Major(s) News & Notes, December 30th, 2021
Year-in-review roundup, PGA And Trump settle, 2021's toughest holes, '22's gambling advertising rush, and wrapping up The Quad's first season.
Days left in a year that cannot end soon enough: 2
Days to the 2022 Masters first tee shot: 100
Days to the 2022 PGA Championship first tee shot: 140
Days to the 2022 U.S. Open first tee shot: 168
Days to the 2022 Open Championship first tee shot: 197
You know what I love most about reading and listening to the various 2021 year-in-review efforts shared below? The inner peace and the unfettered joy in remember that people other than myself went to so much effort to recap the golf season so we don’t have to do that work.
Besides, this week’s news and notes had me too busy to reflect. We an almost epic Friday news dump settlement between the Trump Organization and the PGA of America, another unlikely win in Phil’s unlikely year, the toughest holes of 2021 (see I reflect!), even more gambling advertising expected in ‘22 and a Quad wrap.
But first, 2021 in review:
His last weekly notes column of 2021 checks in with Yuka Saso and Nelly Korda now that they’ve had time to reflect on their major wins. In Norda’s case, she had a chance to watch her Women’s PGA and Olympic gold medal replays.
And if you want to read about 2021 under one (digital) cover, Kyle Porter and illustrator Jason Page have produced A Normal Sport. Porter’s digital treatise refreshingly focuses on the wonderful, absurd and blissfully esoteric from a very bizarre year. It’s just $15 and you can order it here.
If listening is your preferred genre, The Shotgun Start’s Andy Johnson and Brendan Porath broke the year down into ten parts, while the NLU team went with a two-parter and at State of the Game, we mostly talked about the Sandbelt Invitational with a few year in review/preview moments. The Apple options are offered below and these can also be found wherever you subscribe:
Kumbaya! The PGA of America And Trump Settle Over 2022 PGA
Even with a Friday New Year’s Eve offering a prime two-for-one news dump special, the PGA Of America and the Trump Organization chose Tuesday to announce an undisclosed settlement.
What a heartwarming way to finish off this well-deserved nightmare of a partnership and breakup!
The statement came as a result of last January’s decision to vacate Trump Bedminster’s 2022 PGA in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection and effort to stop the peaceful transfer of power. That decision was, of course, made to help grow the game.
“It was a decision made to ensure the PGA of America and the PGA professionals can continue to lead and grow our great game for decades to come,” said PGA President Jim Richerson at the time.
Right. But based on the midweek statement and superlatives shared, the Trump Organization evidently had some leverage.
The PGA of America issued the following statement: “The Trump Organization’s contribution to the golf community is appreciated. We are thankful the company employs hundreds of dedicated PGA Professionals and consistently gives back to the golf community through hosting charitable events and sponsoring junior golf programs. As stated in 2014 when announced, Trump Bedminster is a major championship-worthy golf course and in a portfolio along with some of the finest private and public golf courses anywhere in the world.”
The “portfolio” reference along with the other superlatives would implicate that a certain needy and neurotic member of the Trump Org got himself some mandated faux flattery. We can only imagine how much money this settlement cost the PGA, or what the first draft sounded like, or what else was pledged to make the Trump’s bugger off.
On top of the lost PGA and damage to democracy, the insurrection also confirmed that Trump Turnberry has no chance of hosting The Open. At least, as long as the Trump Organization is attached.
For years the R&A has refused to rule it out of the rota while passing up the opportunity to return. But January finally clarified Turnberry’s future:
“We had no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future,” Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances.”
Note that he did not reiterate how Turnberry is a major-worthy course or that the Trump portfolio has some of the finest private and public courses anywhere. Leverage!
Phil’s PGA Win Continues To Pay Dividends, Or Did It?
PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson declared victory in the PGA Tour’s private Player Impact Program and also revealed why he’s turning up next week at Kapalua.
