The Round Table: are there no villains left on the PGA tour?

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.

The PGA Tour prefers the term designated event to elevated event but regardless of what you call them, there’s still a massive difference between a designated event with all the top players and a huge purse, and a regular event with the “other” guys. Now that we’ve seen one of each type in 2023, are you less likely to watch when the stars aren’t playing?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): To be honest, I’m less likely to watch if the event isn’t a major or if I’m not on the golf course myself.  I kinda lost interest in regular Tour events a few years ago, and now, despite the “elevated” status of some, my interest has not been re-peaked.  I’m not saying these “non-majors” shouldn’t happen — Tour players do need a constant source of competition — but I’m just not the die-hard golf junkie I once was.  I did watch some of the Sony on the weekend, though, and kept looking for recognizable names, but there weren’t many.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): People aren’t tuning in to watch players they have no connection to (or have no idea who they are). There’s no chance people were tuning in with any kind of significance to watch Buckley, Lipsky, Kirk, to see who would win last week. But if the top 30-50 players in the world were all playing, I believe more people would tune in (ignoring the fact of going up against NFL Football playoffs).

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I’m an old-timer and will continue to be an old-timer. I watch all four rounds of the majors, TPC, Memorial, Bay Hill and the Match Play. I watch Phoenix on Sunday because it’s before the Super Bowl, Riviera and Torrey Pines. Anything after that I PVR and skip through them at night. As previously stated, I am not a LIV fan but I am even less of a Monahan fan. I think LIV has an opportunity to take golf into countries where golf has never been played. It should be a team-only format. Jay is proving to be manipulating and vindictive. My favourite is Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): The short answer is yes, I want to see the stars playing as much as possible.  But there are other reasons to watch a “non-elevated” event and I think the Tour needs to learn how to tell the stories of players a bit better.  When I heard the story of Hayden Buckley and saw that he was in the lead after three rounds, I wanted to watch a bit of the final round to see if he could pull it out and have a life changing experience.  That’s sometimes more fun than watching a multi-gazillionaire win another tournament and pad their pocketbook.  The one thing that LIV has done is make me feel for those pros that are just trying to eke out a living, so when one of that group wins a tourney, that’s pretty exciting and emotional.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The Tour has simplified it for all of us (fans of golf, fans of watching the best players, bad golfers with big screen TVs when it’s raining). We now just have to schedule our life and weekend work schedule around the interesting (sorry, designated) events. That frees up a lot of family time, which can be good or bad. The money changers don’t change my viewing schedule by a single day. Despite golf’s histrionics, look forward to the “important” events. Done and done.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): If you’re a true golf fan, then you can appreciate fine play by all of these guys, whether they’re top ranked or not. But anyone with a rooting interest is going to have a hard time getting excited about the lesser lights on the PGA Tour. I find the whole elevated or designated thing too contrived and am not moved at all by the increased money available, so I’ll continue to watch a handful of favourites and especially the majors.

In a recent interview, Adam Scott commented that he’d be ok if the percentage payout to tournament winners increased from its current 18% of the purse to 25%, maybe even as high as 40%. He also said there was no need to increase purses so dramatically if the winner’s share was higher. What do you think?

Deeks: I think he’s right on the second point, but 40% seems a little egregious.  That said, I think all the money in professional golf — LIV, and now PGA Tour — is egregious, but then, we have to consider other major sports “salaries” and throw up our hands in despair.  On a related point, I do wonder where all this extra money for PGA Tour events suddenly appeared from.  I understand WHY it appeared, but where was it hiding all these years?

Loughry: Meh, I’m indifferent to these comments by Scott. But I always found the winner’s cheque and payout to be a little top heavy. I understand rewarding excellence but going 15 MC’s in a row is nerve racking to any player and his family. It was nice to see this was acknowledged and addressed to some degree (players expenses incurred for the week: hotel, caddie, meals, car rentals).

Schurman: Nicklaus had this idea in the 1960s. His point was a player wins so seldom in his/her career, they should get an extra bonus when they do. I agree! 25%. or a flat $1M bonus on top of prize money.

Rule: Going back to my last comment, I don’t think the winners need to line their pockets more than they already do. If they can’t be happy with $1.5M, then they are in this for the wrong reasons in my mind.  The money has to be spread out to keep more players in the game.

Quinn: Gotta love the gutsy ‘raise the pot’ call from a guy who’s trying to get by after only making $61 M (US) on Tour under the penurious 18% system. Scott and the multi-millionaires can leisurely lobby for bigger percentages, quickly forgetting that 20 years ago they were the ones slamming the trunks and depending on sponsors and patrons to get to the next Tour stop. Did Adam wonder where the extra money would go if not into purses? Didn’t think so.

Mumford: Scott has a very good point. 40% is probably too high but anything that recognizes the importance of winning is putting the incentive in the right place. Maybe the Tour should revisit the ludicrous PIP fiasco and bonus that money out to event winners instead of the top ranked Miss Congeniality contestants.

PGA Tour player Harry Higgs says “all the assholes went to LIV” and that the PGA Tour may have a future problem now that is doesn’t have any villains. Presumably he’s referring to players like Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson and others. Does he have a point?

Deeks: Yes, he does, for sure.  But I say good riddance to all of them (add Koepka to the list, BTW); their “colour” added zero interest to my watching them.  It’s too bad that few colourful good guys seem to exist toady — guys with “character” like Palmer, Lema, Trevino, Sanders, Ballesteros, Sam Torrance.  You don’t have to be a jerk or a villain to be colourful.  The only guys I can think of who are decent and colourful today are Spieth and Lowry.

Loughry: Higgs is right to some degree, there are a few others that may emerge or re-immerge (like a Grayson Murray) from time to time. But right now its all sunshine and rainbows, a very vanilla flavour of events being showcased. I’ve said this before, but I think this new professional Tour golf environment will just make Majors that much more compelling and interesting to watch.

Schurman: The PGA TOUR will always have villains. In fact, the villain population just grew by one, Harry. When combining 125 of the most conceited, arrogant, self-confident, pampered people in the world, someone is not going to like something someone else does.

Rule: Well, he’s not wrong, is he?  A lot of the villains did jump ship, which you wouldn’t think is such a bad thing, but at the same time, all stories need villains.  So, I think he has a point, who doesn’t want to see Rory outlast Patrick Reed on Sunday at Augusta?  Of course if the villain wins as he did in 2018, then everyone feels let down.  Wait, is there any chance Patrick is reading this?  I don’t want to be slapped with a lawsuit!

Quinn: Methinks Higgs is more intent on defining a name for himself than naming other ‘assholes.’ These are desperate times with Putin gone mad, lethal viruses being named after mythical sea monsters (and NHL teams), Biden doing a (bad) impression of my grandmother in her final days, and anyone with an ego trumpeting and posing on the internet. Other questions might be: who is Higgs and how has the game survived all these years without his “we need assholes” business plan?

Mumford: It’s true that a lot of colourful players jumped to LIV Golf but don’t ever short-change the media’s ability to find or create new villains. Remember Matt Kuchar – he went from smiley Mr. Nice Guy to a notorious cheapskate that tried to stiff his caddie, and he still hasn’t recovered. It doesn’t take a lot to add some baggage to your reputation and suddenly one day you’re a bad guy.

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

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