In this week’s edition, Phil Mickelson returns to Twitter with plenty to say, Max Homa’s in-round interview at Torrey Pines speaks volumes and what this week’s news says about next year’s PGA Tour schedule.
Conflict. Whatever sophomoric nonsense transpired on the range last week in Dubai between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, and moving on from what may or may not have been a rules violation by Reed, the end result was one of the most compelling tournament finales in recent memory.
It doesn’t matter which side of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf divide you reside, the showdown between the two came with a rare dollop of vitriol with McIlroy making his thoughts on Reed, who joined the Saudi-backed league last year, clear and Reed only feeding the hostility with his “tee flip” earlier in the week.
That the Northern Irishman was able to hold off a final-round charge on Monday by Reed with a 14-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole for the victory was chef’s-kiss perfect.
"Mentally, today was probably one of the toughest rounds I’ve ever had to play because it would be really easy to let your emotions get in the way. I just had to really concentrate on focusing on myself. Forget who was up there on the leaderboard. And I did that really, really well. I feel like I showed a lot of mental strength out there today," McIlroy said.
Conflict, real conflict, is rare in the gentleman’s game, but if this is the byproduct of whatever becomes of LIV Golf we’re here for all of it.
To the Max. Competitively, Max Homa has put himself alongside the likes of McIlroy and Jon Rahm in recent months with two PGA Tour victories in his last seven starts and a breakout performance at the Presidents Cup. Personally, the 32-year-old has separated himself from the pack as a creative type with an outside-the-box attitude.
That forward-thinking shined at the Farmers Insurance Open when Homa popped in a pair of AirPods for an on-course interview with the CBS Sports crew. It was both insightful for golf fans and a hit for the PGA Tour.
Earlier last week, Homa hinted at how Tour telecasts will evolve. “Change is coming, and I think it’s all great for the consumer of the game,” he said in an interview with No Laying Up.
In-round interviews have been on the table for years – and it’s worth pointing out, Golf Channel first experimented with the concept on the Korn Ferry Tour nearly a decade ago – but players had largely pushed back. For Homa, who has firmly established himself as a star, to embrace new ways to bring the game to the consumer is good for the Tour and for fans.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Proactive protection. Perhaps the Tour’s new regulation that subjects non-members to similar rules as members when it comes to participation in “unauthorized tournaments” is overreach, as many claimed on social media this week, but the circuit probably didn’t have many other options.
Within Tour circles, there’s been a growing concern that LIV and its deep pockets could turn its well-financed attention to the college ranks via NIL deals that would, in theory, convert to LIV contracts when the young players turned pro. LIV could essentially sign the next generation of stars long before they became stars.
The new regulation – which began this season and applies to all Tour-sanctioned events, including Korn Ferry Tour, Monday qualifying and Q-School – requires that “any player who has participated in an unauthorized tournament is ineligible to compete in any event sanctioned by the PGA Tour for a period of one year.”
Given how litigious professional golf has become it seems likely this new regulation will be challenged, but the “irrational threat,” which is how Tour commissioner Jay Monahan once described LIV, likely required a seemingly irrational response.
Evolution. A Tour official recently compared the ongoing work to overhaul the circuit’s schedule to building an airplane while it’s flying, and news this week that this year’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will be the last is an example of how the moving parts continue to move.
According to Golfweek, the Houston Open is expected to fill the spot on the schedule left by the WGC-Match Play and offers a glimpse at the earliest vestiges of what promises to be a dramatically reimagined schedule in 2024.
While still a work in progress, various sources suggest the number of designated events will decrease in ’24, the likely byproduct of too many high-profile events packed into a condensed schedule, and the fields for these designated events will also be trimmed.
Whatever the final product looks like beginning in ’24, it now seems certain that it will be dramatic.
Tweet (s) of the week: Phil Mickelson returned to competition this week at the Saudi International having shed 20 pounds and added a focus on the future. He also returned to social media with what felt like a year’s worth of tweets to unpack.
Much of what Lefty had to say was in response, like his reaction to a team event featuring a group of LIV players against a team of players who remained on the PGA Tour:
When reminded that such a Tour team would include the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Tomas, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth who would have “something to say” about the outcome, Mickelson fired back “They do seem to talk a lot.” He also took what felt like an unnecessary shot at Woods, who continues to recover from injuries sustained in a 2021 car crash: “Tell [Woods] he can use a cart.”
Mickelson’s comments earlier this week suggested he wanted to keep his focus on his game and remain on the high road, but his social media detour suggests otherwise.