WILMINGTON, N.C. – The LPGA continues to be slow to the dance with its uninspired playoff policy, while slow play takes center stage this week for all the wrong reasons.
Dustin off the rust. Everyone except Dustin Johnson began this week unsure how the world No. 1 would rebound from five weeks of competitive inactivity.
After Johnson withdrew from the Masters with a lower back injury last month there was an understandable level of anxiety given recent history (see Woods, Tiger), but Johnson's play on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship seemed to answer most of those questions.
The bomber hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and didn’t miss a beat off the tee, averaging 307 yards on Day 1. DJ may not make it four straight victories at Eagle Point, but he certainly doesn’t seem interested in a rehab start.
On Point. It was never going to be easy leaving the plush confines of Quail Hollow Club, and the Wells Fargo Championship’s relocation to Eagle Point Golf Club has had its share of logistical snafus, but considering the inevitable comparisons the layout has exceeded expectations.
Quail Hollow, which will host this year’s PGA Championship, is regularly one of the Tour’s most popular stops, and this week’s event was always going to be considered a step back, but instead the assembled field has offered nothing but praise.
“Flawless,” Adam Scott said of the Tom Fazio design.
“Spectacular,” Phil Mickelson offered.
“Compare it to Augusta,” Ben Martin added.
Eagle Point will likely be a one-and-done stop on the Tour schedule, but it's a good one.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Reading material. The USGA and R&A have been busy of late. Earlier this year the rule makers unveiled a sweeping set of potential changes to the Rules of Golf that has been dubbed a modernization, and last week they announced changes to how video replay is used to determine potential rule violations.
On Monday, the powers that be revealed they would be taking a closer look at green-reading material, pointing out in a joint statement, “We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.”
While the move was widely applauded by a large portion of the play-for-pay set, the idea that doing away with these books will somehow speed up play seems misguided.
“There's so much information out there, it's one of the small contributing factors to slow play,” Scott said. “If you want to address slow play, then you can take away one little part of it there, but it's not going to solve slow play.”
Speaking of slow play. It’s taken 20 years but Glen Day has finally been removed from the list of bizarre trivia answers.
Day had been the last player to receive a stroke penalty in a non-major Tour event for slow play at the 1995 Honda Classic, but last week at the Zurich Classic, Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo took over that dubious distinction.
Campbell and Carballo were given a stroke penalty in the team event after receiving the duo’s second bad time on the 14th hole at TPC Louisiana on Thursday.
Although slow play has been an issue without answer for decades on the Tour and a penalty, any penalty, is a step in the right direction, this had the feel of the wrong execution of the right idea.
Campbell and Carballo were paired with two club pros, who were struggling, and the windy conditions and unique format of foursomes factored into what could only be considered a unique situation.
Getting tough on slow play should be applauded but let’s not make common sense a victim along the way.
Alternate arguments. While the Tour’s push to rework the schedule appears to be in full swing, with the biggest pieces of the new puzzle a schedule that ends on Labor Day and a move back to March for The Players and May for the PGA Championship, there is reason to pause and consider exactly what all that could mean.
The high next Thursday in St. Louis, where the PGA will be played in 2018, is 63 degrees; and 56 degrees in Pittsford, N.Y., site of the 2022 PGA.
To be fair, forecasts change, but is the Tour’s desire to avoid going head-to-head with football season worth removing some of the nation’s best courses from the major championship rotation?
Groundhog Day. It was like a bad song on a constant loop, with Haru Nomura and Cristie Kerr marching back to the 18th tee at Las Colinas six times before the deadlock was mercifully broken.
Nomura went on to win the Volunteers of America Shootout playoff and Kerr was left to suffer the slings and arrows of fans unimpressed with her languid pace (which later prompted an apology from the runner-up).
The real mea culpa, however, should have come from the LPGA, which has been down this road before with other monotonous playoffs on the same hole. Count this under unsolicited advice, but the tour should consider there’s a reason that some don’t like vanilla.
Tweet (actually, Instagram) of the week: @ianjamespoulter (Ian Poulter) “How do you mark your Titleist practice balls . . .”
Although Cut Line can sympathize with the Englishman’s aversion to the darker side of social media and the item seemed innocent enough, this is the same player who drew the ire of the Twitter-verse in 2014 when he complained that his wife had to look after their four children because his nanny had been downgraded on a long flight.
Poulter fired back at his detractors, later tweeting: “I’m extremely happy to block any negative comments. I actually enjoy blocking the sad individuals.”
We appreciate Poulter’s position, and his honesty, but this seems like a case of knowing your audience.