Let The Model Local Rules Begin!
Bifurcation begins Thursday. Plus, key major dates in 2022, Rahm and Thomas go deep, Masters patrons get good news, Tweets, Reads and a YouTube archival find in this week's Major(s) News & Notes.
Days to the 2022 Masters first tee shot: 93
Days to the 2022 PGA Championship first tee shot: 133
Days to the 2022 U.S. Open first tee shot: 161
Days to the 2022 Open Championship first tee shot: 190
Welcome to 2022’s first news and notes where I look at some big-time, First Team All-Conference worth bifurcation kicking in this week. Then there is Jon Rahm’s off-season reset, Justin Thomas on the different Brooks Koepka he saw in majors, 2022’s key major championship dates, Masters patrons are getting some good news and Pete Bevacqua on the USA Network strategy. Plus, Tweets, Reads and this being January 6th, it means we’re nearing the one-year anniversary of…The Quadrilateral’s unveiling.
Bifurcation Arrives As A Pair Of Model Local Rules
The B word used to be mocked for being too lawyerly. Too confusing. Not cool. Just weird sounding. But as more recreational golfers see some sensibility in elite players playing by a few different rules than everyone else, the B word is only toxic to manufacturers addicted to selling us what the pros play.
The USGA and R&A have resisted bifurcating the Rules of Golf over the inevitable complications caused by two sets of rules. And maybe they’ve been understandably concerned about what a stark split would do to their relevance. The PGA Tour has, other than a decent number of player hissy fits reinforced with empty threats, understood the headaches involved with creating their own playing rules. The three Commissioners have brought different approaches to rules issues:
Deane Beman sought to ban “U” grooves to protect skill he saw diminished by square grooves.
Tim Finchem largely deferred to the governing bodies but also scared them away from enforcing brand-damaging stuff like slow play.
Jay Monahan backed his players when they struggled with the revamped rules three years ago and at one time indicated opposition to equipment regulation that might kill the athleticism marketing narrative.
When the calendar turned to 2022, the term “Model Local Rule” became a less threatening way of saying good players will now play by some different standards than the rest of us. This week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions (6-10 pm ET Thursday-Sunday on Golf Channel) will give us the first glimpse of what golf rules bifurcation could look like and maybe pave the way for more. Setting a cap on driver length and green reading materials could prove huge when the conversation turns to restoring a balance between power and overall skill.
While the professional game has invoked a few local rules over the years, none are quite like what we’ll see starting Thursday in Hawaii. The “one-ball” local rule used by all majors and tours except the PGA Championship, marks the biggest departure from the every day game. It even caused all sorts of bickering at one time. But now there is no need to pull out a Pinnacle on the par-5’s to gain an advantage since pros all lay a softer Pinnacle these days. And eat boatloads of steamed kale.
Last year, the PGA of America allowed distance measuring devices in their championships to speed up and grow the game. This local rule will achieve neither goal and embarrassingly, was not supported by the PGA Tour.
But this week’s changes deliver a monumental line of demarcation in two ways: the two-inch difference in driver shaft maximum length is designed by the governing bodies to get ahead of a players going to 48-inch drivers. And a local rule on what kind of information players can access on the greens was the idea of some leading players after the governing bodies could not go all the way and eliminate the painful over-reliance on arrow-filled cheat sheets to read putts.
In a document prepared for players with the full support of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, the green book ban’s rationale was clear:
“The purpose of this Model Local Rule is to return to a position where players and caddies use their skill and judgment, along with any information gained through experience, preparation and practice to read the line of play on the putting green.”
That’s a pretty big deal. Especially since the green reading rule could impact the play of those hooked on the books. There could also be monitoring issues for the rules staff as players adapt to the local rule. A worst-case scenario could see a player accuse another of using disallowed books or topography info copied from a banned source.
Yet somehow over at Kapalua during the course of seven per-tournament press conferences, only two players were asked about the changes.
“I'm not too worried but I'm sure a lot of other guys that really rely on it, they, you've got to find another way, right?” Collin Morikawa said in calling the rule change “fine”.
It took the PGA Tour’s on-site media official to ask Jordan Spieth about might be huge change for someone who has relied on the books. In the past Spieth has also admitted some of his best putting weeks were without green reading materials yet he’s continued to use them.
