In this week’s edition, we applaud TGL’s efforts to speed up the game (even a simulated game), question the state of negotiations between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and agree with a call for better Tour courses.
From protagonist to peacemaker. Rory McIlroy has been LIV Golf’s harshest and most outspoken critic, from his early comments that he wanted to “be on the right side of history” to his jab this year that he’d rather “retire” than play the breakaway circuit. But that hard line has softened.
During an interview on CNBC unveiling McIlroy’s TGL team, Boston Commons Golf, he was asked about the potential for a renewed rivalry between LIV Golf and the Tour if the ongoing negotiations between the two sides break down.
“I feel like we’ve got a fractured competitive landscape right now. And I would prefer if everyone sort of got back into the same boat. I think that’s the best thing for golf,” McIlroy said. “I would hope when we go through this process, the PIF are the ones that are involved in the framework agreement. Obviously, there’s been other suitors that have been involved and offering their services and their help.”
Perhaps McIlroy was only saying the “right” things given the sensitivity of the negotiations between LIV and the Tour, but then he’s never been overly concerned with either the sensitivity of situations or keeping his opinions to himself.
On the clock. The steady drip of content from TGL continued with news that Tiger Woods would anchor, and co-own, the sixth and final team for next year’s inaugural season. But it was another press release that grabbed the attention of many.
The league plans to condense a normal round of golf into a two-hour television window with a combination of simulated shots, a state-of-the-art “green zone” and a shot clock. The 40-second shot clock will come with a one-stroke penalty for violations and is the kind of Draconian measure many have wanted the Tour to adopt for decades.
Baseball enjoyed a renaissance this year thanks in large part to various pace-of-play measures that trimmed more than 30 minutes off the average game. The TGL could set a similar example for Tour officials if they’re finally interested in taking real action.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
The art of the deal. No, not the 2015 tome by former President Donald Trump. This week’s glimpse into the world of high finance stemmed from Monday’s press conference for the TGL’s Boston Commons Golf and how intertwined the professional game has become.
While McIlroy said the right things as it applies to the ongoing negotiations with the PIF, his presence on CNBC next to Fenway Sports Group chairman Tom Werner sent a clear message.
In the CNBC interview, Werner confirmed that Fenway Sports is having “conversations” with the Tour, and according to various sources, the firm is currently the favorite to land some sort of deal with the circuit.
That Fenway Sports is firmly invested in TGL, which is partnered with the Tour, as the Boston team owner and McIlroy is that club’s front man are both telling. When the Tour’s policy board votes for a potential private equity offer – whether that’s Fenway Sports, PIF or another firm – McIlroy will be one of the 11 votes, along with Tiger Woods and four other player directors.
It's also worth noting that Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was an executive vice president at Fenway Sports Group before joining the circuit. A deal between the Tour and private equity is not immanent, according to various sources, but if you’re one to connect dots, Fenway Sports appears to be the leader in the clubhouse.
A new fall. There’s been plenty of handwringing over what this fall means for both Tour players and the individual tournaments, and given the uncertainty in professional golf that concern has been well-founded. But this week’s event in Bermuda suggests that the sky isn’t completely falling on the fall.
Major champion Adam Scott is playing the Butterfield Bermuda Championship for the first time, in a nod to a relatively poor season – he finished 72nd on the post-playoff FedExCup points list – and next year’s signature-event reality.
It will be similar at next week’s fall finale at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort, where players will be vying to move up the fall points list to improve their chances of earning coveted starts in two signature events early next year.
The fall may still be searching for an identity, but there’s no need to explain to players like Scott how important these events can be.
Everyone’s a critic. Last week’s World Wide Technology Championship was the first Tour event played at a Tiger Woods-designed golf course and the reviews of El Cardonal at Diamante were not great.
“All I will say is the PGA Tour could do a better job at picking courses to host these events. In my opinion this wasn’t my favorite course, and I’ve played on Tour for a little while,” Kelly Kraft wrote on Instagram.
El Cardonal ranks 53rd out of 55 courses played on Tour in stroke average and gave up a staggering 2,094 birdies for the week, which is the most by any course this season.
To be fair, Kraft’s overall point was not so much a criticism of Woods or his design philosophy than it was a growing trend on Tour to gravitate toward courses that have room for tournament infrastructure and parking. Consider that there is just one course (not counting majors) from the current Golfweek top 10 classic list on the Tour schedule (Pebble Beach) and none from the magazine’s top 10 list of modern courses.
The PGA Tour features the world’s best players but that doesn’t always mean they’re playing the best courses.