Mickelson Tweeted the above celebratory post two days before the calendar puts year one of the bonus pool out of its brand-degrading misery.
Despite recording just one top 10 against the under 50’s, Mickelson apparently propelled those four Champions Tour wins and his late-bloomer Twitter game to score that magical mix of Google searches, Meltwater mentions, MVP Index points, Nielsen scores and Q-rating strength. He edges Tiger Woods for the $8 million first place prize. Not bad for an old guy in what should be a young man’s game.
But is this captivating race really over? I believe this to be a serious Tweet from Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch, who initially broke the PIP story earlier this year:
Or maybe Phil’s premature celebration was a shrewd ploy to pad his lead before the “independent firm” potentially finds 11,780 likes friendly to Tiger?
These are the kind of ramifications the Tour is left to grapple with thanks to their cockamamie concoction.
Meanwhile, Collin Morikawa is a dream-demo Open Championship winner, dignified user of social media, and player-of-the-year candidate who will reportedly finish 11th and miss out on last place’s $3 million. Millennials rise up!
All of the PIP absurdity was best summed up by Robert Lusetich:
Toughest Holes Of 2021 Can’t Compare To Winged Foot
ShotLink’s breakdown of the PGA Tour’s 18 toughest holes is traditionally the easiest year-end list to digest. But with the silly “wraparound schedule” adding last fall’s U.S. Open and Masters into the mix, the ranking confuses but also highlights just how difficult Winged Foot played in 2020 compared to the 2021 major venues. And I know the members there will be thrilled with this simplest of simple life pleasures.
The West Course registered 12 of the top 50 holes on the 2020-21 schedule, including a stout five of the top 18.
By comparison, the 2021 Masters landed four on the top 50 list, while just one hole from the 2020 Masters made the top 50 (the fifth at 4.272 vs. 4.431 in 2021).
The PGA at Kiawah Ocean led this year’s majors with five holes in the top 50 to the U.S. Open’s three holes from Torrey Pines, while just one from Royal St George’s finished inside the top 50 toughest holes.
Taking Winged Foot off the list creates a more traditional calendar year ranking, but do note how Torrey Pines South’s 12th played slightly tougher in February’s Farmers Insurance Open than June’s U.S. Open (4.401 vs. 4.389).
2021’s toughest 18 holes on the PGA Tour (trophy emojis highlight ‘21 majors):
1. Kiawah (Ocean) 17th, Par 3, 3.531 🏆
2. Bay Hill 18th, Par 4, 4.464
3. Quail Hollow 18th, Par 4, 4.456
4. Augusta National 5th, Par 4, 4.431 🏆
5. Torrey Pines (South) 12th, Par 4, 4.401 (Farmers)
6. Augusta National 11th, Par 4, 4.399 (2021) 🏆
7. Torrey Pines (South) 11th, Par 3, 3.393 (U.S. Open)🏆
8. Kiawah (Ocean) 18th, Par 4, 4.391🏆
9. Torrey Pines (South) 12th, Par 4, 4.389 (U.S. Open)🏆
10. Corales GC 18th, Par 4, 4.375
11. Torrey Pines (North) 18th, Par 4, 4.366
12. TPC San Antonio 1st, Par 4, 4.363
13. Congaree GC 13th, Par 4, 4.361
14. Kiawah (Ocean) 14th, Par 3, 3.348🏆
15. Kiawah (Ocean) 15th, Par 4, 4.348🏆
16. Royal St George’s 15th Par 4, 4.342🏆
17. Port Royal GC 16th, Par 3, 4.339
18. Sedgefield CC 14th, Par 4, 4.322
If you’re looking for a breakdown of the toughest by hole number, GolfChannel.com’s Brentley Romine compiled a “TPC Impossible” composite course. The toughest possible course came out to a par-68, 7600+ layout featuring no par-5s and six par-4s over 500 yards.
