Shocking comments, rumoured changes and enduring super-stars

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.

Rumours were flying at the end of last week that the PGA Tour Players Advisory Council was looking into a series of Fall events intended for top players. It sounded remarkably like Greg Norman’s LIV Golf series except that it would be PGA Tour sanctioned and sponsored. The proposal would also see the “official” PGA Tour season shortened from January to August. Does the series and the shortening of the season sound like something you would support?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I kinda liked the old days when the PGA Tour season ended, for all intents and purposes, with the PGA Championship in mid-late August; followed by a few lesser events like the Texas Open, or the Quad Cities, that gave grinders and guys on the cusp of losing their playing cards an opportunity to boost their bank accounts and redeem their chances for next season.  Then they went and changed things so that the new “season” begins in October, which still has me dazed and confused (and disinterested).  So, if this rumoured shakeup means somewhat of a return to the old way, but enhanced with more “important” post-season events, then yes, I’d say bring it on.  And if it means an end to the possibility of bifurcation with a new Greg Norman tour, then I’m definitely in favour.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): There’s nothing like some competition, eh? Maybe Phil was right, maybe the Tour was sitting on a whack of cash it has made off the talent. And now, they’re on a spending spree to keep their talent in house. As I said before, I’ll get the popcorn and enjoy watching this unfold and evolve. I may watch the new events/series. It’s better to describe what I won’t watch; I won’t watch the same product wrapped in shiny new ribbon. It better have a new twist, format change and better PRODUCTION.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Finally, some common sense. I have never understood why golf has a “wrap around” season when most other sports are played in parts of two calendar years but don’t have a wrap-around season. Golf doesn’t require a 12-month season. Let it begin around the 3rd week in Jan and stop at the end of September. Name one sport that has a 12-month season. Anyone who wants to have a ‘silly’ season event, or another tour let them play in that off-season. Once the majors, including the Players, formed a five-month schedule and 4 WGC events fit around them there is little room for anything else. The PGA TOUR players are in constant demand, they have other business obligations, and they have families. At some point, money won’t be the issue, even dirty Saudi money. Frequently I can’t remember things but somehow I think there was a PGA TOUR a long time ago that tried this and was extremely successful for about 75 years. BTW August is too early to quit the season.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Imitation is the highest form of …. panic? A couple of very plausible scenarios have been posited recently, including LIV staging lucrative (guess that’s redundant) qualifying schools to sign up (capture?) the next generation of the game’s best, the future superstars. Norman and Co seem to be in for the long game, and that may be a strategy. The shorter PGA Tour season makes sense because nothing can compete with the NFL for American minds and dollars. Fall events seem like FedEx on steroids, and no golf fan I’ve ever met understood or cared about the FedEx fandango.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m all in on shortening the season. As much as the PGA Tour tries to keep it interesting, players and fans are focused on the majors and when they’re done, so is much of the drama. If they introduce a Fall series similar to LIV, that’s just the PGA Tour trying to be all things to all stakeholders, which waters down their primary product. Why not accept that there’s another circus and welcome it to town occasionally. My interest in the Fall is on events like the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup – not some ginned up big money exhibitions – and certainly not the current 72-hole stroke play events.

During the Palos Verdes Championship, golf analyst Jerry Foltz asked Lydia Ko about her trainer administering some therapy during the round. Ko left Foltz speechless when she said the tightness in her back was because “it was that time of the month.” What’s the most shocking comment you’ve ever heard a player or announcer make on a live broadcast?

Deeks: It wasn’t a comment, but the time old, drunk Joe Namath kissed the hot babe field reporter on-air, on ESPN, was pretty shocking.  And the time Freddie used the F-bomb during a playoff at LaCosta many years ago certainly elicited a million “whoops!” across America.  But a well-intentioned yet dubious comment like Lydia’s?  Not sure I can think of one.  I give Lydia credit for her honesty, though.

Loughry: I thought it was great, Lydia leaving Jerry speechless. One of the more disturbing things I’ve seen, it wasn’t a comment, it was Garcia spitting in the cup.  I couldn’t believe it; he wasn’t even in the last group. I’ll never forget it.

Schurman: Why is this such a big deal? She is a human being, a real person. Female competitors have accommodated these issues for hundreds of years. Once again social media raises its head. Until now women suffered in silence. Why should they? And, in case you are wondering “these greens are so fast they seem like they were polished with bikini wax” quote Gary McCord.

