Halfway through the PGA Tour season, a strong rookie class continues to make a statement, Ian Poulter takes to Twitter to state his case 140 characters at a time and the PGA of America seems to be speaking volumes about Fred Couples’ future as a Ryder Cup captain.
Class acts. By comparison, this year’s Tour rookie class was always going to be an upgrade over last year’s group but midway through the 2014-15 season it’s starting to look like a rout.
Last season just two rookies kept their Tour cards, compared to nine of the 21 newcomers this season who are currently inside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup point list.
Nick Taylor, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship in November, is leading the class, while Daniel Berger is currently 22nd on the season-long points list following his runner-up showing at the Honda Classic.
But it’s Justin Thomas who has been the most consistent, posting four top-10 finishes in 16 starts. Like his friend Jordan Spieth, there doesn’t seem to be any weaknesses in Thomas’ game and he’s played well on both the East and West coasts.
Unlike last year, when Chesson Hadley was the only choice for the Rookie of the Year Award, this year’s race may actually require a vote.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
BMW brouhaha. Ian Poulter is no stranger to social media slugfests, but the Englishman took things to the next level this week when he lashed out at a story in the Daily Mail that questioned his decision to not play this year’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
The Daily Mail used Jordan Spieth’s decision to play last week’s RBC Heritage as evidence that sometimes professionals should consider the bigger picture and not just individual needs when it comes to scheduling.
Poulter took to Twitter to defend his decision to not play the BMW PGA (see below) and also pointed out his involvement in bringing the British Masters back to the European Tour later this year at his home course in England, Woburn Golf Club.
Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia are also skipping the BMW PGA which suggests this isn’t about world ranking points or an unpopular golf course as much as it is a wildly condensed schedule with little flexibility for the game’s top players.
Tweets of the week:
I've played 13 PGA's at Wentworth and had 1 Top 10. I've had 8 MC. Would Usain Bolt compete in a marathon. I didn't think so.... Enough said— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) April 21, 2015
Simple terms. I've won 19.11 world ranking points from poss 832 over 13 years. & for tied 3rd at Open in 2012 I won 28.50 Points.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) April 21, 2015
Poulter added some more colorful comments, but you get the idea.
Worlds apart. News this week that Tiger Woods will be making a goodwill tour to Asia is hardly groundbreaking, and word that he has been tabbed to redesign a golf course in Beijing is a testament to his growing global brand, but it still leaves some to wonder about his day job.
Woods announced on Friday that he will play next week’s Players Championship and Jack Nicklaus confirmed that he verbally committed to play the Memorial in June.
But that still leaves a limited number of starts for the former world No. 1 if he maintains his normal schedule – The Players, Memorial, U.S. Open, Open Championship, Quicken Loans Nationals and PGA Championship (he’s not currently qualified for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational or the FedEx Cup playoffs).
His play at Augusta National was encouraging and the confidence he gained invaluable, but it’s still hard to imagine how he maintains that momentum with what can only be described as a part-time schedule.
Rooting interest. Maybe Nick Faldo’s comments were delivered, as Jack Nicklaus said, with his tongue firmly planted in check. Maybe the CBS Sports analyst was just playing to the crowd, but the Englishman certainly sent mix messages this week at an event in Ohio.
According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, during a luncheon at Ohio State Nicklaus and Faldo were asked if they ever rooted against a player vying to break one of their records, like Spieth at this year’s Masters when he began his week with an 8-under 64.
While Nicklaus said he would never root against a player, Faldo added, “Oh, I do.”
“I was sitting up there dodging bullets from this young man. Day 1, he’s in the middle of the 15th fairway at 8 under par, and my fellow announcers were all, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if he shoots a 62?’ And I’m thinking, Jack [Nicklaus] and I are both in the 63 club; that’s the best round in any major,” Faldo said to the audience.
Nicklaus defused the situation, saying, “[Faldo was] obviously making a joke with his comments about Jordan yesterday, and everyone at the function, including me, took it that way.”
While Faldo’s comments seemed to have been overblown, it should still make next year’s Champion’s Dinner at Augusta National more interesting.
Captain obvious. While it remains unclear how things evolved behind closed doors the decision of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force to tab Davis Love III, and not Fred Couples, as America’s next captain continues to baffle.
According to various sources, Couples was a popular choice to captain the next U.S. team in the immediate aftermath of last year’s matches, but when Love was introduced earlier this year the company line was that he was a unanimous choice.
Couples, who is captaining an American team this week in Dubai at the inaugural Icons Cup, said he is still holding out hope to one day lead a Ryder Cup team, “I am put off by not getting it this time, but having said that, if they ask me in 2018 I will certainly jump at it and accept it,” he said.
Under the PGA of America’s new plan, however, future captains will be groomed as assistants before taking over a team and only Tom Lehman has been named as one of Love’s assistants for 2016.
It’s a curious oversight and leads one to ask: Why not Freddie?