Who’s the most interesting person in professional golf?

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.

It was announced last week that the PGA Tour and ESPN+ will expand coverage of 35 tournaments in 2022 through live streaming. The increase will more than triple the number of hours of live golf available to fans throughout the world. It seems like an odd move by the Tour and ESPN+ because we haven’t heard grumblings from anyone that we weren’t getting enough golf. Is this a solution to a problem that didn’t exist or is there a bigger scenario at work here?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think it’s a combination of ESPN wanting to fill the broadcast day with extra coverage that’s already been expensed (in terms of production costs), and an opportunity to get more advertiser/sponsor money for a more appealing program choice than reruns of old sports events. The PGA Tour, meanwhile, gets to show its players how hard it’s working to secure more exposure. Nothing wrong or cynical about any of this. But yes, it’s a bit of a solution to a non-existent problem.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: This is one of the ‘dogs’ staking his claim to his territory. The PGA TOUR recognizes possible strong competition from the new tours who they basically ignored for years. They are trying to curtail the TV exposure and revenue of their competitors. GONG! Round two.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours, (@GolfAwayTJ): I certainly don’t have an interest in watching more golf. Or maybe more accurately don’t have time to watch any more.  Maybe they are just trying to lure in the younger crowd by offering it through live streaming.  Or maybe they’ll combine this with gambling so that there is live gambling during that streaming, but it does seem strange that they would offer more live golf.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Wait a second! This new ESPN + deal may not give us enough for our money [ $6.99 (US) a month as part of the ESPN package deal]. All we’d get is 4,300 hours of ‘exclusive coverage.’ Oh, ya that includes 115 hours of The Masters (live). Well, with the main feed and marquee groups and featured groups and featured holes — thanks to a production crew of 210 and 15 talking heads — we’d get 200 hours of the PGA Championship (live). But seriously, what avid golfer or golf fan could possibly be satisfied with that? The big picture is we need more. If that means that we won’t have time to play ourselves, or hold down jobs, so be it.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I don’t know of anyone that is complaining they don’t have enough golf to watch. Most of us pick and choose a number of events based on historical significance, tradition and who’s playing; three times as much coverage will just be wasted on us. This must be for gamblers who can never have enough information. Clearly, I’m not the audience ESPN+ is after.

Based on what you saw and learned in 2021, who’s the most interesting person in professional golf right now?

Deeks: Good question. Even though she got nipped at the end for LPGA Player of the Year, I’m intrigued by Nelly Korda.  She’s come a long way in a short time, and at this point, may well become THE Great White Hope (i.e., American) that the LPGA has been salivating for, for a long time.  Stacy Lewis just didn’t have the personality or staying power to be IT, then Lexi Thompson just didn’t quite measure up, and a few others have flirted with the brass ring… but Nelly may well prove to be the one with the combo of talent, looks, charm, and chutzpah to become the Darling of the Tour the way Nancy Lopez was nearly 50 years ago.  I’ll be watching with interest… and hoping that Brooke Henderson returns to form and provides a real rivalry with Nelly (and the roughly 18 Asians who always show up).  On the men’s side, Greg Norman’s “foray” into Tour management will be very interesting to watch.  Is he taking over the Asian Tour simply as window-dressing, or is this a real new career for him?

Schurman: That has to be Greg Norman. He is leading the charge to build competition for the PGA TOUR with a new, very affluent tour. He is highly regarded, well-spoken and determined to oppose the PGA TOUR. The Tour should have listened to him many years ago, but he is a visionary, and most people can’t foresee past lunch.

Rule: My initial reaction is Tiger, but sadly, I think the answer has to be someone I don’t like, simply because their polarizing personality is what makes them more interesting that most.  But that doesn’t narrow it down to one person. Perhaps it’s Bryson, maybe it’s even Bubba.  I have to admit that although Bubba isn’t that likeable, he is doing some things that I can admire, including showing his support for the LPGA and playing with Lexi in the QBE. Does that make him the most interesting? No, but there aren’t many interesting players out there right now.

Quinn: When you’re lucky enough to find yourself at a top-level golf event, it’s always fun to follow players whose game’s you admire or find entertaining, no matter their spot on the leaderboard. Viktor Hovland is that kind of player (of course, watching Phil shoot 78 or 68 is a show, too). There is so much to admire about his attitude, daring, and incredible skill. Of course, he has the unfair advantage of coming from the golf powerhouse nation of Norway. But ignoring that, his power and finesse should take him to the very top, and it’s going to be fun to witness.

Mumford: Professional golfers are so focused (self-centred) that they rarely know much beyond their own bubble and so concerned about offending sponsors that every move seems scripted and controlled. Generally, no rebels in this bunch, so it’s refreshing when one of them breaks the mould. In that vein, both Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka have become interesting characters, not for their feud, but rather for their approach to the game, how it sets them apart from the rest and how they’re prepared to talk about it. In neither case does it make them particularly likeable, but it does make them compelling.

As we take a break from the Tours to enjoy the holidays, what’s one thing you’re looking forward to or hoping for in 2022? 

Deeks: Many things I can’t discuss. But number one — and please pardon me if this makes it difficult for you to hold your lunch down — I’m looking forward to good health for another year. Good health is a far bigger challenge for all of us in the Covid era, and a far bigger challenge when you get to my age and watch friends and acquaintances deal with the fickle finger of fate. I’d like to add that I’m hoping for better weather around the world in 2022… and by that I mean fewer ravages and disasters from climate change… but I’m afraid that’s just not possible unless and until MAJOR and, frankly, impossible changes are made to the entire economic structure of the western world. And finally, I’m hoping for an end to Covid, so that (very selfishly) I can do some of the travelling that retirement two years ago suggested to me that I should be doing. Happy holidays and thanks to all our readers, and best wishes to my fellow Round Tablers!

Schurman: In 2020, after close to 10 years of family issues and health problems that made playing reasonably well nearly impossible, I decided to do something about it. I designed a 3-year plan to shoot my age. I adjusted my clubs by making them flatter. I took some lessons (Mark Evershed and Ken Tarling) and changed my swing. I adopted a new short game method and figured out a different putting style and a new exercise routine. In short, why continue doing the same things and expecting a different result? Two years into my plan (July 2021) I shot 69 when I was 74 and then did it 8 more times. I have a new practice routine for the winter and hope that in 2022 I can shoot my age in an organized event. Merry Christmas everyone and a healthy New Year!

Rule: Selfishly, an end to this damn pandemic and travel opening up completely! From a professional golf standpoint, looking forward to seeing Tiger play in the Masters, and watching a Canadian win on the PGA and LPGA Tours. From a personal standpoint, returning to travel myself and getting back to Ireland and Scotland in particular for the first time in a while.

Quinn: I’m hoping that my massive after-tax investment in a new driver turns out better than all of my other investments. Looking forward to just how good Rahm can be and if Koepka’s declared new focus on being the best he can be pays off. Best case scenario for the Majors, for me, would be those two duelling. The Koepka – DeChambeau rivalry was phoney, this with Rahm could be real and actually entertaining, with Morikawa and Hovland plus an incredible supporting cast adding to the drama.

Mumford: For a number of reasons, I didn’t play very much golf in 2021 – I think a dozen rounds – so in 2022 I’m looking forward to playing more and reconnecting with a lot of people I haven’t seen for the better part of two years. Like everybody else, I’m also hoping to put this COVID pandemic in the rear-view mirror and get back to some semblance of normal that includes entertaining and travelling without having to check the latest Health Canada advisory. Merry Christmas to all and a safe and healthy New Year!

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

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