Each week check out the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us Tweet embed. This week, we’re discussing dusting off Sergio Garcia with the Tour Rules Official, reporting Phil Mickelson about his gambling debt and much more.
1. Both starter tours made headlines this week. Let’s start with the LIV Golf Invitational Series, the Saudi-funded round headed by Greg Norman, where the first event field, in early June, began to take shape. Ahead of this week’s British Masters programme, Lee Westwood and Richard Bland expressed their interest, and a report from telegraph Martin Kaymer said he will also request the release of play. Perhaps the most notable revelation was from Sergio Garcia after the Wells Fargo verdict. “I can’t wait to leave this tour,” Garcia said there, and later, several outlets reported that Garcia was, in fact, looking forward to playing in the first event. To what extent, if any, do these developments change your view of the prospects for the fledgling Tour?
Sean Zack, Senior Editor (Tweet embed): Absolutely zero change in my opinion. Players like Westwood, Bland, and even Garcia are exactly who we assumed would be participating in these events. All younger and better players commit to the PGA Tour. Older players outside of the world’s top ten seem to be considering LIV Golf. So this is fully realized.
Josh Sens, Senior Writer: Sean is right about all of that. I also don’t think there was much doubt that LIV had been here for that long, given the financial strength behind it. So the “prospects” question is really twofold. There is longevity. Then there is the attraction. Yeah. I’ve got an ex. What remains to be seen is how much fun it will be for fans. Big purses alone do not guarantee an enjoyable golf game.
Alain Bastable, Executive Editor (Tweet embed): Well, an archetype of LIV “A-listers” is coming to the fore now: their past introductory who (1) can no longer regularly compete in the majors, (2) can’t make PIP money or the tour and other bonus structures and (3) has also shown Westwood last week, does not seem bothered by the heavy moral and ethical questions before them. The question is, as these guys start cashing monster checks, how many other notables – especially those struggling to find their toys – will continue to watch content from the sidelines while Sergio & Co fills their Brink trucks. This new round will last as long as you want it to, for one simple reason: it has endless Saudi capital.
Josh Berhow, Managing Editor (Tweet embed): I don’t think any of those names are interested in this round that’s surprising and it’s a bunch of guys – late in their careers, they’ve already made some good money, Europeans, etc – we thought maybe we’d join this round in the first place . So my opinion didn’t change, but it was really fun to see Sergio get upset and act childish on his way out.
2. How concerned should the tour be that other players will threaten to leave if they do not agree with the tour’s policy/rule? Remember, we heard Charlie Hoffman make a similar remark in February at the Waste Management Open.
Zack: The PGA Tour is responsible for hosting tournaments that are played according to the rules of golf. if who – which Is the reason why the player actually leaves, the tour must send him on his way. In case it wasn’t clear with Hoffman, it wouldn’t be the rules of golf that caused a player to leave the PGA Tour.
Sense: The occasional snafu bases are not a problem. Name a sport that has no casual rules. They all do. I think the concern is not leaving men because of judgment. Men are part of an antitrust lawsuit if the tour tries to stop them from signing on to a competitor. Every legal expert I’ve talked to about this says there will be a legitimate case to be brought.
Enough: Let’s not forget that the rules section of the LIV will be run by the same rule drinkers who used to be the lord on the PGA Tour events: Slugger White! So if Sergio is looking for new blood, he’d better find another round. But, no, the PGA Tour isn’t out of the woods yet in terms of managing disgruntled players. Her membership will continue to force the tour to evolve and make paydays fatter. Hopefully that will also mean the endless track review of the tour schedule. The team/F1-inspired format playing on LIV, which is exactly what PGL has been pushing for years, makes sense on so many levels – especially for the fans.
Bierhau: I don’t think a few rotten apples should make up what the PGA Tour does. 99% of the world’s top professional golfers still want to play it, and you can’t make everyone happy. When these players complain when they’re on the course, it tells them more than it does on the PGA Tour.
3. Another player associated with the Saudi-backed tour, Phil Mickelson, was in the news as well, albeit for a different reason. In an excerpt from an upcoming book, published on firepitcollective.comMickelson, according to the source, accumulated more than $40 million in gambling debt from 2010 to 2014, or the equivalent of his estimated annual income over that period. What’s the takeaway from the latest Phil news?
Zack: That there is an advantage to anyone who calls it a gambling addiction. You can’t build that amount of debt without being addicted to it.
Sense: If you’ve paid close attention to the news about Mickelson over the years, you’d only be shocked by this from a Casablanca perspective. Reported numbers? It’s not hard to imagine either, given the kind of earnings Mickelson made and the kind of allegations that are swirling around him. Anyone who has been around gambling and gamblers knows how quickly they can get out of control.
