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.
Last week, Brooke Henderson captured her 13th LPGA Tour title with a wire-to-wire victory at the Tournament of Champions. Before the tournament it was announced that Brooke had signed with TaylorMade after playing PING since childhood. The change didn’t cause any hiccups in Brooke’s game and now she’s being talked about as a potential multiple winner and World #1 in 2023. What do you think?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I’ve always been dumbfounded that Brooke has never broken the top five in OWGR. Sure, I’m biased, but how does Lexi continually rank above her, and Nelly was ranked higher all last year, while she was in limbo?? And when is the last time we set eyes on JY Ko? Okay, enough whining. Brooke will be number one this year, with at least two more wins and at least one more major. Bank on it.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I wasn’t a nay-sayer but I was and am skeptical. With the measuring devices available today, players have a far better chance of reproducing the ‘feel’ found in her previous set. Maybe (Just sayin’) knowing the shaft is the heart of every club, Taylor Made took the shafts out of her Pings and made her a new set using the old shafts. Nah, who would do something as underhanded as that? Besides, why does a player find a beaten, old putter in a barrel and start winning tournaments with it when he/she could have one custom-fitted and brand new with all the technology built in?
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tour (@GolfAwayTJ): What a start to the year for Brooke, and certainly surprising to me given her back issues at the end of the year and the change in equipment. Normally pros struggle a bit when they make that big of a change, but obviously Taylor Made was able to get her comfortable with the new gear right away, and that was a dominating performance against a field of all winners. She’s due to have a monster year and I hope that happens this year. It would be great to see her reach No1.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Guess my prediction that equipment switches always cause problems was a bit off. The new sticks work, but more importantly so does the new putter. If the equally new exercise regimen keeps her back healthy and the putter keeps co-operating, she certainly hits it long enough and well enough to win multiple times and stay on top for a while.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (FairwaysMag): Unlike the PGA Tour, which plays consecutive weeks from January through the end of the season, the LPGA Tour has gaps that can cool off anyone. Brooke has to wait a month and travel to Singapore before she can test her new clubs in competition again. Hopefully she can hang onto whatever magic she found at Lake Nona and stay healthy. If so, think multiple wins and POY for 2023; maybe a major too.
Jon Rahm continued his winning ways by taking the American Express Championship on Sunday. It was Rahm’s second PGA Tour title this year and fourth worldwide win in six starts and raises the question again about the World Golf Rankings. Rahm, even after this latest streak, is ranked 3rd while Rory McIlroy who has played sparingly and not particularly well since the fall is #1 and Scottie Scheffler holds down the #2 spot based on a great year in 2022. If you were placing a bet on one of the three to win his next event, do you go with the hot hand or another player based on historical results?
Deeks: After the R&A asks me to rewrite the Rule Book, I hope I’ll be hired to rewrite the criteria for OWGR, which also confounds people who follow golf. To answer the question, I’d stick with Rahm, but wonder if yet another win would change his ranking. Only The Shadow knows.
Schurman: The OWGRs couldn’t be more complicated if you set out on a mission to get an answer. It is right up there with counting the legs on a herd of cattle and dividing by 4. It considers the strength of the field, over a time frame, a minimum number of events played, an average score, a total score, etc. it is “NUTS”. Instead of allowing your most recent events over a two-year period make it more current by only counting scores within the last 12 months. I have a far better system than the one used but not for this time. Scheffler swings like a drunk standing on a piano stool. He is a wonderful player but this is playing against the best week after week, mile after mile. It ain’t easy! Rory is up to something. Maybe the weight of being on the Players Advisory Board, his young family or years of success/$$$$$$ are adding up. But he doesn’t bounce along like a kid having fun anymore. Rahm is angry. Nobody has played better in the recent events and he is still 3rd. He’s running hot. He will become #1 through sheer determined anger. What will he do when he gets it? Tiger put distance between himself and the pack. Will Rahm bull forward or will the brass ring be enough to say “I told you so”?
Rule: The OWGR is certainly not a perfect scientific calculation, and given the recent form, clearly Rahm is currently the best player in the world. I guess that maybe the calculation should put more weight on recent tournaments. Scheffler was far and away the best player in the world after last year’s Masters, but how long should that last? Although he’s had some good results in the past 6 months, he hasn’t won, and Rahm has won 4 times in his last 6 starts! The ranking system needs an overhaul, that’s for sure.
Quinn: Well, winning three in a row has only been accomplished a handful of times on the Tour, not including Eldrick, of course. Yet the way he’s hitting it, Rahm may be the next to pull it off. Not a betting man, even though the Tour is constantly pimping gambling, but now that the hypothetical has been posed, would put my hard-earned after-tax ducats on Rahm who is playing like a #1.
Mumford: I’d definitely go with the hot hand. The OWGR is a mess. As Jerry Reed once sang, “When you’re hot, you’re hot. And when you’re not, you’re not.”
LIV Golf has been under the gun lately for not releasing its 2023 schedule and not having a TV deal. Now both are done. LIV has signed a media rights deal with The CW Network that can be seen in 120 million US households in 2023. It may not be the network deal that LIV Golf would have liked but they say it’s a step in the right direction. What’s your take?
Deeks: I just wonder how much LIV paid for “selling” their rights. I can’t see 120 people watching, much less 120 million. But more importantly, keep your eyes on the LIV vs PGA Tour lawsuit coming to a California courtroom near you in a few months. Could be the end of LIV. We can only hope.
Schurman: I am not a fan of Saudi Government Policies! I am not a fan of how the PGA TOUR and specifically Jay Monahan have reacted to LIV. LIV is an upstart business seeking a foothold in a lucrative market. They opened with an aggressive stance because they could afford to and now they are beginning to build their business one step at a time. As they continue, they will have failures and victories. They should learn from both. I don’t look for much to change this year except steady growth. What we will see at some point will be the expiration of some of the current contracts and the source of replacement players. Then we will see action. Will the PGA TOUR make all of their developmental tour players sign contracts of loyalty like the NHL does to minor hockey players?
Rule: My take is that I’m tired of talking about LIV. It’s good for them that they got a tv deal but it doesn’t mean I’m going to watch because I really don’t like the product. The schedule is interesting, but I don’t see a course on there that draws me in to watch an event on its own. So, the two announcements didn’t affect me as a fan of the game whatsoever.
Quinn: Googled CW to see what kind of programming it carries and up popped a disclaimer stating that it wasn’t available outside the US of A. Not that it matters to me. And don’t think getting on this little network is going to matter much to golf fans below the border, either. The no-cut paydays will continue —with no one watching or caring — until they don’t.
Mumford: Seems like a bit of a backward step to me. LIV Golf says they’re after a younger demographic but The CW and conventional cable skews older while their distribution model last year on YouTube reached more viewers, mostly younger. As I’ve stated often, I’m keen on LIV Golf’s team concept but so far, all that seems to be is an accumulation of team member’s scores. It could be so much more if they had pairs, match play and other alternatives that were a departure from what we see on the PGA Tour.