Another Tiger-Phil match is on. How can they make this one better?

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 Match 2.0 or The Re-Match is apparently on (date and venue TBA) with Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning squaring off against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady.  It’s a low bar they have to exceed, but what’s the best thing the organizers can do to make the sequel better than the original?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Cancel the whole thing.  Set an example of common sense to the rest of the world.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The best advice I can give is to cancel the original and the sequel. I love golf! I am an addict! I can’t get enough of the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour, the European Tour, the Champions Tour, The Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and the ‘you name it’ cup. This isn’t golf! Tom Brady is the best QB I’ve ever seen, and Manning is right up there but I’d rather listen to a Salvation Army Band at Christmas at least their hearts are in the right place. What I would enjoy more is seeing Tiger and Phil taking turns rushing out of the backfield carrying the ball and being ‘unloaded’ on by Lawrence Taylor.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): What really drags these 1-match broadcasts down is the dead airtime between shots. I don’t trust that the spontaneous chatter between these four is going to be interesting enough to sustain a four-hour broadcast. So, the organizers are going to have to ensure that they have captivating, pre-recorded segments to air during these moments. Perhaps narrated, behind-the-scenes footage of each player’s preparations for the match would work. Maybe it’s having a panel of PGA Tour stars doing the commentary via Zoom. Otherwise, the feedback is going to be very similar to the last Woods/Mickelson match.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): When they had the original match in Las Vegas, there was lots of banter leading up to the event and promises of crazy side bets and the like.  I think having a character like Peyton Manning in the match will help deliver more of that, which would help.  I also think all money should go to charity, helping those hurt by COVID-19, it would help to no doubt draw more viewers.  It would also help to have it on an iconic golf course that we don’t get to see any other time.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: All they can do is give Eldrick and Phil personality transplants. Guess Tony Romo was just too darn smart to accept a spot. Can’t imagine Manning and Brady supplying any comic relief. Missed Match 1.0 as I had more exciting things to do — like cleaning the eavestroughs and the lint trap in the clothes dryer. They should be ready for another cleaning come 2.0 time.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): No Match would be better than the original, but assuming they proceed, they need to understand that this is more about entertainment than golf, so the broadcast crew could use a couple of comedians or great storytellers to liven things up. Second, a challenging golf course is a must, preferably one we don’t see all the time on Tour; one with some history and exciting design. Pine Valley, Seminole or Cypress Point would be good. Finally, in my opinion, the betting last year was contrived and actually detracted from the show, especially the gaudy pile of cash on the 18th green. That won’t be a sight that reflects well on sponsors or anybody else in the current environment.

It appears that golf courses will be opening this week in some provinces and it likely won’t be too long before all follow suit. As noted, golfers will be required to take all reasonable precautions against coronavirus, clubhouses and pro shops will be closed, and there may not even be rakes in the bunkers. How will those conditions affect your golf experience and that of regular golfers?

Deeks: It really won’t affect my golf experience at all.  I’m pretty much of a show-up, play, go-home kinda guy anyway.  I’m sure 99% of golfers will be fine without pro shops, lockers, and snack bars.  No rakes in bunkers just gives those people who don’t rake anyway an excuse not to.  The rest of us will use our feet as best we can.  Hopefully all of us will be thankful and appreciative of having the privilege to enjoy our favourite sport.

Schurman: Unfortunately, I still believe in the 14 consecutive days of the number of cases and the number of deaths declining and we have not peaked across the country yet. Until these happen, we have accomplished nothing. My wife and began self-isolating and social distancing on Feb 8 and got very serious about it on March 3, when Trudeau told Canadians travelling abroad to return home. So, we are coming up to close to 3 months at home. Why did we do all of that if we are just going to ignore the warnings? In answer to your question, yes golf will change but so will a lot of things far more important than golf. Recently, it has been discovered that meatpacking plants have been violating safety guidelines. Isn’t anybody worried about contamination in the food supply? Or, due to the large numbers of infected workers producing food who are now sick or isolating, could we have shortages?

Kaplan: My sand game is a major strength for me so not being able to rely on consistent sand in the bunkers is going to be problematic for me. I don’t care about the clubhouses/pro shops because I don’t spend much time in there anyway. And if it means I won’t be on the hook for a food-beverage minimum, I’m ALL FOR IT!

