In this week’s edition we examine LIV Golf’s audacious grab for world ranking points, some much-needed, old fashion Tiger Woods speculation and a lonely fall farewell.
He’s Back? It’s strangely comforting that there is still one thing that can wrest the golf world out of the PGA Tour/LIV Golf quagmire: Tiger Woods.
Woods hasn’t played since he missed the cut at The Open in July, and he continues to rehab and recover from the traumatic car crash in early 2021 that forced him to endure multiple surgeries, but Notah Begay III provided a glimmer of hope this week that we may see Woods play before the end of the year.
“I know as soon as he feels like he can be competitive - I think he got a good sense of what it’s going to take this past year - we’ll see him,” Begay, a long-time confidant of Woods, recently told PGA Tour Radio. “We might see him one time this fall. He might surprise everybody.”
It seems unlikely Begay was talking about a random start at the Houston Open or RSM Classic – and although he’s a former champion at the Zozo Championship, a flight to Japan would be a nonstarter – but a start at the Hero World Challenge, which Woods hosts, or the PNC Championship, alongside his son, Charlie, doesn’t seem to be out of the question.
At this week’s PGA Tour Champions event, Begay suggested a rule change at the Hero could also be in the making, “we may see a late-minute introduction of a cart rule [at the Hero], that would be great,” Begay said.
Course correction. The home course “advantage” that has become such a large part of the Ryder Cup may be coming to an end. (The 2018 matches in Paris are the most extreme example of how course setup can influence an outcome.)
In a one-year-out event this week in Rome, both captains for next year’s Ryder Cup largely dismissed the notion of any home course advantage.
“That's one nice thing about being a home captain is you do have some control over how the course is set up,” European captain Luke Donald said. “We look at statistics and look for marginal gains. It's no secret that the teams are usually very pretty evenly matched when it comes to long game, short game, putting. There's very minute differences. There's only so much you can do to the golf course, but you try and set it up a little bit.”
U.S. captain Zach Johnson, who played the host course, Marco Simone, for the first time this week, also dismissed the notion of an overwhelming setup advantage, but he did contend the layout will be a unique physical test.
“Somebody told me Marco Simone is hillier than Augusta National. I'm like, OK, right. It is. It is. I think it is, to a T,” Johnson said. “It is going to be a difficult physical test when you play four sessions in two days. You have to take that into account.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Wag the dog. Ignoring LIV Golf’s clumsy efforts to control the narrative and, even more audacious, the outcome, this week’s give and take between the Saudi-backed startup and the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) created an interestingly nuanced debate.
A press release from the MENA Tour - a third-tier circuit that hosts 54-hole events in the Middle East and North Africa - announced a “strategic alliance” with LIV Golf (sound familiar?) that the tours believed would “immediately qualify” LIV Golf for world ranking points, including this week’s event in Bangkok.
A day later, the OWGR balked, explaining in a release, “notice of these changes given by the MENA Tour is insufficient to allow [the world ranking] to conduct the customary necessary review.”
As LIV players continue to plummet in the ranking, the desire for haste in this “review” process is understandable, but simply saying something is true doesn’t make it so.
The ranking chaos did, however, create a degree of dialogue between the sides. While the likes of Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick pushed back on the idea of some sort of expedited ranking evaluation process for LIV events, the Northern Irishman did acknowledge that the current standoff has created a hole in the rankings.
“I certainly would want the best players in the world ranked accordingly,” McIlroy said last week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. “I think if Dustin Johnson is somewhere around 100th in the world, then it's not an accurate reflection of where he is in the game.”
Tweet of the week: Bryson DeChambeau
Swipe for full statement. 📖 pic.twitter.com/vExblzzHVu
— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) October 2, 2022
A 309-word rambling statement was posted on social media on Sunday following Bryson DeChambeau’s runner-up finish at the long drive championship, but it read more like therapy, including a curious transition, “I guess where I’m going with this is…”
There seems to be a bit of buyer’s remorse among some LIV players who cashed in for a lifestyle that’s probably not what they expected. Maybe DeChambeau just wanted to riff following an emotional day launching 400-yard drives, or maybe he just needed to feel like someone was listening.
A fall farewell. The fall portion of the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule was always a strange fit, with most events searching for an identity and a decent field.
This is the final version of the fall events before the Tour transitions back to a calendar schedule next year, and these events, including this week’s Shriners Children’s Open, become something else. What exactly that is to be determined as the circuit works through the logistics of a dramatically overhauled scheduled, which may be why this fall feels downright surreal.
This week’s event in Las Vegas, which has always been a popular stop regardless of its spot or status on the schedule, is the third of nine tournaments this fall, and the reality of whatever is to come may not set in until the Tour gets closer to the end. So far, this swan song for the fall has felt like a strangely hollow farewell.