Enough: I’m not sure we can laugh at 40 miles in the name of “elephant being an elephant”. That’s a huge amount, and another reminder that it was there deep. Remember, this is the guy the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged acted on stock information to pay off a seven-figure debt to notorious player Billy Walters. Very dark things. You have to wonder what effect, if any, losing that kind of dough would have on his play. Distraction? hard to say. He’s won five times from 2010-14, including in a pair of majors.
Bierhau: It’s an amazing number. Just another hateful question he will have to face when he gets back and meets the media. Not sure if he’ll actually answer, but wow, there’s a lot going on in Phil Mickelson’s world right now.
4. In the meantime, the Premier League of Golf has sent a letter to PGA Tour players asking them to “send a message to player representatives in the PAC and Policy Council and tweet/retweet:” As a Tour member, I direct you to obtain and post an independent evaluation of PGL proposals #playerpower# transparent. ‘If seventy or more of you do this, it will happen.’ Can it? It will? What is the future of PGL?
Zack: I haven’t seen a tour operator send these tweets yet! So no, it probably won’t happen. The Premier League needs this, so I don’t see them giving up. I see them talking to as many influential players as possible. They do not have the various stigmas facing LIV Golf, and there is clearly enough interest to change Something About how elite golfers get paid. I think their days of passive role playing – allowing LIV to take shape and work with him – may be over soon.
Sense: I try to stay away from Twitter as much as possible. Life is too short, but if Sean says he hasn’t seen it, I believe it. Seriously, though, like the Saudi-backed Tour, the Premier League isn’t going anywhere. At this point, continuing to agitate for change costs relatively little. The question of whether they can create a circle that gets fans excited is another. The idea that elite golfers get paid more isn’t particularly interesting to most of us. It must be more than that.
Enough: Agitating for change may cost relatively little but it does cost something, and as I understand it, PGL’s financial backers are on edge, hence last week’s rhetoric. The PGL brass is very frustrated that the Tour won’t give their proposal the attention they think it deserves. As I mentioned above, there’s already a lot to like about the team model – particularly in terms of fan interest – but the Tour seems unwilling to give in, and PGL can’t keep the pressure going forever.
Bierhau: In the public eye, one of the biggest things that works against PGL is that most people think it’s the same thing as a LIV Golf league. I can hardly keep all this in perspective, but no, I can’t see this league in action.
5. One of golf’s most iconic holes, the dramatic, par-4 8 at Pebble Beach, is undergoing a renovation. The work came to light Friday when a Twitter user Tweet embed, who identifies himself as a stroller in Pebble Beach, posted four photos of the construction project. A source familiar with the project said GOLF.com That the green is being enlarged and that its tilt from the back to the front is made less sharp to create more hole locations. Give us another design tweak you’d like to see at Pebble.
Zack: Cut down the tree in lane 18. Doesn’t do much for me.
Sense: Somehow, I think we can all guess where Shaun left his engines in that hole. Personally, I liked the 11th green better before they changed it. The tendency was on her for exciting things. Also, for each daily game, I shorten hole number 3 from the 12th degree and give the average player some hope of actually hitting it.
Enough: The par-3 7th pushup is very short. Extend the peninsula into the bay so you can play 220-230 on quiet days. I am a child! I am a child! Par-4 1st is a Hohm opener. How about removing a tree or two from a dogleg corner so that only humans can fly into the corner like the pros do?
Bierhau: Don’t people on Twitter always say Pebble would benefit from retargeting? I don’t know if that’s the case and I can’t think of a good answer here, but don’t you dare take that tree out, Sean.
6. As the week-long PGA Championship approaches, Joe Buck has confirmed that he will lead a “Manningcast”-style broadcast of the tournament. In the soccer version, brothers Peyton and Eli Manning invite guests, who do you want to join Buck?
Zack: I’d like to see randomness join the buck. Chevy Chase. Jerry Rice. Not just the people who played Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but the ones we can actually learn something about while watching them! Shaquille O’Neal. Kristen Stewart. The people from the industry we have to listen to often. Meg McLaren. Nancy Lopez.
Sense: I can’t think of any broadcast that Charles Barkley wouldn’t do better.
Enough: There is only one correct answer: an elephant.
Bierhau: Elephant. Anthony Kim. Tony Romo. Julie Inkster. Kristi Kerr. Jill Hansey. And a host of big-name professionals who might miss out and offer to join in on the weekend.