What format would work for LPGA / PGA Tour combined events?

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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 is exploring the idea of creating a system that would allow the best collegiate players direct access to the Tour without going through q-school or playing on one of the developmental tours. A lot of current players that had to grind through the minors and q-school are not enamored of this idea. Do you think it makes sense to exempt top college players or better to make them earn their spot?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): On the face of it, I’d say this concept stinks, and I can’t imagine what rationale is behind it.  It would make the Tour even more elitist than it already is and would clearly discriminate against players who don’t have the means to afford college, or the good luck to earn a scholarship.  Outside of the recipients of this free pass, who benefits from their receiving it?  Spectators and viewers?  Hardly.  In fact, I’d say even the recipients won’t benefit, because they won’t learn the discipline, dedication, and guts it takes to make your way up to the top echelon of their profession.  Mr. Monahan, I’d give a thumbs-down on this idea.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Uh, they lost me here. There’s still a path for those Collegiate Players to take to make it, why change? Not all those young players make it, the ones that are special do, and it makes it that much more of a story rather than pan handling to these players. I have a feeling if they do this, more players will fail than succeed. There’s something g to be said for earning your way there, the least of which is disgruntled current players. It’s more the process and erring used to the travel and business side themselves. You’d be amazed the difference between having coaches book everything, including dinners, travel, practice time, etc. and the players having to do it themselves. Don’t change the pathway to the Tour, its fine as is thank you.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I am so against this I can’t see straight! Tour golf is one of the most capitalistic businesses in the world. The better your performance; the more you get paid…….period. We already have the USPGA TOUR’s ‘125 system’, the additional points/ranking based on top 150 placements, past winners, lifetime earnings, Web.Com standings and Web.Com Q school. We have mid-season reshuffles based on performance and the ability to earn status from the Mackenzie Tour, the Latinoamerican Tour and sponsor exemptions. Every single one of these opportunities says very loud and very clear “If you can play here is a brass ring”. No promises, no guarantees and no parachutes to safety. There are dozens of promising amateurs who have ventured forth into the world of tournament golf and failed. The reason is very simple! Harsh but simple; they didn’t have what it takes. In fact, several with outstanding amateur credentials took full advantage of the sponsor exemption to parlay it into a tour card bypassing the entire process of second level tours and Q school. Why should anyone get a FREE pass?

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@Davykap): I didn’t think it was a big enough issue on the men’s side to warrant a policy change. Yes, there is the random example here and there, like UNCG’s Riley Davis, who bailed on his squad just last week. But it’s rare to see more than 1 or 2 of these instances popping up each year. Plus, so many of the top college players never materialize into top-level tour talent, a concept which is not limited to just golf. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I like the idea of players earning their own spot. Get off my lawn.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s getting so tough for guys to make it to the PGA Tour these days.  It’s no longer a potentially one step process, it takes years for most guys.  So, to be fair to those who are grinding it out to make it, I don’t like the idea of giving guys a free ride on to the Tour.  If they are that good, they’ll get there quickly enough.  I like the way it is now, with the bigger name amateurs and new pros getting a certain number of sponsor’s exemptions, which they can use to earn enough to make their way on Tour.  That still seems fair to me, don’t just gift guys a Tour card because they won a few college tourneys.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): This seems odd. Supposedly this is to help colleges keep players in school longer but actually runs the risk of them leaving sooner. If the top players get some Tour spots and earn enough money, as Jordan Spieth did, they’ll jump at the first opportunity to turn pro and make big bucks. The Tour doesn’t need big name college players to market their product so why not leave them alone until they graduate. Ultimately, I don’t think they’re doing the kids any favours either. Testing players in the minors has proven to be the best way to get them to the PGA Tour and keep them there. Fast-tracking them with direct access from q-school or any other way has resulted in a lot of fizzled careers. Does anybody remember Ty Tryon?

Lexi Thompson partnered with Tony Finau at the QBE Shootout last week, leading to more calls for an event that combines LPGA and PGA Tour players. Are you in favour of such an event and if so, what format should it take?

Deeks: Certainly, I’d like to see more — but not many — events which showcase both genders playing together and/or against each other.  How about one Ryder Cup type competition between the two tours every second year? Give the women forward tees, but no other benefit.  Winner team take all.

Loughry: Would love to see woman and men in a mixed event. Works for tennis, it works in golf at the club level, it can certainly work for professional tour golf too. Format: Four Ball Match Play, each playing their own tee. For partners, take the top 32 from each Tour and pair them. And there’s the tough part, how to pair them (blind draw? By rank? By country? Leave the players or agents to it?). Could turn into a first dance like scene, scared to ask, or be turned down, could be entertaining actually.

