Major(s) News & Notes, November 18, 2021
McIlroy reiterates the importance of majors as the PGA Tour focuses on money. Plus, Inverness and Olympic Club news, Slumbers on model local rules and media, capped off by some Reads.
Days to the 2022 Masters first tee shot: 140
Days to the 2022 PGA Championship first tee shot: 182
Days to the 2022 U.S. Open first tee shot: 210
Days to the 2022 Open Championship first tee shot: 239
Today I offer a rebuttal to Rory McIlroy’s insistence that the PGA Tour offers the best structure for him to win majors. Then I share news about two important classic tournament venues followed by highlights from a Martin Slumbers interview and capped off by a few good reads. Also, in case you missed them, I sent out recent newsletters on Tiger Woods, the fall 2020’s Masters a year later and the 91st anniversary of Bobby Jones’s retirement announcement.
McIlroy: PGA Tour Offers The Best “Structure” For Chasing History
Speaking at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Championship, Rory McIlroy offered this thought regarding the tussle over star players:
“People can see it for what it is, a money grab, which is fine if what you’re playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that’s what makes you happy. I’m just speaking about my own beliefs; I’m playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. I honestly don’t think there’s a better structure in place and I don’t think there will be.”
Other stars have echoed similar sentiments about the PGA Tour offering players the best possible avenue to succeed in majors. In terms of improving course quality and setup they certainly have pursued more excellence over the last decade.
However, nothing from what we’ve learned of PGA Tour plans to fend off enemy combatants seems designed to help elites cement their place in history. We’ve heard no talk of ensuring that pre-major venues align architecturally or geographically with the Grand Slam events. (In one recent case, Houston lost is pre-Masters slot due to sponsorship issues and now the Valero Open proceeds Augusta even the course and its setup are not remotely similar to the Masters.)
Faced with the fear of losing players to guaranteed Saudi millions, the Tour has proposed more no-cut events in the fall at a time a superstar would theoretically like to recharge their batteries after an intense eight-month run of premium events. The Tour also concocted a secret bonus pool based on ridiculous algorithmic nonsense like “Meltwater Mentions”. They’ve offered a $50,000 stipend for playing 15 tournaments and increased payouts for the Players and FedExCup purses. The latter event, which means a lot to bank accounts and little to a player’s legacy because of points manipulation and the net championship ending, forces the 2022 majors to be played over a 102-day window. All to ensure the FedExCup concludes before American football starts.
None of those structural moves improve a player’s ability to prepare, peak for, or win majors. While the PGA Tour has made sure to keep The Memorial two weeks prior to the U.S. Open and aligned with the European Tour to ensure the must-play Scottish Open remains a strong pre-Open Championship links option, everything else proposed chips away at a player’s ability to peak for the quadrilateral.
While we do not know what the disruptor Saudi’s will propose, they are working on a blueprint stolen from the Premier Golf League and have yet to hint of any plans to deviate from a 9-month scheduled around the majors. Now, whether the disruptors can deliver quality venues is unclear. But since McIlroy already spearheaded the demise of green reading books effective January 1, he should be pushing the Tour to help players peak for the Grand Slam instead of concocting more money grabs and saddling players with unnecessary obstacles to major glory.
Inverness Lands 2029 U.S. Amateur, Might That Mean…
…the U.S. Open will return to Toledo?
Hosting the U.S. Amateur used to be part of U.S. Open hosting arrangement for most venues. But in recent years the Amateur has seemed more for courses outside the U.S. Open rota and looking to be reconsidered: Cherry Hills (2012), Atlanta Athletic Club (2014), Olympia Fields (2015), Oakland Hills (2016) and Riviera (2017).
But the USGA’s John Bodenhamer has suggested more recently that the organization may be going back to the older way of thinking. Besides the obvious: a chance to scout out logistics and get reacquainted with the course, Bodenhamer believes there is something to seeing the next generation return to the scene of their Amateur success.
So with that preamble, there has been no indication Inverness Club, awarded the 129th U.S. Amateur in 2029, might be in line for a fifth U.S. Open and seventh major.
“The growth of the U.S. Amateur over the last 100 years has been phenomenal, and earlier this year we saw near record-high entries for the championship,” said Bodenhamer in a press release announcing the return. “Part of that growth is a commitment by the USGA to take the championship to the best courses in the country, and Inverness is certainly among that group. We look forward to continuing our partnership with them with another U.S. Amateur.”
That doesn’t tell us what the USGA has in mind. But the 2029 U.S. Amateur is quite a coup for the rejuvenated Donald Ross design that hosted this year’s Solheim Cup. (2029 is also the 100th anniversary of the historic 1929 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.)
