The Round Table: Do current majors need an asterisk?

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.

Sponsor’s exemptions are in the news again after Dylan Wu suggested the way some players get certain spots is suspect. He was referring to the fact that Adam Scott and Webb Simpson got sponsor invitations to play in the upcoming Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is one of the elevated, designated, limited field, no cut, big-money Signature events. It was the third such sponsor exemption for Scott this year and the second for Simpson. Both are on the Player Advisory Board, and neither is eligible for the Signature events based on merit. Is Wu’s gripe justified?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Sponsors generally give their exemptions based on one or two or three criteria: do we owe the guy a favour, is he under contract with us for personal appearances, will he draw spectators and TV viewers?  I have no problem with sponsors choosing whomever they wish to choose.  Mr. Wu, I suspect you don’t qualify on any of those criteria, so, sorry, but I’d say boo hoo Wu.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Oh, this again. OK, well, it’s an INVITATIONAL. And last I checked the sponsors who have stayed with the Tour are at a premium right now and appreciated. So, if they want a certain player in their tournament, so be it. It’s not like either of those players are chops, both past Major winners, and bring more interest to the tournament than Wu. Optically right now, it doesn’t look the best, but those exemption categories are still open for these Signature/Elevated events.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Of course it is. It’s also a fact of life and just as simple as ROI; Scott and Webb attract fans. If Dyan Wu doesn’t like the rules, he can always take a turn serving on the Board. Several points need consideration. Did the field expand to accommodate Scott and Webb or were two other players ‘bumped’?  Are there more deserving players than Scott and Webb who were overlooked? Is Wu’s complaint self-oriented or a general point? If he is worried about himself, he must be thinking about 2025 and his upcoming, sudden burst of good play.

TJ Rule, Golf Away ours (@GolfAwayTJ): Not really.  If I’m a sponsor at a big event like that, I’d want to use my exemptions on big names that people want to see, and you have to put Adam Scott in that category.  Whether he’s on the Player Advisory Board or not, doesn’t matter to me in this instance.  Sponsors pay the big bucks, they should be able to make these calls themselves.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: This is ridiculous and another Tour black eye when it’s almost down for the count.  (BTW, Simpson is outside the Top 200). Sponsor’s exemptions are a nice perk for companies writing multi-million cheques for the privilege of sponsoring a run-of-the-mill-who-cares tourney. But, for the elevated/ inflated /designated fandangos with so much money and so many world ranking points on the line, there should be no sponsor’s exemptions — even for aging policy board members.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Wu may have a point but if not Scott and Simpson, then who? Certainly not Wu.

Paul Azinger was interviewed about losing his NBC analyst gig and had some harsh words for the way it all ended. However, he has no regrets now that he’s off the air and suggested that Charles Barkley could be a suitable replacement. Barkley has received positive reviews after co-hosting The Match for several years. Does Barkley seem like a possible alternative to the current rotating cast of analysts?

Deeks: Not in my view.  How would hockey fans feel if Hulk Hogan was hired as an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada?  Or if Queen Latifah was brought in to do colour for the World Cup?  Eddie Shack for Wimbledon?  Keep the analysis for people who know what they’re talking about, based on in-depth experience.

Loughry: Barkley? Uh, maybe. I love that he loves golf. But I do get tired of some of his antics and comments on TNT with basketball, and all. I’d imagine he’d run me tired with golf commentary.

Schurman: I really like listening to Charles Barkley talk about basketball. He is funny, quick-witted and very knowledgeable. But remember when Monday Night Football hired Dennis Millar the comedian? The world found out there’s a big difference between ad-lib comedy and a floor show. The guy was a dud. There aren’t many Fehertys or Robin Williams. Finding the right guy won’t be easy. He/she needs a credible golf-oriented background, a good voice, and extremely articulate. One big problem is whether can they do it on air. Try Ian Poulter, Eamon Darcy, Michael Campbell, Paul Goydos, Fuzzy Zoeller……Barkley could sit in once in a while if he stored up some of his great one-liners but as a steady diet. No thanks. BTW Don’t you think someone might have thought this through before firing McCord, Miller (retired), Feherty (left), and now Azinger).

Rule: I like Chuck, despite his less than average golf skill level.  But he’s entertaining and would be a good change to the stiff ex-PGA Tour players that don’t add a lot of entertainment value.  As long as you have someone else there to provide some proper golf expertise, I’d say give him a shot.  What’s the worst that can happen at this point in time, they need to attract people to the game.

Quinn: It’s as non-sensical and mindless as anything Zinger blurted while in the NBC booth. Seems like another era, guess it was just months ago though, but back in the day when the Tour was worth watching TV fans cheered loudly when Zinger’s deal wasn’t renewed. Hopefully this vacuous Barkley line is the last we hear from him for a long, long time.

Mumford: There’s already too much chatter on golf broadcasts. Eliminate the lead analyst and use the on-course guys more often. They’re in the action, very knowledgeable and can be quite entertaining. Barkley is just a sideshow.

Last week Talor Gooch said that if Rory McIlroy wins the Masters this year, the record should have an asterisk beside it because the field will be missing too many of the world’s best players. Of course, this is really about LIV Golfers not getting world ranking points and dropping so far down the rankings that they don’t qualify for the majors. Is there any merit to Gooch’s complaint?

Deeks: Talor plays on the LIV Tour.  What a stupid, whining, insensitive, and insulting comment to make.  If you hadn’t jumped over to LIV for the bonus and the guaranteed money you make, Talor, would you still say the same thing?

Loughry: He has a small point. I’m not sure he realizes though that that finger can easily get pointed right back LIV’s way. What I mean is, they too are playing in watered down fields, so anything he did last year on that Tour should have asterisks too. The Majors still have the deepest fields in golf, and today is no exception. There are still paths LIV Players can take to play into Majors. I’ve seen other players on LIV make that effort, not to point fingers, but I don’t believe I’ve seen Gooch make the same effort. The rankings need some tweaking, but I’m not sure how to fairly recognize LIV Tour events and players at this point. As it matures as a real Tour with a deep qualifying process for spots on teams and the Tour and more partnerships with other Tours, maybe. Until then, simmer down Gooch.

Schurman: Gooch’s career performance level really took off when he injected LIV synthetic liquid gold into his pistons. His ‘horsepower per litre’ went off the charts. It will take time for LIV to combine with the PGA TOUR and the World rankings to catch up. Until then there are two paths to choose from, the PGA with its history, a decent living and record books asterisk free or LIV with gobs of money and possible (temporary) obscurity. Gooch chose the latter.

Rule: Although he’s not totally wrong – especially with more and more top players flocking to LIV – it wouldn’t take anything away from a victory at Augusta in my mind.  And I hope it happens, but I also hope the top LIV guys are there sooner than later so it can be the most competitive field possible.  It’s not like the Masters has ever been close to the most competitive field anyway!

Quinn: Seems like he’s just the LIV bellyacher of the week. Norman must keep a  list, and just gives them a heads up when it’s their turn. There are enough of 54-holers who have qualified for The Masters, so the Suddenly Need an Offshore Account cabal will be represented. Here’s hoping this year’s jacket doesn’t get a sport washing.

Mumford: Did they put an asterisk on the Masters when Tiger couldn’t play? Of course not. A major championship includes the best eligible or qualified players available and makes no concession for injury, suspension or absence due to LIV jumping. There will be a significant number of LIV golfers at the Masters this year with eligible status as past champions or top finishers from other recent majors. Hard to believe the LIV roster is so deep that anybody of note will be missed. Sorry Gooch. No asterisk.

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

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