Pay for play, Captain Tiger, and Lexi in Las Vegas

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 recent Ryder Cup featured a controversy that was initially denied by the American team but later proved to have some legs. Patrick Cantlay didn’t wear a hat during competition apparently as a protest against the PGA of America and its policy of not paying players to play in the Cup. While ‘hatgate’ may soon be forgotten, the question of whether players should be compensated remains an ongoing and divisive issue. It’s not the first time the topic has been debated either. Do you think players should be compensated to play in the Ryder Cup?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Yes, I do. The PGA of America and the DP World Tour are both raking in millions of dollars from the Ryder Cup, and it’s shocking that the players are not compensated beyond travel and personal expenses.  Yes, they are paid $200,000 each but this money is given to charities of the players’ choice.  Nice, but why aren’t the players compensated directly for their time and skill?  To expect them to play simply for the honour of representing their country or region makes no sense in today’s sporting economy.  I think they should all be paid an equal amount, regardless of their actual performance.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: This is a no-win situation. Some of the players play in both the President’s Cup and the Ryder Cup. Representing your country IS a great honour but when you are called every year for 20 years or so it does lose some of the significance. Considering how much money is generated through TV, ticket sales and merchandise there is reason to at least question the validity of payment. None of the players is in dire straits so the subject is basically principal which isn’t any different than a military general receiving a pay cheque. The player also gain opportunities for income through endorsements appearances both on and off the course. Part of the issue is the ownership of the event is not the PGA TOUR and remember it is only the USA players making arguments for more compensation. The European Tour couldn’t exist without their ‘piece’ and their payers know it. An adequate solution that is fair will be contested for a long time

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Call me a traditionalist but you should want to play for your country (or continent) without the need to get paid, and it should still provide maximum motivation.  As long as the powers that be aren’t lining their pockets at the expense of the players, and the money is going to good causes to grow the game, then I think it should remain that way.  If Cantlay doesn’t want to play unless he’s paid, fine by me, stay home!  Someone else will be proud enough to wear the Stars and Stripes in your place.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Well, the poor exploited peons like Cantlay got $200,000 (U.S.) to donate to the charity of their choice. Seems that some would prefer the worthwhile (sic) cause to be themselves. If you make the U.S. Ryder Cup team you are already making (not necessarily earning) millions. Getting the charity tax credit, the free shirts, the free trip with the significant other, perhaps the thrill of victory — oh ya, and the afterthought of the Cup profits going to the development of golf — should be more than enough.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): If anyone should be paid, it’s probably the captains. They put in tons of time months before the actual competition. As for the players, call me old fashioned, but I like the idea of playing for the honour of representing your country or continent. They don’t need the cash and as long as the proceeds are distributed fairly to everyone’s satisfaction, they should be excited to give back and raise the bar for golf worldwide.

It seems there’s a lot of pressure brewing for Tiger Woods to captain the next U.S. Ryder Cup team at Bethpage Park in 2025. This before any official post-mortem on Rome or Zach Johnson. Do you think Tiger should be selected as the next captain and if so, how do you think he would fare?

Deeks: I’ve always been a bit sceptical regarding how much effect each Captain has on his team (or hers, in the Solheim Cup).  Yes, they certainly have a strategic role play… Captains picks, using home field advantage to alter the format and the golf course, deciding pairings and order of play, motivating and consoling, etc.  But the players are all adults and highly skilled professionals, and in the end it’s up to them and them alone to play their best and try to avoid losing their matches.  So, I don’t blame a Captain for losing the Cup, nor necessarily credit a Captain for being the main winning ingredient.  Appointing Tiger as U.S. Captain will certainly triple the usual media hype, and put extra pressure on him (vs. the team) to win at Bethpage, but will it make a difference in the outcome? Who knows?  But based on his own unmatched record of achievement, the respect his fellow players have for him, AND for his expected ability to withstand the intensity of the atmosphere at Bethpage, yes, he would certainly seem to be the obvious choice.

Schurman: This is an anointment and is too soon after his career has ended. It is also a desperate cry for help. The Americans are about to try anything but don’t realize the motivation to win comes from within not from Tiger’s record. On the other hand, if something doesn’t change meaning either an American victory or at least more competitive matches the US fans will turn off the Ryder Cup. They certainly don’t have the undying loyalty of Leafs fans, but they are close.

