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.
There’s a major battle brewing between a number of top-ranked players and their respective home Tours. Over a dozen players have committed to play in the Saudi International which is now part of the Asian Tour. Normally, players ask for and receive a waiver from either the PGA Tour or the European Tour to play but both Tours have indicated that waivers will not be forthcoming. This is the latest salvo by the Tours to deal with competition from the Asian Tour, backed by Greg Norman’s LIV group or any number of upstart Saudi backed leagues. If the players play without a waiver, they risk being suspended. Do you think the Tours would actually suspend players like Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Tyrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and others?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): There is unity in numbers, and I can’t see either the PGA or DP Tours suspending or punishing a big group of their top stars for following the money. If it was one or two players jumping ship, maybe they’d get away with sanctioning them… but a planeload? Doubtful. I think sooner or later, all Tours are going to have to find a way to not sabotage each other. Either way, the big-name players have the upper hand at the moment. The downside is, if they diminish the status of the existing Tours by not showing up as often, this may hurt the lesser players in the long run, as sponsor money starts to dry up. Conversely, sponsors may be forced to cough up even more dough to keep the big names stateside.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I told you to fasten your seatbelts this is going to be fun. Mohammed Ali vs George Foreman. First, the players are independent contractors and should be allowed to play anywhere they are qualified to do so. On the other hand, the PGA TOUR and the European TOUR must have some method of guaranteeing a sponsor a certain quality of the field. When you start suggesting fines and/or suspensions you are talking about internal, day-to-day operational issues handled by management. If the problem becomes serious enough that headliner players are suspended causing weaker fields that affect sponsors and TV, it becomes a policy issue. Policy issues are handled by the Tour Policy Board which is made up of players. The result will be players vs players. Currently, the rules of who may play when and where is covered in the By-laws but might not be quite as well defined as Jay Monahan believes. GONG! Round one.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It will be interesting to see, that’s for sure. Who’s going to call whose bluff? Obviously the top players won’t want to sacrifice playing in majors and other top PGA Tour events, so the Tour has that trump card to play if necessary. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, but something has to give.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: By having to threaten suspensions, isn’t the Tour admitting that what it has on offer at their ‘conflicting event’ isn’t attractive enough for the meandering mercenaries? (The test case is the Saudi International up against the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Easy choice there.) In the unlikely event that a few of the “stars” are suspended, they’ll not be scrambling for something to do on the weekends. The Saudi DP World purses will top US $200 Million spread over 47 tournaments in 27 countries. Possible that Phil and Scott may admit they’re past the Majors and so will take the guarantees and forget about the Tour but can’t see the younger guys abandoning dreams of winning something truly priceless.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): No, suspensions are too drastic and cause more bad blood than is necessary. I suspect the Tours will assess a modest fine to save face, then agree on some kind of accommodation with the players. The Tours desperately need these top players as they drive fans and sponsors. The best players want to maintain their independence and chase opportunities all over the globe, but at the same time they don’t want to kill the golden goose that the Tours have created. So, ultimately, they will all learn to co-exist in a new world order that includes three very strong Tours in North America, Europe and Asia respectively, and leaves little room for upstart leagues.
Tiger Woods revealed a bit more about his current physical state and future plans during several interviews at the Hero World Challenge. By all accounts, if Tiger is able to play the PGA Tour again, it will be in a limited number of events and on courses that don’t put too much stress on his right leg. By his own admission, he doesn’t expect to get back to anywhere near the same level he enjoyed when he was dominating tournaments. What’s your take on seeing Tiger in a reduced role?
Deeks: I’m not sure I, or millions of other golf fans, want to watch Tiger come back and shoot a couple of rounds in the mid-70s, and go home… week after week… even in a limited number of attempts. It’d be kinda like watching Babe Ruth trying to hit home runs, as he did, in the early 30s when he was clearly a spent force. Sad. Remember when Tiger came back from injury too early, had the chip yips, and embarrassed himself? That was just cringeworthy, but to his credit, he came back later and appeared to be the Tiger of old for a couple of years (even winning The Masters again). Can he do that again? I doubt it at age 46 next year, and unless he’s positive he can still compete, I’d hate to see him stumble and fall.
