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.
Vijay Singh is taking some heat for his decision to play an upcoming Korn Ferry Tour event in his hometown of Ponte Vedra. Several Korn Ferry players criticized the World Golf Hall of Famer for taking a spot from a player that may really need it. Brady Schnell went so far as to call Singh a complete turd and a piece of trash. Although Tour Rules permit Singh to enter the event, is he out of line to do so?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Yes, I believe he’s out of line. He’s made millions of dollars, so surely money is not an issue. Nor is pride – even if he wins the tournament, is he going to count this among his great and prestigious victories — I doubt it. Next time Vijay claims he does all he can to support the game, remind him of this decision. But this kind of selfish behaviour is totally consistent with Vijay’s attitude over the years. I’m not a fan, never have been.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The fault here doesn’t lie with Vijay. It lies with the Policy Board. Vijay has earned the right to play anywhere he wants, and the rules allow him to play the Korn Ferry Tour. Many Tour players use the Korn Ferry Tour to hone their game prior to joining the Champions Tour. The main difference here is that Vijay is using one event and not actually joining that Tour full-time. The players should respect his accomplishments and not be afraid to compete against someone who in some case is double their age. If an old warrior like Vijay is a threat how do they expect to beat Rory if they get to the PGA Tour? The answer is for everyone to beat him. You can be sure he will quit playing if he is last every week.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): He’s certainly not out of line. He earned that spot by earning lifetime status on the PGA Tour. And it’s not like playing at TPC Sawgrass that week is his first choice either; he’d definitely rather be at Colonial competing against the top dogs but he knows he’d have no chance at getting into the field there so he’s using his contingency plan. That’s why contingency plans exist! That some 150th-ranked Korn Ferry Tour member won’t be able to play in the tournament is not a travesty; it should be all the inspiration that person needs to improve his lot. Besides, I highly doubt that Brady Schnell would have the same opinion if he had lifetime status on the PGA Tour and was in a similar position to VJ. Also, since when does anyone care about what Brady Schnell thinks?
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’ll be honest I can see both sides of the argument, and those that argue “if you don’t like it, play better” are right in a lot of ways. But this just rubs me the wrong way. The KFT is meant as a breeding ground for future PGA Tour pros, so it is nice to give the spots to guys that can use the money or ranking points to further their careers. And in this time of economic uncertainty when some guys are desperate for money, it’s nice to give them a spot in the field over a guy who has made over $75M in his career. Plus, let’s be honest, he’s not a very likeable guy, which makes it harder to argue in his favour on this one! If this was Fred Couples, perhaps a different response from people.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Over the years, can’t recall anyone ever saying anything real nice about this guy. From the cheating scandal early in his career, to the vocal complaints from former caddies, to the lawsuit over ‘deer antler’ supplements, he’s about the only guy who would pull this. He didn’t want Annika taking a guy’s spot when she played that stunt on the Tour, now he’s taking some kid’s spot. Maybe he’s blown through the $75 M he made on Tour? Otherwise, he should shut up and withdraw.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Vijay is doing this just to stick it to the PGA Tour, right in their own backyard, after the deer antler spray incident. Either way, I have no issue with Vijay playing wherever he wants. He’s earned the right and presumably having a Hall of Famer in the field adds some lustre to an event that likely wouldn’t get any notice beyond the usual F&F contingent (family and friends).
The Match 2.0 or Re-Match with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning is getting a lot of hype but another match featuring Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolfe will take place the week before at Seminole Golf Club in Florida. The format for the Re-Match includes nine holes of better ball and nine holes of alternate shot, while the RDRM (RoryDustinRickieMatthew) tilt is more about four elite pros with no caddies in a casual beatdown. Which one is likely to be more entertaining?
Deeks: Having been very involved with the Export ‘A’ Skins Game roughly 25 years ago, it’s a little disingenuous for me to be critical of golf exhibitions. That said, however, I take a pretty cynical view of both matches. I certainly won’t be watching the Tiger-Phil thing. I will only watch the Rory-Rickie one to get a look at Seminole… a course whose gates I’ve passed on the road, but never been inside. I can only hope (but don’t expect) that all participants will be donating every nickel of revenue — including appearance fees, expenses, and winnings — to a bona fide charity of their choice.
Schurman: At least RDRM are golfers. As I have said before “I’d rather watch Phil catch a pass from Brady and have him ‘brought down’ by Lawrence Taylor. In fact, let’s make that the best 2 out of 3, Lawrence vs Phil.
