Monday Rap Q&A: LIV Australia Pops Off, A Historically Silly Penalty On The Korn Ferry Tour and A Masters Retrospective
Well, LIV finally had its moment. The event in Adelaide, Australia always presented LIV’s best chance to show what it wants to be: a loud, fun, festival-like event in front of a rowdy-ass crowd. That’s exactly what they got at The Grange G.C.—the tournament itself wasn’t exactly an instant classic, with Talor Gooch racing out to a 10-shot lead after 36 holes and then trying (unsuccessfully) to blow the event on Sunday. Still, his two-shot victory capped off LIV’s signature event of its young existence. And, judging from the online conversation (which, of course, is a very small piece of real life), it was the LIV event that dominated discourse this weekend. As such, we’ll lead off our monthly (ish) question-and-answer version of the Monday Rap with a question about the Rival Tour. Let’s jump right in.
The LIV Australia tournament was definitely well received down here in Aus- lots of chat of people wanting to book for next year. Where does LIV go off this success? Do they book more international rounds? —@fairbumpplay on
The tournament looked a ton of fun to attend. That much is beyond debate. Excellent crowds in a golf-crazed country starved for top-class golf on their shores. And that has to be the prevailing feeling inside PGA Tour HQ today—that we gotta do whatever it takes to get to Australia on a yearly basis. They simply have to broaden the Designated Events outside the United States if they want to truly stand tall as the world’s tour, as they’ve said before. Sure, they’ve tiptoed into international waters with the Presidents Cup and some outside-the-U.S. events but simply ignoring a nation with fantastic golf courses and a deep connection to the game is such a miss it’s borderline professional malpractice.
Australia’s warm embrace of LIV wasn’t a political statement of fealty to one golf tour over another; it was an outpouring of joy to welcome the world’s best to their country. A PGA Tour event in Adelaide this week would’ve almost certainly drawn the same outpouring of support. That’s not to say the LIV event wasn’t a great demo of their product, because it was. But this had more to do with Australian golf than it did with LIV Golf. Which is why I’m more interested to see the turnout and overall vibe of this week’s LIV event in Singapore. LIV has made a conscious effort to go international, capitalizing on the PGA Tour’s heavy American bias (at least as far as holding actual tournaments) to deliver top-level golf talent to communities that don’t normally get it. It’s a smart business strategy for attracting great in-person crowds, but that’s not the ultimate measure of the success or failure of a startup golf league that’s spent billions of dollars to get off the ground. If you have billions of dollars to spend, and you’re going somewhere to throw a party where there haven’t been many parties recently, people are going to show up. That doesn’t mean the league is profitable (it’s far, far from it) nor that it will ever be profitable; it simply means there are golf fans in pockets of the world who will turn out in droves if you meet them where they are.
As for the actual competition…again, it looked like a lot of fun to attend, and the players sure seemed to enjoy themselves. Cameron Smith chugged a beer out of a shoe. So did Talor Gooch and Bryson DeChambeau, and a video emerged showing Ian Poulter vibing to a live performance from Fisher. Again, it looked like plenty of fun. But it also didn’t look like a very serious golf tournament—even at the WM Phoenix Open, there’s a line between the fans at the players. The fans go crazy and chug beers, but apart from an out-of-contention Harry Higgs and Joel Dahmen, the players don’t. They’re at-their-peak professional athletes grinding to win a tournament with meaning. This was different. Of course, that’s completely fine. But I also got a lot of questions about players who might want to make the move to LIV, and on that front, the Adelaide event only furthered the divide between the two tours. The players concerned with top-end, serious competition on a weekly basis will still be drawn to the PGA Tour. The guys looking for something different, and a massive guaranteed payday, will still be looking for something different, with a massive guaranteed payday.
It’s also not enough for LIV to put on good parties. As alluded to before, if someone’s going to spend a ton of money and bring in top music talent for an event, people will go. That doesn’t necessarily bring the general audience any closer to viewing LIV as the pinnacle of professional golf, which is what they desperately need to happen if they’re to sell these franchises as commercial entities, which is the only way this thing approaches profitability. But if that’s not the goal, and the goal is to put on fun events, then in that regard, they thrived this past week.
