The Round Table: Rory sounds off, Honda says sayonara and Scott swaps caddies

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.

In one of his many press conferences at the DP World finals, when asked what the PGA Tour and LIV Golf could do to make peace, Rory McIlroy said, “Greg Norman needs to go. I think he just needs to exit stage left. He’s made his mark, but I think now is the right time to sort of say, look, you’ve got this thing off the ground, but no one is going to talk unless there’s an adult in the room that can actually try to mend fences.” Is this just Rory posturing on behalf of the Tour or do you think Norman is actually in the way of a meaningful solution?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): If you read Eamon Lynch’s recent and excellent article in Golfweek HERE then you might think Rory’s just predicting the near future.  The article also confirms my contention that LIV Golf has no chance of succeeding unless the Saudis continue to throw millions of dollars at it, for no discernible reason.  What “meaningful solution” is possible?  None that I can see, and I wish them nothing but failure.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I think Rory is just trying to take some shots at Norman. He had to say something, it’s in his nature and understandably it’s going to be pro PGA Tour. I’m sure Norman is difficult to deal with based on some of his recent comments and because he carries a lot of negative baggage toward the PGA Tour.  I don’t think anyone imagined, especially the Tour, how well he would get LIV Golf off the ground with that many top ranked players, and a few more to come.  It’s in the interest of both to figure out a way to work together long term (just on scheduling and player sharing), but there is no way these two organizations will sit across from one another at the moment.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Norman has been the epitome of fair dealing. He presented his business case and notified the PGA TOUR. Jay M’s immediate reaction was “anyone who supports LIV is NEVER welcome back into the fold”. His message has been consistent and ugly. He sounds a lot like Harold Ballard’s bellicose bluster regarding the WHA. Rory’s suggestion there should be an adult in the room smacks of someone who is in the top 3 or 4 players in the game. I don’t recall him forwarding all of his endorsement money, his appearance fees or his bonuses to a charity. Monahan is an egotistical bully and that is why several players even considered LIV in the first place and then the money became the story.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours, (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s hard to tell isn’t it.  I like how Rory speaks his mind and often he’s right.  I’m not sure if it would make a difference in this situation but certainly Norman has his grudges, so may not be willing to compromise, he just wants to win this battle.  So with that in mind, perhaps Rory’s right, he needs to step aside for any real progress to be made.  But with the momentum that LIV currently has, i don’t see that happening any time soon.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Don’t think Rory has ever been the posturing type. That ‘adult in the room’ line was stunningly harsh, but I suspect it reflects how Norman is thought of by most of the guys on Tour. Some sort of compromise and accommodation of LIV is inconceivable, so getting the Great White Pilot Fish (as Eamon Lynch has called him) out of the room wouldn’t change anything because there won’t be anyone else in the room.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): A nasty consequence of squabbles – political, legal and otherwise – is to demean and attack the people on the other side, rather than defend the case on its merits. The PGA Tour would love to make this fight about ‘dirty Saudi money’ or Greg Norman, but the truth is they don’t like competition and any solution that works will substantially alter their monopoly on pro golf. Rory may have his own ax to grind with Norman, but he sounds like all the other flag-waving, bandwagon jumpers on the PGA Tour train. Pass the Kool-Aid please.

It was announced last week that Honda, the longest running title sponsor on the PGA Tour, will end its sponsorship role after the 2023 playing of the Honda Classic in February. Like the RBC Canadian Open, the Honda Classic was not designated an ‘elevated event’ on the 2023 PGA Tour schedule and is sandwiched amongst several other tournaments that are. Bad news for the Tour with more defections likely or can Monahan & Co. easily fill the slot?

Deeks: I think the Tour can easily withstand the loss of Honda (and/or the RBC Canadian Open), but I’m not saying it’s good news.  Honda has been a staunch supporter of the Tour for decades, and it’s a shame that they’ll be gone. Meanwhile, I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the RBC Marketing and Sponsorship meetings these days.

