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 20/21 PGA Tour season is over and the FedEx Cup playoffs are about to begin. Golf fans are hard pressed to understand the complexities of the playoffs, but the $15 million winner’s cheque sure grabs their attention. It’s larger than the purses from the four majors and Players Championship combined. After fifteen years of trying, is the Tour any closer to establishing a “season ending” format that rivals other major sports championships? In other words, will anybody remember who won the FedEx Cup years from now?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I truly doubt it. I think I remember that Rory McIlroy won it one year, and Bill Haas another year, but I couldn’t tell you which years, mainly because I don’t give a hoot. And partly because I find the $15million payday gross and excessive. Yes, you can argue that $15million is a fairly common “salary” in other sports, but that doesn’t make it any less obscene.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): For me the Fed-Ex Cup and race is nowhere near any other top sport with the same kind of setup. One day that may change, but THE MAJORS are kind of the big follow in golf. It just doesn’t have the history or allure of the Majors. Can you name 5 of the Fed-Ex Cup Champions? I could guess, with some degree of success, but I can easily name you 5 Major Champions from any of the four Majors without skipping a beat. I think that tells me where the Fed-Ex is in the hierarchy of golf, and I’m sure I’m not alone here.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The PGA TOUR Playoffs are just another entity trying to out ‘innovate’ something that works. The TOUR is a weekly show that provides entertainment that is hard to beat. There are the four majors and the Ryder Cup. There are medal play events and match play events. The Playoffs aren’t any different than attending the merchandise Show in January where you can see hundreds of people trying to find their way of extracting from the game with another invention. When you combine this with the hundreds of different ways snake oil salesmen have tried to re-create the game with their version of “a better game” you begin to realize all any of them are doing is latching onto a lucrative ride for themselves. Why don’t the bunch of them look for ways to mess up ML baseball or NFL football and leave a great game that has survived for 500 years, alone.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’ve said it before, I can’t think of a way to generate great interest in the playoffs as the golf season is always going to be centred around the majors. I think they’ve done some great things with the FedEx Cup, and it makes me watch some of the playoffs, but the golf “playoffs” will never be able to match what other sports have, and they shouldn’t be trying to match them.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Hated it from Day One — still laugh thinking of The Golf Channel’s Steve Sands (back when Golf Channel could afford the proper and necessary preposition) at his white board furiously trying to explain the standings and points if no one made a birdie or bogey over the coming few weekends. The fact that it is simply an obscene money grab disguised as a pale imitation of other sports hasn’t been lost on any golf fans. No one cares who gets the cash as long as the play is fairly entertaining while we wait for the start of the NFL season.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Not really. The whole debacle is shameless pandering to a sponsor. The players get richer and golf fans are subjected to a poorly contrived competition that is derided by the media and misunderstood by just about everybody. It’s not a major and never will be. By giving strokes to the leaders in the final, it plays more like a C Flight club championship. It could be so much better but nobody in Ponte Vedra cares to listen.
A number of perennially top ranked players are packing their bags and heading home this week after finishing outside the Top 125 and missing the playoffs, including Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson. All of them will have a place to play next season based on previous exemptions but which one is the biggest surprise to you?
Deeks: Of the group you named, I find Justin Rose the most surprising. I know he hasn’t been near the top of many leaderboards this year, but not making the top 125 is mind-boggling. And disappointing for me… I like Justin and I hope he can find his form again next year, and even one or two more majors ahead to cement his name as one of the great players of his generation.
Loughry: For me, the most surprising and disappointing is Rickie (close second is Rose, but he didn’t play much this year, and when he did not too well). Rickie has or maybe had all the tools, but maybe he’s just not interested in golf as much as he once was. That’s OK too, generally speaking you get what you put into the game.
Schurman: None of them are a surprise. All of them have succumbed to one of two thresholds: either mega-money or the end of a lengthy career. The human body cannot continue at the hectic pace these guys live. They play varying conditions, eat inconsistent food, travel in personal jets over multiple time zones and live a life of pampered treatment all because they have a unique skill. Each has done it for a long time. The ‘well’ is only so deep. My advice is to identify the best and youngest players. Enjoy them for the next five years because the money and the speed of their lifestyle will burn most of them out far quicker than the last generation.
Rule: All of them surprise me to be honest, but I really thought that Justin Rose was going to have a bounce back year. So, the fact that he finished outside of the top 125 shocks me. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these guys rebound next year. Fowler showed signs late this year that his swing changes are coming along so maybe he’ll have a better 2022.
Quinn: Based on the massive endorsement deals, relentless hype, The Players’ Championship (another necessary preposition), some really impressive play, and his age, Fowler is a bit of a shock. For a couple of years, he looked like the real thing — and for a while he had throngs of kids dressed like him at every stop — then he wasn’t.
Mumford: I’m most puzzled by Tommy Fleetwood. Rose, Fowler, Molinari and Stenson have all had past success and proven themselves. Fleetwood seemed to be on the cusp of doing the same, contending in every major and everybody’s consensus pick for elite player status. Now he’s on the outside looking in. Too much talent not to bounce back, but the current situation is an enigma.
Two weeks ago, on the PGA Tour Abraham Ancer finally got his first win and last week Ryann O’Toole earned her first victory on the LPGA after 11 years. Which player on either Tour would you say is most deserving of a winner’s cheque?
Deeks: I assume you mean a FIRST winner’s cheque. And surely the above-mentioned Tommy Fleetwood is well overdue for a win. And it would certainly be a popular win at that.
Loughry: Ryann O’Toole’s win seems to be a little bigger of a win to me compared to Ab. She’s been on Tour grinding a little longer and could use the cheque as validation for all those years. I watched her down the stretch and she played like a Champ; it was good to see.
Schurman: Anyone who wins! Given the standard of play on every tour around the world winning is becoming more and more difficult. There was a time when a very good tour player won 15 to 20 times on either the PGA or the LPGA TOUR. Today, a really good career means a player has won 8 or 9 times. Once again, the hectic pace and the money have a lot to do with it but so does the level of preparedness of the new crop of players entering every year.
Rule: On the LPGA, I’ll stick close to home and say that Alena Sharp deserves a win. She has been battling on tour for 15 plus years and hasn’t cracked through yet, and I think it would be a great story if she could pull out a victory someday soon.
Quinn: Based on the post-win interviews alone, Ryann deserves the emotional hugs all round. Then to watch the highlights — as with most highlights of the winner of any event — it was hard to imagine her not being in contention very time she tees it up. Her posture alone is something every golfer could aspire to emulate. Ancer’s a great player; he’ll have many great moments. For Ryann, this was definitely hers.
Mumford: Each season we see a player or two that has an epiphany late in his or her career after slogging it out for years. This year it was Richard Bland who won for the first time on the European Tour at age 48. As Canadians, we can certainly hope the same fate awaits David Hearn and Alena Sharp. Hearn particularly has been close on several occasions, losing twice in playoffs.