As far as the international round questions go, yes, it would make sense for LIV to continue to capitalize on underserved golf markets. The problem is, Australia is the best example of this and it’s not really close. They’ve gone to other places that don’t get to host PGA Tour events—namely, Saudi Arabia and this week, Singapore—and they’re not magically met with that type of electric crowd. An Australia-based tour would surely draw huge crowds and local attention, but is that enough to offset the billions of dollars spent? I’m skeptical. The United States is the largest golf market in the world by a wide margin, and will U.S. based players—meaning, the Americans and most of the Europeans—want to play an Australia/Asia-based tour?
How was the overall Masters experience with Barstool? -@breilly11
It was excellent, thanks for asking. One of my biggest questions about making the jump to Barstool would be getting the same type of access I got before. The PGA Tour has been more than accommodating with me since the move. I have the same credential I had before, I get called on in press conferences with the same frequency, and they’ve been very helpful in facilitating interviews and content for us. They absolutely get the way media is moving. Augusta, though? That was the real question. Would the Masters have a similar understanding?
After my first Barstool Masters, I can confidently say the answer is yes. I had multiple Augusta members tell me how happy they are to see Barstool represented at the biggest golf tournament in the world, and I had no issues with any of the ANGC staff all week. If anything, I think the players are even more willing to talk/collaborate on projects because they understand our mission in the game.
From an x’s and o’s perspective, it was, however, quite different from what I did at Digest. Back then, the gig was writing articles every day. I was one of five-plus writers on the ground, so there was some competition for stories, and the goal was to find a narrow angle that others weren’t writing on. This time, I was the only guy covering the event from a journalistic standpoint at my company, so I approached the week as: What will people find interesting, and how can I deliver it to them in ways they enjoy consuming it? When you go to journalism school and come up in an old-school media ground, you subconsciously begin to view written articles as the pinnacle of storytelling. But that’s not how things work these days—videos get way more views than articles do because people like watching them. That’s the market, and I wouldn’t be so arrogant to believe I know or have the right to tell people how they want to consume content. So I tried to bring that same storytelling to different mediums. It’s been fun navigating a new media environment, and I do believe that the content will only continue to improve as I learn what you guys like and prefer.
Any news on Daniel Berger? -@RichardGold1
Just checked in with his team again, and the word is that he’s dealing with a back injury but had recently gotten the ok to resume full practice and is eying a May or June return. Of all the members of that iconic 2021 U.S. Ryder Cup team, he’s the one who’s dropped the farthest in terms of relevance, and it’s a huge bummer to have to deal with back injuries at such a young age. Just ask Will Zalatoris.
L.A. Country Club final score range? -@Phkeane
It’s extremely weather dependent. It always is, but this one even more so—L.A. Country Club’s North Course is a phenomenal layout and a joy to play, but prior to the USGA’s takeover of the event, it wasn’t known around Southern California as one of those courses that’s ready for a major championship tomorrow. It’s not Oakmont or Bethpage Black in that way. They have made significant tweaks to the course—namely, pinching in the very-wide fairways and letting the Bermuda rough grow long enough that the balls just sink to the bottom. The green complexes are dramatic and diabolical, and if the fairways become so firm that hitting them becomes a challenge, it can hold its own as a U.S. Open test. But if there’s rain before or during the week, or the course plays soft, I think we could well absolutely see double digits under par. Now, I’m confident the course will pop on television, and the image of those rolling hills with the L.A. skyline in the backdrop make for drone-footage pornography. And the USGA will, as they always do, try their best to keep scoring around par. But if mother nature doesn’t cooperate, we’re going to see a lot more birdies than we’re used to at U.S. Opens.
Do you think LIV will ever be able to generate their own superstar? Or will they have to continue to get guys who become stars out on tour first? —@BobinSC7
It’s a great question, and it comes back to a more philosophical quandary about the “ecosystem.” Because the PGA Tour ecosystem is established it’s much easier for a star to emerge. Think Tom Kim—only hardcore fans knew who he was at this time last year, and now he’s a PIP-level star. The same thing is true for Cameron Young; he’s been close to winning so many big PGA Tour events, and we know what winning a PGA Tour event means. It’s much, much harder for LIV Golf to market a guy as a “star” when his playing privileges come from some business people deciding he deserved them. Eugenio Chacarra joined LIV Golf as the world’s No. 4 amateur and promptly won a tournament; had that happened on the PGA Tour it’d be a significant story: golf has a new superstar. With LIV Golf it’s like…what does this really mean?
