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.
Last week the PGA Tour announced significant increases to tournament purses and huge bonuses for players. Many believe the new money is a direct response to potential rival leagues and the LIV investment in the Asian Tour, although Commissioner Jay Monahan said, “The Tour is stronger than any time in our history.” What’s your take on all this new money being added to the pot?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It seemed like professional golf just enjoyed a deluge of money raining down in the last several weeks, and I’m somewhat confused by it all. I’ve personally thought that pro golfers were already paid far too handsomely for playing a game, but the retort was always “it’s peanuts compared to what athletes in other sports make, and besides, if you don’t perform well or make a cut, you don’t get paid.” Yeah, okay, boo hoo. All this new money will undoubtedly alleviate those horrible differences, but the available cash is obscene, and of no interest to spectators. And as I said here recently, I worry that there’s not enough talent, individual charisma, and fan interest to sustain the value for sponsors. So, I wonder if it’ll all (or partly) come crashing down in a year or two. Then it’ll come back to the status quo of 2021, and everything’ll be fine.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: This is great for fans and the players! There are two downsides: 1. The demand for the best players to appear in more events. 2. The amounts of money will undoubtedly lead to shorter careers expanding my first point.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): As much as PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan wants to minimize his concern about rival Leagues and Tours, make no mistake, he is concerned, and this latest heaping pile of cash is just the latest salvo in what is becoming all out war. Just this week it was announced that more than a dozen top-ranked PGA Tour and European Tour (sorry, DP World Tour) players had committed to the Saudi International in February. It used to be a European Tour event and players were OK to participate. Now, however, it’s an Asian Tour event and releases are said to be non-existent. The players are going to follow the money for as long as it lasts. Many if not most fans are already sickened by the amounts and think players are overpaid. Stay tuned though. With Tours battling for supremacy, there’s likely to be as much drama off the course as on for the foreseeable future.
We almost hate to ask if you watched the Match between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau last Friday but from all reports it was a total bust. The golf was mediocre, the interaction between the two supposedly feuding combatants was non-existent and the golf course was ho hum. The only thing that made it somewhat watchable were announcers Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley. Given that there is competitive golf on TV virtually all the time, is there any reason to continue these farcical made-for-TV events or is there a better format that viewers would find more compelling?
Deeks: Like so many before, this “The Match” fiasco was just a cynical promotion for the sponsors, in my humble opinion. I don’t know who the sponsors were, because OF COURSE I didn’t watch a minute of it… nor would I have, even if I wasn’t on an airplane on Friday. Yes, I was very involved in developing and staging the Canadian Skins Game a generation ago, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so negative and cynical; but we believed then that we were putting on an entertaining exhibition of significant interest to spectators and viewers, and we made sure that a lot of (sponsor) money was provided to charity. Our sponsor was a now-considered-evil tobacco company, but other than putting their name on the event, they did not promote their product at all.
Schurman: I guess I will continue harping on my concept of a mixed event with a built-in equalization system. Using a Ryder Cup format with 24 cities around the world fielding a 24-player team (12 men and 12 women). A blind draw the evening before the matches. Men vs women. Women vs women. Men vs men. Whatever order they come out of the hat, that’s how they play. Weekly matches in a season-long schedule followed by play-offs. As I have said frequently, Phil bores me, but Barkley is fascinating. BTW Bryson and Brooks should hold a series of mud wrestling matches. They are quickly losing their appeal.
Mumford: Didn’t watch and won’t watch any future iterations of this kind of thing either. They’re the worst kind of reality TV of which I’m not a fan. It’s contrived entertainment and proves nothing, adds nothing to anyone’s legacy and should be embarrassing to the players and the Tour. The best golf tournaments are about titles and trophies, not cash, laughs and TV exposure.
All of the major Tours have wound up play now for 2021. As we noted last week, there were plenty of highlights. A number of players also had exceptional years, including first time major winner Hideki Matsuyama (The Masters), Jon Rahm (top 10 machine and U.S. Open winner), Collin Morikawa (Open Champion and Race to Dubai winner), Phil Mickelson (PGA Championship, four wins on the Champions Tour), Patrick Cantlay (four PGA Tour victories including the FedEx Cup), Bernhard Langer (sixth Charles Schwab Championship and oldest winner of a Champions Tour event), Jin Young Ko ( 5 LPGA victories including the CME Globe) and Nelly Korda (four LPGA victories plus the Olympic Gold Medal). Which player had the best year in 2021? Feel free to write in another name if you wish.
Deeks: Of the names on that list, I’d pick Mickelson and J.Y. Ko, with Nelly beaten by a nose. But I also know a guy who won two club tournaments and had a hole-in-one this season, so I’d put him in fourth spot, by a long nose.
Schurman: The list includes quite a group of names. Their accomplishments are incredible. Picking one would be disrespectful to the others and difficult. However, in being consistent, Langer is simply amazing! Yet strangely, I don’t read any comments by any teacher in the world (and I watch those very closely) who advocates his/her students emulate any part of Langer’s game/style. I suspect the reason is most people want to learn to swing better but they have no interest in playing better.
Mumford: It was a breakout year for so many: Matsuyama and Rahm got their first majors, Ko cemented her position as World #1 and Phil surprised us one more time. However, I think Patrick Cantlay and Nelly Korda had the best year. They elevated themselves to another level, each with four wins. Korda has the edge though, thanks to her Olympic Gold Medal.