Looming Questions Halfway Through 2022's Major Season
Jack, Howard, Nelly, Tiger, Phil, Brooks, Bryson, Brookline, Congressional, St Andrews, Portmarnock, Muirfield, Winged Foot, Riviera, Distance and plenty more on the rest-of-'22 radar.
From key players to courses to business news, the second half of 2022’s major season looks like it’s full of fascinating questions. However, not among the First World matters this Quadrilateral wonders about: the makeup of LIV Golf’s London field and how next week’s tournament might impact the U.S. Open just days later. For several days the expected field rollout has come and gone.
Who could have imagined there would be difficulty in assembling an aging field of egomaniacal types with its headliner in hiding?
Maybe Tuesday will be the day. But we have majors to focus on. Just some of the looming questions for the second half of 2022…
How ugly will Howard v Jack get? The details revealed within the complaint by Nicklaus Companies against Jack Nicklaus seem odd and oddly specific. Since Morning Read’s Alex Miceli broke the news, little has been said by the parties. The claim says Nicklaus sought some deals outside of his $145 million licensing arrangement with Howard Milstein. They included one with the Soudal Open promoter, another with EA Sports, and most explosive of all, with Golf Saudi. The suit turns farcical when Milstein’s lawyers suggest the company saved Nicklaus from risking “his goodwill and reputation in the sport of golf” from jumping in with the people starving children in Yemen, then laments the “commercial disaster” such a deal might have caused for Nicklaus Companies’ hopes of profiting from Saudi Arabia’s push into golf.
How much will Nicklaus say at the Memorial? He’s always generous with his time during the week at Muirfield Village, including at least two press sessions. Given his recent resignation from the Nicklaus Companies and next week’s LIV Invitational in London, Nicklaus might say less than normal. I’m pretty sure his attorney will endorse such an approach.
What will Nelly Korda say? The world No. 2 was coming off her first major vicotry and the Gold Medal in Tokyo. All signs pointed to a huge 2022 and budding rivalry with Jin Young Ko. But a blood clot sidelined Korda in early March and she’s finally returning at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open. The sport should be happy to have her back. But no matter what she says, the robust anti-vax contingent has been waiting to seize on any tidbit imaginable as evidence against the COVID-19 vaccine. She is set to appear Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. ET in the Pine Needles interview area.
Will the women dig Pine Needles? It’s a radical departure from the course played in 2007. But since most are seeing this Donald Ross gem and Kyle Franz’s rustic restoration for the first time, reviews should be positive. The record $10 million purse helps, too.
Where will Tiger and Phil play next? Camp Woods has been quiet since he WD’d after 54 in the PGA and subsequently flew to Van Nuys for a presumed doctor’s visit. Given his determination to play The Open at his favorite course, no one will be shocked if his next appearance is at the JP McManus pro-am and not the U.S. Open. As for Phil Mickelson, who knows what’s in store a year after earning a five-year exemption into the U.S. Open to accompany his lifetime exemptions into the Masters, PGA and Open. Sure, he might show up at The Country Club and St Andrews. But so might a bunch of folks he’s not ready to run into.
Aren’t we due for a Ouimet-like major winner? Consider. The men’s game features crazy money, plenty of parity and high-level play outside of the PGA Tour. It makes the U.S. Open’s democratically-assembled field overdue for a shocking contender and since we’re returning to the land of Francis Ouimet, an upset win. This century has featured just a few surprises based on the Official World Golf Ranking: Lucas Glover in 2009 (ranked 72nd) and Michael Campbell in 2005 (ranked 80th). The PGA Championship has had three winners outside the top 100 in that time (108th Keegan Bradley, 110th Y.E. Yang and 169th Shaun Micheel). The Open had the biggest stunner of the new millennium: Ben Curtis in 2003 (393rd).
How will players handle the glorious awkwardness found at The Country Club and Old Course? The Country Club features plenty of blind shots, unlevel stances and strange looks that today’s players are unaccustomed to. How will the modern modus operandi of rolling into town on Monday and taking a design crash course fare at venues where acclimation really helps?
Will Brookline’s Playoff Streak Continue? All three U.S. Open championships at The Country Club have been decided by an 18-hole playoff. Since the USGA ended the 18-holer in 2018, the U.S. Open has not needed the two-hole aggregate format. There has not been a playoff of any kind since 2008’s epic Tiger-Rocco duel. Speaking of Mediate, he just played a senior major in his post-Soul Cycle cool-down gear…