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, both the PGA Tour and the Golf Writers Association announced their Player of the Year award. Voting took place in mid-December right around the time Jon Rahm announced his departure for LIV Golf. The players voted for Scottie Scheffler and the writers chose Jon Rahm. Rahm had four wins including the Masters while Scheffler claimed two titles including the Players Championship. In your opinion which group got it right and do you believe PGA Tour / LIV Golf politics had an influence on the outcome?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Much as I was shocked and disappointed with Rahm’s defection to LIV, I would’ve picked him for POY. I would normally give more “weight” to the players’ choice, and I’m surprised they picked Scheffler. I can only assume that there was some degree of bitterness in their not picking Rahm.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The writers have it right. Rahm, and it is not even close. I don’t think the players were playing favourites, they just got it wrong, I just don’t know why. Majors matter, and The Players isn’t one of them. Great field and all at The Players, but Rahm definitely had the better year.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: What a debacle! Of course, the players voted for Scottie. Remember when people made deals sealed with a handshake or actually followed through on things they gave their word on? Here we have a group who can’t rise above their petty opinions to act with integrity. There is no right way to do the wrong thing! The players should be ashamed of themselves. In recent years, people have had a taste of impropriety, a lack of ethics and a lack of moral standards and it shows with this decision. However, in 1950, Sam Snead won 11 times including the North-South Open which was considered a major by some. Ben Hogan was named Player of the Year with one victory.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s pretty clear why Rahm didn’t win this award despite deserving it. He had the better year in terms of wins, which is what should matter most. I know Scottie had slightly better stats, but stats don’t win awards. That being said, I get it. Hard to give an award to a guy who isn’t part of the Tour anymore!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Like my old friend Eamon Lynch typed in Golfweek, the Tour players didn’t want to give Rahm a going away present. The Tour BS that Scheffler’s tee-to-green stats were Eldrick-like to justify the pick was as ingenuous as everything Rahm said in his LIV coming out presser. In these parlous times, who gives a flying fig about POY awards anyway.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The writers nailed it. I expect some players didn’t want to give their top Tour award to a non-member but that’s just petty. Jon Rahm earned it.
The PGA Tour kicked off its season last week with the Sentry, their first elevated, designated, limited field, big money, no-cut Signature event at Kapalua. In years past the field was limited to tourney winners but this year it included anybody in the Tour’s Top 50 ranking as well. What was your take on including non-winners and did it make a difference to the event?
Deeks: I had no problem with it, and I can’t imagine anyone cared. I barely watched it, to be honest. As Mackenzie Hughes was apparently suggesting over the weekend, the PGA-LIV controversy may have turned a lot of people off “regular” professional golf. I would be one of them.
Loughry: At first, it seemed a little weird, getting used to the fact they weren’t all “Champions”. Didn’t make a difference to me in this event. It was and always has been a bit of a yawner. But I like easing into the season, the breathtaking views around Maui and the general good feel with this event.
Schurman: The top players earn so much money they can now afford to ‘skip’ an event like this one. Robert Appleby made a career out of winning this event when he won it 3 consecutive times. It was the first tournament of the year, and he won enough prize money, exemptions, and invitations and guaranteed his ‘card’ that making his playing schedule was child’s play. Imagine how difficult life would be in the 4th year when he had to make other decisions concerning his schedule. This event is one of those cases of collateral damage for the state of the PGA TOUR. Nobody cares except Chris Kirk.
Rule: I liked the expanded field and was more interested to watch the event. I always enjoy watching the Sentry, it’s nice to see the scenery, it’s been a while since we’ve watched professional golf, and I don’t mind seeing guys make tons of birdies and eagles. Some day I’ll get down there to watch it live, I hope!
Quinn: The Tour has lost its identity and so it would have been out of character to defend credibility and tradition. Heck, they call the Seniors Tour the tour of champions — hey, who needs a pair? Real cheap! Get to see some guy who turned 50 and got outta Q school! Come on down! — so why not trample all over a traditional season opener that used to be not only a reward for a win, but something to aspire to? Anyone remember looking forward to watching the Tournament of Champions to signal that Xmas and New Years and all the hassles were finally over and golf in Hawaii could officially start the year? Nah, didn’t think so.
Mumford: I’m not a big fan of money lists, FedEx Cup points or statistical rankings. I am a fan of titles and legacies that are created by winning. As such, I always liked the Sentry Tournament of Champions as a way to celebrate the past year’s ultimate achievements. Now, as the Tournament of Very Good Players, it has lost its uniqueness and is just another of the so-called Signature events. While it was entertaining to watch, it doesn’t have the same cachet it once did.
Early season prediction: who wins a major in 2024?
Deeks: Rory McIlroy, Victor Hovland, Chris Kirk and Tyrell Hatton.
Loughry: Brooks Koepka, Scottie Scheffler, Cam Smith and Jordan Spieth.
Schurman: Eric Van Rooyen, Ludvig Aberg, Akshay Bhatia and Jason Day.
Rule: Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler, Ludvig Aberg and Collin Morikawa.
Quinn: Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg with a pair each
Mumford: Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.