In honor of Monday’s solar eclipse we went with a “path of totality” edition this week as the end to the PGA Tour’s regular season marks a deadline with many different meanings.
Pure Ice. Henrik Stenson told Cut Line last week at Quail Hollow that he’d added the Wyndham Championship to his schedule to assure he gets his minimum of 15 Tour starts this season and that, “I don’t feel any pressure, because I don’t have any pressure.”
On Friday, the aptly named Iceman proved the point with a 66 to move to within a stroke of the lead at 12 under par.
Although the Swede added the final regular-season stop to his dance card to assure he plays his 15 events, this week’s event is his 13th start and at 75th in the season-long points race he’s assured of playing the first two post-season events, he also understands the importance of positioning in the playoffs as well as anyone.
In 2015, when Stenson finished second in the season-long race he began the post-season 41st in points, and in ’13 when he won the title he finished the regular season at ninth.
“As long as you’re in it you can go all the way to win it ... I even got the punch line, slogan in there,” he smiled.
Season’s greetings. Maybe the Tour’s playoffs don’t hold the dramatic appeal that makes golf so entertaining, but the post-season does have its moments.
Normally, the playoff drama is reserved for Sunday at East Lake with $10 million on the line, but there are other times, like this week at the Wyndham Championship where players are scrambling to secure a spot inside the top 125 on the season-long points race and a start at next week’s Northern Trust.
Johnson Wagner opened with rounds of 67-64 to move into a tie for seventh, which would currently project him just outside the top 125 (127th) after starting the week No. 141 on the list.
Ryan Armour made an even bigger jump thanks to a second-round 61 to move into a share of the lead, jumping from 187th on the points list to currently inside the top 80.
The FedExCup can be confusing and has always been exceedingly complicated, but there are times when the drama is very real.
Tweet of the week:
Hoping I wake up tomorrow and this isn't all a dream— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) August 14, 2017
Thomas, among the game’s most savvy when it comes to social media, was relatively quiet this week, which is understandable considering how dramatically his professional life changed on Sunday at the PGA Championship.
Don’t expect that to continue. Just imagine the possibilities for next spring now that the crew has completed the #SB2K18 Slam (Jordan Spieth ’15 Masters, U.S. Open and ’17 Open; Thomas ’17 PGA).
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Team player. When it comes to the biennial Solheim Cup matches Europe’s Suzann Pettersen is on the fiery side – think Patrick Reed without the cowboy boots.
So imagine how difficult the decision was for Pettersen to step down, announcing on Wednesday that she would be withdrawing from the matches because of a back injury.
“I have made this extremely difficult decision to help the European team and give my teammates the best possible chance of success,” she said in a statement.
Pettersen, who was replaced by vice captain Catriona Matthew in the Continent’s lineup, has been the heart and soul of the European team and she will be missed. She should also be applauded for not getting caught up in personal desires and doing what’s best for her team.
Major review. Last week’s PGA Championship marked the end of the major season and before we turn our attention to the playoffs or Presidents Cup, it’s worth going over some Grand Slam grades.
Two first-time major venues highlighted this year’s line up, with Erin Hills (U.S. Open) and Quail Hollow (PGA) joining the rotation to mixed reviews.
Erin Hills was supposed to be a brute at 7,740 yards, but little wind and soft conditions led to record scoring; while Quail Hollow proved to be the year’s most demanding test.
Both venues could use a little tinkering before they are thrust back into the major spotlight again – at Quail Hollow officials will need to do something about the fourth green, while Erin Hills and the USGA may want to rethink that fescue rough.
None of these things, however, should be deal breakers. Neither course was perfect, but both proved they deserve a second swing at the major plate.
Missing the points. The key to real drama is equal parts victory and defeat, and for all the players making moves into the top 125 on the season-long points list this week there are just as many succumbing to the mathematical reality that their year is over.
Daniel Summerhays, No. 124 on the points list, missed the cut at the Wyndham and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and Ryan Palmer (128th in points) also failed to advance to the weekend with rounds of 72-71 and will finish outside the top 125.
Although he’s not playing the Wyndham, Adam Scott’s plight is just as final. Scott returned to Australia after the PGA to be with his wife, Marie, who was expecting the couple’s second child, and he will miss the first two playoff stops, which at 62nd on the points list means his season is likely over.
Maybe golf will never fit snuggly into the playoff ideal, but there’s no denying that there is an urgency to the post-season that wasn’t there before.