS is blessed to have the kind of controversy they have. Everybody talks about it. . . . I hope we get talked about as much. It's great. That's what we want.”
The new “Saturday Night Live: Weekend Edition” show has an entertaining segment called “really,” which outwardly mocks public miscues and seems to fit here. Pining for BCS-type controversy . . . really?