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.
LIV Golf has announced the field for its first event this week in London. It includes Dustin Johnson, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and now Phil Mickelson. That’s a lot of victories on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour as well as a lot of majors. Many of those same players intend on playing the U.S. Open the following week, even though they may be suspended by their home Tours. What’s your take on the latest player moves and what’s next in this drama?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): If I’m Greg Norman, outwardly I’m going to crow about how well I’ve done to attract these stellar names and how it’s an indication of dissatisfaction with the PGA Tour, yada yada. Inwardly I’m going think, jeez, I couldn’t do any better than THIS gang, with all the beautiful money I’m throwing away? Personally, I (it’s me, Deeks, talking now) wouldn’t make much effort to go and see this group, even if I was in London. And Dustin Johnson? He’s dead to me, for turning his back on the Canadian Open, on his stated commitment to play in it this year, and on his generous sponsorship from RBC. I can’t imagine his father-in-law is too pleased. As for what’s next, I suspect few new players of any note will join the renegade group, and it’ll die on the vine after one season. I hope so.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): These player choices are turning professional Tour golf into a Soap Opera. I think the names on the list will simply grow with the next event. The pioneers have made their choices, and I think a lot of players were just wanting to “wait and see”. And now that they see and realize that some players who are world ranked much further down the list will likely make 2x or more while only needing a few starts, will now have a serious look at participating. I think we should all expect more players to jump, even if the Tour suspends those players who tee it up in the first LIV Golf event. Lawyers are just waiting for those tee shots to be hit. In addition to this drama, I also see the Tour asking the USGA, R&A, Augusta and PGA of America for support. Of which I’m just not sure they can get. I don’t know how you can revoke a pre-qualified exempt player from participating in Majors in the short term, but I’m certain lawyers have been investigating just how to do that (under some kind of code of conduct rule). I just don’t see this being their fight – it’s the PGA Tour’s house that’s on fire. Your neighbors can offer support and comforting words, but they can’t put the fire out. Nor do I think suspending/banning players is a good (long) term strategy. Interesting times ahead.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well, they’ve shown that money talks, and they can buy the loyalty of some good players. It still doesn’t come close to matching the field at the RBC Canadian Open and hopefully that tourney gets more of the attention from media the rest of this week. It’s interesting to see the players officially resign from the PGA Tour, which is clearly a strategic move to reduce any future legal implications if they want to return to the Tour. I guess the ball is in the PGA Tour and USGA’s court, it will be interesting to see how many of those players play at Brookline.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Well, we knew the numbers were going to be eye-popping. But the reported sign-up fees for Phil and DJ are mind-blowing. The USGA’s Open stance — if you’ve qualified, you can come — makes tepid sense and puts all the pressure on the R&A to enunciate its definition of “open.” The USGA’s decision lends weight to the idea of letting the miscreants play the Majors this year pending a decision on 2023 fields — if LIV is still alive. Any move to restrict the “individual contractors” from playing big events outside the PGA Tour will be a massive windfall for law firms, who will be the only winners.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): More player defections, more suspensions and lawsuits. Norman the Disruptor is not quite Norman the Conqueror but he’s creating a lot of headaches in Ponte Vedra. For Jay Monahan and his tribe, sticking their heads in the sand and pretending everything is normal is no longer possible. Professional golf used to be able to pretend it was all about titles and legacies. The modern, recent PGA Tour changed all that when they kept upping purses and creating new avenues to even greater cash giveaways (FedEx Cup, PIP). Tours in Europe, Asia and Australia suffered when they could no longer compete. The PGA Tour shouldn’t be shocked when someone comes along with even deeper pockets and threatens them at their own game. It’s gonna get ugly and I suspect we’re still a long way from any kind of compromise.
While the LIV Golf field features many noteworthy names, the field for the RBC Canadian Open includes four of the World Top 10 plus defending champion Rory McIlroy playing on one of Canada’s top ranked courses. The tournament will also showcase dozens of sponsor pavilions and plenty of entertainment plus a skybox on a crane that will allow fans to watch the golf tournament from 100 feet up. There’s a lot going on this week at St. George’s. What’s the most interesting aspect of our national championship in 2022?
