Sunday will see a line drawn under the most memorable season in PGA Tour history, if not the tumult that rendered it so. At best, there’ll be a brief respite before the next announcement of defectors to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit. When it comes, it will closely resemble those that have preceded it: an accomplished player window-dressed with dross, whose bank accounts will soon be more impressive than their trophy cases ever promised to be.
The anticipated departure of Cameron Smith is the biggest coup LIV has managed and, as a fishing buddy of Tour brass, one sure to be keenly felt. The names alongside Smith’s will serve only to underline the uncomfortable reality that mediocrity pays awfully well on the PGA Tour, even for the perpetually winless. The most familiar among them might be Cameron Tringale, but only because he’s followed almost everyone on Twitter. As of Saturday, that number is 29,458, an almost incalculable multiple of the crowd he’s ever likely to draw through the turnstiles. Somewhere in Greg Norman’s conscience (stifle thy snorts!) he must dread a day when the Crown Prince Googles the achievements of the players for whom he is paying spectacularly over market value.
What distinguishes LIV’s next announcement from priors is the context provided this week at the Tour Championship. The vision outlined by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan seems to have bought, for now, the loyalty of all but one of the world’s top 15 players, so it will be difficult for even LIV’s most ardent apologists to characterize any signings as genuine momentum, even allowing for Smith.
While many particulars need to be penciled in on the future Monahan outlined, one component represents a windfall for fans: seeing the best golfers in the world compete against each other much more frequently than they do now—at least a dozen times every season, outside of major championships. A guaranteed product—knowing who’s playing, where and when—is momentous for fans and sponsors, but there’s much still to do if the commish is to secure the long-term viability of what he has promised.
Presenting Monahan with a wish list for the future feels like asking Santa for a gift when he just emptied his sleigh with the rich kid next door, but there are issues that demand his attention. Safeguarding the talent pipeline, for one. Seeing two college stars—U.S. Amateur champion James Piot and Eugenio Chacarra—sign with LIV should have triggered alarm bells in Ponte Vedra. Offering the best and brightest access only to developmental tours won’t cut it. The world’s best amateurs must be fast tracked onto the PGA Tour. (Talent being groomed on the Korn Ferry Tour would benefit from even a small subsidy to offset the cost of competing on a circuit where the average prize money this season is less than $70,000.)
The PGA Tour must also eschew insularity. The alliance with the DP World Tour can’t be neglected. On Wednesday, Monahan said the PGA Tour events being accorded “elevated” status are domestic. Tally up those weeks along with majors and it leaves precious little time for top players to compete outside the U.S. Conceding the global stage to LIV would be poor strategy, and the PGA Tour needs to boost key stops on the DP World calendar too.
Perhaps most importantly, Monahan must prevent the PGA Tour from becoming LIV-lite, cushioning elite players with an extensive roster of no-cut events. It’s clear that good performances will earn lavish rewards—heck, even middling play pays well—but the Tour can’t lose the penalty for poor showings. The highs and lows of meaningful competition ought to be preserved. There is sufficient guaranteed money in what has already been announced, and fans deserve to see their favorites stress-tested for a pay check. Someone needs to slam their trunk on Friday. The $120,000 LIV pays for DFL is a subject of mockery and disgust. The same perception can’t be permitted to take root on the PGA Tour with an over-reliance on no-cut formats in those elevated tournaments for stars.
The announcements this week will elevate transparency from wishful thinking to a necessity. For example, it remains unclear what tournament eligibility, if any, will be tied to the controversial Player Impact Program through which ‘top’ players will in part be identified. Let’s have clarity on the metrics used to calculate the PIP and how they’re weighted, and make public the monthly standings currently given to players. Don’t stop there when it comes to transparency. Dump the ingrained culture of secrecy and be candid on disciplinary issues. It’s information sports fans now expect, especially gamblers the Tour is eager to cultivate. The Tour needs to understand that its reputation isn’t tethered to its most unmoored members (less coddling might have left the certifiable inner circle of one player less emboldened to pursue frivolous litigation).
What momentum that exists in the unremitting battle for the future of professional golf seems now to be on the side of the PGA Tour. Understandably, much of the movement we’ve seen has focused on rewarding the loyalty of its top players. In the coming weeks and months, it would be fitting if the loyalty of its fans saw greater benefits too.
Now, about this staggered scoring system at the Tour Championship …
Source : Golf Week