The Round Table: Johnson, Monahan and Mickelson on the hot seat

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.

Lucas Glover won for the second week in a row at the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Sunday, which also marked five Top 6 finishes in his past six events. Prior to that Glover was having a pretty average year. So, he has not qualified for the U.S. Ryder Cup team yet but given how well he’s playing lately, should Zach Johnson make him a captain’s pick?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): YES, why not?  He’s got a new putting stroke (courtesy of Brad Faxon), and he’s clearly hot as a pistol right now.  And he’s a veteran who’s seen some pretty down times, so he might well be a calming influence in the locker room for guys who don’t play well.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I actually do think he should get a look. I like going with the “hot hand”, as he seems to have all cylinders firing right now. A quick check reveals he’s 16th on the list right now. If he does anything significant this week (top 10) at the BMW (and he just might) then I would take him. If he wins and my calculation is right, he’s automatically on the team. Pretty amazing story wherever this ends up (Rome or not).

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: If I was the Captain, I wouldn’t announce my last pick until the very last second. At that point, I’d choose the hottest hand. As a point of interest, I think the team should be in the top 12 in the points standings or 12 Captain’s picks, not a combination.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think you should always take the hot hand when heading into the Ryder Cup, and he’s a veteran who has won a major in the past, so it’s not like Zach would be picking someone unproven.  You could tell from his interview after last week’s tourney that he wants to be there, and it might be his last chance given his age.  I hope Zach picks him because he’s a likeable guy and I think he deserves it.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Captain Zach is well aware that Glover didn’t qualify for any of this year’s Majors. And, Ryder team qualifications are usually assessed over the entire time between Cups. Anyway, if Cantlay’s putt is a millimetre more on line this conversation probably wouldn’t have started. Anyway II, as everyone who has ever taken their game seriously well knows, hot hands don’t last. Is there an ‘alternate’ category? That would work.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): My expectation is that loyal soldier Johnson will follow the guidelines and select the players ranked 7-12 when the season ends. That means #13 Rickie Fowler, #14 Justin Thomas and #16 Lucas Glover have to get a top finish this week at the BMW to move up and make the team. Personally, I’d take Glover and Fowler who have both played really well lately and send #9 Cameron Young and #12 Sam Burns packing since the bulk of their points are from older tournaments.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan met with players last week for the first time since his extended medical leave. The meeting was lightly attended and by all accounts, Monahan didn’t have anything new to report on the proposed merger agreement. Opposition to any deal with the Saudi PIF is going to come from several directions including some players, many PGA Tour stakeholders and the anti-trust forces within the U.S. government. What do you think are the chances of getting this deal done and if it doesn’t move ahead, what’s the best way forward for the PGA Tour?

Deeks: I think the deal is contingent on understanding what influence the Saudis will have on the new “company” going forward.  If it appears to be 50-50 or higher for the Saudis, the deal runs a big risk of being killed by the external forces you mention.  If the deal is killed, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing for the Tour, because I think LIV Golf will die in two years anyway.

Loughry: It seems almost everyone wants this to fail except those at the table. Tough waters to navigate but I think they get this across the finish line with some fancy footwork around the anti-trust issues. It might take YEARS though.

Schurman: The PGA TOUR can’t start moving forward until they stop moving backward. So far, all we have heard is an intent to have an intent. The sooner JM and his $8M salary with a $5M performance bonus are out of the picture the better.

Rule: I have absolutely no clue.  It seemed like it was basically a done deal when it was first announced, but since then there have been so many rumours about how the deal would look.  I want to be optimistic about it but it’s tough to see the PGA Tour coming out of this better than it was prior to LIV coming onto the scene.  But hopefully I’m wrong!

Quinn: Given the aligned opposition, any fans of this hypothetical merger must be invoking the faint hope clause. (But, this is now the America where four indictments don’t register on a segment of the population, so there are no guarantees).  If the Tour survives the overdue tax status scrutiny by the government, the only way ahead will be one by which the Tour must play within its means. That reality bite will be hard on the Tour’s current elite, and the Tour may not survive it.

Mumford: When LIV Golf started up last year, a number of players got massive signing bonuses to leave the PGA Tour courtesy of the Saudi PIF. When the framework agreement was announced in June, the only definitive aspects of it were that Jay Monahan and Jimmy Dunne would be in charge. How do we know that Jay Monahan didn’t also get the promise of riches beyond his imagination if he could deliver the PGA Tour to the PIF? The whole thing smells in my opinion. I think the Tour needs an American solution and a new Commissioner. Maybe then the Saudis can do a deal with the DP World Tour to strengthen it, resulting in some competitive balance. If they do it all correctly, there’s room for LIV too.

Big time gambler and former felon Billy Walters has a new book out and the first excerpts are not flattering to Phil Mickelson and his gambling escapades. What was your reaction to Walters’ account?

Deeks: Haven’t seen anything about the book yet so can’t really comment.  But I’ve always questioned who the real Phil Mickelson is: Mr. Aw Shucks, I’m just a humble guy and family man, or Mr. Dumb Gambler with a huge sense of entitlement and a good PR machine.  The whole episode of his split with Bones MacKay (due, it appears, to the fact that Phil owed him $900,000 in back wages) was pretty reprehensible for a guy who’s theoretically worth hundreds of millions.  And his rather ironic remarks about the “greed” of the PGA Tour at the beginning of LIV also made my stomach churn.

Loughry: Hard to say but usually where there’s smoke there is fire with Mickelson. Some of his gambling habits were already public, and he admitted some. If he did indeed bet on the Ryder Cup (even though he has publicly denied it), I will think much less of him. Reminds me a little of the Pete Rose situation.

Schurman: Billy Walters is by his own definition an American businessman who profits from providing specific services to people willing to pay for them. What reason is there for him to lie? Ha ha. Phil is a person willing to pay for those services who in the eyes of the general public and his sponsors cannot benefit by telling the truth. Phil crawled into bed with dogs and wonders how he got fleas.

Rule: I have to admit that the excerpts make me want to buy the book, it’s crazy to think that Phil has gambled upwards of $1 billion in his lifetime.  Walters clearly has the inside track to information about Phil’s gambling and isn’t afraid to tell the world.  And I like it.  Perhaps because I’m not a huge Mickelson fan, but also because it’s fascinating.  I can’t wait to read the whole book.

Quinn: My reaction is that it’s believable. Still, the magnitude of the wagers is stunning, which underlines the level of addiction. So does his wanting to bet on the Ryder Cup. His reputation and legacy were already in tatters after his LIV defection and rants, but this — as the saying goes — blowed it up real good.

Mumford: Celebrity athletes, crooks, big money, gambling and sex! Sounds like a new Netflix series. (I added the sex – just cuz.) Sounds like Walters has an ax to grind, and Mickelson is going to get some unfavourable media. What’s most intriguing however is the public’s reaction to this kind of thing. Tiger is the most popular golfer ever in spite of his messy philandering scandal, dug use and mysterious car accident; Donald Trump is the leading Republican candidate to be President, despite multiple felony indictments; and Phil will probably be temporarily embarrassed but his off-course endorsement income will likely skyrocket based on his new Q score. Strange world we live in.

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

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