Rule: It would just be nice to get back out swinging a golf club, as I’m always itching to do at this time of year.  Being a member at Scarboro G&CC, I will certainly miss the socializing on our fantastic patio, that’s one of the reasons I’m at that club.  So the experience won’t be the same for sure.  As for the experience on the golf course itself, I don’t think the rule and maintenance changes will have a major impact on my enjoyment of my round, it’ll just be nice to see the flying 210 in the air again!!

Quinn: Two Vancouver munis are opening May 1, the other (Langara) won’t as its clubhouse is being used to make meals for the city’s massive homeless population on the Downtown Eastside. Friends playing private clubs the past month under the pandemic precautions have said it’s almost as good as the ‘normal’ experience, and much better than nothing. Hope to get out next week.

Mumford: I suspect everyone will make do the best they can. I’m just looking forward to playing again and if I have to bring my own snacks or hit out of a footprint in a bunker, no problem. Golfers will adapt as long as they can play. What will be interesting is how much impact the Covid-19 scenario will have on the way we play after it’s over. Maybe rakes will forever be abandoned, and bunkers will become true hazards, the way they were intended.

Following the announcement of a June 8 re-start for the PGA Tour, a number of players have indicated they’re going to take a pass, while others have pushed back against proposed safety guidelines, mandatory quarantines for some players, possibly no rakes in bunkers, caddie protocols etc. Assuming the PGA Tour will take as many precautions as possible, what do you expect the field will look like for these first few events and if they don’t represent a reasonable collection of top players, is it fair to award World Ranking points, FedEx Cup points and Ryder Cup points, knowing how important those rankings are to entries and invitations to key future competitions?

Deeks: I think it’s crazy for the Tour to re-start in June, but guess what?  It’s not my decision.  I suspect fields will be filled by those wanting to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by no-shows… and I have no problem with that.  No-shows are free to decide for themselves.  But I don’t think there should be any restrictions on OWGR rankings, FedEx, etc. if a bunch choose not to play.   Frankly, I’d love to see Scott Gump make the Ryder Cup team!

Schurman: The players are independent contractors who decide if, when and where they wish to play. The instant a ball is stuck in any event the ‘points’ become available regardless of who enters. Anyone who qualifies and wishes to earn the benefits of ‘points’ must make a choice whether or not to play. A more serious question will be what if a player decides not to risk illness and takes the rest of the year off but fails to fulfil the PGA TOUR 15 event minimum? If they don’t have a route to play in 2021 like lifetime earnings, 20 wins (Life Members), a major champion within 5 years, a tour victory within 2 years etc. do they lose their card?

Kaplan: That’s a tough question. I think it’s fair to award WR, FC and RC points for these events because the events are open to everyone, and the points are an extra incentive for playing. If those points weren’t up for grabs, it would create too much controversy come FedEx Cup and Ryder Cup time. You could theoretically get one player who wins three of the first five events, yet doesn’t qualify for the playoffs or the Ryder Cup because those events didn’t officially count . . . As for what the fields will look like, that’s anyone’s guess. I expect to see many more lesser-known names over the first month or two because those guys rely on the payouts, whereas a DJ or a McIlroy has the financial security to wait out COVID indefinitely. In that sense, I suspect that the PGA Tour’s return will have a bit of a fall series feel to it. But I’m so starved for live sports at this point that I truly don’t care who’s playing.

Rule: I know there is talk of the top players not showing up to the first few events, because let’s face it, they don’t need the money or exposure.  And since they haven’t been able to practice fully the past two months, they’ll want to get their games as close to 100% as possible before returning to the spotlight.  However, I do think that most players will be itching to get back to competition, so the fields might be better than we expected. There will be less restrictions on being able to play events due to travel concerns (ie coming back from another continent), sponsor restrictions, heavy workload (not wanting to play 3 weeks in a row), etc.  As long as the tournament takes necessary precautions to protect everyone on site as much as possible, the guys will show up.  So that would solve the issue with awarding ranking points.

Quinn: Just as the NHL and NBA are wrestling with the legitimacy of awarding playoff spots in a shortened season (and draft rankings) golf has to address its rankings in a fair and thoughtful way. Limited fields in faux events can’t possibly award points in any of the categories. If and when the world is given the all clear signal, the points cycle should resume then starting from the suspension date rankings.

Mumford: I don’t think we’ll see too many top players for a while – maybe the first major. The fields will be weak in terms of world rankings but that’s ok; tournaments will still be entertaining. As far as points are concerned, pretend the 2020 season never happened and start fresh in 2021. They’ll figure out how to qualify or invite players for this year’s remaining events but make them play for cash only. It would be refreshing to not hear any mention of FedEx Cup points for a while.

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

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