In this week’s edition, the PGA Tour bets big on sports gambling, the 2018-19 schedule promises big changes, and the USGA and R&A decide to engage crowd sourcing on what promises to be a big debate.
Mark your calendars. Although the Tour didn’t release next season’s schedule at The Players, many of the main pieces are already in place and there seems to be no shortage of winners and losers.
On the right side of the schedule cut, expect The Players move back to March to be embraced by many players, who never felt the course played the way it was designed in May. The folks in Memphis will also enjoy an upgrade, with the annual stop taking over for Bridgestone as the season’s final World Golf Championship, which assures the event an improved field.
Although it’s still early and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told GolfChannel.com last weekend at TPC Sawgrass that the circuit is “looking at everything,” it seems likely a few spring events will be negatively impacted by the schedule makeover.
Specifically, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Valspar Championship will find themselves in the middle of a six-week run that includes The Players and two World Golf Championships.
The Tour is billing the 2018-19 schedule as a fresh new look at the sports landscape, but some events will face some old problems.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Trouble in Big D. The AT&T Byron Nelson unveiled a new home this week, with the tournament’s move to Trinity Forest Golf Club, but the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design didn’t exactly debut to rave reviews.
To be fair, the event’s former home, TPC Four Seasons Resort, wasn’t exactly a must-play stop, but if early reviews are any indication, the tournament traded an unpopular course in a prime location for an equally unpopular track in an unpopular location.
Things won’t get much better next season, when the Nelson appears slated to be played the week before the PGA Championship and two weeks before the Fort Worth Invitational.
Having the two Dallas-Fort Worth events in back-to-back weeks gave players a reason to play both. The new option will be to play the week before a major on a less-than-popular course. Not a great option.
Bet on it. As many predicted, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting in most states this week, opening a door the Tour has long embraced.
Depending on how things play out – and to be clear, the Supreme Court didn’t legalize sports betting, it simply gave the states the right to decide – fans will be able to bet on their favorite player as early as August at The Northern Trust, which will be played in New Jersey, which has already passed sports betting legislation.
The Tour sees sports betting as a way to engage new fans in different ways and, like other sports leagues, also recognizes a potential new revenue stream. But there are pitfalls.
The Tour initiated integrity training this season for players, caddies and officials, and is pushing to make whatever legislation may come from the ruling as transparent as possible.
GolfChannel.com recently asked Monahan if the possibility of betting on Tour golf made him nervous:
“It’s happening now, right? You’d be naïve to say that no, it doesn’t make me nervous,” Monahan said. “But you do everything you can to try and protect your players and ultimately if we’re participating with our data we feel like we’re going to do it in a way to protect our fans.
“Like everything else, there are things that are beyond your control. All you can do is lean into it and have the right program in place. I think we’re in a good place.”
The end of insight. They say a wise man is quick to listen but slow to speak. At least they used to say that, before politics became polarizing to the point of indifference and the invention of the fiery hot take.
Fans of golf should have been encouraged by this week’s announcement that the USGA and R&A have teamed to create something called the Distance Insights project.
“The topic of increased distance and its effects on the game have been discussed for well over a century. We believe that now is the time to examine this topic through a very wide and long lens, knowing it is critical to the future of the game,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis in a statement. “We look forward to delving deeply into this topic and learning more, led by doing right by golf, first and foremost.”
The project will engage various industry stakeholders through 2018, with plans to deliver a report in 2019. The idea appears to be a common sense, objective assessment of the modern game. If only the golf world wasn’t already polarized by what promises to be a paralyzing debate.
Tweet of the week:
For 20 years you could count on one hand the number of guys who had actually hit the 9th green at TPC Sawgrass in 2 shots. Now more than 5 a day will. Hmmm...wonder why!— InTheFlesch (@Steve_Flesch) May 12, 2018
Flesch’s point is scientifically valid. If only the direction golf should go on this topic from here were as straightforward.