Now, it’s not fair to expect LIV to have that ecosystem yet. The PGA Tour has decade of time on its side. But that’s absolutely one of the myriad challenges LIV faces: how to develop their own stars, rather than rely on the celebrity they’ve built on other tours to generate interest.
Looking ahead to the PGA championship. Will this be Spieths best chance yet to complete the career grand slam? -@chonesports
It certainly feels like a great chance, just because a top 10 player in the world has a great chance to win any tournament. Of course, a “great chance” in golf almost always means under 10 percent, but the T4-solo second back-to-back at the Masters and RBC Heritage give some credence to what Spieth’s been telling anyone who will listen: that his game feels as good as it has since 2017, and that he’s ready to start winning in bunches if he can avoid some of the mental/strategy errors he’s been making.
As far as Oak Hill goes, the course is going to look completely different to what we saw during Jason Dufner’s win in 2013. Andrew Green led a restoration that took out heaps of trees, and folks I’ve spoken to who have intimate knowledge of the course say the general consensus is that it’s gotten easier and plays more into bomber’s hands than the old treelined beast did. But it’s still got those Donald Ross greens. If I had to pick someone not named Scottie or Jon to win that event, right now I’d go with Cameron young. But the takeaway here is that Spieth is playing great, he’s still not 30 years old, and the odds of him eventually completing the career Grand Slam look pretty good.
Do you believe Norman on several name players want to join LIV? —@dudeleyshank
Yes and no. I do believe that agents for “name players” (which is a really loose term, for what it’s worth) are maintaining an open dialogue with LIV. There are certainly guys out there who would gladly take the inflated checks LIV was handing out throughout 2022. And agents are doing their job by presenting commercial opportunities to their products, even if some might be slightly clouded in their guidance as they’d get a percentage of LIV deals that they don’t get with PGA Tour paychecks.
But word on the street is that the offers before this season weren’t in the same ballpark as they were for the last, which makes sense—they were always going to overpay the first guys to jump to incentivize to jump. Now there’s a much greater emphasis on financial sustainability, so there are definitely players who want a number offer that isn’t likely to come. From a purely logistical standpoint, no players are joining LIV until after its season wraps up this fall, and after the PGA Tour’s season is over. But I also think the PGA Tour has done admirable work in quickly reshaping their organization to where now, it’s not such a financial imbalance between the two organizations—especially after LIV has dialed back their offers a bit. Next year will mark the true beginning of the PGA Tour’s designated event era. The cadence of them will be more evenly spread out, there’s no tying the PIP money to playing in them…it’s just a much, much more attractive tour to play on for the top guys than it was 24 months ago. As such, I think the incentives for going to LIV now are lower than they’ve ever been.
What’s the deal with Fitz chipping crosshanded? How long has that been going on?
It started off as an old, classic Pete Cowen drill. The legendary British instructor would have his guys do it to make sure the left wrist doesn’t drag the handle through impact, which leads to inconsistent contact in chipping. If you try chipping crosshanded, you’ll likely shank the first few, but if you can get it to the point where you’re hitting it cleanly, chipping normally will feel wayyyyy easier.
And so Fitz was doing it as a drill then noticed that he might be doing the drill better than he actually chips. So, in proper Matt fashion, he ran a statistical analysis test in practice where he hit a bunch of chips normally and then a bunch crosshanded. Eventually he determined that the results with cross-handed are better, so he decided to use it in competition starting in the tail end of 2021. He’ll use it up to about 30 yards and has flirted with extending it further—the problem is it’s harder to create speed that way, and it’s also harder to get a bunch of spin on the ball. So, if he’s got a 50 yard shot that needs to sauce on it, the crosshanding is unlikely to work.
