When will the PGA Tour legalize weed?

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.

Matthew Wolff, 20, holed a 26-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole to capture the 3M Championship, in only his third PGA Tour event as a professional. Wolff, 3M runner-up Collin Morikawa and Victor Hovland represent the latest wave of youngsters to get off to quick starts on the PGA Tour. Like the (High School Graduating) Class of 2011 that included Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Emiliano Grillo, Patrick Rodgers and Daniel Berger, this latest wave of potential stars looks ready to win now. What happened to patience, learning the ropes and waiting your turn?  

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I don’t know if “waiting your turn” was ever a strategy, I just think it took time in previous generations… time to learn, get better, acclimatize, learn your limitations.  Today’s rookies already have so much talent and have absorbed competition so much more than previous generations did, they come out ready to play and ready to win.  And they expect to win.  I can’t imagine anyone graduating from college today, deciding to turn pro, and saying to him/herself, “I think I’ll just take my time, be patient, and hopefully win in a few years.”

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Pretty certain Tiger started that trend. Much like the theme to Rodney Dangerfield’s “No Respect” schtick. Young Guns are just that, shoot first ask later. Many of the top graduates to the Tour these days are groomed to it, the science (launch monitors), the work out regiments, and the golf. Although I’m not sure these players (2019) are quite the class of 2011, but time will tell. Wolff certainly relished in the moment though. He watched DeChambeau make eagle ahead of him and dumped one on top. Impressive. Can’t wait until crowds start HOWLING at him. The Wolff-man has arrived.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: There are about a dozen hungry, young, talented, capable players who are ready to win at any time. I don’t recall a time when there was a bigger (quantity) stronger group. I still believe they will earn so much money in such a short time they will become less motivated. We have been spoiled by guys like Tiger, Faldo, Jack, Arnie, Sam, Ben, Walter, Gene and Bobby who in the order listed all played for ‘glory’. They all wanted the money, but they dedicated their entire lives to winning championships. More recently, we have Rory, Jordan, DJ, and Justin who accumulated so much wealth in very brief careers they simply don’t have the same spirit.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Patience and learning the ropes may have worked well for my father’s generation, but that strategy will only get you left in the dust on the Tour these days. Not only is the modern wave of players mentally tough, they’ve been physically training and preparing themselves for the rigours of the PGA Tour for most of their lives. Plus, they have a blueprint for success, having seen what it took players like Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, and Xander Schauffele to win in their rookie seasons. So, it’s really not all that surprising that the young guns are doing so well on golf’s biggest stages these days.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): These young guys are fearless.  They grow up learning to be aggressive and play so much competitive golf before getting to the tour that they don’t fear anyone.  It’s impressive to see. There is so much parity on tour these days that really all it takes is confidence and a hot putter and anyone can win on any given week.  For Wolff, Morikawa and Hovland, they came in on a high after winning so much in their amateur careers, so the confidence levels are there, and clearly they were rolling the rock last week.  Even the putts they missed down the stretch were close to going in, it was fun to watch!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It was absolutely stunning to see Wolff roll in that eagle on the 72nd. Brilliant, gutsy, fearless, and like the rest, hits it a mile. All the golfers I saw the next day were smiling, shaking their heads, and saying “20!” But we better just get used to it. Saw an early-twenties guy last week. On the first tee he tucked his pony tail up into his cap, rolled up his sleeve to reveal half of a monstrous tat, and walked back to the tips. Clubhead speed had to be 120 mph as he pured a high arching 3-iron. Beautiful. A distinctive aroma wafted on the breeze as his cart headed to the fairway. He and his buddy were into it, golf’s new reality.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): An entire generation of exceptional players got shunted aside when Tiger Woods burst into the scene and fifteen years later looked back and wondered where their careers went. Nobody is waiting now. For the few late bloomers that don’t start winning until their late 20’s or early 30’s, good for them but by the time they get going, the golf world will have seen one or two crops of super-charged kids that have the talent, coaching, motivation and experience to grab all the hardware, sponsorship and digital eyeballs. The kids are looking to build legacies – FAST. Their motto is, “Patience is for losers.”

