Major(s) News & Notes September 1, 2022
Europe increases Ryder Cup picks as Wentworth tension awaits. Plus, LIV defectors talk major status, Chevron welcomes more amateurs, 2022 driving distance numbers are up and much more.
Days to the 2023 Masters first tee shot: 218 days
Days to the 2023 PGA Championship 260 days
Days to the 2023 U.S. Open first tee shot: 290 days
Days to the 2023 Open Championship first tee shot: 323 days
We have plenty to chew on before a busy fall involving (at least) two hot-button and super-sexy newsletter topics: distance debates and 2023 major championship qualifying criteria. It alls sounds so groovy compared to more LIV v. PGA Tour (except when they head to court and the judge is better prepared than LIV’s lawyers).
Before we get to looming Ryder Cup intrigue and some eye-opening player comments in Boston, a quick update on The Quad’s first-ever subscriber poll:
Thanks to the subscribers who voted on what were, admittedly, somewhat bland questions. Still, I’m excited about the polling feature with plans to send out a longer 2022 majors edition. While we sort that timing out at Quad World HQ, let’s get to the Ryder Cup news where, for a change, it’s the Europeans who seem primed to spend the next year infighting and politicking! 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸
2023 Ryder Cup: Donald Will Have Six Captain’s Picks
Mirroring the United States template for Whistling Straits success, Captain Luke Donald will select six members of his 2023 European team. Facing a deadline with Ryder Cup qualifying beginning at next week’s BMW Championship, the criteria was announced this week:
Three players to qualify automatically from European Points List, three from World Points List. Cut off is September 3rd, three weeks before the event.
European Points list goes from a 6:1 points ratio to 4:1 between highest and lowest ranked events on the DP World Tour.
No points available from any tournament played against a Rolex Series event on the DP World Tour.
Luke Donald will select six Captain’s Picks.
Since the Europeans ironed out these new standards behind closed doors, those wily strategic alliance partners at the PGA Tour rushed out plans for more $20 million, mandatory domestic events while pulling the plug on a fall international series recently announced.
Even worse, the PGA Tour’s not-even-in-the-oven “elevated status” concept outlined last week would make it impossible for Jon Rahm to make all desired starts on both tours.
“So yeah, especially with Ryder Cup and having to play four in Europe, I think it's a bit of an ask,” Rahm said of the PGA Tour’s mandatory, PIP-based series. “I wouldn't be surprised if they revise a bit of a rule or make an exception for some players. But if they do it for players like me and Rory, they might have to do it for everybody.”
No Jon. They’re making it up as they go down at the Global Home. Anything’s still possible! Though six captain’s picks should make this less of an issue. Still, a player like Rahm wants to earn his way onto the team. The alliance has work to do.
Meanwhile, European Ryder Cup team reunions seem highly unlikely next week. Because the DP World Tour’s suspension of defectors was stayed pending another hearing, all players in attendance at the BMW can earn Ryder Cup points. But no TV friendly pairings!
“They will not be given any on course competitive disadvantage – i.e. unfavorable tee times – but they will not be required to play in the pro-am on Wednesday and will not be in TV featured groups,” the memo read.
Optional pro-am? That seems like a perk? Especially with Swinley Forest and Sunningdale nearby.
Meanwhile, after winning the Tour Championship Rory McIlroy said he’s not up for stop-and-chats with the LIV defectors. That would include, but not limited to, old Ryder Cup buddies Poulter, Westwood, Casey, Garcia, Kaymer, Stenson, etc.
“It's going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth in a couple of weeks' time and seeing 18 of them there,” he said. “That just doesn't sit right with me.”
Someone may be changing his shoes in the parking lot. BTW, those LIV defectors who wanted to play and travel less? They will be flying in from Boston, then at week’s end outside London, will turn around to play the glorious Rich Harvest Farms near Chicago. What these guys will do to grow the game!
Bubba On The Masters: He’s “hoping and praying”
This week’s LIV joint press conferences kicked off with some noble scribbler working on a item regarding major championships status going forward. With apologies for grabbing the transcript quotes, we’ll begin the player responses with Bubba Watson who doesn’t want to be at the Masters if he can’t go. Yogi Berra would agree.
Bubba Watson: “Yeah, for me, it's a weird situation, being a Masters Champion. I sat my kids** down and I told them that their favorite tournament in the world is obviously Travelers Championship, so can't play there. But now, Augusta, right now, we can play in it, and I'm hoping, and praying, that they make the right decisions and past champions and people, we can all start playing.
“And so I told my kids** that there is a chance, there is a possibility, that we can't go to Augusta. And I told them, if they tell me that I can't go, being a past champion, then I don't want to be there anyway because that's just -- that's just the wrong way to look at it, it's the game of golf. We are all trying to be the best players.”
