Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam. It’s been a big couple of weeks for the Rules of Golf. The best in the world are using them, to mixed reviews, and you and I are using them, to mixed reviews.
But it’s another rule in the limelight this week – a PGA Tour-specific rule that says if a player doesn’t enter at least 25 events, he must play at least one tournament that he has never played in before.
You know, the one that Jordan Spieth risked suspension by breaking last year.
Now it’s been revealed that Ian Poulter was very much in the same boat as his American counterpart. It all started when Poulter won the Houston Open, and with it a change in schedule due to the invitations and exemptions that comes with being a PGA Tour winner.
It also meant, having missed out on 2016, a return to the European Ryder Cup team.
And because Poulter didn’t want to play nine weeks in a row ahead of the Le Golf National showdown, he backed out of the Wyndham Championship – his banker to ensure he didn’t break the rule.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Poulter explained the situation:
I told them, ‘How do you want to go about it?’ I’m going to be the first person [to violate the rule], and it’s going to be sensitive. I want to give something back so I can fulfill an obligation.
And the Englishman found a way of getting around any punishment. Not only did he agree to play in the Hawaiian Swing – the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open – he also hosted eight guests of Wyndham to play a round with him at his home club, as well as getting a tour of his selection of supercars and Ryder Cup memorabilia.
Now I’m not sure who Wyndham’s guests were – and hopefully they were genuinely deserving of this trip that money can’t buy rather than corporate fat cats enjoying another day out at someone else’s expense – but the PGA Tour did describe Poulter’s gesture as “beyond what we would consider an acceptable make-good”.
Sounds like you could have just sent them some flowers, Ian.
If you’re still wondering about Spieth, no punishments for breaking this rule are released publicly – presumably to allow flexibility when hands are slapped – but he played in both the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the Mayakoba Golf Classic for the first time during the opening weeks of the season, so read into that what you will.
Oh captain! Our captain!
Golf’s worst-kept secret was revealed on Tuesday when Padraig Harrington was named as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for 2020.
Now there are plenty of reasons why Harrington is the right man for the job, and they are nicely laid out by my colleague Mark Townsend, but I was a bit taken aback by the amount of people dismissing his appointment on social media.
My simple question to them was: Who is better qualified for the job?
He has played in six Ryder Cups, winning four and contributing 10.5 points in the process. He has been a vice-captain on three occasions, and has played in all three PGA Championships held at host venue Whistling Straits.
He is as meticulous a tactician as you could ever meet, highly respected among his peers, and immensely popular in the US.
So I’ll ask again: Who is better qualified for the job?
Sticking with Harrington, he has revealed he may not go down the same route as previous captains when it comes to the number of wildcard picks he is allowed:
I’m getting some stats done at the moment on whether to go for three or four.
My thinking is, does the ninth guy (on the qualifying list) ever get skipped over? I don’t think it has happened and I think players are more comfortable and more confident if they’ve qualified directly rather than getting a pick. So I’d prefer more players to qualify than if I picked them but I will have a look at those stats. Anecdotally number nine always gets a pick so why not let them qualify?
Why not go all the way, Padraig, and have no captain’s picks?
Now you may remember the story of Cody Blick, who shot a final-round 63 at Q School in December just hours after finding out his clubs had been stolen.
Well, the story of how he got them back is equally as bizarre.
The story starts in Arizona, where a homeless man asked a woman for some money. She asked if the man had anything she could buy, and the pair ventured into his tent full of goodies. Among them, a set of golf clubs. I think you can put the next piece of the puzzle in yourself.
When she got home, $75 lighter, she noticed the name on the bag, opened her computer, and punched “Blick golf clubs” into Google and discovered the tale of woe.
She then found Blick’s mother’s number and got in touch. A few days and an offer of $300 later, Blick was reunited with his clubs – mainly his beloved Scotty Cameron putter he’s used since 2010.
A feel-good story all round. Well, almost. I wonder if that homeless man, who made $75 that day, knows he could have made $5,000 if he’d seen Blick’s original plea.
Right. That’s enough from me. Enjoy your golf wherever you’re playing this weekend. But first, some recommended reading…
Must-reads on NCG