DUBLIN, Ohio – There will be no fifth title of 2013 for Tiger Woods, no excuses from Rory McIlroy at the Memorial and no easy answers to the anchoring conundrum for the PGA Tour. ‘Tis the season for May Sours.
It’s good to be Freddie. Tiger Woods asks for his autograph, President Barack Obama wants to know how he’s so cool under pressure and iconic Jack Nicklaus wants to hear his stories.
Freddie Couples is golf’s “Most Interesting Man” and the last week has been even better than normal for the crazy cool 53-year-old. On Wednesday, Couples visited the White House with Nick Price, who will captain the International Presidents Cup team later this year.
After a 20-minute rap session with the commander-in-chief Couples out-dueled Tiger Woods on Day 1 at the Memorial before heading to yet another engagement.
“And now I’m going to interview Jack (Nicklaus). So, la de da,” Couples smiled.
For good measure, Couples also rounded out his staff for this year’s Presidents Cup – which he will captain for a third time – with good friend Davis Love III. Michael Jordan must have been too busy to answer Boom Boom’s text.
A better tempo. Within minutes of each other the game’s two most influential people spoke out against slow play, both on the PGA Tour and at the grassroots level.
First it was Nicklaus who took a stand against the game’s languid pace.
“You really need to play the game in three hours or less – that's what we need,” he said Wednesday at Muirfield Village. “We need to have changes within the game of golf, not only for us and for the Tour. I think the Tour ultimately needs to shorten their time span. I don't think they would argue with that.”
Not long afterward, it was Woods who was asked what his biggest concern is with golf.
“We need to speed that up,” he said. “Who wants to go out there and play for six hours when the game of golf should be played a lot faster than that, three or four hours, and be enjoyable? You’re sitting on public courses when you've got two or three groups on the tee – that's just not fun.”
When Tiger and Jack speak, let’s hope the game listens.
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Expectations. You can’t blame Woods for the hyperbole that surrounded his start this week at the Memorial, but if he’s going to start winning events again at a historic pace – in six stroke-play Tour events he’s won four times (that’s a .667 batting average for those scoring at home) – you can’t be surprised by the hype.
But Woods’ second-round 74 at Jack’s place, where he is the defending champion, certainly surprised the Memorial masses, who were going to be disappointed by anything short of a Friday TKO.
Through two rounds, Woods’ short game has come up short. He’s needed 30 putts each day and is even par on the par 5s (Where is Steve Stricker when you need him?)
“All in all it was a day hard fought, and that’s all I have,” Woods said.
Woods’ play through 36 holes may not be what we expected, but in fairness that’s not the world No. 1’s issue.
No short answers. This is why Tour commissioner Tim Finchem lobbied so vehemently, both in public and behind closed doors, to derail the USGA and R&A’s ban on anchoring.
Sure, the commish wanted to stand up for the 20 or so Tour types who anchor, but the bigger issue went beyond that minority. On Tuesday at Muirfield Village, Finchem outlined all of the devils in the anchoring details to the player advisory council.
If the Tour decides not to adhere to the ban – creating, essentially, the bifurcation of the Rules of Golf – the messy byproduct will be two majors (U.S. Open and British Open) and probably the Masters played under one set of rules and the other Tour events played under another set.
And what would the Tour do at the World Golf Championships, which are sanctioned by the globe’s other professional circuits, which support the ban?
If the Tour accepts the ban, which seems the likely option, there is sure to be legal action which would drain Tour coffers, not the USGA or R&A’s nest eggs.
The USGA and R&A have created a mess, and it is Finchem who now must clean it up.
Tweet of the week: @ColtKnost (Colt Knost) “USGA asking me to send something from my (U.S. Amateur) and (U.S. Public Links) wins for the museum today. Definitely sending them my belly putter I used to win.”
For the record, Cut Line recently did a walkthrough at the USGA museum and searched high and low for a long putter. None were found.
Weak stomachs. We bemoan the pox that is slow play, and yet every time the slightest move is made to curb the game’s snail's pace we recoil and claim the policies, which widely don’t work, are too Draconian.
First it was Chinese teen Guan Tianlang at Augusta National in April, and now it’s Texas A&M sophomore Ty Dunlap, who was penalized a stroke for slow play during the final round of stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Championship.
Although the timing of Dunlap’s penalty was unfortunate, dropping Texas A&M into a playoff which the team lost and failed to advance to the match-play portion of the championship, the fact is the policy had been violated.
There is no perfect system to stamp out slow play. But there has to be a system and it must be followed.
Missing Rors. Just when it seemed Rory McIlroy had rediscovered his winning ways, having finished inside the top 10 in three of his last four Tour starts, he meat-handed his way to an opening 78 at the Memorial and sent United Kingdom bookmakers scrambling to set new odds for the Ulsterman for next month’s U.S. Open.
For most of the season it has been McIlroy’s putting that has let him down – he ranks 100th in strokes gained-putting – but on Thursday at Muirfield Village it was the entire package that added up to a 6-over day.
While McIlroy wants to keep the conversation between the ropes, the fact is his wholesale equipment change to start the season and rumors of another management team change have become distractions.
“Once I'm here I'm focused on what I need to do,” he said Thursday. “Right at the moment it's not happening for me.”
It would be the acme of foolishness to think the world No. 2 doesn’t figure things out eventually, but it sure would be easier without the distractions.