Tuesday At The PGA: Course Firms Up, Presser Highlights And Bizarre Champions Dinner Pics
Today's layered-for-deep-hidden meaning report from Rochester and the 2023 PGA Championship covers a bit of everything.
Well that escalated! For a change, it was the golf course rounding into shape and not the tediou First World oily bantering about stuff only of importance to select portions of greater Ponte Vedra and Stamford.
Tuesday at Oak Hill we saw a weary Rory McIlroy resign his Vice Commissionership while PGA CEO Seth Waugh clarified recent remarks on ranking points—the stuff your newsletter dreams were made of—all in an effort to defuse claims of collusion between the Barzini’s and Stracci’s.
But the bigger news in major land and for your viewing pleasure starting Thursday came from the golf course. The firming status of splendid Oak Hill meant a noticeably crispier course to start the day, drying out even more after a windy day of practice rounds. Late in the afternoon the greens looked like they were still rolling over 13 feet on the Stimpmeter based on my deeply refined scientific method of throwing a few balls around on the revitalized Ross greens. (The PGA does not share Stimpmeter readings).
During Tuesday’s press conferences players mentioned the ball running in what a few deemed to be super-tight fairways. (The landing areas are a comfortable-by-modern-standards 26-28 yards.) Throw in that all-inportant first bounce onto the bentgrass greens growing higher and crisp temperatures due to arrive Wednesday, and the 2023 PGA venue could not be more ready to go. Even better, I don’t see the course conditions putting this PGA in the same uber-defensive mode that made the last two editions here a total, unequivocal drag.
The latest on-site forecast is part of today’s Quad lineup that also includes my look at the best of press conference quotes, an intriguing internal OB situation that’s probably unnecessary, a search for deep meaning in the announced groupings, late breaking weirdness from the Champions dinner and much more.
Men In Loafers: PGA Of America Press Conference
The PGA of America’s Kerry Haigh, John Lindert and Seth Waugh took the podium to discuss their organization, the state of the game and positions on various issues. Highlights included the PGA of America’s current view of its May date, Oak Hill’s future, the distance issue and world ranking points.
Here are the highlights followed by my take.
Waugh on the PGA of America’s $250,000 donation for Genesee Valley Golf Course to upgrade its practice facility as part of the organization’s Place to Play initiative. “We use our Place to Play -- pillar on our foundation called A Place to Play, which is the idea of restoring public golf in municipal form or other ways. If we create all these new golfers and there's no place to play, we've sort of defeated the purpose.”
Haigh on the organization’s distance stance whether or not the “Model Local Rule” is adopted in 2026. “It's too early to speculate what we would do in that it wouldn't even come into effect until 2026. We're not rushing to make a decision until we know what actually is going to take place.”
Waugh on the PGA of America’s concerns about distance related local rule concept. “We're struggling with bifurcation case, like a lot of folks are, in the sense we think that's an integral part of the game that we can all test ourselves against others. And frankly, where does it stop and start? Policing another 28,000 -- would be in the position of kind of being the policemen on that, and we struggle with that a little bit, as well. Again, it will be, I think, very interactive, and we're always going to work with our partners in the game and figure out what's in the best interest of the game. That's how we think about it.”
Waugh on being an independent arbiter of ranking points as LIV Golf seeks to be recognized by a Board made up of the Five Families hostile to the upstart league. “When asked, I tend to try to say what I believe. That's not being a neutral body. I think being a neutral body is always acting in the best interest of the game, and that's what we'll always do and that's what I'll always do.”
Waugh on the context of his comments to The Times. “I am proud of Masters because they returned civility to the game. That's how they dealt with it. That's how we want to deal with it. Again, everybody is our invited guest. That's consistent, and I'll say that today, and I'll greet the players when I see them for sure. They're all invited to our dinner tonight, past champions. We're treating them in the way that we would treat everybody else.”
Haigh on why some players were invited this year and others were not. “The process for inviting players who are playing well enough and good enough we will consider no matter what tours they're playing on, just as we do this year. Some LIV players were invited this year, some Japanese Tour, Australian Tour. Yeah, we look at all tours, all rankings, and all players' abilities. Paul Casey, great player. He's certainly had some injuries.* Played on the Ryder Cup last played, and has played well in PGA Championships. Again, we review all those criteria for a number of players, and he was one of a number that were selected.”
Waugh on the May PGA date. “We think we've added more courses than we've taken away by moving to May. We think it's better for the kind of ecosystem of the game to have the majors lined up in the way that they do.”
Haigh on Rochester in May and northeastern venues in general: “The golf course conditioning has been probably better in May than August, dealing with the stress, the heat, and although it becomes sort of a tight window right before the third week in May, we are delighted with what we've seen at all of those venues.”
Overall it was a fairly typical state of the PGA press conference with scripted introductory comments and excessively careful wording on the most sensitive topics. Waugh seems genuine in his view that “disruption” has been a positive and that the Saudi model will fold. I don’t sense he’s sharing a dire view of their business model as an excuse to avoid world ranking point legitimacy. It’s just his view of LIV Golf after a long career in business.