Schurman: This is an extremely difficult equation to solve. All handicapping systems have faults particularly when you attempt to equalize two factions who contain so many variables within themselves. The obvious choice is to regulate the length of the course but how? Do you take the average distance the men’s field have remaining as a shot into a green, determine what iron is the average and then adjust the tee markers so the ladies hit the same iron? Do you take the average score of a men’s field on a certain course and then try to determine what the course yardage/set-up should be to have the ladies shoot the same average score? Or, do you simplify everything and just do what we do now and pluck an arbitrary number and move the tee markers forward? Back to the original question of having ‘mixed’ events. I’d love to see something like this. Once a suitable formula was calculated, I’d love to see the President’s Cup Teams made up of 16 players each; 12 men and 4 ladies. Imagine having a lady player vs a man, 2 ladies vs 2 men better-ball, 2 ladies on the final day against each other in the final group with the points all tied coming to the final few holes. Nothing would do more add spice to the sadly lacking President’s Cup and it would do a lot to promote women’s golf around the world.

Kaplan: I think the men should be pitted against the women every other year instead of the Presidents Cup. Let’s take the eight best players from both the men’s and women’s sides and make them play one another from their respective tees over the course of three days. I want to see DJ vs Jutanugarn, Justin Thomas vs Sung Hyun Park, Brooks Koepka vs. Brooke Henderson, Tiger Woods vs Lexi Thompson, Justin Rose vs Inbee Park, etc.

Rule: I am in favour of it, I think the LPGA has a great product right now, with some marketable players, and it would be great for their tour.  It would have to be some sort of a match play format and I think a World Cup style event with players playing for their country is the way to go.  Korea would no doubt be the team to beat!

Mumford: As Michael Schurman says, if the Tours can agree on a course set-up that allows the men and women to play an equivalent course, then theoretically they should be able to compete head to head in any format. Equivalent means same club, not same yardage. In that case I’d love to see a team event with four teams: U.S., Europe, Asia/Australia & Rest of World in a match play format featuring pairs and singles in any combination the team captains choose.

Let’s assume that Tiger Woods’ comeback is considered the number 1 golf story of the year. What story do you think didn’t get the attention it deserved?

Deeks: Tough one.  I’m not sure it’s a major story, but I’d love to know more about Donald Trump’s influence in the world of golf, and how those properties around the world with his name on them are doing… how his name actually got there, where the money came from, and whether his name is a liability to marketing and revenue, and local economics.  Other than that, I’d say I’m satisfied with the amount of golf coverage I receive.

Loughry: Probably the emergence of Bryson DeChambeau is the next big story behind Tiger. The guy lit it up this year to much dismay. The mad scientist I think plays the part up a bit, but overall, I think he’s good for the game. He shows us there’s more than one way to go about it.

Schurman: In my life, I have seen Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Based on the yard-stick they apply, Jack is the best but, Snead has won more events. There is no doubt Tiger was the most dominant. However, ‘was’ is ‘was’! I’m tired of Tiger this and Tiger that! The biggest story of the year is Brooks Koepka with TWO majors!

Kaplan: Koepka’s huge year kind of got buried in all the Tiger hysteria. The Floridian came back from major wrist surgery to win two majors, become the seventh player in the history of the game to defend a U.S. Open title and ascend to No. 1 in the world in the OWGR. The man deserves a parade!

Rule: The story that didn’t get the attention it deserved, or at least the player that didn’t get the attention, was Patrick Reed, but let’s be honest, once he won the Masters, people just wanted to move on and talk about other players and tournaments because he’s not exactly the most likeable or fan-friendly champion.  But he played incredibly well on Sunday when it mattered and won a tournament that nobody expected him to win, and for that, he deserved perhaps a bit more attention than he got.  And this coming from a guy who doesn’t particularly like Reed very much, or at all!

Mumford: Whenever Tiger is involved in any story, even peripherally, it always revolves around him. For a while he flirted with the lead at both the Open Championship and PGA Championship and consequently neither Molinari nor Koepka got the recognition they deserved for winning. Koepka had an awesome year with two majors but in my opinion, Molinari had the better season with a major, another title in the U.S., two wins in Europe, a record achievement at the Ryder Cup, Race to Dubai champion and POY on the European Tour. Koepka was coming off a major win in 2017; Molinari arrived from Mars.

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