Brad Faxon offered a lesson for Tour pros last week during the broadcast of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Golf Channel just opened its coverage with Brad Faxon sharing a story/dig about the current state of pro golf:

 

“My rookie year, I played with Arnold [Palmer] at the Players. My final round, it was such a thrill to get paired with him, to get called out on the 1st tee with him

I think that’s a fair assessment. But I’m also not sure it’s absolutely relevant? The market structures were wildly different in Palmer’s era. He used leverage of his own to found the PGA Tour. And then leveraged his stature and what he helped build to shut down Greg Norman’s attempts in the mid-90s. But I suppose that’s not the point here. The point is that fans prop up the overall economic viability of the PGA Tour. Bringing them in, in a simple way, is something more players could focus on. These days, though, it takes a bit more than looking them in the eye.

 

 

Wyndham Clark and Lucas Glover both made headlines over the weekend for sharing opinions on the structure, or future structure, of the Tour. Clark is in favor of a 100-member Tour. Glover thinks the Signature Events make no sense in their current iteration, telling Golfweek they are a “money grab.” 

 

 

First, a thank you to both of them for sharing their thoughts publicly. Not many pros do. But they both undercut themselves later in their respective interviews. When Clark was asked to expand his thoughts with a bit of detail, he followed by saying it’s all “above my paygrade,” essentially saying he’s got these forthright beliefs but that you should take them with a heavy grain of salt. Not really sure what to do with that. 

 

Glover was similar, opining on PGA Tour Enterprises and what it might mean for the Tour, but he did it in such a flimsy way, referring to it as “PGA Tour Enterprises, or whatever it’s called.” Glover is going to get some serious money from PGATE, and his opinion on it will be interesting some day, but he admittedly hasn’t watched any of the videos the Tour has made for players explaining the equity program.

 

My thought is simple: players sharing opinions is fantastic. But half-baked thoughts without all the information or detail feels a bit meaningless.

 

 

It felt compelling in late November when Tiger Woods returned at his Hero World Challenge, an appearance he has rarely missed in past seasons, despite a slew of reasons to, making good on his own promotional value. Woods’ press conference that week felt telling, too, saying a “realistic” best-case scenario would have him playing one tournament per month in 2024. It made headlines, because Woods hasn’t played that much in one season since his car accident in 2021. And maybe that was precisely the point.

 

I had a feeling at the time and it feels even more plausible now that Woods was posturing a bit. Stirring up the hype for 2024 right as 2023 was coming to a close. But why? The PGA Tour was in the later stages of negotiations — which Woods was heavily involved in — with the Strategic Sports Group, the consortium of sports owners who invested an initial $1.5 billion in PGA Tour Enterprises. There is not a bigger bargaining chip for early value-injection than Woods playing a mostly full schedule, so it would have been nice for SSG to believe that was coming. It just hasn’t happened. No events for Woods in January. Twenty-four holes at the Genesis Invitational, another event that benefits Woods’ foundation. And to this point, zero events in March (and likely none before the Masters, an event PGA Tour Enterprises does not directly benefit from.) 

 

 

Fans know so little about Anthony Kim’s return to competitive golf, mostly because it’s happening on the other side of the world. But also because it hasn’t been great. It was scores of 76, 76, 74, 76 and 72, all shot in the middle of the night in America. But then there was his Sunday 65 in Hong Kong. Immediately, some hope for progress, right? Sure. 

 

But this was a weird 65 from Kim. A putting-dependent 65, led by him hitting just six fairways. Kim hit just 10 out of 18 greens. His ball-striking stats are 54th out of 54 on LIV. It’s been really bad, by professional golf standards. But he hooped everything with his putter Sunday. And the putting stroke looks good! I don’t mean to have outsized expectations for the man, but the golf he’s playing right now is not sustainable, and I think we’ll find that out more this week when he competes in a 72-hole tournament with a cut. That 65 was a lot closer to 70 than it was 63. 

 

 

Doubters will be inclined to point out that Kim’s 65 took place on a 6,700-yard course. And they’d be correct. But that was the same course that featured Phil Mickelson’s first-round 80. And Jon Rahm’s final-round 69. The point is, the course is the course. How’d you play it? 

 

And the answer to me is more visual than quantifiable. Players were forced to work all sorts of shots around Hong Kong Golf Club, with its many doglegs. Rahm was working the ball left and right, showing off just how great of a ballstriker he is. Which is to say he’s showing off just how great of a golfer he is. The width and angles approach to golf course design offers endless strategy, and that’s what pro golf should utilize most often. But maybe once or twice a year I’m all in favor of watching pros play a tiny, tight track and get forced into very specific shots. I would have loved watching Justin Thomas play that golf course. 

 

 

Jay Monahan issued his annual Players Championship state of the union press conference Tuesday, and unlike past iterations, this one didn’t amount to much. He refused to provide detail about negotiations with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, despite being asked about it more than a dozen times. His answers regarding the investment he has landed — $1.5 billion (and counting) from SSG — were riddled in corporate speak. 

 

But Monahan did one thing that I found very curious. When asked how he planned to deliver a return on that investment, he immediately highlighted the fact that Golf The Sport is booming recreationally. That golf-course participation is at an all-time high, Monahan implies, is a means to expect commercial growth of PGA Tour Enterprises. 

 

 

Gideon Canice

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