The Round Table on Brooke’s win, team events and the PIP

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.

At the LA Open on Saturday, Brooke Henderson shot 67 to overtake third round leader Jessica Korda and secure her 10th LPGA victory. It had been 22 months since her last win at the Meijer LPGA Classic in June 2019. What’s your take on Brooke’s win and what it means moving forward?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): To be honest, I was getting a bit concerned about Brooke over the last few months.  She just didn’t seem to be her old self, and the usual Brooke birdie-fests were being offset with a few too many bogies.  But her performance in Los Angeles was very reassuring.  She fought her way right into the mix with a great second round, then solidified it with two solid 67s.  That’s the old Brooke!  Granted, she was helped by totally unexpected poor rounds by Jessica Korda and Jin Young Ko, but that two-shot swing on the back nine would’ve had anyone scrambling to make it up, and they couldn’t.  It was just great to see our young superstar return to the winner’s circle, and continue to make us proud with her talent, charm, and character.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Impressive, I watched Brooke coming in, I may have underestimated her short game skills, I’ll no longer do that. Although she hasn’t won in 22 months, she’s been in the neighborhood more than a few times, she competes. If she keeps putting herself in these spots, I don’t worry about her mentally lapsing, she’s getting more comfortable in these spots. And, uh, she’s only 23 (seems like she’s been on Tour for 10 years), she has familiarity with most tracks being there several times now and coming of age so to speak. I look forward to the next 10 years.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Far too frequently people realize what is happening and jump on the ‘band wagon’ at the end of the journey. In Brooke’s case, she has won 10 times before most high-profile players win their first. A player’s career will be filled with ebbs and flows unfortunately this one for Brook came amidst the pandemic potentially adding to her downtime. It also came at a time of a new beginning. People are optimistic about the future albeit concerned the nightmare of Trump is percolating in the background but seem ready for anything good and wholesome and here comes Brooke. Golf, America, people around the world need something to brighten their days. Her freshness and sweetness would be welcome anytime but even more so right now.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): What a great Sunday performance from Brooke, taking advantage of a less than stellar Jessica Korda.  It’s a bit surprising that Brooke went nearly two years between victories, but she often puts herself in contention, it’s just a matter of making some putts on the weekend.  Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come in 2021 for Brooke, who amazingly is still just 23 years old.  I’m excited to see her compete in the majors this year.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: That up and down on the 72nd hole was so good. Judy Rankin was drowned out by the other talking TV heads as she tried to emphasize what a great shot it was. It detracted from the moment but looking forward we have to remember that Henderson has played a very reduced COVID schedule — and is now skipping the Asian swing for the same reason — and so the gap between wins is more a calendar than a competition thing. Henderson seems to be right on track as she doesn’t win in the first or last three months of the year — as Golf Channel pointed out — and is going to be rested and practiced when the Tour gets back Stateside. Should be a big year.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Awesome! Brooke has shown that she can win as a front-runner and rally for a come-from-behind victory too. That’s great experience to have moving forward. In LA, she had to temper her naturally aggressive style and be a bit more patient than usual. Maybe that’s a sign of maturity. Overall, she’s poised to build a truly astounding career. Brooke is only 23 and there are just seven active LPGA players with more career wins. That’s very impressive.

Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith hung on to defeat Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff on Sunday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The tournament produced an exciting finish in the alternate shot format. The Zurich is the only official team event on the PGA Tour schedule and is conducted using both better ball and alternate shot formats over four days. Two questions: Do you like the format at the Zurich? And would you be in favour of more team events? 

Deeks: I don’t mind the format and it’s great to see some variety apart from 72 holes medal play, especially when it goes right down to the wire.  But did I watch it?  Just the final hole, and even then, I turned away to PBS at 6:00pm for a fine interview with Mike Weir.  ????

Loughry: I do like the format; team events are great, and it helps showcase the game in a different light. Its great to see who ends up pairing together and finding out why. It also shows how tough the Foursome (alternate shot) format is. I’m not sure we need more team events though, between this, Ryder Cup and Pres Cup, I think it’s covered, although if another is to be added, I’d like to see the Olympics involve some sort of team concept versus the current format.

Schurman: I’d like to see one round as a Scramble. As far as more of these events, I beat my weathered drum for mixed team events in the President’s Cup. Two teams of 20 players (12 men and 8 ladies) per side. Hold a draw the night before each round with all 20 in the ‘hat’. A scoring adjustment by distance for the difference in ‘length’ and away we go. M/M vs M/F, F/F vs M/M, F/F vs M/M etc. imagine everything tied and Annika and Tiger tied coming down the 18th fairway with it all on the line.