Two major championships accounted for five of those holes, while the U.S. Open’s 12th at Torrey Pines finished second to the Farmer Insurance Open’s 12th at Torrey Pines:
5th – Augusta National
7th – Augusta National
11th – Augusta National
15th – Ocean Course at Kiawah
17th – Ocean Course at Kiawah
Media Companies To See Huge Sports Gambling (Ad) Rev In ‘22
The Information’s Shail Patel provides a necessary warning for sports viewers: expect even more sports betting advertising in 2022 (subscription required). He calls the spending “frenzied” as the various companies jockey for “scale” and new gamblers. The race may also cause some to buy media operations they’ve targeted for advertising (see Penn National’s 36% stake in Barstool Sports.)
Get your B-speak bingo boards out for this analysis…
“What’s gonna happen in the next few years is you’ll see a push by sportsbooks to get more efficient with their marketing spending,” said Raphael Poplock, senior vice president of business development and strategic partnerships for Bleacher Report, a sports media site owned by WarnerMedia. “There is a reason why a lot of these books are acquisitive, and it’s because they want to build their own ecosystem…and be less dependent on media companies to drive scale and audience.”
He was a “brand”, a “leverage” and an “aspirational” away from bingo.
As the story notes, betting margins are thin for these companies with “only about $6 for every $100 bet made” staying with the house. So the marketing spends are draining profits and “raising questions about how long this ad spending boom can last.” But the short term spending will be robust, with Turner Sports expecting more than $400 million in ad revenue from DraftKings and FanDuel over the next three years. Patel notes this as well:
Sports betting companies will spend $1.2 billion in the U.S. on marketing designed to sign up new customers in 2021, up from about $500 million last year, with that figure expected to grow to $2.1 billion next year, according to a top sports media and marketing investor. Such customer acquisition–focused marketing typically involves performance advertising, which is designed to get users to perform an action, such as downloading an app or clicking affiliate links within editorial content, leading to betting services.
Oh joy! Pray for my writing brethren who will have to help drive this revenue and get the blame when the bubble bursts.
So what does this mean for golf? I’ve lost track of the Tour’s various betting partnerships and certainly am not privy to how media deals work with the major organizations. But to date we’ve only seen Augusta National keep gambling ads off its surrounding broadcasts. Or maybe CBS, ESPN and Golf Channel just assume it’s wise too not poke a Green Coat until Fred Ridley’s seen playing the Laughlin slots and praising the joys of Pai Gow Poker. Call it wacky, but something tells me that’s not happening.
According to Sports Business Journal, the NFL has caved to gambling ads this year but restricted its partners to showing no more than one betting spot per quarter, one during the pregame, and one at halftime. Given golf’s Nuke LaLoosh approach to betting so far, don’t expect to see NFL-like restraint.
Well, it’s a wrap on the first year of The Quadrilateral. Faithful subscribers, you have no idea what a boost you gave me by signing up and reading during what was a brutal year where I lost my mom, Diane, to COVID after a 233-day stay in three hospitals. A year ago this week she was at UCLA Ronald Reagan during a six-week intensive care stay. She received the best possible care at the time but long before the various remedies now at our disposal. She passed away July 10th after an incredibly valiant fight and one too many setbacks.
Having this outlet during that time gave me the freedom to cover what I enjoy most and to do it in an evolving medium, the newsletter. It offered a welcome distraction during too many dark days, middle-of-the night calls and the grim reality of her bleak fate. My mom was a huge part of keeping my blog honest, grammatically sound (most days) and typo-light. I know she’d prefer the more dignified format of this newsletter and the restraint it instills, and she’d appreciate the kindness you displayed by signing up to this sight unseen.
Thank you for reading, supporting, gifting, commenting and especially to those who helped me start The Quad. And a special thank you to all of the health care workers of the world, but especially to the over 120 nurses and doctors I spoke to many times a day during my mom’s battle. You are all amazing.
My earnest hope is that we somehow enjoy a safer and much-improved 2022. Happy New Year,