Major(s) News & Notes, June 30th, 2022
The Open nears and a key prognosticating angle surfaces. Plus, OWGR intrigue, the grim Ryder Cup future for LIVers, an Old Tom-channeling Old Course greenkeeper, and much more.
Days to the 2022 Open Championship first tee shot: 14
Days to the 2022 AIG Women’s Open first tee shot: 35
Busy days in major championship golf so I’m bypassing the preamble this week…
Guessing The Open Contenders Via Augusta National
Three majors into 2022 and season-long form has been rewarded in Augusta, Tulsa and Brookline. The quality venues and smart setups rewarded those playing the best golf. Miracles do happen. Weave in the disappearance of recent major contenders and young studs thriving under pressure, and it seems like this Open should be relatively simple to predict. (And as the folks at William Hill look forward to my cash donations in two weeks time.) Consider…
Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris and Justin Thomas have all the game necessary for links golf, seem to enjoy wind and firm conditions, and are thriving in major championships. They seem open-minded about what awaits at the Old Course with bagmen who’ve been there. It’s only a matter of whether they get their homework done. But bank on them contending barring a bad draw (Scheffler at the PGA).
The same goes for Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick who, if rested, should both show up ready to contend as they have most weeks this year. Recent stalwarts Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa ought to be ready, too. Though each has questions to answer based on recent major hiccups. Same with Jordan Spieth, who missed the 2015 Open playoff by a stroke. But all seem close enough to elite form that they deserve their place near the top of oddsmakers lists.
We’ll also have the inevitable Old Course horses who’ve shown they love the place during the Alfred Dunhill (Willett, Hatton, etc.).
Contending in this year’s Genesis Scottish Open will mean a late Sunday finish for American TV and a quick turnaround for Open week. Not sure I’m digging that with so many players unfamiliar with the complications of St Andrews.
But if you really want to find a contender without searching too hard, look to prior success at Augusta National.
Dave Tindall analyzed recent Open Championships at the Old Course and found a trend. (I’m honored that he was inspired by my Golf World story on the St Andrews-inspired design elements of Augusta National, a decade-old piece I elaborated on earlier this year in a Quad post.)
While the two courses seemingly have little in common, we know ANGC’s Old Course DNA conjures up similar strategic decisions. And dating back to Jack Nicklaus’ 1970 win, Tindall points out how seven of the last nine Open Champions at St Andrews had already won the Masters. Contending in Georgia has translated to contending in Old Course Opens, as he lays out in the piece. There was also this:
Starting from 1963, only three of the last 10 Open winners at St Andrews hadn't already tasted Masters glory.
However, Oosthuizen would go on to lose a playoff at Augusta National in 2012, 1995 Open winner John Daly was third at the 1993 Masters and Tony Lema was runner-up at the 1963 Masters before winning the Open a year later.
About That OWGR Board Meeting In St Andrews…
In his weekly notes column, AP’s Doug Ferguson details various issues facing Saudi Arabia’s LIV series in they hope to get world ranking points for their miserable band of bros. While OWGR points may not be important to older players who’ve had their shot and are just padding pockets, the points remain vital for any younger stars to earn access to major championships. (Judging by Matthew Wolff’s press conference remarks about longing to be back playing college golf, only a few LIVsters may care about playing majors.)
Ferguson points out why a schedule of limited-field 54-hole events will not qualify under rules:
One is that every tournament be contested over at least 54 holes with a 36-hole cut or be in line with eligible formats. LIV Golf has no cut.
The OWGR guidelines indicate a standard format of 72 holes, with 54 holes acceptable “for those tournaments earnings fewer than 12 minimum first-place points.” In other words, a steady diet of 54-hole events is typically for developmental tours or off-season series, such as the Vodacom Origins of Golf in South Africa.
Guidelines also state that tournaments must average a 75-man field over the course of the season.
LIV can tweak their format if ranking points are of importance to their players. But given how many still have major exemptions or seem to be taking the easy money—for their family(ies)!—OWGR status will never really matter to the league.
The Open Field Getting Closer
The Open is getting closer to filling all 156 spots after Final Qualifying. The detailed roundups posted by the official site provides some background on those who were successful. Congrats to all!
Sam Bairstow was one of two amateurs to qualify in the Final stage. He will be joined by Marcus Armitage, former Walker Cupper Matthew Jordan and John Parry who qualified on England’s northwest coast.
David Carey, Robert Dinwiddie, Lars van Meijel and Alex Wrigley all secured their spots in The Open at Fairmont St Andrews. In this piece at the Irish Golf Desk, Brian Keogh shared some fun quotes from Carey about his excitement at qualifying and love of golf history.
At Prince’s, Matthew Ford, Jamie Rutherford, Ronan Mullarney (a former R&A Foundation Scholar) and Jack Floydd qualified, the latter surviving a play-off between five players, including Matthew Southgate. And yes, it’s Floydd with two d’s.