**Adoption is illegal in Saudi Arabia, so maybe leave kids home for Royal Greens week. I don’t think it’ll have Travelers or Masters vibes.
Marc Leishman: “There's many reasons why I decided to being a part of this tour: Three young kids at home; obviously to see them more. Yes, the money was a factor. Just to spend more time at home -- well, home being Virginia Beach and also in Australia. So there was a lot of factors for me. The majors was one of them that maybe was a little bit of a down point but like I said, hopefully things can sort itself out and I can get into those in the future.”
Cameron Smith: “I hope that these World Ranking points will sort themselves out before my exemption is up. You know, I think to the fans of major championship golf, it may be a little bit unfair on them. I think majors is about having the best guys in the best field on the best golf courses.”
Joaquin Niemann: “We earn our place in the majors and if they want to see real competition, they have to have the top players. That's why the majors are there.”
Harold Varner: “Yeah, you know, I'm okay with it. Like it is what it is. I can't hate on what situation I'm in or what situation I'm not in. I can only do what's best for me at the time from the experience I've had as a kid and I'm actually super proud [I] made a decision based off of what I believe in. I think it's very easy to get in a situation where you do what everyone else says you should do. Yeah, I think, I don't know, I just sat there. I think it's pretty bad when my wife is like, ‘Fuck everybody. Do what you want to do.’”
And he did.
Another Golf Saudi ambassador, Gary Player, lashed out at LIV and players who defect during a chat with BBC’s Radio Live 5, reports Joel Beall.
“I wouldn’t take a billion dollars for my nine majors on both tours,” Player told BBC 5. “I worked hard. I had desire. I traveled the world. It was an education, I met wonderful people. How can you ever be a champion playing a tour with 54 holes and no cut?”
Chevron Updates Plans For The New Dinah
As previously announced, The Club at Carlton Woods will host the tournament formerly known as The Dinah from April 20-23, 2023. The latest efforts to upgrade the first women’s major of the season include an emphasis on more amateurs in the field:
Expanded amateur access via exemptions to winners of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, Women’s British Amateur Championship, Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship, Women’s Latin America Amateur Championship, Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Chevron Silverado Showdown.
Chevron has introduced a new $5,000 stipend for all players who miss the cut.
At least $2 million in donations to non-profit organizations based on year one of Chevron’s sponsorship with an emphasis on foundations and community programs advancing women's excellence and STEM.
The event returns to network airwaves on NBC.
Final PGA Tour Driving Distance Average: 299.8
September means we have “Areas of Interest” deadlines to learn which manufacturer barked loudest. I bet I can guess.
But if 2022 data is any indication, distance averages just saw another huge leap and grounds for equipment rule changes. The PGA Tour’s “measured drive” average remains the longest-running barometer for gauging whether current rules are keeping things sane at the elite level.
With the 2022 season now over, the numbers tell a story of how a plant-based, Pilates-driven lifestyle just works.
In 2021-22, PGA Tour players averaged 299.8 yards off the tee.
This is an increase of 3.6 yards from 2020-21’s 296.2 and almost six yards from 2019. (The 2020 pandemic-shortened season will be ignored here.)
99 players averaged over 300 yards in 2022, up from 61 in 2021, 50 in 2019.
For “all drives,” the 2022 average finished at 290.5, up a yard from 2021 and five yards from 2019.
22 players averaged over 300 yards for all drives in 2022. That’s up from 17 in 2021 and 5 in 2019.
Back in 2002, the USGA and R&A drew a line and said “any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable.” That year, the measured drive average finished at 279.5 yards. One player, John Daly, averaged over 300 yards.
NBC President Touts USA Strategy
NBC Sports President Pete Bevacqua talked to SBJ’s John Ourand about the success of USA Network, new home of two majors. The former PGA of America CEO pointed to how the U.S. Open second round coverage “posted USA’s best weekday afternoon viewership on record (excluding holidays) since January 2017.”
According to ShowBuzzDaily.com’s numbers, the U.S. Open first round on USA was down about 500,000 average viewers and another 300,000 Friday when compared with 2021’s ratings on Golf Channel. (Coverage in 2021 started three hours later thanks to the west coast venue.)
Of the four majors, U.S. Open early round coverage handily drew the smallest audiences at its new home on USA. There was also the epic U.S. Open handoff to a lurid Law and Order crime scene. But it delivered USA’s highest non-holiday weekday afternoon viewership since January 2017. History!
USA’s coverage of The Open fared better thanks to Tiger’s presence and more American viewers finding the forgotten graveyard of reruns.
Pin Flags And Reads
🦘 Cameron Smith gave better answers than most to explain why he made the LIV jump: money and spending more time at home in Australia. Evin Priest reports. Meanwhile, Harold Varner called his defection a “financial breakthrough,” writes Jessica Marksbury.
On that heartwarmer, have a fantastic weekend,