Rule: Well, I’ll tell you one thing, it won’t be Zach Johnson, I think that’s clear.  NYC might be the perfect location for Tiger to Captain his first RC team, the energy is going to be insane, and he should be able to handle the atmosphere better than anyone.  Coming on the heels of Marco Simone and all the controversy there, the crowds are going to be, let’s say, vocal hostile at the very least.  Having Tiger there will ramp that up to 11.

Quinn: Eldrick certainly has mellowed his public persona in the past few years — age, a few scandals, and a very public accident may have contributed. But not sure he emanates the eminence gris thing quite yet; maybe thinking he’s not over the hill far enough. Anyway, it would have to be a lock, a red-white-blue slam dunk scenario. Don’t think he wants to get in the cart and drive around with a headset on for three days to offer congratulations.

Mumford: Tiger doesn’t have a very good record in team play and isn’t known as a team guy. The American players would follow him to the moon and back purely out of respect but I’m not sure he knows where and how to lead them. They’re not him and he’s certainly not one of them. Bethpage will be a home game for the Yanks, so it might not matter who’s at the helm but assuming Tiger is the long-term solution may be too presumptuous. Especially when the team returns to Europe in 2027.

The Shriner Children’s Open in Las Vegas this week will feature LPGA star Lexi Thompson in the field. It’s not the first time an LPGA player has teed it up against the men and likely won’t be the last. What are your thoughts on inviting women to play in a PGA Tour event and how do think Lexi will do?

Deeks: I have no problem with women occasionally being invited to play in a PGA Tour event, as long as there is some justification based on recent performance on the golf course.  But, frankly, the selection of Lexi Thompson is mystifying in my opinion.  She’s hardly been on the LPGA radar the last two years, and she’s never been the dominant star that she was expected to be when she started out.  She’ll ramp up the media hype, yes, but it may all backfire if she doesn’t play well.  In which case, I’d ask, “why did they bother?”

Schurman: Lexi has a sponsor exemption so the argument of her taking another player’s spot isn’t valid any more than if it was given to Michael Jordan. If the sponsor feels her attendance will sell tickets, go for it. Who knows her participation might entice some young junior somewhere to take up the game. However, she must play the same tees as the other players because it’s a PGA Tour event and she is basically an exhibition, not a serious contender. If it was an event where men and women were to compete fairly an equalization method would have to prevail. I do wonder why Tiger was never invited to play in an LPGA event. Wouldn’t that draw fans? BTW On the over/under on 148, over.

Rule: I’m kind of done with this type of stunt.  I like Lexi a lot but don’t think this will help her reputation and marketability at all, even if she makes the cut.  Unless she can top 10, then maybe!  It was a fun stunt when Michelle Wie played as a 14-year-old, and fun to watch Annika almost make the cut, but let’s be honest, there are so many guys grinding to make a living, and you’re taking up one of those spots for Lexi.  Nothing against her, I just don’t like it.

Quinn: The Michelle Wie stunt was close to child exploitation; Annika’s feigned stagger of relief on the first tee an embarrassment; Lexi’s publicity stunt just a reflection of how fragile and weak this rejigged Tour Fall schedule really is. It begs the question: what can she possibly get out of this aside from a massive appearance fee? Is anyone visiting the desert to see the Sphere or toss away their grandkid’s savings account at the tables or see Adele, going to spend even a couple of bucks to watch Lexi’s weird tee shot swing? Any ‘golf’ fan going to change their plans to catch Lexi on the TV playing, OMG!!, against men trying to get a Tour card for next year? Pass the remote.

Mumford: As PR stunts go, it’s not as good as Bill Veeck sending a midget named Eddie Gaedel up to bat for the St. Louis Browns in 1951 but it’s already generating the required publicity for the Shriners. Lexi is an odd choice though. She’s long enough to outdrive more than a few PGA Tour players but the rest of her game isn’t likely to garner any copycats. And unlike Annika or even Michelle Wie, she’s nowhere near being a dominant player on the LPGA. At the Shriners, players go really low. Lexi will smile, swear she’s having fun and miss the cut by a wide margin. Somewhere, the first alternate who didn’t get into the field will scowl and mutter something unintelligible under his breath.

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

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