Is Davis Love delivering on the promised “new direction” at CBS?

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 Premier Golf League is still in the news, with announcements about feeder tours, Japanese sponsors and possible player commitments. Greg Norman has indicated his World Golf Tour may have been before its time but the PGL actually has a reasonable chance of working. As we’ve all noted in the past, the PGA Tour is pretty stale except for the majors and several other select events. Is it time for a major disruption to the status quo and is the PGL the solution?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Sorry, but as a left-wing cynic, I find the PGL concept quite gross, as it seems to be all about money-money-money… not because the world is clamouring for it, not because Tour pros are underpaid or suffering for lack of competition, not because the top pros are so much better than the second-tier, not because they (PGL) have come up with a better and more fan-friendly business or competitive model.  I mean, seriously, what’s the point?  I hope it fails.  But not without causing the PGA Tour (and the TV networks) to take a good hard look at “major disruption” to their status quo.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I’ve been raggin’ on this subject for years. I used to love attending TOUR events, but I was a lot younger. Parking seemed to be located on or extremely near the course, you could walk on the fairway during practice rounds where more often than not, you could have a conversation with a player, and it was affordable. In the recent past, you could go through the TOUR vans (club repairs and exercise facilities even the Media Room on Tuesday and Wednesday). Not anymore. The last time I went to a PGA TOUR event was when I had Masters tickets, visited Scotland with my wife and attended to British Open, drove to the US Open and the PGA so I could claim a personal ‘grand slam’. I rarely miss a televised golf tournament but I always multi-task. Bill Murray ruined Pebble Beach for me. The Tournament of Champions is held 1/2 way through the season. Nobody counts money just points and there are very few top players who have an actual career. Instead, they burst onto the scene grab $15M to $20M and then bob up and down the standings winning $1M on course and $3M off course.  And, you ask do they need a shake-up?

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer @davykap): The Premier Golf League’s value proposition is that the purses will be somewhat bigger and there will be a Formula 1-style, four-man format that spans the season. Even if the tour were to actually happen, and I have my doubts, I truly don’t think those two elements are going to be enough to prevent it from growing stale after a single year. This tour doesn’t have any of the four majors, so it’s already starting at a disadvantage and it seems as if most of the tournaments will be played halfway across the world at times when the majority of North America is sleeping. Yes, these events can be taped and played at another time, but social media and the 24/7 news cycle will make the delayed coverage yesterday’s news. There’s nothing wrong with the current PGA Tour other than some slow play and some boring broadcasters. But that’s a golf problem. I highly doubt the PGL would have a solution for either of them.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I would agree it’s time for a change to make the non-majors more enticing.  I only pay attention to some tournaments because one of my pool guys is in contention!  I’m still not sold on the idea of the new tour; I can’t see enough guys moving away from the guaranteed entity that is the PGA Tour.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It seems now that if all the promised and hoped-for funding comes through — no guarantees either way — it will be an off-season novelty live streamed through the ether. It could suck some revenue and interest from the PGA and Euro Tours, but a bit of nipping and tucking would be a good thing. Don’t see it answering all the issues pro golf faces but could spice it up a tad.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I did a very unscientific poll of golfers in their 30’s recently and almost none watch the PGA Tour on TV, except occasionally for the majors. Most indicated they have neither the time nor the appetite for a new tour either. We boomers appear to be watching less golf too, so I’m not sure if a North American audience is clamoring for the PGL. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia just announced a massive infusion of money to develop golf in the desert, so perhaps there’s a new audience on the other side of the world. While the PGA Tour moves at snail speed, it is in dire need of a change. Just not sure the PGL is the answer. More like blowing up half the events and creating some real excitement over a shortened season.

Standing on the 17th tee of the Phoenix Waste Management Open on Sunday, Tony Finau led by two strokes, then saw his second PGA Tour victory slip away as Webb Simpson birdied 17 and 18 and the first hole in the ensuing playoff. Many in the golf world have been predicting great things for Finau since his first win four years ago at the Puerto Rico Open and plenty of Top 10 finishes since, but he has yet to close the deal on a second win. Is Finau turning into another Rickie Fowler (loads of hype, little hardware) or is more patience required before he gets on the podium?

Deeks: Whether he has it or not, patience IS what’s required.  I feel sorry for the guy for Sunday’s lame finish, but every experience, good or bad, is a learning experience.

Schurman: It ain’t over until it’s over! Tournaments consist of 72 holes. Web Simpson did what he had to do. Tony Finau did not play the last three holes like a champion. Situations like this will either ‘make him or break him’ it is all part of the process. My prediction is that when Finau breaks through it will be something very important like the US Open or the Masters and when he does, he might win a lot, but he will win big.