At what point does LIV prove World Golf Rankings are justified? -@thedapperbricks
Have they not already? LIV’s strong showing in the Masters was the final straw for me; I just can’t see how an entity who’s mission is to rank professional golfer continues to ignore the tour where three of the top-six finishers in the Masters play. I know what the argument on the other side is: that there are clear criteria, and that LIV either doesn’t meet them or the OWGR hasn’t decided yet whether they meet them. It’s the argument undergirding the “should guys playing a member guest have world rankings points?” But it’s also, like, come on. Let’s be reasonable people here. The OWGR’s job is to properly communicate what’s happening in professional golf; it’s not professional golf’s job to cater to the OWGR. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Between that, and the legal headaches/accusations of collusion that would follow a decision not to give them points, I fully expect LIV Golf to offer world ranking points at some point in the future. And I think the majority of players, even those most vociferously against LIV Golf and have no interest in joining, agree with that sentiment.
Can you tell if pga would ever enforce any rules around speed other than when out of position? Anything controlling the first groups of the day? #cantplay cant be the future, it actually makes the product worse. -@TeroLaine
That was Patrick Cantlay’s defense—that his groups were never actually out of position and weren’t warned. He’s right. And this is what I’ve been saying ad nauseum: it’s not the players’ job to play faster; it’s the tour’s job to make them play faster. The issue is “time par,” which is the tour’s way of enforcing pace-of-play policy, is just way too slow. After complaints about the 5 hour, 15 minute final round at the RBC Heritage, a PGA Tour rules official told a friend that they wanted the guys to play closer to 4 hours and 50 minutes. For a threesome! The official also cited the “very real pressure” as something contributing to the slowness, which I find a bit disrespectful to the thousands of professional golfers who’ve played on tour. As if the pressure wasn’t real when they were playing? Sure, there’s more money now, but nothing has substantively changed in golf enough to justify that horrible pace of play.
But…and it’s a sizable but…I’m not sure anything’s going to change. Pissing off PGA Tour players is a tricky business these days, with another tour happily willing to provide their services, and ratings are up across the board. The one saving grace golf has vis a vis slow play is there are a bunch of guys playing at once, at least until the very end on Sunday. Theoretically, if one’s playing extremely slow, the broadcast can simply flip to another player. Baseball doesn’t have that luxury. If a game is taking forever, that’s the only thing option the fans in person and watching at home. And baseball ratings and attendance were down, so they instituted a shot clock that’s receiving rave reviews. But golf ratings are up, and there are so many players to watch. Maybe I’m just awfully jaded, but I don’t expect anything to happen.
Having not played competitive golf for some time, how are you going to mentally “shift gears” for the Mid Am to get back into the tournament mind state? —@_ryankelly
For those who don’t follow me on social media…I teased a video series called “Making the Mid Am.” The concept is pretty simple: I, a slightly-better-than-scratch player, train like a PGA Tour professional to try to pick up those two or three shots needed to get back to the competitive amateur level and qualify for the U.S. Mid Amateur at Sleepy Hollow, the premier amateur event open to guys 25 and over (because the U.S. Amateur is really just a glorified college tournament and I have precisely zero chance competing against those future PGA Tour pros).
I’ve not played much competitive golf recently, but I did play in a few one-day qualifiers last year. I didn’t have a practice round for either, nor did I practice (I hardly ever practice as my home club doesn’t have a driving range and is a solid hour each way from my apartment) and I shot +4 in the U.S. Open local qualifier and +3 in the Met Amateur qualifier. It’s just a few shots here and there, and part of the reason I’m doing this series is it’ll force me to actually prepare and try to get better in a way I haven’t in over a decade. The Mid-Am qualifier I signed up for is a Knickerbocker Country Club in New Jersey, the same place I shot +4 in the U.S. Open local qualifier, so I know the course a bit. And I’m making an effort to get back there closer to the event for a proper practice round. Oh, and I’m going to practice. I am. I really am. As you might be able to tell, I’m trying to convince myself.
