As the PGA Tour’s cursory offseason draws to a close, we break down what to watch for and what to worry about in 2019-20.
Change. The upcoming season, which is just a week away, won’t have nearly the changeover that the 2018-19 campaign had but there are a few new elements worth noting:
-The cut size will be reduced from the top 70 and ties to the top 65 and ties, a move that was prompted by the Tour’s introduction of the secondary cut. The 54-hole cut was always confusing and a poor answer for slow play.
-There is no shortage of newcomers to keep an eye on during the 2019-20 season – let’s start the list with Colin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff – but Cut Line is particularly interested in Viktor Hovland’s development. Hovland narrowly missed earning his Tour card with his fourth-place finish at the regular-season finale and torched the Korn Ferry Tour postseason to take his place among the up-and-coming set next season.
-Although it hasn’t officially been approved, the move to align Tour rules with a recent change made by the USGA is a long-awaited victory for common sense. The Tour’s policy board will vote on a plan in November that would allow the U.S. Amateur champion to use his exemptions into the Genesis Invitational, Memorial and RBC Heritage even if he’s turned professional. Earlier this year the USGA announced the reigning U.S. Amateur champion will be allowed to play the U.S. Open even if they’ve turned pro.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Testing times. The Tour announced a new program to test individual player drivers beginning next season.
“Recently, we have become aware that drivers in play on the PGA Tour may be exhibiting a trait whereby through normal use, the club face ‘creeps’ beyond the allowed CT limit under the Rules, despite having conformed to the CT limit when new,” read a memo sent to players on Tuesday.
Although the new testing is a substantial step forward for a program that was largely revealed to be ineffective after Xander Schauffele’s driver failed a pendulum test of his driver’s characteristic time (CT) limit at The Open in July.
The new testing program will be limited to non-competition days when equipment representatives are still on-site at events, but this ignores a primary issue players had with the testing that “creep” can occur at any time and there will always be the possibility that a driver can become non-conforming without the player’s knowledge during a tournament.
The other concern deals with the limited scope of the testing which will largely be based on equipment usage, according to the Darrell Survey. Schauffele, along with other top players, contends every driver should be tested. “I just want everybody to be in check. I got put in check. I thought I handled it fine,” Schauffele said in July.
Statement voting. Voting for the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award ended on Friday and if exit polling at the Tour Championship was any indication it should be another landslide victory for Brooks Koepka.
Even Rory McIlroy, who would be Koepka’s primary competition for the Jack Nicklaus Award, gave the 29-year-old the nod. “He's won another major, he's won three times. I know it's going to sting because he most likely will win the Player of the Year, but he didn't win the FedExCup,” McIlroy said at the Tour Championship.
The vote does set up an interesting statement, however. With the shift to the Tour’s championship season that includes six consecutive months of “major” events Koepka’s resume includes a victory at the PGA Championship and top-5 finishes at the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship. McIlroy won The Players and the FedExCup at East Lake.
Both players had three victories and performed at the biggest events, but if this year’s POY vote is any indication the reimagined schedule may have changed golf’s landscape but it hasn’t changed what’s truly important.
Rest and recovery. It’s difficult to say exactly what toll the Tour’s condensed schedule had on players this season but there are anecdotal indications.
Following the Tour Championship, most players planned to take extended breaks including Koepka, who said he had a six-week vacation lined up. “I’m going to enjoy myself,” he said.
Others had more pressing issues to deal with. Last week, Tiger Woods announced he’d had an “arthroscopic procedure” on his left knee to repair “minor cartilage damage.” On Thursday, Dustin Johnson also announced he’d had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
Both players have had similar procedures in the past and are expected to make full recoveries, but the high-profile surgeries are a concerning sign of the times.
Tweet of the week: Instead of a tweet or social media post, this week’s offering is a curious slight. The Tour quietly announced via this month’s GreenSheet that Bryson DeChambeau had won the season-long “social media” competition.
Although DeChambeau’s Instagram game is strong he’s not exactly the first Tour player who comes to mind when we talk social media. Even more baffling is a list of the top 20 players on the social media list didn’t even include Max Homa. How is that possible?