Inverness has hosted nine USGA Championships, including the 1973 U.S. Amateur won by Craig Stadler.
Olympic Club Approves Plans To EnHanse The Lake Course
I helped out on this master plan so the Editorial Board of The Quadrilateral has demanded I merely copy and paste this exciting news regarding the host site for the 2028 PGA Championship and 2033 Ryder Cup.
SAN FRANCISCO (November 12, 2021) -- The Olympic Club’s Board of Directors approved plans to enhance golf facilities and restore its historic Lake Course in collaboration with renowned golf course architect Gil Hanse. Construction expected to begin in the second half of 2022.
The plans include improvements to short-game practice facilities, a San Francisco-themed Lombard Putting Course, and restoration of the Lake Course. The Club will also undertake a clubhouse renovation beginning this winter to add outdoor dining and lounge space as well as increased indoor fitness offerings and improvements to the food and beverage experience.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Gil Hanse on this historic restoration of our famed Lake Course,” said Olympic Club President Marcus Colabianchi. “With a tremendous lineup of championships over the next 12 years, we can’t wait to see this project come to life. For Gil to restore and improve our Lake Course is a fantastic opportunity to enhance our daily member experience while giving the golfing world something new to look forward to at Olympic.”
“We are very excited to work on the restoration of the Lake Course at Olympic Club,” Hanse said. “Working closely with the master plan committee, we feel as if we have identified areas where we can restore some variety to the character of the holes. Taking our cues from the history of the design, we look forward to restoring the features of the course and to capitalize on the advantages provided by the natural lay of the land. With a terrific history of major championships and a strong lineup of events to come in the near future, we are honored to have been selected to lead this restoration project.”
Founded in 1860, The Olympic Club has enjoyed a storied history in golf. The Lake Course has been home to many tournaments over the years, including five U.S. Opens and, most recently, the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open. The restoration portion of the project will center around adjustments that bring the course back in line with its original vision by designer Sam Whiting.
Slumbers: On Model Local Rules And The Importance Of Media
He’s got a long way to catch up with Mike Whan’s plethora of podcast appearances since starting at the USGA, but it was nice to see R&A Chief Martin Slumbers turn up at the Golf Journalists Association of Canada Virtual Summit. He was there to discuss “The State of Golf” with Jason Long. The full conversation is embedded below.
Over at ScoreGolf, Rick Young kindly transcribed some of the more important quotes. This seemed newsworthy since it’s clear model local rule is the new bifurcation:
“In the stage of the process that we’re at we’ve talked about considering and modifying model local rules. The way I think about them is it gives the game options, more than saying there is one set of rules. We already have that. In the professional game there’s the one ball rule. The concept of options is the best way of trying to think through the game that is played today.”
Bifurcation, model local rules? Whatever wording makes them feel like they thought of this first.
Also in the interview, Slumbers discussed the role of media and it’s in stark contrast to the views of his fellow Five Family members at the PGA Tour and USGA:
“Without terrific media our game would not be where it is today. I’ve only been doing this job for six years. My life before that was very much a corporate life. I do not underestimate and in fact my opinion has grown over my six years of the importance of media, not just telling the stories but asking the hard questions. I absolutely think media is part of the solution and how we tell the stories is really important. It’s my way of being held to account but it’s also my way of communicating what I believe and what the R&A believes.”
With the AIG Women’s Open coming next year, Morton Shillingford writes about Muirfield’s slow adoption of more open membership policies, how they’re doing adding women, and a rumored Open return in 2027.
AP’s Wayne Parry shared a breakdown of October’s huge growth in New Jersey sports gambling numbers, with very specific reporting from each of the casinos and even online numbers. Spoiler alert: the house is still winning.
The Wall Street Journal’s Julie Jargon files an important story on boys suffering body issues, with doctors and university researchers suggesting social media is a contributing factor. I share this since golf’s governing bodies have legalized and encouraged younger golfers to cash in on influencer money to pay their tournament golf bills.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Tatiana Siegel and Rick Porter explain the lack of streaming numbers available for analysis and they explore “stalling” by services to share meaningful data. They predict “little chance of reliable metrics emerging anytime soon.”
Finally, Tiger Woods visited LA to see his doctor at Cedars. This Daily Mail collection of images also includes video of Woods walking. It’s good to see him walking on his own. But based on the video embed, it’ll be a while before he’s climbing golf course hills.
On that cheerful note tinged with a sprinkling of gloom, have a great day.