John Smoltz gets a dose of reality in Nationwide Tour debut

I'll be the first to admit that I thought this time around would be different. One year after Jerry Rice made himself look silly by posting rounds of 83-76 in his Nationwide Tour debut, John Smoltz tried to do something Rice couldn't last year: make the cut in a professional golf tournament.

After taking a look at Smoltz's golf resume, it was easy to think he had a legitimate shot at seeing the weekend. But like my Yahoo! colleague Shane Bacon noted earlier this week over at Dogs That Chase Cars, having a couple of nice golf finishes and a career-best 63 doesn't make you worthy of taking a spot away from someone else in the field.

Smoltz, who Tiger Woods once claimed was the best non-PGA Tour golfer he'd ever seen, not only struggled in his Nationwide Tour debut, he made Jerry Rice look good, posting rounds of 84 and 87 to finsh at 27-over for the two days.

If you're keeping track at home, that's ten shots worse than what Rice shot in his first event on the Nationwide Tour. Now that the dust has settled on his round, I think the question that needs to be answered here is ... how much longer do you let these retired pro athletes live out their dream of trying to play professional golf?

Clearly, this circus act isn't working out. If a plus-two handicap like Smoltz can't even sniff even par in a round, how do you expect any of these other guys to do the same? Quite honestly, I think the game needs to cool on giving these guys sponsor's exemptions in the future.

Sure, they add a little noise to a tournament that would normally go unnoticed, but it really ends up making the sponsor look stupid for wasting a spot in the field. From here on out, if a Smoltz or Rice wants to play in a mini-tour event, make them qualify for it like everyone else.

Monday qualifying would not only make their inclusion in the field look legitimate, it would also stop guys like myself from criticizing the athletes and the tournaments for stealing a spot in the field from a more deserving golfer.

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