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.
As 2021 came to a close, we were following a number of compelling storylines that we expect to play out in 2022 including the potential return of Tiger Woods, the strong possibility of new rival tours in men’s professional golf, the governing bodies doing something about reigning in the golf ball to reduce distance and many others. What do you think will be the most significant golf story in 2022?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): The progress (or lack thereof) of the competing Tours. Will big name pro’s desert the Mother Ship, or not? And if not, what chance do the new/refurbished tours stand to succeed beyond one season? Personally, I couldn’t care less, as long as the Tournament Players Championship, The Masters, and the Open Championship remain unchanged. As for reigning in the golf ball, yeah, good luck with that.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Tiger (full stop). It can’t be any other story except Tiger; he moves the needle; he’ll be the story of 2022, whether he wins or not.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I can’t remember a time in golf when there were more headline stories to choose from. There was Francis Ouimet at Brookline, Bobby Jones Grand Slam, Byron’s 19, Ben Hogan’s car crash, the entire career of Arnie, followed by Jack, the break-up and re-formation of the PGA TOUR and then Tiger, more Tiger and then more Tiger and now more Tiger again. As a person who has earned an income from the golf business, I am glad to see profitable times. As a golfer, not so much. While not quite so interesting as all the chatter on the men’s side, I think the growth of the LPGA and the impact that will have on the future of the game is the beginning of a story that is going to last well beyond 2022.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It has to be how the new rival tours pan out. This year should be telling and show whether or not these are legitimate threats to the PGA Tour. The fact that the Tour is allowing its stars to play in Saudi on the condition that they play a certain number of times at Pebble the following few years shows how seriously they are taking the threat of the new tours. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: As the stomach turns, the story hogging the headlines will probably be the Saudis spending hundreds of millions to sportwash their regime. Some big-name guys are cashing huge appearance fee cheques and getting exemptions from what we used to call the Crosby Clambake, to play in the desert at the first filthy lucre challenge to the PGA Tour’s status. Slightly poetic, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was Crosby’s attempt to legitimize the pro players, introduce them to Hollywood luminaries who might be able to financially help them, maybe even allow them to enter the clubhouses of the “better” clubs. Now it’s not a drive up the Monterey Peninsula to maybe build a tour but charter jet rides to pimp a repressive regime and potentially destroy the Tour.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): There doesn’t seem to be an event or person that can bump Tiger Woods out of the spotlight if he’s doing anything the least bit interesting. I don’t expect he’ll play the Masters, but he may be able to walk and play 72 holes by the summer, which means the Open Championship at St. Andrews is a distinct possibility. That story will be huge. I also expect major disruptions to the PGA Tour by Greg Norman tinkering with the Asian Tour. The first blow could come in February at the Saudi International.
Each year it seems that some player that has fallen off the radar makes a noteworthy return to prominence by winning again. Which player from any Tour do you think (or hope) might be the Comeback Player of the Year in 2022?
Deeks: How about Brooke Henderson? Last year was not a very good one for Brooke, it’d be wonderful to see her come back, win a major, and at least two other events. And on the men’s side, I’d love to see Jason Day return from oblivion.
Loughry: Ricki Fowler seemed to be trending in the right direction at the end of the 2021 season. I hope its him, he’s a good talent, and personable.
Schurman: The obvious choice is Tiger, but we’ve been down that road 5 or 6 times with his ‘comebacks’. So, I’m going to take a different route. Before you have a come back you have to have a player who was winning and went through a period of not winning. I’d like to see Tommy Fleetwood do well, but he has been an under-achiever in the victory column. Brooks Koepka would be a good choice, but I don’t think he has recovered from his knee injuries well enough. So that leaves Rory. He played well in 2021 and did win. His family life is settling down with a new baby on the scene. Rory is my pick to win the Masters. On the Ladies’ side of things, I’d love to see Brooke Henderson get back into the winner’s circle more often. She is going to have to putt better to do so but a significant change to some part of her game and/or life is coming.
Rule: I really hope it’s Jason Day. I can’t believe he’s only 34 years old, seems like he’s been around for decades. He’s almost four years removed from his last win, and has obviously dealt with lots of injuries, so it may be a big ask for him to return to contending again, but his ball striking stats are still good and he’s still one of the best putters in the world when he’s on. Plus, he’s one of the nice guys, so he’s easy to cheer for.
