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Cut Line: Stricker sticking to plan despite great play

Steve Stricker at the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship
Getty Images

In honor of Steve Stricker, who has been nearly perfect in semi-retirement this season, Cut Line is taking a less-is-more approach this week, with a call for less John Daly, less deliberation in the Vijay Singh doping proceedings and less Olympic golf course drama.

Made Cut

Quality over quantity. Maybe Steve Stricker will start a trend of world-class players going with quality of life in their prime.

It’s impossible to argue with Stricker’s plan so far. Three events into what will be an 11-tournament season, Stricker, 46, has finished runner-up twice (at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions and last week to Tiger Woods at Doral) and tied for fifth at the WGC-Match Play.

Stricker’s schedule the rest of the season includes the Shell Houston Open, Masters, Players Championship, Memorial, U.S. Open, John Deere Classic, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship. That’s right, no British Open, no FedEx Cup playoffs and no second-guessing.

“I just want to be home. I enjoy competing but I just don’t enjoy being out on the road as much as I used to,” he told Cut Line last month. “My kids are loving it, I’m loving it. I’m in a good spot.”

And if he does have any free time, that will likely be dedicated to Woods, who received an impromptu putting lesson from Stricker last Wednesday and rolled over the field with one of his best putting weeks in years. At this rate, Stricker’s Tour frat brothers will be asking the veteran to play more and talk less.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Bay watch. Tour types say the quality of golf course – more so than purse size or spot on the schedule – is the most important factor when deciding where and when to play. This week’s stop at Innisbrook, however, seems to be the exception to that rule.

Dubbed by one Tour player as the best course the circuit plays in Florida, and that list included TPC Sawgrass, the Tampa Bay stop enjoys endless accolades, just not a very deep field.

As good as Innisbrook may be, it’s not enough to overcome a bad spot on the calendar sandwiched between a World Golf Championship (Doral) and Arnold Palmer’s event next week at Bay Hill.

Defending champion Luke Donald called the Copperhead layout a “thinking man’s golf course,” but adrift in a Florida Swing no-man’s land, tournament officials must be thinking there has got to be a better place.

More Games. Officials for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil seemed more confident last week that they will break ground on the golf course that will host the Games on April 1, following months of legal wrangling over land disputes.

That April 1 (fill in your own April Fool’s Day joke here) is more than five months after the original start date was scheduled for the Gil Hanse design is the concerning part.

Officials say it will take about 18 months to build and grow in the Olympic course, which still leaves time for a test tournament (either a PGA Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamerica or Champions Tour event) in either the first, second or third quarter of 2015, but it will be tight.

A tight schedule to build a championship test that can accommodate thousands of fans – what could go wrong?

Tweet of the week: @aronpricePGA (Aron Price) “The 3rd ranked club pro in Louisiana has a start at next week’s event over the 167th money earner on (the) PGA Tour last year.”

In the past that sort of self-entitled nonsense would prompt a stern, “play better” response. But to Price’s point – the crunch on playing opportunities on the PGA Tour this year as the circuit transitions to a split-calendar schedule will have a domino effect on the secondary circuit. A one-year suspension of the club pro exemption (which grants three spots to PGA section members into events) doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Missed Cut

Daly dose. Tour players are not immune to the bad bounces and bad decisions that add up to double-digit scores every day in golf, it just seems John Daly has had to use two hands to add them up more than anyone else who plays for pay.

On Friday Daly added another chapter to his mercurial resume when he signed for sextuple-bogey 10 on the par-4 third hole at the Tampa Bay Championship. Daly took two unplayable lies, advanced the ball just 5 inches with another shot (according to ShotLink) and needed nine strokes to reach the putting surface.

Which sets up a perfect punch line: How did you make a 10? Had a solid up and down from 30 yards. Ba-da-boom.

Slow play. No, not five-hour rounds at your local muni. This week’s snail chalice goes to the PGA Tour for its handling of the Vijay Singh doping investigation that surfaced in January when he admitted to using a deer-antler spray that is on the circuit’s banned list.

With apologies to due process and Singh’s right to a fair hearing, commissioner Tim Finchem’s recent claim that there is “no time urgency here” seems to ignore the competitive reality of the situation.

Throughout this process Singh has continued to play (he tied for 50th at Pebble Beach, 51st in Los Angeles and was among the top 10 through one round at Innisbrook) and although there is fine print in the anti-doping policy that would require the Fijian to possibly forfeit prize money and FedEx Cup points he earned during the investigation if he is found guilty, that will mean little if he wins or costs someone a spot in the weekend field by influencing the cut.

“No comment to you. No comment to anybody,” Singh reportedly told a Tour media official on Thursday following a first-round 69 at Innisbrook.

That’s fair, silence is probably the best approach. But as the investigation and innuendo begins to drag out, it’s time for the Tour to start talking.