7 golfy things I’m aching to see in 2023, from tougher majors to less deceit
Anyone else wave goodbye to 2022 while muttering “good riddance” under their breath? ME. TOO.
It was a chaotic year in pro golf that gave us more angst than exhilaration. More pang than peace of mind. But here’s some good news you should already know: 2022 is over, and 2023 is here! I made some bold, specific predictions last week. But that was all from the left side of my brain. Today, we’re using the right side, and getting emotionally greedy. If I had my way, these 7 things would happen in 2023. There are greater forces at work than what my heart desires, but perhaps you’ll find yourself wishing for some of the same things:
1. Jordan Spieth in another edition of The Match
We tuned in to watch Justin Thomas talk trash, and for Rory McIlroy’s drives, too. He’s the best driver in the history of the game. We wanted to see how Tiger Woods was playing, having missed the Hero World Challenge with plantar fasciitis. Last on our minds was Spieth, who ended up being the Most Valuable Entertainer.
What we got was a reminder of how much of a rollercoaster ride Jordan Spieth Playing Golf can be. Spieth missed fairways during The Match, nearly missing the next fairway over, too. He putted like a mad man, and picked up Thomas when he absolutely needed to. He chirped Woods better than anyone and was perfectly silent while McIlroy dug into his tendency to miss short putts. All of it — the erratic play, the stupefying putting, his smack talk and susceptibility of being the butt of a joke — can feel so oddly relatable, even if it’s mostly incredible and impossible to recreate. He’s perfect for The Match.
2. Less deceit!
No year in golf has ever seen as much deceitfulness as 2022. There was Bryson DeChambeau at the Memorial saying he was not “in a place in my career where I can risk things like” leaving the best players in the world. He went on to commit to LIV Golf days later.
There was Sergio Garcia at the first LIV event proclaiming his interest in LIV being the chance to play fewer events. He played fewer events than in 2021, all right. Four fewer, to be exact, but only because no tour was interested in having him, and because he then went on to have knee surgery in the fall.
There was Cam Smith at the Open, refusing to entertain the idea that he was thinking about LIV Golf before committing a few weeks later. There was Brooks Koepka, who said he hadn’t had a discussion about LIV until Sunday of the U.S. Open, and committing just days later. There was Henrik Stenson and whatever he promised the European delegation of the Ryder Cup, only to surrender his captaincy by joining LIV. By comparison, Phil Mickelson was forthright!
All of it led to a dizzying will-they-or-won’t-they-turn-on-their-word type of golf season. We can understand the forces at play and also expect more straightforward communication from men who hit a little white ball for a living.
3. More Lexi!
Think Tony Finau needs a major more than anyone? Maybe Rory McIlroy needs a major championship to end his eight-year drought. Well, there’s no one in golf I’d rather win a major this year than Lexi Thompson. She’s on an eight-year drought of her own, and this one has looked more painful than McIlroy’s. There have been four second-place finishes since she last won a major, and too many yippy putts down the stretch while doing so. Thompson seems like a wicked competitor through 63 holes and a feeble contestant the final nine. Keep knocking on the door, they say. At some point it’ll swing open. I really hope it does for Lexi in ’23.
4. A frigid PGA
Oak Hill Country Club has hosted six major championships, three senior majors and a Ryder Cup. It’s a stern test in upstate New York that is deserving of playing host to this year’s PGA Championship. One problem: It’s doing so in May.
Thanks to the PGA Championship’s tendency to name host courses years and years in advance, Oak Hill won the nomination years before the major championship was moved from August to May. Springtime in Rochester is not exactly consistent. Back in 1989, 10 inches of snow fell on Mother’s Day. That was abnormal, for sure, but Rochester sees snow in May maybe once or twice a decade.
While I am certainly not hoping for snow on the ground at a major championship, I would like it to be cold. Highs in the 50s. Lows in the 40s. Maybe even a frost delay. Give the players a taste of what a lot of the country deals with during the bumper months of the golf season. It makes golf feel a bit more rugged. A bit more of an outdoor sport. We can put up with it once a decade.
5. A windy British Open
While we’re on the topic of conditions, we need wind at this year’s Open. Absolutely need it. Royal Liverpool has the tendency to play shorter than most Open courses. It’s locked in by neighborhoods on three sides and the Irish Sea on the fourth. Hopefully the latter brings some serious wind conditions our way, because that’s how this course can stand up to the best players in the world. It would force players to employ the Tiger Woods strategy — when he won in 2006 — of hitting just one driver all week. I want that light brown hay kicked up with each iron strike, swirling around above Hoylake. It would bring the shape of the greens into focus, which is how the R&A kept the scores from reaching 24 under this year at St. Andrews. It’s easy to forget that RLGC has hosted two modern Opens and the scores have been incredibly low each time. We need Mother Nature to step up, and the CEO of the R&A agrees.
Martin Slumbers says you need two things during an Open week:
1. A skilled greenkeeping staff
2. Luck with Mother Nature
With any luck, we’ll get a consistent 18 mph breeze with gusts up to (and maybe even beyond) 25 mph. That will give us a Champion Golfer who has struck his ball beautifully for four days. And a deserving champion at that. As Slumbers said in July, “My philosophy has always been I want to set up the golf course fair, challenging, and let these guys show us how good they are.”
6. The OWGR no longer making headlines
As Mark Broadie, golf’s preeminent statistician, told me, the Official World Golf Ranking is not really supposed to be a noise-maker. It’s not supposed to be in the news. It would be great to return to that, but things have to happen first. LIV golfers need to get their OWGR points. It’s probably inevitable that points will be distributed to that tour, but until it happens, the OWGR will be in the news. So long as Dustin Johnson remains outside the top 40 in the ranking and DataGolf ranks him No. 8, questions will persist — largely questions without straightforward answers.
I’m not telling the OWGR when the move has to be made. I’m just saying that the jobs of its board of directors are easier when all we care about is who can reach World No. 1. Meantime, some transparency would go a long way.
7. LIV golfers allowed to compete in the Ryder Cup…
…only because we’ll realize how few of them would actually qualify. Dustin Johnson would be on the American team, and that’s about it. (We all deserve another drunk DJ press conference.) Sergio Garcia is not worthy of playing for Team Europe right now. Nor is Bryson DeChambeau for Team USA. Same goes for Koepka. Paul Casey would stand to join the Europeans, perhaps, and maybe his demeanor would be good for that team. But we don’t need a Ryder Cup with the idea of missing players looming over it like a … black cloud.
What are you desperate to see in 2023? The author welcomes your comments, concerns, and any other notes at firstname.lastname@example.org.