Grand Slam Season


The Grand Slam season arrives this week with the Kraft Nabisco Championship and “Cut Line” celebrates the start of the summer calendar with a major players’ edition.

From on-form veterans to off-point newcomers, Good Friday is a mixed bag for those trying to make it to the weekend and beyond.

Made Cut

Ernie Els. His 2-for-3 swing through Florida was highlight reel stuff, but the Big Easy makes it to the “Cut Line” weekend because he kept his word, regardless of skeptics and circumstance.

Long before he became the hottest player on Tour, active division, Els signed on to play the Shell Houston Open and not even consecutive victories at Doral and Bay Hill could change those plans.

Els also gets the nod because, regardless of what his detractors say, he followed through with his two-caddie rotation despite his recent success with longtime looper Ricci Roberts.

Twenty years ago next week Nick Faldo arrived at Augusta National to defend his first green jacket with a greenhorn on the bag, Fanny Sunesson, and became just the second back-to-back Masters champion thanks in large part to Sunesson, not in spite of her.

“That did a world of good for me because in the practice rounds I would do running commentary of what I wanted to do. Visually it was very powerful,” said Faldo of Sunesson’s first turn at Augusta National.

Fred Couples. “Boom Boom” has owned the Champions Tour this season to the tune of three victories in four starts and arrives at Augusta National next week as the not-so-off-the-radar dark horse.

The “senior” will start his week with a high-profile practice round on Monday with Tiger Woods and, if the prognosticators are to be believed, may end it with a second green jacket. AARP years have never been so productive.

Give the PGA Tour a nod as well for selecting Couples for his second-consecutive Presidents Cup turn next year in Australia. So much for the PGA of America’s claim that there are too many qualified candidates to have back-to-back captains.

Tweet of the Week: @stewartcink “Just pulled down Magnolia Lane. I don’t usually love practice rounds but I love playing Augusta National!”

Good to see a lap around the former Fruitland Nursery can even give a Masters’ veteran goose bumps.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

LPGA Tour/Helen Alfredsson. Tough to give the LPGA a Heisman for following the rules, but this one is difficult to swallow particularly because it involves a former champion who, by all accounts, made an honest mistake.

These are the facts: Amy Alcott withdrew and Patty Sheehan did not show up for Wednesday’s pro-am at the Kraft Nabisco. When officials could not reach first-alternate Maria Hjorth, they turned to Alfredsson, the 1993 Kraft Nabisco champion and the second alternate, who also could not be reached.

Both Alfredsson and Hjorth were “withdrawn” from the year’s first major, despite lengthy conversations with tour officials.

Alfredsson appealed her withdrawal but was denied. 'It's tough for everyone, but it's tough to bend a rule,' LPGA commissioner Michael Whan told

This must be why PGA Tour majors don’t have pro-ams.

Phil Mickelson. Given the ongoing treatment his wife, Amy, is having it’s difficult to saddle Mickelson with an “MDF,” but from a competitive point of view Lefty has been largely MIA this season.

Mickelson has just one top 10 in six starts this year and seems poised to arrive at Augusta National without at least one victory for the first time since 2003. That’s a long way from where he left off last season with victories at the Tour Championship, Presidents Cup and WGC-HSBC Champions.

He said he was close on Friday at Bay Hill and shot 152 on the weekend. Close to what? A perfect frame at the local Rock-n-Bowl?

Missed Cut

Michelle Wie. Not because she ran afoul the Rules of Golf, but because she wanted to argue about it.

Wie’s expedited road to pro life seems to have skipped some important steps, including the valuable lesson that most players learn at an early age – the Rules of Golf aren’t fair.

Unfortunately the 20 year old reacted to her violation at the Kia Classic at La Costa the way most 20 year olds tend to act when fate deals a bad hand – childishly. There will be more run-ins for Wie. Let’s hope there are no more petulant pleas.

PGA Tour. Although we welcome the return of Couples to the Presidents Cup captain’s chair, “Cut Line” is flummoxed by the decision to give Greg Norman a captain’s mulligan next year.

OK, the Australian legend seems a natural to pilot the “Rest of the World” when the biennial grudge match returns to Royal Melbourne, but the Great White Shark was anything but a great motivator last year Harding Park.

A token legend may be good for national pride, but a win would be better for the event.