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.
On Sunday at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Bryson DeChambeau’s game fell apart. Playing partner Harris English, who also struggled, said that they were constantly hurried, and Bryson was being bullied by some in the crowd that were calling BDC “Brooksy” in reference to the feud between he and Brooks Koepka. Koepka has consistently thrown fuel on this fire in social media and encouraged fans to taunt DeChambeau. It may have started out as a little social media spat but now appears to have become a performance factor for at least one of the participants. How can the PGA Tour stop this? Is some punishment warranted for Koepka?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): One would think a quiet word from the Commissioner to Mr. Koepka might put a damper on this whole stupid, boring “feud”. But I get the feeling Mr. Koepka believes he is above all reproach, so I don’t see it going away until Mr. Koepka and Mr. DeChambeau jointly and publicly agree to bury the hatchet. When that will happen — if ever— remains to be seen, but I for one would prefer to see the remains.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): You can’t play slow and BDC is slow. He fell apart and deservedly so. Who got the shaft was English. That was his tournament to win, and he got out of sync because he got paired with the slow Mad Scientist, which just isn’t fair (no I don’t have a fix for it). Bryson deserves every criticism he gets, he’s brought it all upon himself, he’s done himself no favours in the media or with fellow players. I don’t think you can blame this on Koepka. If Bryson would have just taken the high road, this wouldn’t be an issue. But he’s as much to blame as Koepka, if not more so. Can the Tour stop it? Do they want to? It can’t all be peachy out there; they do need some rivalries. And this does certainly bring attention to the Tour, so it’s not all bad. Let’s watch and see what happens next.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Fans and the Media constantly complain about generic personalities on the PGA TOUR and now they are complaining about players having differences. One way to stop it is to ban an anti-vaxxer. No vaccine, no play!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Like the vast majority of golfers who get their fix via TV, the COVID ban on spectators was a godsend, if there is such a thing. The silence was blessed, except of course for the announcers Red Bulling past each other in interruptus infinitous. Now we have the mouth breathers back, swilling Bud Lite (4 % alcohol, you have to drink a flat bed of that stuff to get buzzed, unless you’re an American golf “fan”) shouting ‘Go in the Hole’ and gutless darts at DeChambeau. Wonder how many of the leather-lung mob could handle facing Bryson face-to-face in an alley and trying to summon the courage to shout ‘Brooksy’. The Tour can stop it by instituting IQ tests at the gate.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It was somewhat humourous when it was just a spat between the two on social media. Now that Koepka has engaged fans to heckle DeChambeau, that’s crossed the line. A lengthy suspension would be warranted. As for the obnoxious fans, kick them out at every opportunity. It’s golf, not wrestling.
Last week, the PGA Tour and European Tour announced a number of schedule changes for 2022 that include adding the Scottish and Irish Opens to the PGA Tour schedule, allowing up to 50 Euros into the Barbasol and Barracuda Championships and dropping two WGC events. Apparently, this is supposed to strengthen both Tours and presumably make it harder for any Saudi backed league to get a foothold. Do you like the changes?
Deeks: I’m definitely okay with the changes, and I’m glad to see the Tour recognizing that golf exists in other countries… even if these tournaments will now come under PGA rule. The threat of a breakaway tour has had and will have some positive and progressive effects on the PGA Tour, which are long overdue.
Loughry: I think some of the changes are good especially the lineup of Opens, but as stated in the presser, a first step to greater alliance and partnership. The WGC’s being retired is interesting. They aren’t generally the strongest fields, so I’m not sure they fit the new vision going forward. Does this eliminate the chance of competition coming in, it makes it harder, but the alleged competitor mentioned has BILLIONS behind it, so they can compete if they want to. And, while we are on the topic, I’m not sure where anti-trust laws are in this international squabble. If players are independent contractors, why are so many policies being developed to essentially make players PGA Tour employees and stop them from working elsewhere? And I’m not sure whether this is good or bad, just an observation.
Schurman: Keith Pelly was treated like a nobody by Americans and the USPGA TOUR when he was hired as the CEO of the European Tour. I’d say he is looking very influential now. This is not only a good move for the Scottish and Irish Opens it opens the door for a couple of more European events to become part of the PGA TOUR schedule. Maybe joint events with the LPGA are under consideration too.
Quinn: It is a good chess move to temporarily block the oil money assault. And it’s not only timely — in the little picture getting an even better field at the Scottish Open is great — for the game, but for the “red” flag on climate change issued days after the changes. Oil ain’t the future, but a world tour — sorry again, Greg — is.
Mumford: Once again, this strange alliance seems to favour the PGA Tour. They get full access to two premier events on the European Tour while the Euros get up to 50 spots in small purse, opposite field events. However, it’s all leading to the inevitable merger of the two Tours, a strong defense against the Saudis and more corporate money available for players. If only they would do something to alter the endless tedium of 72-hole stroke play events. If it’s Thursday, it must be …. where the hell are we this week Darlene?
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker has six captain’s picks for his team and will have to make his selections in a few weeks. As it stands now, PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson is on the outside looking in. It’s rare that a major winner isn’t on the team, but the rest of Mickelson’s 2021 record shows a number of missed cuts and low finishes. Can a case be made for Stricker to include Phil?
Deeks: I’m no Phil fan, but I thought his victory at Kiawah was outstanding, and regardless of his mediocre and past-prime play since then, I think he fully deserves a spot on the team… both for that victory, and for his unmatched experience and record of longevity with the Ryder Cup. I think the golf world would be shocked and dismayed if Stricker didn’t pick him. If he does, there won’t be an outcry against it.
Loughry: I think a case can be made to include Phil, and a strong one. You don’t win Majors by fluke. I’d take him on my team, if not for the talent, then for the experience he can bring the whole team. He doesn’t have to play every match and can be used in team formats sparingly. I’d keep him to Four-ball and avoid Foursome play. He’s very well liked and would definitely help keep the team loose. Plus, I think if you pick him, he’ll make sure his game is in shape for that week. I’d be a little surprised if Stricker leaves him off (unless Phil says “don’t pick me Steve”).
Schurman: The sooner I see the last of Phil the better I like it. He makes the top 12 money list or down the road.
Quinn: Just a few years away from being the funniest, most candid, and potentially best loved captain of all time (in the American sense, that just judges Americans) Phil is cusping like no other. Who would expect anything else? Switching putting styles mid-tourney, getting Callaway to build a 2.5 wood, winning a Major for the aged… ahhh, maybe not. Depends on how bad the U.S. want to win this one. It’s close. Most of the guys who have made the team have either won money or lost it to Phil in practice rounds. They know him and he would be great in the locker room. On the course, might be a different take on experience versus age.
Mumford: Phil’s a boom or bust kind of guy, perfect for the Ryder Cup and match play. He tends to rise to big occasions even if he hasn’t been playing well to date. If I were in Stricker’s shoes, I’d take Lefty for sure, probably only play him once a day in the four-ball matches and hope he can conjure up some of that Kiawah Island magic. Then I’d do what I could to pit him against the top Euro in the deciding singles match on Sunday and hope for a Suzanne Pettersen-like Solheim Cinderella ending and fade to retirement. Can that happen again?