Rule: I like the idea of a team event to mix things up, but one is enough for me.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay too much attention to the tournament, perhaps it’s just coming down from the high of the Masters.  Team events are fun to watch on occasion and it seems like it produced an exciting finish.  But I’m good waiting until the Ryder Cup for the next team event.

Quinn: As anyone who has ever played it knows, Foursomes (Alternate Shot) is an exercise in learning how many ways you can say: “I’m sorry.” Unquestionably the mix of formats has resurrected the New Orleans event, but — TV execs, sponsors excluded — it should have a couple more partners in the Tour rota. It’s a great, traditional aspect of the game — as a game. There’s the rub. Tour golf (PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Euro Tour) is a TV show driven by ad dollars and eventually ratings. The jingoistic events — Ryder, Prez, Soldheim — are enough for the sponsors, they don’t want any more.

Mumford: I’d love to see all four rounds played at alternate shot, but I suspect that a lot of players would not. As for additional team outings, I think it would be great, especially if they had a combined PGA Tour / LPGA event. Anything to break the sameness of the standard 72-hole stroke play format would be welcome.

The PGA Tour has implemented a new bonus system that will pay out $40 million each year to its Top 10 most popular players. Known as the Player Impact Program (PIP), the ranking of eligible players will be based on their social impact and reward the top player with an $8 million payday. What’s your take on the PIP?

Deeks: My jaw dropped when I read about this a few days ago.  You want to give a few multimillionaires a few extra million just for showing up for work??  I think it’s genuinely disgusting, especially when COVID has created so much chaos and personal economic hardship throughout the United States. I realize the Tour raises many millions for charity, but you can never raise enough, in my view.  And this PIP program just undoes a lot of that goodwill.   A cynical, shameful decision by the PGA Tour, and I hope they rethink it before they give away one extra dollar.

Loughry: I honestly shake my head at this program. Don’t get me wrong – the money is great, but how it’s awarded and why the need for the program bewilders me a bit. I read this might be in part to help stop talk of the Premiere Golf League, to incentivise the top players to stay solely with the PGA Tour. Couldn’t this money go towards something better, like the smaller circuits they own, to help increase purses there so players could make ends meet, where some of their playing opportunities have been impacted, at an already low-income level? Wouldn’t that create more long-term loyalty and be better for their reputation and product? All the credit to the players that get rewarded under this program, most of which will be based on performance, so a double dip with Fed-Ex bonus pool money and this PIP.

Schurman: Currently, the players earn so much off-course money it is difficult to imagine that kind of money. For those who are #125 to #10, I calculate it to be approximately equal to their on-course earnings. However, once a player gets into the top 10 things change dramatically. They can earn double their on-course earnings through exhibitions, endorsements and other appearances and then there is Tiger and Arnie; those numbers are through the roof. Adding more won’t change anything. They already own personal jets, huge boats and several mansions. One player who will benefit is Ricky Fowler. His off-course earnings by % of on-course is far beyond average; now it will be even more though his game is declining.

Rule: Just a case of the rich getting richer.  I understand they have to do something to fight off the so-called challenge of the Premier Golf League, but it does seem insane to reward the players already making the most money in marketing.  In the end I guess it doesn’t affect me as a fan and viewer of the game, so what do I care?  But it doesn’t seem like the right way to spend resources when so many other great players are battling every day to eke out a living playing golf.

Quinn: There are expressions that become part of the national, now universal, lexicon that are accepted and almost instantly adopted as part of our deal. Among the most grating, at least for a lifelong golfer like me, is “hole location.” No longer can anyone on TV say: “back pin”, “front pin”, tough pin”, it has to be “hole location.” Memorably, two weeks ago, a Golf Channel talking head said: “Where the hole location is located.” And that is allowed to pass. No one is jettisoned from a booth! No producer vomits and fires the jerk on the spot. We have come to accept inanity, and in the latest cliche in too much circulation — tone deaf. But for the PGA Tour to be tone deaf, to create a fund to distribute millions to millionaires as hundreds of thousands around the world are dying in a pandemic, when millions of Americans (the Tour’s target audience) are losing the jobs and loved ones, is beyond the ken (as my Scots grandmother would say). If ‘tone deaf’ needs to be defined, look it up under PGA Tour PIP.

Mumford: Disgusting! The people who run the PGA Tour and the Players Advisory Council are smart people. How can they come up with something so dumb? So tone deaf? So incredibly, mind-numbingly stupid? Apparently, greed knows no bounds. I have yet to hear or read anything by anybody in support of this disgraceful program. The PGA Tour says they were forced to layoff 50 people due to Covid-related issues yet can find an extra $40 million to reward the best Tweeters on Tour. It’s the Tour’s version of the Miss Congeniality contest and it’s an abomination.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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