Deeks: For me, it’s seeing how well St. George’s holds up against the current quality of players. I remember being almost offended a decade or so ago when several players were shooting in the low 60s there (including Carl Pettersson, who shot 60, for heaven’s sake). I don’t mind a 65 or two, and a final 72-hole score of, say, 9 under… but please, guys, don’t make a mockery of our number one national course. I hope the Tour and Golf Canada set it up to withstand the onslaught.
Loughry: For me the most interesting aspect will be St. George’s itself. I absolutely adore the club and the course. I want to see the best of the best play it, and hear their thoughts on the layout, our city and country. I don’t want to hear how this is just another stop on Tour. I really like the attitude that no stone will be unturned in terms of making the RBC Canadian Open unique/different. Some initiatives won’t work/fit, but lots will, and I like the boldness with which our National Championship is being planned from by Golf Canada.
Rule: It’s a return to Canada for the PGA Tour after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, and it should be a great celebration. The field is stacked, and they are stepping up the entertainment value, so I’m expecting it to be a successful celebration. I look forward to being there on Friday and am excited to see the action on one of Canada’s best layouts. Here’s hoping the big names are in contention on Sunday.
Quinn: This Open always sparks interest among the top players and true fans of the game whenever it’s not played at Glen Abbey. Lots of bells and whistles, and overseas distractions, but most intriguing will be how some of the game’s best maneuver their way around this classic Thompson layout. As Mackenzie Hughes said, playing St. Georges feels like you’re playing in Canada. It should be a treat for the players, fans, and the rest of us on couches from sea to sea to sea.
Mumford: For me, there are two events going on at St. George’s. One is a circus-like entertainment extravaganza with food and beverage and shops and elephants. Oh, sorry – no elephants. The other is a golf tournament. The former holds absolutely no interest to me, but I think a lot of people will be drawn to it because it’s a cool event and by extension good for golf and the growth of the game. The golf tournament is my focus. There’s a very strong field, an exceptional golf course and a historic national championship at stake. That’s all I need.
Who is your pick to win the RBC Canadian Open? Who might be a longshot contender?
Deeks: I remember the agony we all felt when Mike Weir lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh, almost a generation ago. It probably means nothing other than a fat paycheque for the players to win the Canadian Open, but it would mean so much for 37 million Canadians to see a Canadian win it. (Remember how great we all felt when Brooke Henderson won the Women’s Canadian Open a few years ago?) So, on that sentimental criterion, I’m going with our top Canadian, Corey Conners, to win. And longshots Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin. And I hope the overall winner is St. George’s.
Loughry: I think Rory could rip around St. George’s well, he seems to play old traditional beautiful courses well. And I’d like to see him repeat. And Conners would be my semi-long shot to end the Canadian drought. If his putter gets a little hot, he could wheel around there pretty good.
Rule: It’s hard to not pick Scottie Scheffler with his form in 2022 but I’m going to hope that Tony Finau can get the monkey off of his back and pull out a victory. He’s always been one of the best ball strikers and is putting lights out now, so look out this week. As for a long shot, I’m hoping for a good performance from Harold Varner III. He’s an RBC ambassador and does so many good things for the game, he’s one of the good guys and it would be great to see him hoist the trophy at the end of the week (if it isn’t a Canadian of course!).
Quinn: Sounds like we’ve heard this before, but surely Rory will remember how to hit his wedges. If he does, he’d be hard-pressed to lose. Long shot? Any Canadian. My longest shot is a pal’s son, A.J. Ewart, who just earned the Jack Nicklaus Award as top NCAA Tier II golfer of the year. He also earned a well-deserved exemption into the Canuck Open. He’d be a great first Canadian in generations to win the national championship, especially on a course designed by a legendary Canadian and not at that place in Oakville.
Mumford: I’m picking Mackenzie Hughes to win. Cuz, why not? He’s seasoned now in major championships and the RBC Canadian Open is certainly a major for him. Rory McIlroy is not a dark horse or a longshot in any way but it’s hard to repeat, especially when the tournament is played at a different course. I still think he has a chance.