Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss Scottie Scheffler’s dominating Players Championship victory, Jay Monahan’s state-of-the-union press conference and more.
Scottie Scheffler cruised at the Players Championship, winning the PGA Tour’s marquee event by five to claim his sixth career Tour victory. What was more shocking to you: Scheffler’s winning margin, or the fact that a handful of stars — Rory McIlroy (MC), Jon Rahm (WD), Justin Thomas (T60), etc. — weren’t in the mix, making this the least-star-studded leaderboard of all the designated events so far?
James Colgan, news and features editor (@jamescolgan26): In some odd way, I think this is the leaderboard the PGA Tour wanted. Between the top-five leaderboard finishers — Scheffler, Min Woo Lee, Viktor Hovland, Tom Hoge and Hideki Matsuyama — the Tour had the (new) World No. 1, two international superstars, a rising star on the cusp of Special Temporary Membership and a long-time member of the Tour establishment. For all the flak the schedule changes received earlier this week, that sampling ain’t half-bad!
Jack Hirsh, assistant editor (@JR_HIRSHey): It may not have looked like it for a while there, but the leaderboard actually turned sneaky good toward the end. Tyrrell Hatton (World No. 24) finished 2nd, Viktor Hovland (11th) tied for 3rd, Hideki Matsuyama (23rd) was 5th, Max Homa (7th) tied for 6th, etc. Of course that’s not including the World No. 2 (now No. 1) winning. So I’m not really shocked McIlroy, Rahm and Co. weren’t involved because this is golf — you can’t own it, you can only rent it. Not even peak Tiger finished top 10 every week (OK, maybe he did, but none of these guys are peak Tiger). The best players were in the hunt this week, just not the same ones from every tournament. I guess I’m surprised how quickly Scheffler turned a tight leaderboard into a snoozefest over the last six holes.
Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): For a tournament known for being unpredictable, the Players sure has a habit of delivering right on script. By now, we know we can pretty much count on a few surprise contenders and a few surprise missed cuts. And, as often as not, for a big name to come away the winner. It happened again this year. Nothing shocking (though, yeah, the winning margin was wide for an event that tends to go down to the wire). Maybe the surprising part is that we keep talking about the Players as some kind of random-victory generator.
Scheffler, who now joins Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only pros to hold Players and Masters titles at the same time, won with the biggest winning margin on Tour so far this year. What does it say about his game that he was able to pick apart TPC Sawgrass like he did?
Colgan: It says that right now, Scheffler is the best player in the world, full-stop. Jon Rahm might have higher peaks than him, and Rory McIlroy might have longer stretches of dominance, but neither of them have Scheffler’s inevitability. Goodness, that’s a superpower.
Hirsh: Judging anything off a win at TPC Sawgrass is tough for me, because no one really plays consistently there. Last year, amid his dominant run, Scheffler finished 55th and that was after a MC the year before. That said, his ball-striking was spectacular all week, with the exception of a few double crosses here and there. He was No. 1 in strokes gained: tee to green this week, but was just 48th in putting. Despite his driving prowess, his short game is probably Scheffler’s greatest strength, so to win with “average” putting shows just how well he’s hitting it. His coach Randy Smith said this was the best he’d ever seen him hit it.
Sens: The power off the tee. The dead-eye iron game. The surgeon’s touch. We’ve seen that all from Scheffler. What continues to stand out is how relaxed he looks doing it. And how short a memory he seems to have. Last time he held a big lead, at East Lake, he squandered it. Clearly, it didn’t traumatize him. Just listen to the way he talks about the game. This is a guy who has got the golf/life balance thing down.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke to the media on Tuesday at the Players, going deep on the Tour’s new designated events plan for 2024, LIV Golf, TV deals and lots more. What was your biggest takeaway or learning from Monahan’s time with the press?
Colgan: That the PGA Tour business is better than it’s looked at times during the last 12 months. Monahan projected confidence all week, and that speaks volumes about where his Tour is after last year’s “Legacy, Not Leverage” bit.
Hirsh: My biggest takeaway is that Monahan and the PGA Tour aren’t afraid to go against the status quo right now. Cuts have been a staple of the PGA Tour for years, and while there have always been certain no-cut events, this is the most drastic changing of the model ever. The Tour could have easily continued without drastic changes, but they’re going all-in to please the best players and I think this will lead to a better product.
Sens: That it’s all about protecting top talent right now. Everything else comes second, including fans. Does anyone watching really want more no-cut events?
The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club two weeks from now will be the final one, and Monahan was noncommittal about future match-play events on Tour. He said while there won’t be one in 2024, it will be in “consideration” going forward. Does the Tour need a regular match-play event on its schedule?
Colgan: Duh. Match-play golf is unquestionably the most fun golf to watch, and the PGA Tour is unquestionably a television product (Monahan’s commercial comments on Tuesday reinforced as much). It won’t take long for it to make too much sense.
Hirsh: Yes. We keep talking about how 72-hole stroke-play every week is tiring, so why are we getting rid of the only regular event that doesn’t use it? Not to mention match play is the most relatable format for golf viewers, since that’s what so many play at home. Gotta figure this one out.
Sens: Agreed, Jack. And it touches on a tension the Tour is up against: catering to its A-list players while also trying to create the best product for fans. Those two goals don’t always align.
One question kicked around last week was if LIV players should have a route back to the PGA Tour if they ever wanted to return. Max Homa had a strong opinion on the topic, while Monahan said he’s not interested in answering hypotheticals. But what’s your opinion? Is this something the Tour needs to consider, and what should its policy be?
Colgan: Its policy should be, “Welcome Home!” Earning back some of the bigger-name defectors from LIV would mark a death knell for the upstarts. And so long as those who return face some sort of suspension/fine, it seems more than fair to let them back in the club.
Hirsh: Our Sean Zak pointed this out, but Monahan publicly can’t reveal if there is a way back for LIV players because of the ongoing litigation. Privately though? I wouldn’t be shocked if they are preparing for players who might get buyer’s remorse. Lots of arguments both for and against their reinstatements, but if it were me (and I know this isn’t realistic) it would be a case-by-case basis. Someone like Harold Varner III would likely find a way back on the PGA Tour. But Phil Mickelson, who was actively working with the Saudi government to create LIV? Much tougher sell.
Sens: I think a LIV player with buyer’s remorse should be able to play his way back onto the Tour. And he should have to do so the same way everyone else earns their card: starting from scratch.
Netflix announced that “Full Swing” will be back for season two. Which player — not named Tiger Woods — would you like to see featured in this upcoming season that we didn’t see much of the first time around?
Colgan: Phil Mickelson. I’d love to know what life honestly looks like for him right now.
Hirsh: Could name a bunch of players here, but I’m shocked Max Homa, who participated in season one, didn’t get his own episode. His rise has been crazy since the start of this season in September and I really hope they captured his time at the Presidents Cup.
Sens: Good choices above. Though it won’t happen, I’d want Anthony Kim.
Read the full article here
Leave a Reply