The Open Championship goes next week, and two past champions are approaching it with serious health concerns, albeit from vastly different perspectives. John Daly asked the R&A for a riding cart for medical reasons and was denied. Tiger Woods is presumably resting his ailing back and won’t play a competitive round between the US Open and Royal Portrush. Does either player have even a remote chance of winning or should either or both step aside in favour of someone with a real chance of contending?

Deeks: Tiger is this year’s Masters Champ, for Heaven’s sake.  Of course, he has a chance of winning, and there’s no reason at all for him to step aside.  If he believes he can do it, there’s no reason for anyone else to believe he can’t. Daly, on the other hand, is a joke and should not be in the field at all, regardless of his Past Champion status.  I’m taking 10-1 odds on a quid that he walks 9 holes on Thursday, shoots 45, and walks straight to the shuttle bus, claiming a bad back.

Loughry: Nah, Tiger has earned his right to wait until any last possible moment to WD. He’s the current Masters Champ and one of the all-time greats, if not greatest player to have teed it up. I’m fine waiting for him to tee it up even at less than 100%. Daly? Well, I find it odd that he requests a cart, gets denied and then decides to play anyway. It means he really doesn’t need a cart. And I believe his ailments are all self inflicted, so I wholeheartedly agree with the R&A’s decision to deny Daly a cart. I won’t take a shot at the PGA, but I feel like they didn’t make the right decision for their Championship.

Schurman: I am not a fan of players riding carts in PGA TOUR and/or major events. Part of competing is the physical endurance to do so. Ken Venturi is a perfect example. I disagreed with the Casey Martin ruling for the same reason. Lots of players have some of the skills but not the entire ‘package’ and for that reason, they cannot play at the top tier. There’s nothing wrong with that. I feel sorry that some people are burdened with certain limiting conditions, but we are talking about the highest level of competition in the world. I would not provide a cart for John Daly. In Tiger’s case, he has earned the right to compete through past performance and while he might very well hit one tee shot and quit that’s his right. It stinks! It isn’t fair! It isn’t considerate but it’s the rule!

Kaplan: I think Tiger has a legitimate chance of contending, provided his back feels loose and limber heading into the week. I don’t suspect Daly has any chance at all, but he is well within his rights to be in the field because he won the event in 1995. That victory allows Daly to keep on competing in the championship perennially until the age of 60 – he is currently 53 – and there shouldn’t be a single player complaining about it. That’s one of the prizes for winning the event. He earned that exemption status, and you’d have a really tough time convincing me that some player on the bubble of making the field is somehow more deserving of being there than a guy who has won the tournament in the past.

Rule: John Daly should hang up the cleats in my opinion, at least for the regular tour events. He’s not competitive and never again will he be, cart or no cart.  So, I truly believe he should think of handing over this spot in the field to a more competitive player.  As for Tiger, no chance of that, and obviously he should play.  It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t hit a shot in competition in a month, he can still be in the mix next week.  The course may not fit his game, but if he hits his driver well, he can still be in contention.

Quinn: Daly has long been an embarrassment, even to rednecks, but riding around Portrush for a two-day charade would have been too far over the top. Only Eldrick knows how his body will handle the links after a long rest (at least from tournament golf, he’s always working out). Daly doesn’t have a chance of making the cut, but Eldrick may. That’s as close as either will get to the Jug.

Mumford: If Daly says he needs a cart to play and can’t have one, then he should definitely step aside. It’s an embarrassment to the Championship and the player if he WD’s after shooting a high score on the front nine. Both of course have the “right” to be there as past champions but even Tiger should be realistic about his chances. Though he won the Masters in April, Tiger has not looked or played the same since. Nobody would begrudge him withdrawing before the event if it prolonged his career.