Schurman: Tiger has never played more than the minimum plus a few high-paid extra events. In 1953 Ben Hogan played 6 events. He won 5 including 3 majors and finished in the top 5 in the other one. He also opened the Ben Hogan Club Manufacturing Company. Never count out a person who has proven to have the heart of a champion.
Rule: There’s no way he returns unless he feels he can win a tournament, that’s my view. He’s too competitive and too proud to return at anything less than 100%. It makes sense that he’ll play a reduced schedule, which he should to rest his beat-up body, but when he plays (if he plays), he’ll be ready to compete at a top level.
Quinn: As it’s been for the past few years, when he shows up on whatever channel, whatever platform, it will be all Eldrick all the time. For those of us that couldn’t care less if he can or can’t swing, it will mean even longer-than-usual sessions with the fast-forward button.
Mumford: Many seem to think Tiger has one more impossible comeback on his resume but at this point it seems doubtful. If Tiger is reduced to spot duty at journeyman levels, then I say, “Retire, enjoy your family, move on to the next phase of your life. You have nothing more to prove and have left the golf world an incredible legacy. Thanks for the memories.”
It was announced last week that Wayne and Janet Gretzky will be co-producers on an upcoming Moe Norman movie. No details about the script or cast were released but we all know there are countless Moe stories and myths. Do you have a favourite?
Deeks: Not to mention a few Moe scripts that have been written and prepped over the last few years. My pick to play Moe? Paul Giamatti. But I digress. I have a few personal stories of Moe, as I’m sure Peter, Michael, and Hal probably do… but I well remember the time that Moe finished tied for second at the Peter Jackson Champions Tournament at St. Charles in Winnipeg in 1982. As Tournament Director, I was busy getting the prize presentation table ready on the 18th green, and all the “dignitaries” lined up, along with Bob Goalby (winner) and Gene Littler (T-2). I looked around and said, “Where’s Moe??” Moe was standing up the hill, peering around the corner of the clubhouse, too shy and nervous to come down, and refusing all our entreaties to do so. Even so, he got the warmest round of applause when his name was mentioned. And that was before he became a legend.
Schurman: Herb Holzscheiter and Moe were driving to Florida. Herb was fast asleep while Moe took his turn driving. Suddenly, the car swerves off the freeway into the ditch. Herb wakes and says “Moe, what are you doing”? Moe replies “Same as you. Same as you”. Moe hitting over 1500 drivers at de Havilland Driving Range. Watching Moe bounce the ball off the face of his driver over 1200 consecutive times. Watching Moe play Gin against 5 other players at the same time. Watching Moe add 7 or 8 rows of numbers with 5 or 6 numbers in each in his head.
Rule: I can’t wait to see the movie; I’m excited it’s finally being made. Sadly I never met Moe or saw him hit golf shots, which is a big regret of mine. I’m not sure I have one specific story about Moe that resonates, but I just loved the fact that later in his life he finally got the respect he deserved, and many touring pros would gather around on a range to watch him hit golf balls. The ultimate show of respect for a man of his talents.
Quinn: Many years ago, on a Canadian Open Friday at Glen Abbey, Moe showed up at the range and started hitting balls, blue turtleneck getting darker and darker in the heat of the late-afternoon sun. His machine-gun patter was entertaining the gathering crowd, among them a handful of early second round finishers including Paul Azinger and Keith Clearwater. The pros, like everyone else, marvelled as Moe hit ball after ball on the same arc, on the same line. Then he went over to the putting green, followed by the civilians and the pros. Azinger finally asked in a voice loud enough for Moe to hear: “How do you get it rolling so pure, right away?” A millisecond later, Moe replied: “You got lots of money. You pay me I’ll show you. You pay me I’ll show you.” The crowd, and Zinger, loved it.
Mumford: My favourite personal Moe story happened about 30 years ago. I was a guest at Brantford Golf & Country Club, and our group was finishing up on the 18th. Moe and Nick Weslock were coming down the adjacent 4th hole and Moe came over to talk to our group. As Weslock’s cart pulled up to his ball, which had come to rest behind a tree, Moe started giggling and said, “Watch Nicky. Watch Nicky.” Weslock proceeded to give his ball a kick into a better lie and Moe just laughed and said, “I’ll still beat him. I’ll still beat him.”