After a warm and fuzzy start to the year, we offer a contentious edition this week with plenty of speculation, unsubstantiated reports and self-serving vitriol. Enjoy.
Competition. This probably isn’t the version of “healthy competition” that LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman referenced a dozen times this week when he met with the press at the Saudi International and Phil Mickelson’s crushing comments about the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” went a tad too far for most, but the current state of the professional game is a testament to how competition can be a positive force.
For the first time in the modern history of the PGA Tour the players have real “leverage,” as Mickelson explained, and that leverage has already produced a new level of player empowerment.
As the threat, however theoretical, from a long-rumored super league led by Norman and LIV Golf has grown, the Tour has answered with a $40 million Player Impact Program, vast increases in purses across the board and a newfound willingness to reward star players beyond the traditional competitive outlets.
This week has been uncomfortable for both players and the Tour and that’s likely going to escalate as top players continue to flirt with the super-league concept, but from that awkward silence will likely emerge a better Tour.
A good Day. It’s not often the world’s 83rd-ranked player grabs the collective attention so thoroughly, but then Jason Day isn’t exactly your average 83rd-ranked player.
The former world No. 1 posted his best finish since the spring of 2018 with a tie for third last week at Torrey Pines and he was solid on Day 1 at Pebble Beach with an opening 68.
If that all seems underwhelming for a 12-time Tour winner, consider that Day has dealt with an avalanche of injuries throughout his career and just the ability to play back-to-back weeks is something of a victory. It’s also a reason to finally be optimistic after the Australian spent the off-season in swing coach Chris Como’s lab devising a swing that wouldn’t lead back to the DL.
“I know that I'm heading in the right direction and I know that the work I've been putting into my game is starting to pay off,” he said Saturday at Torrey Pines. “When the confidence comes back, hopefully I win five, 10 times a year.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Lefty alone. At best, we’re going to call out Mickelson for tone issues; at worst, his interview this week with Golf Digest felt icky and self-serving.
Along with accusing the Tour of “obnoxious greed” Lefty posed for a picture with Norman, a not-so-subtle way of throwing even more shade in the Tour’s direction.
Many of Mickelson’s concerns over media rights have merit and in the age of player empowerment he makes a powerful front-man given his status as one of the game’s greatest players and his popularity among fans, but there was something disingenuous about his scorched-earth approach this week.
Not once in his three-plus decades on Tour did Mickelson serve as a player director on the policy board, which is the players’ voice for the management and direction of the Tour. If the collective interest wasn’t a priority then, what makes Lefty’s stance against “obnoxious greed” important now?
Clam Baked. There is no ducking the obvious that the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am took a brutal hit this year with many of the top players flocking to Saudi Arabia and no amount of “concessions” from those who chased appearance fees is going to soften the blow.
In fact, the Tour’s conditions that players who were granted competing-event releases to play the Saudi International add the old “Crosby” to their schedules over the next three years appears to be something less than a lock.
“It's sort of one that’s still being ironed out,” said Xander Schauffele, who is tied for ninth after two rounds at the Saudi International. “I’ve had my reservations about playing at AT&T, so it’s definitely a tricky one to handle that situation. So, we’re still navigating that with my team and we’ll kind of see what happens.”
An international event with a stronger field than the PGA Tour is nothing new, but the optics this week, at an iconic event that’s been a Tour staple since 1937, are bad.
Busy week for Bryson. The headlines focused on the $135 million offer Bryson DeChambeau reportedly received to join the start-up super league, but the actual news was much more concerning.
DeChambeau withdrew from the Saudi International before Round 2 with “a left hand and left hip injury.” This comes a week after he missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he was seen struggling with wrist and back issues. He also withdrew from the Sony Open last month, because of wrist soreness.
As DeChambeau has pushed the boundaries of his body and swing, there have always been concerns over how sustainable his power-based version of golf could be. Could his bulked-up body withstand the forces and speed for a prolonged career? Could he remain healthy enough to compete for five, 10, 15 years?
Those concerns apparently should have been more immediate. DeChambeau is arguably the most compelling figure in the game; let’s hope these recent setbacks are the exception and not the rule.
Tweet (Instagram) of the week: @brysondechambau (DeChambeau): “Wrong.”
Big Bryson was responding to a report this week that he’d been offered $135 million to join the rival super league. There were also reports that Ian Poulter received a similar offer in the $20-million-to-$30-million range and that players were being forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in their ongoing negotiations with the super league. But if everyone is signing NDAs where are these reports coming from?