I think PGA is at a good place. Obviously LIV was going to have a good showing in Australia. The women’s game needs a spark. Crowds were sad out there. What needs to be done? —@monomoro
Yeah, it didn’t look to be a great atmosphere at Carlton Woods for the final round of the Chevron, which did provide a highly compelling finish with the Lilian Vu-Angel Yin playoff. There are a few reasons why: while a perfectly good golf course, no one is going to tune it to watch Carlton Woods, a pretty flat and visually uninspiring golf course. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is at the newly redesigned Baltusrol Lower later this year, and the U.S. Open is at Pebble Beach, so that should go a long way toward drawing in viewers. But more importantly: the women’s game needs stars. So many tuned in to the Augusta National Women’s Am to watch Augusta National, of course, but also to watch Rose Zhang. She’s a star. And so is Nelly Korda, now once agains the No. 1 player in the world after a top-five finish at the Chevron. She has all the potential to be an absolutely massive superstar, but that’ll only happen once she starts winning in bunches. She has one major, which she won in 2021, and has won just one LPGA event since November 2021.
That’s obviously not a knock on her; but, if we’re being honest, the women’s game is very star-driven at the minute. Either the course needs to be the star, or a player or two does. This weekend didn’t really have either after Nelly couldn’t make a putt all weekend…until, of course, one finally fell at the last for an eagle that almost saw her sneak in to the playoff. That’s golf for you.
That whole deal with the shuttles on the KFT is ridiculous. I always hate when something other than golf affects the end result…especially when it means so much to these guys. This seems like an easy one to not enforce if things are as they seem. What are your thoughts? —@Canada_Warbler
I agree. For those unfamiliar—and all credit goes to Monday Q Info and Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine for uncovering the details—a pretty bizarre rules scenario played out in this week’s Korn Ferry Tour even, the Lecom Suncoast Classic in Florida. Three players—Wilson Furr, Alejandro Tosti and Mason Andersen—were addressed two-shot penalties for riding a shuttle between the 18th hole and the first hole. They had finished their front nine, and a car was sitting idle next to the 18th green, so they assumed it was there for that purpose: to shuttle them to the first tee. Making matters more complicated, the tournament did provide shuttle transportation from the clubhouse to No. 1 and No. 10 tees, and between No. 7 green and No. 8 tee, but not between No. 18 and No. 1. But this shuttle wasn’t supposed to be there—the tournament said it had stopped next to 18 green because guys were putting and he didn’t want to disturb them, not because he was supposed to drive anyone anywhere—and, under Model Local Rule G-6, taking an unauthorized shuttle during competition results in a two-shot penalty. The players said they checked with the driver to make sure everything was kosher, and he said it was, but they were penalized nonetheless.
Furr especially paid the price, as the penalty caused him to miss the cut, and he’s now unlikely to get more KFT starts for the rest of the year as the reshuffling of priority happens shortly and he’s at No. 148 in points. Turns out another group, including Boo Weekley, was also penalized.
I generally err on the rules-are-rules side of things. Golf is a game of complicated and often nebulous rules, but our collective commitment to following them is the bedrock for competition. But this one…man. There has to be a clause in the rulebook that allows a tournament referee some sort of discretion when handing out penalties. Intent has to matter. It matters in every other sport. Obviously, Furr shouldn’t be treated different than anyone else given his points situation, but in highly specific instances like these, where the infraction didn’t impact play in any significant way, there’s gotta be some wiggle room for a human being to step in and say, ok, he didn’t mean to, let’s use this as a learning experience and move on.
One or the other. Be able to play golf the rest of your life or report on golf the rest of your life? Can’t do both. —@JonSpoelhof
I’d choose playing, and it’s not close. I think one of the neat parts of the golf media ecosystem is that so many of us are absolutley obsessed with playing the game. It allows me to relate to players in a deeper way. Plus, I don’t see myself doing the golf media thing forever. There will be another chapter, eventually. But playing golf with my dad, with my pals, with (hopefully and eventually) my son? That’s forever.
Any explanation for Rory’s missing the Heritage yet? —@eddydsays
Nothing at all. A few different PGA Tour sources said he didn’t provide Ponte Vedra with any explanation, which is why he’s likely to not see that final $3 million from the PIP. I asked a top-50 player on Monday morning whether Monahan had communicated to them how he’d be handling the situation, because a few quotes from Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele from last week’s Zurich suggested they’re a bit frustrated by his silence. The response: “Haha, no. Not a peep.” I expect he’ll be asked about it at next week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
Until next week,