To welcome in the New Year, and the 2015 portion of the PGA Tour schedule that gets underway Friday in Hawaii, we offer a new twist to Cut Line with a breakdown of which tournaments will be must see and which stops are shaping up as potential major misses this year.
Masters. Augusta National will be the epicenter of the golf universe because, well, it’s Augusta National.
By the time the first tee shot goes in the air on April 9, it will have been nearly seven months since Rory McIlroy put the last major to bed and the level of intrigue will only grow as the circuit inches toward Magnolia Lane.
McIlroy will be looking to complete the career Grand Slam with a victory at Augusta National; Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will draw plenty of attention as they attempt to add to their Masters legacy; and newcomers like last year’s runner-up Jordan Spieth and Jason Day seem poised to join the Grand Slam club.
And if all that wasn’t enough then consider the prelude to the main event will be Ben Crenshaw making his swansong laps around a layout that defined his Hall of Fame career.
Tweet of the week:
Nothing beats a Nor’easter in January like the thought of Georgia in April.
Open Championship. St. Andrews is always a spectacle because, well, it’s St. Andrews.
Although the Old Course didn’t exactly hit for the cycle the last time the ancient links hosted the game’s oldest major when Louis Oosthuizen cruised to a seven-stroke victory, the birthplace of golf has a penchant for memorable finishes.
Fifteen years ago, Woods completed the career Grand Slam in Fife and he added a second Old Course Open to his resume five years later.
This year’s championship will also mark the first since the Royal & Ancient voted last year to include women in the club’s membership and considering the year’s other major venues (see Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay) the Old Course promises to be the most user-friendly Grand Slam venue in 2015.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
U.S. Open. New-look West Coast major venues have largely received boffo reviews, but this year’s move by the USGA to the Pacific Northwest is riddled with risk.
Some contend the USGA went overboard with its setup of Chambers Bay during the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the untested layout, which is dotted with dunes, promises to be a challenging walk for the large galleries the championship is expected to attract.
Still, with sweeping views of Puget Sound and a rare chance for Pacific Northwest fans to enjoy major championship golf, the reward will likely be worth the risk for the USGA.
Waste Management Phoenix Open. Woods making his 2015 debut, galleries that could exceed 600,000 for the week and the final round coinciding with Super Bowl XLIX just a few miles down the road – what could go wrong?
While Woods’ decision to add the Phoenix-area stop to his dance card was not a surprise after his limited schedule last season, it was curious considering his history at TPC Scottsdale. In 1999, officials discovered a heckler who was following Woods was carrying a gun and two years later another fan hurled an orange in the direction of the former world No. 1.
There’s also Tom Weiskopf’s redesign of TPC Scottsdale, which has been characterized by some as dramatic. Early reviews suggest players will appreciate the alterations, but as a rule Tour types aren’t huge fans of change.
PGA Championship. The year’s final major returns to Whistling Straits, home to what is arguably the worst spectator viewing (unless you’re a mountain goat), ubiquitous beer gardens and endless acres of bunkers/waste areas that promise to keep every rules official and Dustin Johnson on the verge of a breakdown.
And don’t expect dramatic changes since Johnson infamously grounded his club on the 72nd hole in what turned out to be a hazard. In the moments following the 2010 PGA your scribe asked course designer Pete Dye his thoughts on what had just happened. “It was what was supposed to happen,” Dye said.
So, what should we expect to happen this time?
Presidents Cup. Unless International captain Nick Price is successful in convincing Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to alter the team format of the event, specifically reducing the number of team matches from 22 to 16, the 11th edition of the biennial global game will play out similar to eight of the first 10 editions.
That is to say the U.S. team will roll to an easy victory with little Sunday drama.
It’s been more than a decade since the International side made a game of it and although the move to the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in South Korea may help even the odds, without a little help from Finchem the event seems destined to be another rout.
WGC-Match Play. While Harding Park is an inspired choice, it has been made clear the San Francisco-area gem is only a temporary fix.
Nor is the dramatically overhauled format sure to be popular with either players or the fans, although the changes do assure everyone at least three days of round robin-type play.
What is guaranteed not to sit well with the rank-and-file players, however, is the mandatory Saturday pro-am that will include the highest ranked players who do not advance to the event’s Final 16.
That the Match Play will be followed by The Players, some 2,700 miles to the east in Florida, also won’t help morale or the sustainability of an event still searching for an identity.