Kaplan: Finau. More like needs to win now . . . Yes, he is very quickly becoming the next “can’t get it done guy on the circuit”. I had to double check Finau’s stats because I couldn’t believe he only has one PGA Tour win under his belt, but it’s shockingly true. And it’s not like he’s still a spring chicken. Finau is 30 years old! He needs to get some hardware on his mantle in a hurry or he is going to be the butt of many mean-spirited jokes going forward.

Rule:  I feel for Tony, one of the nicest guys on tour.  He didn’t lose this one, he was beaten by 3 straight birdies but if you want to win, you have to go get it and he didn’t.  I still believe he’s an elite talent and will be in the winner’s circle in 2020.  Perhaps a bit of a harsh comparison for Rickie, who has won 5 PGA Tour events!

Quinn: Over the final four holes, Finau’s facial expressions and body language were more those of a guy resigned to a top 20 finish than a guy determined to get a second win. It was striking. It was weird. I suspect that it fired up Simpson and let him think: I got this guy. Oh well, he’s a multi-millionaire, looks to have a nice family, so what’s to wait for? If he wins again or not, won’t change anything in the world of golf.

Mumford: The age-old question: is he the real deal or just another pretender? It always amazes me when I hear that someone like Charlie Hoffman has six PGA Tour victories, as in “When the hell did that happen?” Then along comes someone like Tony Finau, who is on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, contends in majors and always seems to be on the leaderboard, and he has one dusty, lonesome trophy. My hunch is that Finau breaks through big. He still needs a few more years of frustration before he can rival Rickie as the most over-hyped, under-performing player on Tour. But come on Tony. Your time is now!

Before Christmas, CBS made some news of its own by firing Peter Kostis and Gary McCord from its golf telecast and suggesting it wanted to go in a new direction. Apparently, Davis Love III is the embodiment of that plan. Now that we’ve seen a few examples of the CBS crew in action, can you see any change in the telecast and what would your early report card give Mr. Love for his efforts?

Deeks: I’ve only had an opportunity to watch about five minutes of CBS coverage so far, and I only heard one comment from Davis Love.  But my worst fears were realized immediately… the guy is dull as dishwater.  He has no inflection in his delivery, and offered no insight except to say something like, “yeah, that was a tough putt, and clearly he didn’t read enough break.”  Well, duh.  How the fine minds at CBS came up with this idea is beyond me. Mind you, those same minds inflicted McCord on us for nearly 25 years.   Is it really that difficult to find someone with character, pedigree, and the courage to make objective (i.e., non-sycophantic, and non-obvious) comments? How about Hal Quinn, for example??

Schurman: Davis Love is an extremely likeable, honest, upright person. He could really play but he is not the right choice. FYI, I thought Kostis and McCord were well past their expiry dates. Brad Faxon has a radio show on satellite radio, and I like his style and John Cook is coming along but is really more of the same. Feherty is good but too funny to be the anchor. The problem is finding someone with a playing reputation, intelligent, quick-witted and has a ‘voice’. The producers are so afraid of someone controversial who might cause a panic they have taken the excitement away. Three I have heard and like are Raymond Floyd, Jeff Ogilvie and Jay Haas.

Kaplan: Honestly, I’m more excited about Michelle Wie joining the CBS broadcast booth.  She’s going to bring some fun and energy into that booth. The hiring of Davis Love III and Mark Immelman is not very exciting to me. They’re no Stephen A. Smith. They’re not going to stir up the type of controversy or passionate rants that make golf appointment viewing. Seems to me like we are in for more of the same unless Wie is given a more prominent role going forward than “multimedia contributor”, whatever the heck that means.

Rule: Call me old fashioned, but I miss McCord and especially Kostis, and it may take me a while to warm up to DL3 as an analyst.  I don’t think he’s as insightful as the old guard, and certainly doesn’t add any excitement to the telecast.  I’ll withhold final judgment until I’ve seen them a few more times, perhaps the new crew will improve.

Quinn: It was absolutely cartoonish how many talking heads were jousting for airtime during the Waste Management fandango. It was impossible to keep track of how many descriptions of the festivities at the 16th hole were voiced, repeatedly ad nauseum, but they were numerous enough to take the last bit of fun out of it. Heard Faldo say once: “Good point Davis.” Must have been referring to the new guy. Brilliant debut, I guess. Nurse! Pass the Mute Button!

Mumford: I’ve only watched the three 2020 events on CBS sporadically, but it wasn’t until last week’s Phoenix Open that I realized Love had started his stint on the broadcast team. IMO, neither does he steer the show in any new direction, nor is he a breath of fresh air for a stale format. More like, “Yah Jim, yah Nick. Whatever. Nothing new to add here.” Colossal mis-casting. Almost makes me miss McCord.

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

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