His comments on the distance issue were far less sincer since they were straight from the Titleist playbook of scare tactics and utter nonsense. Waugh channeled the lamest talking points tied to the purported vitality of all golfers playing what the pros play as something aspirational and even dropped a GTG:
The role of the PGA professional he represents remains in crisis and maybe more so since this declaration was made in Golf Digest. And while there are many factors, the job has been diminished by a combination of trends.
Many issues for PGA of America pros started when the manufacturers undermined the the traditional golf shop by prioritizing non-green grass accounts and later, online sales. Reciting the talking points of such “partners” is disconcerting knowing where the PGA Pro’s status stands at courses across America and how the companies played a role.
The game is not “growing” thanks to $52 dozens of balls and $600 drivers the pros play. A litany of other initiatives and elements of luck rank higher than the rush of buying what Billy Horschel plays, assuming you’re looking for a legit explaination of America’s golf rebound.
The PGA Championship has never been enhanced by invoking or disregarding local rules, and doing so again on this front migth be on brand but won’t sway the three most historic majors. And to date, no other legitimate professional tournament allows rangefinders except the PGA Championship. That’s quite embarrassing given the “grow the game” thinking behind its adoption a few years ago.
Speaking of “growing the game,” that’s why Bryson DeChambeau has taken his name off the LIV lawsuit against the PGA Tour. GTG just keeps on growing in its absurdity!
Max Homa on how Oak Hill looks from the player perspective. “I like how they kind of trick you with your eyes a little bit. They don't show you a ton of the fairway on a lot of the tee shots. You have to do a good job in prep. So I think, again, for a major, this is just like kind of your traditional, ideal setup.”
Rory McIlroy on being a member at Oak Hill and how it might help him this week. “It's not as if I have a ton of local knowledge here compared to everyone else. The last two days are the most I've really seen of this golf course over the last couple years.”
McIlroy On LIV.
Q. We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of the first LIV Golf tournament. If you could look into your crystal ball three years from now, where do you think the professional game will be?
RORY McILROY: I don't have a crystal ball.
Q. You don't want to speculate?
RORY McILROY: No.
Scottie Scheffler on what motivates him. “Whether it's Jason Day beating me last week down the stretch or Jon just beating the crap out of me at a couple different tournaments this year, it's always motivating when you don't do what you want to do, and that's usually trying to win the tournament.
McIlroy on the May PGA date. “The northeast is sort of my favorite golf to play in this country. I love the golf courses up here and I love the tradition, and a lot of the historic golf course architects started their journeys up here and have built some amazing golf courses. It would be a shame if we weren't able to come back here. I always liked in August that this was glory's last shot and there was a real identity there. Not saying that it's lost any of that identity in terms of its still a major championship, but I feel like having it be the last major of the year maybe just gave it a little bit of something that it doesn't quite have right now.”
Masters champion Jon Rahm on the state of his game. “I'm confident. I feel good. I feel good. It's been a great year. It's been an amazing year. I'm just hoping to keep adding more to it. It's been a lot of fun, and hopefully I can keep riding that wave.
Tyrrell Hatton on the setup. “The course this week is going to be pretty demanding. The rough is pretty thick. I don't think that the gym work will help me advance the ball any further out of it than we would have done before. It's just -- yeah, it is going to be a challenging week for sure.
Rahm on Oak Hill. “Whoever is setting up the golf course is going to have a lot of fun, because there's a lot of opportunities on holes with pin locations and tee boxes, so you can make this golf course as difficult as you want or not as accessible as you want, but obviously you can make a big difference in the scoring.”
Rahm the self-proclaimed historian on Rochester’s native son Walter Hagen. “Surprisingly it's not really a name that jumps up to a lot of people when you talk about the history of the game. I'll say a lot of people wouldn't even know if it wasn't for the Legend of Bagger Vance. Probably my fault that I don't know -- I really don't know what he did, so I wish somebody could tell me at some point.”
Luke Donald on Oak Hill. “I think it's a good test. Some of the par-3s -- a couple of the par-3s are a little bit obnoxiously long for some of the size of the greens, but again, that's a major championship test.”
Cameron Young on playing a New York course. “I think I'm just really excited for this week, to get on a New York golf course that's obviously in major championship condition. It feels like home. Obviously I didn't live that close to here, but it's the same style of golf, and I'm just excited for the week.”
Tony Finau on whether Oak Hill fits his game. “Yesterday I played 18 holes here, and it's a golf course that fits my style. It's long. You've got to hit it in the fairway. Those are things that I've done well over this last year, and hopefully I take that right into this week.”
Finau on the dense rough. “The rough is long enough to where you're not going to be able to advance the ball to the greens. The reason I say long is if I remember right, there's four par-4s over 500 yards. Yesterday after hitting some really nice drives up the fairway, even with some roll, I was hitting 5-, 6-iron into these par-4s, which I'm really not used to doing unless it's a par-5.”