This week, six spots are up for grabs: three from the Horizon Irish Open at Mount Juliet and three from the John Deere Classic. The usual clauses are in place: the three spots go to those not already qualified finishing in the top 10. Ties are broken by world ranking.
Old Course Keeper Of The Green Channels Old Tom
Jamie Kennedy files a fantastic profile of Old Course greenkeeper Gordon McKie. As always, I urge you to check out the piece delving into an array of topics, including McKie’s fascination with Old Tom Morris, lessons learned during the pandemic closure, and other sustainability efforts related to preparation (no more walk-mowing the 85-yard-deep 5th green).
These two bits suggest McKie’s constantly thinking about maintaining the Old’s strategic relevance in the era of modern distances.
“Do we think about moving the tee up there on 16?” McKie asks. The distance to carry the bunkers from the standard championship tee is about 270 yards. “It would allow everyone in the field to take that bunker out of play if they wanted to, but they would need to cut the corner more, bringing out-of-bounds into play. Now the left miss doesn’t find the third fairway; it finds the rough closer to the green, which, considering where the bunkers are positioned around the green, would leave a pretty miserable shot in.”
McKie reminisced fondly about the Women’s Open Championship, played for the first time on the Old Course in 2007. The women that week played from the original championship tees laid out by Old Tom in 1873.
“The women played from 6,600 yards, and it was amazing to watch. Every hazard was in play. There were a lot of questions they had to answer with each shot. The course was being played as it was designed to be played.”
A forthcoming Quadrilateral will feature a Q&A with McKie’s former boss Gordon Moir. He has put retirement to good use by writing a fantastic memoir about his time overseeing two Opens and the Links Trust courses.
Bleak Ryder Cup Prospects For America’s LIV Defectors; European Status Seems Less Clear
Speaking before the John Deere Classic, Zach Johnson indicated that American PGA Tour defectors aren’t likely to be Ryder Cup eligible. From Max Schreiber’s GolfChannel.com report:
“So what I know is this: In order to play on the Ryder Cup team, whether you're top 6 or a (captain's) pick, you must garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America," Johnson said. "In order to garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America, you have to be a member of the PGA of America. The way that we're members of the PGA of America is through the PGA Tour.
“I'll let you connect the dots from there.”
Barring a change in membership policy or a PGA Tour return in good standing, this appears to rule out Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson for 2023 and beyond. Reed has resigned his Tour membership. I had a better chance of getting a Captain’s pick in 2023.
Over in Europe the situation is less certain. Bob Harig notes in a dispatch from Portland that former future captains Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia spoke of hoping to still be eligible.
No suspensions have been applied. There is still question as to whether they can compete in future European Tour events. And the Ryder Cup question looms.
“Obviously (we) were hoping it wouldn’t change,’’ Garcia said. “We still hope that it won’t affect it.
Solid Ratings For KPMG Women’s PGA
While the PGA Tour’s Travelers was down a shocking 1.4 million average viewers for CBS’s final round airing over last year’s Harris English win, the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA delivered an 8% increase over 2021. It was the most watched final round since 2005 (Golf Channel PR says it was up 13% but the math appears to be 8%).
Either way, the Women’s PGA averaged over a million viewers despite an earlier start and plenty of sports competition. An average of a million viewers suggests the tighter three-hour window isn’t the worst thing. The show opened with a dramatic final round underway. Non-core golf fans may have been more intrigued to stay with the action nearing its conclusion as In Gee Chun held off Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senior Open on Golf Channel drew a dreadful .19 and 353,000 average viewership for Padraig Harrington’s victory.
Listens And Reads
£ The R&A says the 2021 Open at Royal St George’s delivered £113.4 million in economic benefit to Kent. This despite having to lower maximum attendance from 210,000 fans to 128,300 in an agreement with UK Government.
🏨 Cara Forrester with a first look and review of the remodeled Rusacks Hotel. It looks sensational. And with a little weather will eventually blend in better.
✌️Alan Bastable on Fred Couples commenting on Phil Mickelson and LIV in advance of the Icons Series, a Ryder Cup for famous athletes where he is a Captain. “Have you ever seen Phil look so stupid in his life?” he asked. “I don’t think I’ll ever to talk to him again.”
⛳️ Erik Matuszewski on the Cabot group taking over Castle Stuart and hiring Tom Doak to build a second course. Coupled with news of Coul Links possibly getting revived, it’s an exciting time for the Highlands area that already features, Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Brora, Tain, Golspie and Old Moray. The only bummer: Castle Stuart becomes Cabot Highland.
The Quad’s editorial team is working feverishly to compile pre-Open stuff while I do some player scouting at the Genesis Scottish Open. Expect several Q&A’s, gobs of history, plenty of architectural analysis, lots of pretty pictures and vital last-minute preview coverage.
For now, I’ll leave you with the R&A’s look at Road hole moments. Cheers!