Finally! Teams on Tour

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The PGA Tour has announced that the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will move to a two-man team format in 2017. The top 80 qualifiers will get to pick their own partners and each team will play one round of foursomes and one round of four-ball before the field is cut to the low 35 teams. Olympic gold and silver medalists Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson (pictured above)  have already indicated they’ll team up. What do you think of the format and who would you like to see paired together?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Bravo!  I think it’s a great idea to inject some variety into the PGA Tour season.  I’m so bored and disinterested with 72-hole stroke play events, week after week, won by people whose names I may never hear again. Not sure I’m 100% in favour of guys picking their own partners, though.  It might be more fun, and more equitable, if #1 was automatically paired with #144, #2 with #143, and so on.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): LOVE the new format! These forms of play have been around for a LONG time at the club level, so it’s great the Tour is finally embracing them. As for pairings, if he qualifies I’d love to see Tiger with Jason Day, DJ and Gary Woodland (let the bombs go off the tee), or Spieth and Fowler. I just think kids would love to see these teams tee it up together.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think this format tweak is great for the sport and should help to draw in a strong number of viewers. We should be in the dog days of both the NBA and the NHL seasons in March and this new format, along with the WGC-Dell Match Play a few weeks later, will be a refreshing change-up from the tedium of weekly individual stroke play. As for who I would like to see paired together … how about Rory Sabbatini and Tiger Woods or Ian Poulter and Bubba Watson or some Canadian connection of David Hearn/Adam Hadwin/Mackenzie Hughes?

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: OK, three-part but simple question: who won the last Zurich Classic? What is a Zurich Classic? And who cares? Pre-Katrina it was a wonderful idea to get the game South; post-Katrina it was supposed to be cathartic and somehow patriotic. Didn’t work as the B-listers played away while everyone else watched the NFL or whatever. This is an inspired move, but one born of desperation. Sadly, Finchem’s  legacy — $5 M purse minimum for all events — has crippled creativity, not that there was much. This is a TV ratings move that hopefully will catch the Ryder Cup hangover, but true fans of the game (and more importantly players of the game) will love it.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Fantastic! It’s a concept that is long overdue. You’d think someone at PGA Tour headquarters would have noticed the incredible enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup long before now and deduced that golf fans are supportive of something other than the usual 72 hole stroke play format. The options for creative pairings are unlimited. I bet we’ll see a lot of teams based on nationality, city of residence and especially their alma maters. The potential college pairings could be awesome. Who wouldn’t want to see Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm take on all comers as an Arizona State team? They should have done this years ago. I would love to have seen an Ohio State team of Nicklaus and Weiskopf.

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The PGA Championship will be re-scheduled in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics and this has raised the possibility that the so-called “4th major” could be getting a permanent schedule change to either February or May, with the Players moving back to March. Would you like to see the PGA Championship date moved and would it help increase the tournament’s allure to golf fans?

Deeks: Would this mean that the majors would be all finished by July 15th after The Open Championship?  That seems a little odd.  I frankly couldn’t care less when the PGA Championship is held.  But maybe they should think of holding The Players Championship in September, and declare THAT as the season-ender – especially if they continue to insist that the new season starts in October.

Loughry: I don’t want to see the PGA Championship moved from its current date. I actually think it has a great date that allows them to take it pretty much to any market and golf course in the US. This I believe is its greatest strength and why it gets great TV ratings, even though it’s known as the “4th Major”. TV ratings are actually very good. If they move it to February or May, that limits the areas/markets they can take it to. Kiss good bye to Whistling Straits, Baltusrol, Medinah, Valhalla, or anything in the near north, like Illinois or Michigan. Do us a favour, keep it where it is on the schedule. PLEASE.

Kaplan: Yes, a switch to either one of February or May would be a good move for the PGA Championship, but I think February would be best.  The PGA Championship, in my opinion, always feels anticlimactic in August. If it was the first of the four majors played every season, I think more fans would look forward to it each year.  Plus, fans would start to associate the tournament with the melting of snow and the end of winter, much like how I have come to associate the Masters each year with the beginning of the golf season in Ontario.

Quinn: It’s all moot if sanity rears it’s rarely sighted head and golf is either dropped from the “Games” or the benighted apparatchiks of the Oly Committee see the light that the future of the game is in the youth of the world and not the fading professional stars. Drop it (it should never have been picked up, yo Brazilians and all of your access to Hanse’s multi-million dollar  masterpiece) or open it to NON-TOUR Pros AND AMATEURS ONLY and you do have a legitimate chance to inspire young potential golfers around the world. Wasn’t it inspirational for the youth of Britain that Justin Rose, resident at Albany in the tax haven of Bahamas, won for the old soil? Inspired to do what? Win or dodge taxes?  My country t’is of thee, unless I have to live there and pay taxes. Get the Games into amateur golf and the PGA Championship stays on the sked where it belongs as the most entertaining of the Majors.

Mumford: The PGA Championship is perfect where it is now. There’s a good balance to the season and moving it will never make it bigger than the other three majors. But then I don’t think the PGA Championship needs a boost either. Being the last major gives it a special status as the final chance for elite players to make something of their year. I’ve never been a fan of pros in the Olympics and moving a major to accommodate them is nuts. Let the amateurs go to Tokyo.

Looking back at 2016 through the Olympics, four majors, changes at equipment companies, new technology, deaths, etc, what has been the story of the year?

Deeks: I’d say two things were equally “most important” in golf this year: the return of golf to the Olympic Games and the death of Arnold Palmer. If golf doesn’t stay in the Olympics past 2020, then its return diminishes in importance, of course. Arnold’s impact, and his ultimate passing, however, will endure as long as golf is played. Running a close second to those two stories would be the epic dual between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.

Loughry: Sadly, it was Arnie’s death that was the biggest golf story this year. It will take a while to sink in but losing him was a BIG loss to the game, Mr. Palmer will be missed indeed.

Kaplan: I think the story of the year is still how the USGA bungled BOTH the men’s and women’s US Opens this year.  The USGA wasn’t exactly beloved prior to those majors, but the loss of credibility that the organization incurred as a result of those gaffes was substantial. In fact, it is possible that the USGA never regains that credibility and remains somewhat of a laughingstock amongst North American golf fans going forwards.

Quinn: As much as I enjoyed Rory’s roaring, and bemoaned the big box closures, was saddened by the passing of Dawn Coe-Jones (we only met a few times, but it was always heartfelt hugs), was absolutely smitten by the play of Brooke Henderson, and not happy with the Ryder Cup results, this year was all about the passing of the King. From the time he burst on the scene, he was the scene. He made golf a TV event, and that’s why golfers we’ve never heard of get to play for $5 million every weekend.

Mumford: So many strong, impactful stories this year. Years from now, when people look back at 2016, I think the story that will stand out most will be the change to the equipment industry. Nike’s exit from hard goods was just the tip of the iceberg; adidas is trying to sell TaylorMade; Golf Town and Golfsmith went bankrupt; Costco entered the ball business with a premium performance ball at a bargain price; and other disruptors like PXG are further fracturing the grip the large equipment OEM’s have on the industry. The market has matured and demand is soft. Further shakeouts are inevitable and the remaining players will be faced with increased competition from niche players and commodity providers. It’s a paradigm shift and that can be tragic for some but it’s a positive message for those that figure it out.

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