Quinn: Can you come back if you never really went away? He was front and centre in social media for all the wrong reasons with that juvenile faux feud with DeChambeau, but Koepka wasn’t really around when it mattered. Have a feeling that this season, with the body recovered from injuries and the mind over the silliness and focussed on golf, Koepka will come back to where he belongs and contend in all the tourneys that matter.
Mumford: Six or seven years ago, it was suggested that the PGA Tour could be looking at a new Big 3 made up of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. Since then, all three have won majors and had sustained runs at the top but Day has faded of late. It would be terrific to see him in the winner’s circle again. Not sure they’d be the Big 3 these days though.
As the newly appointed Emperor of Golf, you have the power to make one change to the game in 2022. What will it be?
Deeks: One of many things I’d like to do (even if it’s not in my purview as Emperor), is undertake a wholesale review of the CBS and NBC announce crews. And hire some people who weren’t born in the 19th Century. (And this comment comes from someone who is MUCH older than all of them.) I’m so tired of Nantz and Faldo, Gary Koch, Frank Nobilo, Breathless Begay, and even Feherty. It just seems like the same-old, same-old every week, every year. And for what it’s worth, I still don’t know why Kelly Tilghman was banished a few years ago (and it was long after the “lynching” remark that got everyone’s knickers in a twist.). She was personable, knowledgeable, and professional. The rest of them are just tired, in my opinion.
Loughry: Make the Woman’s Canadian Open a major, it’s ridiculous that it’s not. It already is in every sense other than official stature. A close second is having fewer PGA Tour events, while making it mandatory for all world ranked players to actually play in each one. You’d have larger purses, happier sponsors, and probably more content players.
Schurman: Golf Emperor, that’s easy! I’d wave the magic wand so I could win all four PGA TOUR majors and the FedEx Cup plus all the majors and the Schwab Cup on the Champions Tour in 2022. I hope there aren’t any conflicting dates. On a more serious note, I’d implement a new rule of a maximum number of clubs in tournament play to a limit of 9 clubs and limit the depth of a dimple on a golf ball to no more than .0008″. (Currently, it is about .0010″). This would reduce the distance to about 280 to 300 yards and also cause the ball to hook and slice more. If things get out of hand again as they are now, a further reduction might be considered.
Rule: Pace of play is always the thing that bugs me the most about golf and I think it stifles the growth of the game amongst young players. But how do you speed it up? Speeding up the pro game doesn’t help because their game doesn’t impact mine or yours, other than new golfers copying long pre-shot routines. I still would like to see a shot clock on the pro tour, but the thing I would change is bifurcation of the ball and drivers to limit the distance the pros hit the ball, simply to keep older golf courses relevant.
Quinn: First the talking heads — let’s face it, TV is how we get our golf — must stop using the term ‘hole location’ (as in “the location of the hole location”) and revert to ‘hole’ or ‘pin’ (as in “the hole is cut five paces from the edge of the green”): ‘penalty area’ and revert to calling water hazards what they are ( as in burn, stream, pond, river, firth, lake, even f@#king ocean); stop over talking and talking over each other ( as in every time Gary Koch opens his yap); drop the goofy wrap-around season and refer to a calendar. Is that more than one thing? Okay, Tour players will be assessed stroke penalties for slow play in real time when they finally finish the hole.
Mumford: I’d love to see more variety in the way we play golf. We seem to be entrenched with the idea that golf is 18 holes of stroke play. Six, nine or 12-hole games can be enjoyed in less time; match play offers a totally different perspective on playing because it focuses on winning or losing versus keeping score; and twosomes and threesomes can play much faster. These days when tee sheets are jammed, there’s not much incentive for course owners and managers to get creative but new golfers, as well as time-challenged golfers, don’t automatically buy into the 4–5-hour requirement to play. Some forward-thinking courses around the world have shown that setting aside some part of their daily or weekly tee sheet for smaller groups, shorter circuits and different formats can satisfy the needs and desires of a broader range of golfers and still generate required revenue. Ultimately, being more creative and flexible will be good for the game and all its stakeholders.