Loughry: IMHO, more sponsor defections are likely. But its not just a Monahan & Co issue. It’s the global economic slow down, plus golf’s new landscape, and how difficult it is for any “regular” Tour event to attract the best players to it. These will certainly be interesting times for the Tour to navigate.

Schurman: Once again the plot thickens. Mickelson predicted a lot of this. However, his messaging technique left a lot to be desired. Monahan is about to find out the same result many private golf clubs experienced in 1990-91 when the market correction came. They had very long Waiting Lists, but none required strong security deposits. Openings came in membership lists and the Club that thought they were fiscally sound because of these lengthy lists found about 80% of the signees were dreaming. Oops! Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard…..

Rule: The dominoes have started to fall from the impact of LIV on the PGA Tour.  It’s a shame that Honda has decided to leave after such a long run of successful events.  But you can see sponsors thinking they aren’t being shown the proper respect, and deciding to spend their money elsewhere.  Or maybe this has nothing to do with the reorganizing of events, and it’s simply a new reality of sponsors not wanting to commit large sums of money when we are entering an uncertain economic climate, we’ll just to have wait and see.

Quinn: There were going to be bruises and worse from the elevations, but this is no way to treat the longest-running sponsor. Good on Honda for telling Monahan to shove it. The Canadian Open and others will look and feel like Korn Ferry events (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and will be on borrowed time. Replacement sponsors? Hear there were a number of crypto currencies making noises. Oh wait, that was two weeks ago. Too late.

Mumford: I suspect Monahan will have no trouble filling the slot. There seems to be no bottom to the pile of cash available for pro golf right now, which is why the Tour was able to find extra dough for the PIP, elevated events and the ridiculous season ending FedEx Cup cash grab.  (Lots of new money for the LPGA too.) Hey Honda, thanks for 42 years of loyalty but we don’t need you anymore. At least until the next recession when corporate boards all over America wake up and smell the coffee.

It’s been reported that Steve Williams is coming out of retirement to caddie for Adam Scott at a pair of upcoming Australian events and for the 2023 majors. The pair had success together winning the 2013 Masters. Presumably, Scott’s current caddy Greg Hearmon would continue to lug the bag at regular Tour stops but step aside for the majors. Good move by Scott?

Deeks: Only Scott and Williams, and time, will tell.  (Same with Disney bringing back Bob Iger, I guess.)  I certainly give Steve Williams credit for believing he still has the stamina to make a difference, and Scott for believing Steve still has the skill.  I remember chatting with Steve when he was caddying for Raymond Floyd back in the ‘90s, and was very impressed by his humility and intensity, which have to be two important requisites for being a great caddy, which he most certainly was in his day.

Loughry: Meh, I don’t see this being long term. He’s messed with at least two other caddies over the last year. I think he’s just trying to buy some time for a long term decision and having Steve on the bag at these Aussie events provide that to him.

Schurman: What a great idea! One caddy for the low-income drudgery and another for the high-profile ‘meal ticket’. I wonder if he has kids for the regular, mundane School Year and more for Christmas and birthdays. Or maybe a wife for the basic parts of marriage and a girlfriend for vacations and special events like Christmas.

Rule: Won’t this guy just go away already?  He makes every story more about him than the player, which is a shame because he’s so unlikeable.  So I guess I don’t really care.  I’d love to see Adam Scott win another major, but if he does, I hope Williams doesn’t try to steal the limelight like he did at the 2013 Masters.

Quinn: At first blush, looked like a good idea saving the regular guy a trip Down Under, but getting shunted for the Majors is a different kettle of fish. Can’t see him swallowing that for long. Hard to know if Scott really thinks he can still win the big ones or is just thinking that the biggies will be more fun with his Kiwi mate on the bag. Odd move.

Mumford: It’s a beauty! If other players copy Scott, it opens up dozens of new job opportunities for unemployed and retired caddies. Players can have pinch caddies, relievers, alternates and closers. Not playing well? Don’t bother going to the range, just sub in a different caddie, then trot out the closer caddie for Sunday’s final round. Hey Adam, maybe you should see if Tony Navarro is available for the West Coast swing.

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

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