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 and European Tour have entered into an alliance purportedly to better serve their respective members and explore enhanced media opportunities. Some view it as a necessary strike against the upstart PGL, which has yet to stage a single event, while others fear it’s the first step in an eventual takeover by the PGA Tour. What’s your reaction to the new alliance?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to review the “official” news releases from the respective Tours, but my initial reaction is, “is this much ado about nothing?” And I have a number of other questions: Will this benefit fans or viewers in any way? Will players’ schedules change in any way? (Yes, the PGA Tour offers bigger purses, but a lot of Euro players still prefer to play closer to home and family anyway). And to your point in the question, is this just the PGA Tour in sheep’s clothing, about to devour the Euro? If it all really just means greater revenue for the players and their agents, then I’ll just yawn and shake my head, thanks.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: This move is both! It brings the world TOURs closer to all being under the same ‘umbrella’. It allows them (The PGA TOUR) to control the career path of every person playing professional golf. Eventually, the only entry will be through qualifying for minor tours like the Canadian Tour, Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour etc. who are the ‘feeder’ system. It is a method of controlling the quality of play at all levels so the sponsors of various tours can be guaranteed a certain product. I’d like to see the LPGA join the group. I want to see a ‘handicapping’ system in place and matches to include men vs women. The PGL has missed the window of opportunity! The PGA TOUR will not allow a player to defect unless they completely sever all ties. One or two might but the secondary players risk a lot for not much to gain and the decision would be for life. Last, this new deal gives the PGA TOUR access to the much longed for Ryder Cup TV rights. Further, the Ryder Cup is one of the most heavily bet sports events which ties nicely to the PGA TOUR new deals with FanDuel, PointsBet, BetMGM and DraftKings.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It has been a gradual courtship that, like many, is all about the money. Don’t think Greg Norman’s idea copied by the PGL really has much to do with it. If there is going to be a post-pandemic world, the Tours cooperating to try to make pro golf financially feasible, let alone relevant, will take more ingenuity and drastic change than the blazers on both side of the pond are even contemplating.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It should be no surprise to anyone that the PGA Tour is interested in pushing its brand into every corner of the golf world possible. An alliance now, followed by a partnership or ownership of the European Tour some time down the road should also not be a surprise. This is but a first step. It effectively stymies the PGL, opens some corporate sponsorship opportunities and may give players more flexibility in scheduling and qualifying. Ironically, it may eventually allow the PGA Tour to control both Ryder Cup teams. Maybe it’s a necessary step for the Euros but it’s like a marriage between an elephant and an ant. Someone is going to get hurt.
Paul Casey has announced that he will play in the Saudi International in February after personally boycotting the event in the past due to Saudi human rights violations, Casey, who is also a UNICEF ambassador, changed his mind after Golf Saudi hosted two women’s professional events. Many view Golf Saudi’s actions as a clear case of “sportswashing” for the corrupt Saudi regime. Casey will join Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and many others at the event. Should we expect professional golfers to take a principled stand on this kind of issue or just follow the money?
Deeks: We can HOPE that professional golfers would take a principled stand, but honestly, it’s all just munny, munny, munny these days. Isn’t it interesting how so much of the conversation about professional golf now revolves around, or devolves into, a discussion of money? I cannot believe that all those guys you mention aren’t being paid barrels of appearance fees just to show up… as if any of them need the extra dough. A principled stand costs them nothing, but so does receiving a fat cheque, and there are all those private jet fuel costs to cover, so…
Schurman: There is a lot to be admired about a person who has character and integrity. After the nightmare, we have just endured with ‘The Ugly American’ who decimated every legal institution, every form of decency and respect, every moral standard and the meaning of everything ethical, Casey’s actions are refreshing. As an independent contractor, he risks losing opportunities to earn a living but it’s a big world and perhaps his stand ‘opens doors’ too.
Quinn: Well, even though they can make more for just showing up at the Saudi event than most of their fans can make in a year — at 40 + hours a week for about 48-50 weeks — why should these guys have a conscience? In their hectic world of practice and endorsement commitments, where would they find the time to read a newspaper, or talk to anyone concerned or involved in how this planet is wobbling? Come on, leave them alone. They are in their bubble and we don’t have to listen to their thoughts, if any. That’s a good thing.
Mumford: Sportswashing is a time-honoured tradition for dictators and authoritarian regimes to try to earn some level of legitimacy. Witness the parade of scoundrels at the Olympics. Many democratic governments trade with and cozy up to the royal family in Riyadh, so how is that different than playing in their golf tournament? We should be long past any expectation that athletes will use their celebrity to shine a light on atrocities or even distance themselves from the perpetrators if there is a cheque involved. The money gives the athlete cover to say nice things about growing the game, creating opportunities for women and children, etc. It’s all a sham. It’s always about the money.
This week, in our series of 2020 highlights, we’re asking, “What was the Shot of the Year?”
Deeks: In competition, Collin Morikawa’s drive onto the par-4 16th green at Harding Park sealed the PGA Championship for him; it was a gutsy, perfect execution, and I hope he has a worthy career ahead of him so that that shot will be remembered by endless replays over the years. Off competition, how entertaining was Jon Rahm’s skip-to-ma-loo bullet off the pond, onto the green, then a slow-mo roll into the hole on 16 at Augusta, the day before the Masters started? As for me personally, I didn’t have ONE, and I probably didn’t sink a putt over 10 feet, either.
Schurman: It’s tough to beat Jon Rahm’s ace on #16 at Augusta where he skipped the ball across the pond and into the hole. But, in tournament play, I chose Michael Thompson’s bunker shot on the 16th at TPC Twin Cities. Even Faldo remarked, “How about that, sports fans”?
Quinn: Oh, sure there were phenomenal shots to win tournaments, to win Majors, to make cuts, to make us all remember that we’re about 10,000 hours short of working on our game. But the one that resonated, the video of the one that I forwarded to dozens of non-golfers who loved it and sent it on to countless others was…. Rahm’s ace at Augusta’s 16th in the practice round. His water skip shot was the all-time best. Second goes to 20-yr-old Wiko Nienabar’s 439-yard drive in Joburg. No DeChambeau bulking up, just a pure swing.
Mumford: Any number of shots by Bryson DeChambeau this year were worth the price of admission and several in the US Open could be candidates for Shot of the Year. However, given the circumstances and his relative inexperience, Collin Morikawa’s tee shot to seven feet on the par-4 16th hole at Harding Park in the final round of the PGA Championship is the best we’ve seen in quite some time. That it led to his first major victory makes it all the more special.