Kaplan: It’s the Match 2.0 for one reason: the alternate shot format. You just know that Brady and Manning are going to be constantly putting their playing partners in trouble and forcing wild recovery shots. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Team Mickelson for this reason.
Rule: I’ll admit I’m looking forward to both of them, I’m just desperate for live sports! The Re-Match has its intrigue for me mostly because Tiger is playing, but I’ve never been a huge fan of pro-am type events (if I ever see Ray Romano hit another shot at Pebble Beach, it’ll be one too many), so the other match has more potential entertainment value to me. Plus, the fact that it’s being played at a golf course, in Seminole, that I’m interested in seeing, as a golf architect and Donald Ross fan.
Quinn: The TaylorMade event could be great, the 2.0 more likely to be painfully forced. Rory – DJ head-to-head definitely will be time well wasted. It will be worth watching just for the camera angles and technology alone — how many camera cranes, any shot tracers? Still, will record it to FF past the long walks and commercials. Might watch a couple of the 2.0 holes just to see what Brady’s swing is like.
Mumford: Live golf. What a novel idea! Both matches will be a welcome respite to re-runs, analysis and way too much Tiger. However, as much as I’m a Tom Brady fan, it’s for his prowess as a quarterback not a golfer. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am has overly abused the concept of celebrity golfers and once a year is more than enough, thank you very much. Therefore, the RDRM match is the one I think will be far more compelling. The personalities are quite varied and I’m dying to get a peek inside Seminole.
One of the safety measures that is being used during the pandemic is the elimination of bunker rakes. Players are expected to smooth the sand as best they can with their feet, but experience has shown that even with rakes available, bunkers on most public courses can turn into minefields late in the day. Some argue that’s the way bunkers should be – a true hazard. Would you be in favour of continuing the practice of no rakes after the safety guidelines are lifted?
Deeks: No, I would not. A bunker full of shoe imprints is not a “natural” hazard in my view. Nor is a bunker with significant storm damage. I have no idea of when the practice of raking bunkers began, but I think it’s eminently fair for all players to expect bunkers to be left in proper, raked condition. I believe raking is an important component of one of the game’s most important standards — i.e., etiquette. And if your ball finds itself in someone’s shoe crater (other than your own), I believe you should be allowed to replace it within six inches on level sand… but I recognize the purists would want me tarred and feathered for that suggestion.
Schurman: Yes, I’m in favour of ‘no rakes’. However, modern courses are designed to be played ‘through the air’ with bunkers positioned and maintained to reflect that. If bunkers are to become actual hazards, then they would require re-design and re-location. Of course, if you are going to ease the access to pin locations it would require firmer conditions around the front of the greens. Now that I think about it, why not apply a program of reduced irrigation, less fertilizer and re-introduce a game that is more ‘ground’ oriented. People would play golf instead of bash-ball, and the cost would be a fraction of today’s monstrous budgets. Sorry, I guess I drifted off in my nostalgic dream world.
Kaplan: Definitely not! My bunker play is the best part of my game. You can’t take those fluffy, manicured lies away from me. My scores will spike!
Rule: Absolutely not. The argument that bunkers should be true hazards is a good one, but for them to be un-raked, they can’t be as penal in their design as many bunkers are these days. I play at a course where the bunkers are deep and steep, and if you end up in a footprint, it’s virtually impossible for many players to even escape the bunker. Playing naturalized areas like the ones re-introduced at Pinehurst No 2 is different. The sand is firm, so the footprints aren’t as deep, and you don’t have to elevate the ball quickly to escape trouble. But for typical North American parkland style courses? The sand is way too soft for that to be feasible.
Quinn: On my phone I have a collection of photos of deep footprints in bunkers…right beside the rake. Last season in my role as Players Assistant I fixed 114 pitch marks on 14 greens — 21 on one alone. Ran out of light to do the rest. I’m for putting the rakes back just to remind the yahoos and yobs that once the game was defined by etiquette.
Mumford: Although I like the idea of no rakes, that really only works for shallow bunkers with very firm sand. Modern deep bunkers need to be groomed or else players would be in them all day. The other issue is one of fairness. Even with rakes, plenty of boors tramp around like a herd of caribou leaving the trap in worse condition than they found it. That puts anybody following at a disadvantage. Golf is tough enough as it is. Keep the rakes!