If a tree falls at TPC Sawgrass, does anyone hear it? If the PGA Tour travels to Asia, will anyone play? And if the PGA of America stumbles on the way to the high road, is the association beyond reproach? Answers in this week’s edition of Cut Line.
DL 2.0. From host to PGA Tour title hopeful in a single news cycle. Not bad for a 50-year-old grandfather.
After an eventful week spent entertaining sponsors, doling out trophies and, just for good measure, finishing tied for 41st place at his own McGladrey Classic, Davis Love III managed to make his flight to Malaysia for this week’s CIMB Classic and is tied for 12th placeafter opening 68-71.
Not bad for a part-time Tour player and fulltime host last week at Sea Island. Despite officially reaching his golden years, the 20-time Tour winner doesn’t seem to have much interest in slowing down.
“Now family and business will allow me to expand my horizons a little bit, so I'm going to try to play a little bit more all around the world, try to play in some of these events that I'm invited to,” Love said this week. “At 50 years old, now I can start my world travels, I guess.”
Who knew 50 was the new 30?
All access. It was, as Tour commissioner Tim Finchem explained last week, “really the only [issue],” with the circuit’s new wraparound schedule and it appears to be atop the Tour’s to-do list.
The lack of playing opportunities for Web.com Tour graduates, the result of deeper-than-expected fields in the fall, turned into the Tour’s primary action item heading into the second split-calendar season.
The Tour responded with the expansion of field sizes at the Frys.com Open and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, from 132 players to 144; the addition of the Sanderson Farms Championship, which was historically played in the summer as an opposite-field event; and news last week the McGladrey Classic would go to a two-course rotation and expand from 132 players to 156.
Combined, the Tour will have added 180 new playing opportunities next fall and the moves have already started to produce results, with 13 more players from the Web.com Tour category playing the Las Vegas stop and 25 more at the McGladrey Classic.
For an organization often associated with slow play, the Tour certainly deserves credit for reacting quickly.
Tweet of the week:
Although the loss of the iconic tree adjacent the Stadium Course’s sixth tee shouldn’t be a surprise – this is, after all, the same course that struggled to grow grass in time for The Players this year – it will be missed. Not by Cut Line, who has clipped the thing on numerous occasions, but we’re sure someone will miss it.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Playing favorites. It is a sign of the times that the PGA Tour had to dip beyond the top 125 from last season’s FedEx Cup list to fill the field for this week’s no-cut, 78-man, guaranteed money CIMB Classic.
Even players who could likely benefit from an early-season points boost passed on a trip to Malaysia, which would explain how Nicholas Thompson, who finished last season 127th on the points list, earned a spot in the field.
Even more concerning for Tour types is the number of members who made the trip to Asia but are playing the BMW Masters in Shanghai, the first of four European Tour post-season stops, instead of the CIMB Classic.
Both events have $7 million purses, but the BMW Masters is allowed to dole out appearance fees, which might explain why some U.S. players – including Ryan Palmer and Kevin Stadler – are in China and not Malaysia.
Competition is a healthy part of every business, but when it comes to this type of head-to-head duel with the European circuit, the Tour is playing six clubs short of a full bag without being able to woo players with appearance fees.
Speed dating. At first blush it would appear the McGladrey Classic has it all: a respected golf course (Sea Island’s Seaside layout), stability (McGladrey announced a five-year sponsorship extension last week) and leadership (Love).
The only thing missing is a permanent, and workable, spot on the calendar. Since the inaugural event in 2010, the McGladrey has been played the first week in October, the first week of November and everywhere in between; and next year the event will try out another spot on the schedule.
The 2015 McGladrey Classic will be played the third week of November, one of two dates offered to tournament officials and, according to some, the best of two bad options.
The alternative was the second week of November, which would have put the event just after the WGC-HSBC Champions and likely have kept many of the Tour’s biggest names away.
Love and officials at the McGladrey have given the Tour everything they have asked for. It’s time for the Tour to return the favor.
Crisis management. There is no escaping the fact that it was Ted Bishop, not the PGA of America’s board of directors or anyone in the media, who pressed the “send” button last Thursday.
It was Bishop who allowed his emotions to get the best of him. It was Bishop who thumbed in the fateful tweet that ultimately cost him his position as PGA president.
The PGA’s board and staff, however, are not without some blame in arguably the most surreal saga in the association’s history. It was a senior staff member who, according to Bishop, advised him to “go underground and be silent for 24 hours and see what happens.”
It’s crisis management 101 – always go on the offensive.
There is also an issue of semantics. According to Bishop, when he pressed for the reasons behind his dismissal the PGA board of directors gave him three – negative feedback from the media, potential damage to sponsor relations and negative responses from PGA members.
In a memo sent to various leaders and PGA section directors, however, the association stated, “The board felt that the comments made through social media violated the PGA of America Code of Ethics Bylaws.”
In his own missive made public on Wednesday, Bishop warned the association’s membership what the ruling could mean going forward. “This is powerful and for someone who served six years on the PGA Board of Control it clearly sets an eye-opening precedent. I want to emphasize to all of you the severe importance in the use of your social media platforms. Do not be cavalier with your words and succumb to a Code of Ethics violation,” Bishop wrote.
Bishop has no one to blame for his removal from office but himself, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more than enough blame to go around.