Quinn: It was shocking in the sense that it was funny (now misogynist), spontaneous, and seemingly so out of character. Long before he was a ‘Knight of the Realm’ Faldo climbed a tree to identify his ball. Out on a limb, so to speak, he looked down at the camera and said: “Where’s Jane when you need her?” That was enough for me, completely changing my view — from a massive distance — of a guy considered, at the time, almost anti-social.

Mumford: Brilliant! Love the honesty. Over the years lots of memorable comments come to mind: Gary McCord with bikini wax and body bags at Augusta, Ben Wright referencing lesbians and women’s boobs on the LPGA and Kelly Tilghman talking about lynching Tiger Woods. One that always makes me laugh though is a comment made by Johnny Miller during the 2008 U.S. Open. It’s notable because Miller, as great an analyst as he was, wasn’t exactly known as a comic. During the playoff, Miller said that Rocco Mediate “looks like the guy who cleans Tiger Woods’ pool.”

On a weekend when World #2 Jon Rahm wins a PGA Tour title and captures a national championship in the Mexico Open, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are drawing more attention just for registering to play in the upcoming PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Given that Tiger and Phil have been the focus of fan and media attention for the past 25 years, much as Jack and Arnie were in an earlier time, who replaces them when they finally fade from our radar screens? In other words, is there another pair of players that you expect to dominate media attention for many years to come?

Deeks: Gee, good question.  Right now, I’d say no one springs to mind, or rather, it’ll be those two upcoming pros, Enny Wun and N.E. Buddy.  There are so many good young pros on Tour today, and so many nationalities, and they all seem so focused on their games while being nice and polite to each other, that I just don’t see any potential rivalries, or polar opposites the way Jack and Arnie, and Tiger and Phil, or Norman and Faldo, or Hogan and Snead and Nelson were.  “Rivalries” aside, I’d perhaps have my eye on Joaquin Niemann and Colin Morikawa separating themselves from the pack in the near future.  But then, five years ago, I would’ve said Spieth and JT.  So, as someone said long ago, one never knows, do one?

Loughry: This question, who is the air apparent? The new superstar? I don’t see one, not in the same superstardom as Tiger (and a far distant Phil). And IMO that should concern the Tour, because unless you have a Major on your hands, the production and excitement of “regular” Tour events, just doesn’t hold the attention of fans, I’m not sure its enough to compete against other leagues/sports for eyeballs and corporate dollars in the long run (not at the current levels). And that might be OK, it will exist, but may not be as successful/at the same level as it is now.

Schurman: Sports heroes have always come and gone with nobody to replace them. There have been several Big 3 combinations. Vardon, Braid and Taylor; Hagen Barnes and Sarazen; Hogan, Snead and Nelson; Nicklaus, Palmer and Player. In the most recent era Woods dominated by such a degree, it’s questionable one can even put Phil in the discussion and there is not a #3. In using majors as a measuring stick, there were 0 years between the Vardon and Hagen era, two years between Sarazen and Nelson, 5 years between Snead and Player and 11 years between Nicklaus and Woods. However, don’t forget Jack’s 1986 Masters was actually an extension of his career which in truth ended 5 years earlier. So, who replaces Tiger and Phil for drama, the average is about 5 years before the next big star is due?

Quinn: My screen has already gone blank on those guys. There was that brief and much lamented phoney DeChambeau – Koepka ‘rivalry’ but can’t see a two-man dominance in today’s market or field. There are just too much money attracting too many good young players, enough in fact to make Rahm seem like an elder statesman. It may be more likely that amazing young talents like Erik van Rooyen and Bezuidenhout and Hovland and Pendrift just step up on some big stages and shadow anyone who thinks they’re part of a dominant duo.

Mumford: The thing about Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods and Mickelson is that they’re super-stars. They all won a lot of tournaments and majors and developed rabid fan support. Then, they hung around long past their best before date and won even more. Not sure too many of the current crop of players will hang around once they see their bank balances outpacing the GDP of some small countries. Longevity isn’t the only ingredient – charisma, likeability, fan engagement is also crucial to garnering media attention and enduring appeal. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth could be the guys fans still pull for when they’re approaching Champions Tour age but that’s a ways off and probably requires more winning and more struggles to burnish their resume and fan devotion.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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