It’s been a curious week of delays in golf, with a weather delay in France prompting officials to reduce the LPGA major to 54 holes, and with play suspended at a Japan Golf Tour event because of a North Korean missile test.
New Day. When I first met Jason Day on the porch overlooking Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide, Australia, prior to his first start on the Web.com Tour in 2007, it was clear his relationship with Colin Swatton went deep.
Swatton had become Day’s coach when the gangly teen-ager showed up at Kooralbyn International School, but the relationship evolved dramatically from there.
Swatton became the Australian’s caddie when he turned pro in 2006, but more importantly he became a surrogate father for Day, who lost is own father to cancer when he was 12 years old.
So it was news on Wednesday when Day showed up for this week’s BMW Championship and Swatton wasn’t there, replaced by a friend of Day’s, Luke Reardon.
“Sometimes the chemistry just doesn't work,” said Day, who has referred to Swatton as a father figure. “He's been my coach since I'm 12. Obviously this is a very hard time for both of us with regards to we had a relationship for so long, my caddie for 11 years.”
It clearly wasn’t an easy decision for Day, and he stressed that Swatton remains his swing coach. It’s also worth noting that in golf these things happen. Phil Mickelson’s split with his longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay earlier this season is an obvious example.
It was sad not seeing Swatton on Day’s bag this week, but we should take stock of all he and Day have accomplished since those humble early days at Kooyonga.
2024 and beyond. It was no great surprise that the International Olympic Committee approved a proposal that would keep golf and the 27 other sports played last year in Rio in the Olympic program for the 2024 Games.
But Friday’s announcement was still a reason for those who led golf’s return to the Olympics to celebrate.
“It puts the icing on the cake. We had a great Games and proved that golf has a place in the Olympics,” said Antony Scanlon, the executive director of the International Golf Federation that oversees golf in the Olympics.
Widely considered a success following the competition last year in Rio, golf’s return to the Games for the first time in more than 100 years wasn’t as seamless as some would have hoped.
Many of the game’s top players skipped the ’16 Games for various reasons and it took a Herculean effort to complete the Rio Golf Course in time for the Games. All of which makes Friday’s news much more than simply a rubber stamp.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Olympic options. It is curious how this week’s announcement that golf will remain an Olympic sport through 2024 has rekindled a debate over a possible format change.
Some found last year’s format of 72 holes of stroke play too uninspired for the Olympics and various alternatives have been suggested, including calls for a team portion to the competition.
Scanlon said the format will remain unchanged for the 2020 Games in Tokyo and explained that adding new elements to the men’s and women’s golf competitions is more complicated than some may think.
“Timing is an element, there is a finite number of days of the competition, and you aren’t left much for a team competition and you don’t want to devalue the medal by rushing a competition,” Scanlon said. “We have spoken to a number of players and they weren’t too happy trying to shoehorn in another event. It’s been a long year for the players, so the work load was another consideration.”
Scanlon said the IGF, along with the IOC, will “reflect” on the competitions after the ’20 Games, and consider additional formats, either a change to the current competition (like a shift to match play) or a new team element.
On this, however, critics should remember that time may not be on golf’s side.
Major mistake. Each May, the inevitable conversation turns to whether or not The Players is the PGA Tour’s fifth major, and in recent years the circuit has taken a noticeably low-profile approach to the debate.
It seems those in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., have realized etching the words into a title don’t make it a major, and that point was proven this week when LPGA officials reduced the Evian to 54 holes after a storm suspended play on Day 1.
“We know that if we said 72 holes and we start again tomorrow [Friday], we're probably looking at Monday and Tuesday, and that's not great for anyone,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.
Yes, Monday finishes are awkward and rarely generate the same amount of interest as a Sunday conclusion, but if you’re going to call the Evian a major there are basic tenets that need to be followed.
Majors have the game’s deepest fields, are played on the most challenging courses (although there are a few notable exceptions to this), and are contested over 72 holes, or more, even if that means the event finishes on Monday.
Tweet of the week.
Well this is a first. We currently have a suspension of play in Sapporo Japan due to North Korea launching ballistic missiles— Matt Griffin (@MattGriffinGolf) September 14, 2017
Griffin, an Australian professional, was referring to the ANA Open, a Japan Golf Tour event that temporarily suspended play during Round 2 when North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan.
In related news, the PGA Tour is scheduled to play its first sanctioned event in South Korea next month, the 78-player CJ Cup, which will include the top 60 available players off this season’s FedExCup points list.
According to a statement from the Tour, “From a safety and security point of view, we will continually monitor, review and evaluate the situation. Should future circumstances or developments dictate a change in our position, we will promptly advise all parties accordingly.”