HONOLULU – In this week’s edition of Cut Line, Kevin Kisner in a ‘Bama jersey, a prodigious drive by Dustin Johnson, and another curious violation of the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy.
Perspective. There are those who live and die by the fate of their chosen teams … and then there’s Kevin Kisner.
Make no mistake, Kisner bleeds Georgia red and black and watched Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship with as much passion as anyone, and even in defeat he found a way to celebrate the event.
Kisner turned a friendly wager with Justin Thomas, arguably the Tour’s preeminent Alabama fan, into a chance to generate some money for his foundation. Their bet saw Kisner have to wear an Alabama jersey while playing the 17th hole on Thursday at the Sony Open.
“We’re going to raffle [the Alabama jersey] off through my foundation, sell a bunch of raffle tickets, pick out a winner, and then give that money back to the children in our community,” Kisner said. “Justin is good enough to let me do it, and I’ll get him back in the future.”
One small but important note, Kisner explained that Thomas resisted numerous requests to base the bet on the game’s line, which had Alabama favored by 3 1/2 points. The Tide won by four.
“I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn’t give them to me,” Kisner joked. “So I’m still not sure about this bet.”
You know what they say, every match is decided on the first tee.
Tweet of the week:
.@K_Kisner is a good sport.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 12, 2018
That dude @K_Kisner is a better sport than me! Looking forward to auctioning this off and raising some money. Jersey is signed by both of us to help out @KizFoundation. Follow kiz for more details coming soon https://t.co/Zuq9Vitu1V
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) January 12, 2018
No Bones about it. Following a few months with nothing more weighty than a microphone in his hand, Jim “Bones” Mackay didn’t lose a step on Thursday when he transitioned back to a more familiar role – caddying for Thomas.
Mackay stepped in for Thomas’ normal caddie Jimmy Johnson, who was sidelined last week with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, and only had a few awkward moments on Day 1 after 25 seasons with left-hander Phil Mickelson.
“My battles were cleaning the wrong side of the club and there were two or three times when I was on the wrong side of the ball,” Mackay laughed.
One member of the gallery joked on Thursday that Mackay also had to get used to being in the fairway a little more often than he was during his two decades with Lefty, who had a tendency to get a little wayward off the tee.
Mackay’s week became even more interesting on Friday when he pulled double duty, caddying for Thomas in the morning and joining the Golf Channel broadcast team in the afternoon, walking with Jordan Spieth’s group for the ultimate inside-the-ropes moonlighting.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Alarmist. Depending on who you ask, last week’s power display by Dustin Johnson at the Sentry Tournament of Champions was either a reason to celebrate what promises to be an epic season or lament the utter dominance of the long ball at the highest levels.
While the debate over the increasing distance players hit the golf ball is certainly worth having, last week’s stop at Kapalua should never be considered an accurate snapshot of the state of the game.
Last year on Tour, two of the 11 longest drives were at Kapalua (and seven of the top 11 came at Firestone during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).
This week’s event at Waialae Country Club is a better representation of how far players are hitting the ball, with just a single drive over 380 yards on Thursday. It’s also worth noting that Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk shared the Day 1 lead and both players are very much mid-length guys.
Driving distances are an issue, but using a single course to prove a point is hyperbolic and hopelessly pointless.
Final solutions. Last week, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan conceded that the best outcome for a pair of lawsuits between the Tour and various parties would be a settlement.
Specifically, Monahan was asked about the circuit’s ongoing lawsuit with a group of caddies, which was filed in 2015 claiming violations of antitrust, intellectual property and contract law.
“We have had discussions with various caddies and various caddie leadership, but there was a suit that they filed, and we’re following the process,” Monahan said. “We’re hopeful that it comes to an end, and we can get back to the business of supporting them, because they’re so important to what we do.”
The commissioner had a similar take on the Tour’s lawsuit with Vijay Singh, which was filed in 2013 after the 34-time Tour winner’s suspension for using deer-antler spray was rescinded.
The best outcome for golf, the best outcome for everyone involved, is a settlement, but that will take compromise, which has been desperately lacking in both lawsuits for far too long.
Unintended consequences. For the fifth time since the Tour initiated its anti-doping policy, a player has found themselves on the wrong end of a suspension.
This time it was Brad Fritsch, who self-reported a violation of the policy when he discovered there was a banned substance in a weight-loss supplement he was taking. The announcement came about a month after Mark Hensby was suspended for failing to provide a drug-testing sample when approached by officials at the 2017 Sanderson Farms Championship.
Fritsch was popped for taking the same substance – DHEA, an over-the-counter anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour – as Scott Stallings, who also self-reported his infraction in 2015 after a similarly honest mistake.
Few things play out the way you imagined, but on this front the circuit’s foray into anti-doping has stayed on script. Few, if any, believed there was a doping issue in golf, but many – including some members of the Tour’s player advisory council at the time – worried these types of inadvertent infractions would become the norm.
This is not a defense of the players, who are ultimately responsible for what they put in their bodies, but it is an indictment of a program that was always going to have collateral damage.