“I think that to me, putting you have to read it right, you have to put a stroke on it and you have to hit it with the right speed,” he said. “I thought with the green reading materials it took one of those three skills away from it and I think that it's a skill that I would say is an advantage of mine. And so I'm excited to see what it can mean as far as strokes gained compared to the field on the greens.”
I, too, am excited to see what it means both for the restoration of skill and precedent set.
Rahm On His Reset
Seven majors were played over the course of 2020-21 and in that 346-day span, Jon Rahm went T13-T23-T7-T5-T8-1-T3. Consistency contending in a wild and crazy year for Rahm finally caught up to him.
Rested and ready for this week’s return, Rahm explained how making sure a club switch from Taylormade to Callaway added to his stress. Speaking before this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua:
It was from June of 2020, right, it was a lot of golf to be played, I ended up getting two wins, played really good golf in majors, finished the Masters in November. And then right away, when everybody has time off, I basically flip, change manufacturers and work harder than I've ever worked, right?
I did not want changing clubs to really be an excuse, so I did a lot of work with that, played great during the year and then from Memorial on happens what happens, right? I get my moments with COVID, became a dad, won a U.S. Open, played amazing golf and then played a great Ryder Cup. [1-2-0 record in Europe’s 19-9 loss.]
So when that Ryder Cup was over, I was drained for the previous year and a half. Not only the last four months but the previous year and a half.
And after I went to Spain and finished playing, I just, I needed a break. Not only for me but also for my family. We all endured it together and I just wanted the time to be a dad and be a husband and just be there for my wife and my son.
Justin Thomas On Brooks In Majors Vs Regular Events
Also speaking at Kapalua before the Sentry TOC, Thomas discussed what he saw of Brooks Koepka in 2021’s majors.
“What Brooks does in majors is unbelievable, I think. I mean, I played with him in two of the majors last year and I also played with him in a lot of other events and it just was unbelievable the difference, it seems like, the level of his game versus, I hate to call it say a regular event and a major, but it truly was. It just was the mistakes were so minimal, the clutch par saves, the one wayward shot. It's just everything that seemed like kind of went like this (Indicating) in a regular event just got done like this (Indicating) in a major and it was extremely impressive to watch and pretty inspiring, to be honest.”
After a missed cut at the 2021 Masters where an injured Koepka made a valiant effort to even play, he then went T2-T4-T6 in the PGA, U.S. Open and The Open. That raised his record to 12 top 10’s in 30 majors played.
In the last three years covering a total of 11 majors, Koepka played 10 and finished and recorded seven top-10’s with a win and three second places finishes.
2022’s Key Major Dates
In just 192 days we’ll have four more men’s major winners and in 213 days, five women’s champions. If I were more technically proficient there would be a downloadable .ics file here. Instead, you get Emojis and the key dates with notes when necessary:
📖 January 6th - Sentry Tournament of Champions round one featuring two important “Model Local Rules” enacted by the PGA Tour: limits on driver length and green reading materials. (More on this below.)
📰 January 7th - Major USGA Championship Announcement. Set for New York City with three generations of female USGA champions and CEO Mike Whan, this may involve U.S. Women’s Open purse or sponsorship news.
🇺🇸🆚🇸🇦 February 3rd - AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am/Public Investment Fund Saudi International Powered by SoftBank Investment Advisors (PIFSIPSIA) first rounds. The clash of the PGA Tour and the “Asian Tour” events that for many of us they’ll always be the Crosby and the Bonesaw.
🌴 March 10th - The Players Championship round one.
🙍♀️ March 31st - Chevron Championship round one. This will be the final playing in Rancho Mirage after 51 years with a move to Houston and a late April date.
🌸 April 7th - The Masters round one.
🏌🏼♂️May 3rd - Distance proposals likely. This springtime Tuesday after the USGA/R&A’s six-month comment period conveniently falls during a quiet week on the calendar. Perfect timing for an announcement.
⛳️ May 19th - PGA Championship round one at Southern Hills. This venerable hosts of seven previous majors returns to the national spotlight and we’ll get to see how its Perry Maxwell restoration plays (no offense to the 2021 Kitchenaid Senior PGA.)
