In this week’s edition we celebrate Tiger Woods’ return to competition, question the Player Impact Program’s lack of clarity and lament a somber week in Houston.
Tiger time. It’s been nearly four months since Tiger Woods hit a meaningful golf shot and yet the 46-year-old part-time player enjoyed a rollicking week.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press (via Rory McIlroy) reported that Woods had won the Player Impact Program for the second consecutive year. A day later Tiger announced via social media that he plans to play next month’s Hero World Challenge and it seems likely he’ll also play the PNC Championship the following week with his son, Charlie.
Woods managed just nine rounds this year on the PGA Tour and hasn’t played an official event since missing the cut at The Open in July as he continues to recover from last year’s car crash that required multiple surgeries.
Tiger’s return to competition next month in the Bahamas won’t match the energy that he brought to Augusta National in April, but his second consecutive PIP title proves that he still moves the needle despite his limited schedule.
Direct access. As the Tour continues to grapple with the divide created by LIV Golf, one of its responses is set to provide direct access to the Tour for the top college players.
First reported by Golf Channel, the two proposals would provide Tour membership to the top player on the PGA Tour University ranking as well as access for elite underclassmen “who achieve key benchmarks at the college, amateur and professional levels.”
LIV Golf’s focus has been primarily aimed at wooing veteran players over to the new league, but the concern has always been that the startup could heavily recruit the top college players and create a talent drain. These two proposals, which will be approved by the policy board next week, would at least give those top college players a reason to choose the Tour.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
PIP problems. We can all agree that Woods winning the bonus pool for the second consecutive year withstands even the most jaded assessments of his popularity and continued reach. McIlroy finishing runner-up in the PIP race also holds up. What’s problematic is how the next 18 names landed on the list.
Part of a larger Tour makeover, the PIP bonus pool was increased from $40 million last to $100 million with bonuses going to the top 20 on the list, which was limited to the top 10 last year. The Tour also overhauled how the list is compiled by moving away from social media exposure and brand engagement to more traditional media measurements and broadcast exposure.
Exactly how the new list is compiled, however, remains something of a mystery and a general lack of clarity will prove to be problematic considering not just the enormous payouts for finishing inside the top 20 but also the Tour’s plan to use the list to define “top players.”
Starting in 2023 the top 20 finishers will provide the backbone of the game’s biggest events, including the majors, Players Championship and a dozen “elevated events.” While the PIP isn’t a qualification criteria, it is set to become a crucial benchmark and a standard that demands more transparency.
Tweet of the week: @maxhoma23 (Max Homa) “When I was in Jr High I played a tourney with this kid who told me he got his putter from a guy who was on the PGA Tour at the time and I remember being really intimidated for some reason. Not sure I would have handled Tiger caddying in my group too well.”
In Homa’s defense, unexpectedly seeing Woods – who caddied for his son, Charlie, at last week’s NB3 National Championship – on the first tee would throw most of us off our games.
Houston, we have a problem. It’s the same story throughout this fall but the unknowns seem to land harder in Houston where officials had injected the event with new life since it moved to the fall.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane has been widely applauded for saving the Houston Open after the event was bounced from its pre-Masters spot on the schedule in 2019. Amid this week’s celebration following the Astros World Series victory, the Tour’s return to Houston was a surreal reality.
“Who knows what I'll be doing next fall. I don't know if I'll be playing the same schedule or if I won't be playing at all or if I'll be playing more,” Scottie Scheffler said.
Uncertainty is a familiar theme for many events this fall but for the likes of Crane and his team it felt like a bittersweet week.
New boss? Never content to sit on the sidelines, LIV Golf was back in the news this week with a report in The Telegraph that former TaylorMade CEO Mark King was in discussions to become the chief executive of the breakaway circuit.
LIV Golf officials quickly denied the report that also said current league CEO Greg Norman would be moved “upstairs.” While many industry observers contend King would be an upgrade over Norman, who has been widely criticized for his comments about the Saudi-backed league and a generally petulant relationship with many within the game’s existing ecosystem, it remains unclear why the league would change directions now.
The reported move could create a much-needed pathway between the two sides and set the stage, at least in theory, for a possible détente, but if that’s the case why slow play the move?
If King is the answer then make the move, not more news.