The PGA and Europeans tours form an alliance, Christian Bezuidenhout joins the game's elite, the PGA Tour wraps up its 2020 slate and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:
1. The PGA and European tours took a big first step toward potentially creating a global golf calendar, agreeing to an alliance that will allow them to collaborate on commercial opportunities, media rights and scheduling.
TAKEAWAY: This seemed like an inevitable move, as both tours took a serious financial hit in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. In a conference call, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley took pains to describe this announcement as something other than a potential merger, saying that won’t happen unless it's beneficial for his membership or his circuit is in financial straits. Though a takeover is years away, if it happens at all, this partnership should mark the end to the Premier Golf League, which had tried (unsuccessfully) to lure the top players by offering huge Saudi money.
It’s easy to see how they could now collaborate on creating a global golf calendar that is a boon to both tours. Rather than making elite players choose which one to support, in theory, a more cohesive worldwide schedule would see the best players in the world tee it up against each other more often on varying course designs.
Indeed, we’d be all for a world tour that looks something like this, with incentives for regular PGA Tour players to travel and play internationally:
- January-February: Hawaii/West Coast swing
- March: Florida swing
- April-May: Masters; Quail Hollow; Texas swing; PGA
- June/July: Memorial; U.S. Open; Spanish, Irish, Scottish Opens, etc.; Open Championship
- August: FedExCup playoffs
- September: BMW PGA; Ryder/Presidents Cups
- October: Asian swing
- November: Middle East swing
- December: Australia swing
That'd be *amazing.*
2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout won for the second time on the European Tour, coming from behind to take the Alfred Dunhill Championship in his native South Africa.
TAKEAWAY: This latest triumph continues an upward trend for Bezuidenhout, who is now firmly among the top 50 in the world (41st) after ending 2018 at No. 581.
The 26-year-old had a limited amount of success last season on the PGA Tour, finishing in the top 25 in just four of his 10 starts, but he appeared to get more comfortable this summer and made the cut in both the U.S. Open and Masters this fall. He's a player to root for, with a compelling back story, after he received a doping ban as an amateur because of medicine he took to combat anxiety and a stutter that was caused when he took rat poison as a child and nearly died.
There’ll be even more opportunity in 2021 to improve his standing, as now he’ll be a fixture at all of the majors and biggest events.
3. The PGA Tour returns to action this week at the Mayakoba Classic, marking the final official Tour event of the calendar year.
TAKEAWAY: An appealing group of players has gathered in Mexico, even with the withdrawal of world No. 1 Dustin Johnson dropping the tournament to 46 world-ranking points for the winner (the equivalent strength of the Honda). It still marked the strongest field in tournament history and, like most fall events in this super-season, a significant increase from a year ago, when Brendon Todd earned only 34 world-ranking points for his second consecutive fall victory.
This year, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland are among those who will play the Mayakoba, many of them for the first time in years.
At No. 49 in the world, Rickie Fowler will be trying to remain inside the top 50 in the world ranking. Will Zalatoris, now a special temporary member on Tour, is also back in the mix, playing for the first time since the Bermuda. And Andy Ogletree, the former U.S. Amateur champion who earlier this month was the low amateur at the Masters, is making his pro debut.
THIS WEEK'S AWARD WINNERS ...
Tip of the Cap: The Match III. Sure, the match with Sir Charles, Steph, Peyton and Phil had some entertaining moments (which reaffirmed our belief: in made-for-TV exhibitions, Phil > Tiger, and it's not particularly close), but even better is that they raised millions of dollars for historically Black colleges and universities.
Color Us Surprised (Or Not): Dustin Johnson. In the least shocking news of the week, DJ says he won’t play this week at Mayakoba, an event he’d signed up for before he won the Masters. Since then he’s been partying in St. Barts and probably needs a vacation from his vacation.
Ready for the Big Leagues: Emily Kristine Pederson. She closed out her year on the Ladies European Tour with a bogey-free 66 and a victory at the tour’s season finale, becoming the first LET player in 31 years to win three consecutive individual titles. She had four victories in 12 LET starts this year, which is why we’d love to see her compete full-time against the best of the best on the LPGA. She’ll be in the field in two weeks at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Congrats!: Jon Rahm. The world No. 2 announced on social media that he and his wife, Kelley, are expecting the couple’s first child.
That’ll Come Back to Haunt Him: Paul Casey. Last spring, he said he’d be a “hypocrite” if he ever played the European Tour's Saudi International, given his sponsorship deal with UNICEF ... and, well, what do we have here? Casey signing up for the Saudi event. Casey isn’t the only big name that will tee it up in February, of course – DJ and Bryson DeChambeau are also in the field – but it’s Casey who has some ’splaining to do. In a statement he said: “It is always better to include rather than exclude when eliciting change, thus I hope my participation will make a difference and I am looking forward to seeing these changes in person.” Sounds less like a guy who hopes to affect change and more like one who needs the Ryder Cup points.
Tweet of the Week: Eddie Pepperell (and the rest of the thread).
Next Chapter: John Augenstein. Like Ogletree, Augenstein, the 2019 U.S. Amateur finalist, has decided to forgo his final semester of eligibility to turn pro, getting a jump-start on his career when a bevy of talented seniors (and super-seniors) will soon be lining up behind him after NCAAs. Mentored by Justin Thomas, Augenstein should be a Tour fixture once he finds his footing.