🌲 June 2nd - U.S. Women’s Open round one at Pine Needles Lodge. This beloved site will host its fifth U.S. Women’s Open since 1996, but first since Kyle Franz’s significant restoration of pine scrub and other elements.
🇺🇸 June 6th - U.S. Open Final Qualifying, various sites
🇺🇸 June 16th - U.S. Open round one at The Country Club in Brookline. The Gil Hanse restoration will be on display in TCC’s first U.S. Open since 1988.
🏛 June 23rd - KPMG Women’s PGA Championship opening round at revamped Congressional. After Andrew Green’s Devereux Emmet-inspired renovation, the longtime tournament host might not be unrecognizable if not for its distinctive clubhouse.
🏴 July 7th - Genesis Scottish Open at Renaissance Club opening round. The first ever PGA Tour/European Tour co-sanctioned event features 73 players from each tour and will provide the last tune-up for…
🇬🇧 July 14th - The Open Championship round one at The Old Course.
🇫🇷July 21st - Amundi Evian Championship round one. It was made a major in case you tried to forget.
🏴 August 4th - The AIG Women’s Open Championship at Muirfield. The first significant R&A event at the East Lothian links since 2013 and inaugural women’s championship at the once famously all-male club.
🏆 September 23rd - The Presidents Cup day one at Quail Hollow.
Masters Patrons Get Good News
Normally this is not big news. But given restricted attendance of the last two years, the notification marks a return of normal capacity. (At least for the four tournament days). And to keep your calculators tucked away, that’s an average daily price of $93.75. Parking, a really neat “Spectator Guide” and an epic experience are also included.
Bevacqua Talks Up USA Network
Former PGA of America CEO and current NBC Sports President Pete Bevacqua talked to CT Insider about December 31’s closing of NBC Sports Network. The Q&A seemed more about highlighting Comcast’s Connecticut ties to rationalize millions in tax subsidies while presenting a vision for USA Network. Currently known best as the place for Law and Order reruns and pro wrestling, it’s where American cable and YouTubeTV subscribers will now find first, second and early weekend coverage of the U.S. Open and Open Championship. Bevacqua explains:
The idea of creating this super channel in USA Network that is entertainment and sports and how that could position us for success over the next decade and beyond became a really intriguing proposition. It has an unbelievable entertainment portfolio, and now you put things on top of that to add to the WWE (programming on USA). You think about (English) Premier League (soccer), NASCAR, some of the unbelievable golf coverage. And you have this unbelievable proposition that should appeal to a very broad audience.
Unbelievable does describe 2021’s disjointed major coverage. But maybe this year will be better.
In the same sensational issue of Los Angeles Magazine, Rebekah Brandes considers how Andrew Frame’s Citizen app is turning every city into Gotham. If you live in one of the cities where this sci-fi app works, let’s just say your ham radio-operating, police scanner-monitoring weird Uncle will be very, very jealous.
And finally, thanks to Adam Lawrence for spotting this fun ten minutes featuring Tony Jacklin vs. Dave Marr reenacting the first Open at Prestwick by playing the Alps with hickories. There is some peak Henry Longhurst announcing, too. Enjoy!
Yes folks, The Quad started a year ago at this time and 198 editions later, I can’t wait for 2022 to get going. Depending on when you signed up, you’ll get a warning email regarding year-long subscription renewals along with a preview of what’s to come. You will be renewed at the price you paid, so current Quadrilateralorians will not be subjected to a slight price increase starting Sunday, January 9th, The Quad’s first anniversary. (The price will go to $54 for the year or $6 a month while remaining $150 for an extra-generous subscription that comes with a gift to a fellow golfer).
If you’re between jobs or a student and want to keep reading but can’t manage the cost right now, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll figure something out. And to the free subscribers, you’ll continue to get the weekly notes edition plus previews of other editions.
Thank you again to all who signed up and helped me hit my first year goal of paid subscribers. Your support allows for a golf reading experience free of cookie-requests/autoplay video/spon-con/Jupiter stories and general fluff. Wait, that was all very redundant.
Anyway, I’d still love to get more subscribers so forwarding The Quad to like-minded golfers is encouraged and appreciated. Happy New Year,