Robert Garrigus just returned to the PGA Tour after serving a three-month suspension for a banned substance. While the Tour won’t acknowledge what that substance was, Garrigus readily admits that it was marijuana, which he took to help alleviate pain in his knee and back. Furthermore, Garrigus is making a very public case to have the Tour take marijuana off the banned substance list, pointing out that it can be legally bought and used in many states (and all across Canada). CBD oil and gum are the latest products that have been approved by the Tour, yet anything with THC is still prohibited. What’s it going to take for the Tour to change its stance.

Deeks: One evening for Jay Monahan with a THC vape and a stack of Led Zeppelin albums, and bingo, THC would be on the approved list.  Seriously, marijuana should never have been on anyone’s prohibited list, ever.  It was one autocratic bureaucrat at the US F.D.A. about 80 years ago who decided it was dangerous, and society has been erroneously equating marijuana to opium, heroin, and cocaine ever since. Alcohol and tobacco pose far greater risk than marijuana.

Loughry: There isn’t a chance in hell this will ever go through, not in the short-term Robert. WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) and the IOC still list Marijuana as a banned substance, as is THC. There are properties (effects) of these substances which can be seen as “performance enhancing” – some to alleviate pain, some a calming effect (slowing of the heart rate). They are not used to increase strength and agility, but if you have the yips, maybe this is the drug for you. For me, that’s the issue here, I just don’t like the fact that drugs can affect what you can physically do as an “athlete”. But I’m kind of old school that way. Wish Robert all the luck in the world with this fight, but it looks like he’s pushing water uphill with out a pail.

Schurman: For years Deane Beman ran the TOUR with an ‘iron fist’. Many of the players hated him and still do. However, he began with a vision and very little in the way of an organized business with a plan. However, he did have two things going for him; TV and Arnie vs Jack. There were a great number of other players but those two were the prize duo. Through extremely strict standards and an arrogant determination, he developed the concept of the TPC courses owned by the PGA TOUR, huge donations to charity by the sponsors, mega TV contracts and over $$$ one BILLION in the player’s pension fund which is self-sustaining. He also established very tight guidelines for players to follow. There was a dress code, a code of ethics and professional performance standards, all of which made the players a highly sought-after commodity for sponsors and people wishing to pay appearance fees. It was Beman who decided the amount of fines and length of suspensions and it was Beman who decided what lifestyle was acceptable and/or appropriate. More recently, some of these standards are determined by the fact the PGA TOUR players could represent their country in the Olympics meaning the standards imposed on the Olympic athletes is also considered by the PGA TOUR. The PGA TOUR is not totally in charge of their own management when it comes to drug offences. It’s a bigger issue than that.

Kaplan: It’s going to take legalization at the federal level in the United States, and a reclassification of THC and cannabis as a scheduled substance, until we see the PGA Tour changing its stance. The PGA Tour isn’t stupid. It’s run by individuals who realize that cannabis is not the worrisome, addictive, and violence-inducing substance it has been made out to be over the last 50+ years. But it is still federally illegal, and the tour stands to lose A LOT of sponsors and sponsorship money if they start condoning a substance that, in Indiana, will land you an automatic 180 days in the slammer for possession of any amount. Plus, the Tour makes several stops in both Georgia and Florida each year, and both of those states are still extremely hostile toward cannabis. So, until we see some changes at the Federal level, it’s unreasonable to expect them to be implemented on the PGA Tour.

Rule: I agree with Garrigus.  And it’s a matter of time before the Tour takes it off the banned list.  Soon marijuana will be legal all across North America and we’ll look back and wonder how it was ever a banned substance.  The Tour is always way too slow to get with the times, but they’ll get there eventually.

Quinn: Turns out, it will take the guys in Ponte Vedra falling out of love with the Olympics to get THC on Tour. The five-ring circus bans it, so to stay in the Games (terrible idea as Brazil proved) the Tour has to ban it.

Mumford: A lot of comments about the Tour not changing its policy as long as WADA and the Olympics have marijuana on the banned substance list. Maybe we should be asking them why it is still banned. The Tour won’t change its policy until US Federal law permits the purchase and use of weed for recreational purposes in all 50 states. As soon as corporate America figures out how to make a lot of money from it, the law will change faster than you can say, “Wow, man!”

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

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