Tour Confidential: The biggest Ryder Cup snub? Plus Tiger’s new league
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we’re discussing more Ryder Cup captain’s picks, the start of a new Tour season and the best golf resorts in the world.
The 24 Ryder Cup players representing the U.S. and Europe became official last week when captain Luke Donald finalized his European team with six captain’s picks made on Monday: Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry and rookies Sepp Straka, Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard. What are your thoughts on the picks? And what do the three newcomers bring to the team?
Sean Zak, senior writer (@sean_zak): The picks make sense. Aberg is the future world-beater. Hojgaard doesn’t need to be selected, but it’s also a future-oriented pick. And a player who is in form. Unlike the American team, the captain’s picks that Donald went with were all players going out and getting it, so to say. I think they’ll all happily follow Rory and Rahm’s lead, playing their three matches and faring quite well on European turf.
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): Sound picks on paper, for sure, with a good mix of young talent and experience. The Americans are favorites heading into Rome. I’m not sure they should be.
James Colgan, news and features editor (@jamescolgan26): All the picks make immediate sense with the exception of Aberg and Hojgaard. I like Aberg, but he’s a particularly notable gamble given his age (23) and relative inexperience (no career major starts). Those two won’t be relied on to do everything for the Euros, but it’s the Ryder Cup — would it surprise you if the whole thing came down to those two?
One player who wasn’t selected was 30-year-old Polish pro Adrian Meronk, who said his emotions have turned “from shock to sadness to anger,” although now he says he’s using it as motivation. Meronk has won three times since July 2022, and his latest victory (back in May) was at Marco Simone — the same course that will host the Ryder. He also barely missed auto qualifying for the team. Was he the biggest Ryder Cup snub of all, including the U.S. side?
Zak: Absolutely the biggest snub. He must have thought “what more can I do?” after winning a tournament on the host course this year. But Keegan Bradely felt similarly after he won the Travelers. It’s never a done deal if you don’t auto-qualify. That’s the big lesson here.
Sens: ‘Adrian Meronk’ is pretty much Polish for Keegan Bradley — each is the biggest snub of his respective side. But let’s not make too much of this and suggest that Donald and Johnson somehow made the wrong decisions. The picks they made were every bit as defensible as choosing Meronk and Bradley would have been.
Colgan: Agreed, Sean. If the Euros lose on the back of the two younger picks, you can bet the fans will be roiling about Meronk’s exclusion.
Steve Cohen, the owner of the New York Mets, has taken on a controlling stake in a New York-based franchise for Tiger Woods’ and Rory McIlroy’s TGL, which will debut early next year. The start-up league now has four franchises from different markets across the U.S. with owners (many of them well-known), and the goal is for six teams total. Why are these prominent figures buying into this? And what does it mean for the league?
Zak: You know, I’m not sure why they’re buying in, other than the fact that rich people like to buy things. And between the National Women’s Soccer League, Major League Pickleball, and consortiums buying up English Premier League soccer clubs, it’s en vogue to be a sports owner these days, regardless of the entity being owned. I think it is a great validation for the league, especially when you consider that no one has jumped in to buy up LIV Golf teams. I think the valuation must be wildly different, but it’s still worth noting that people have bought something that thus far only exists in theory.
Sens: For the same reason people have always purchased sports and entertainment franchises: profit and prestige. On a more personal note, the meaning I take from this is that I am clearly a grump and a terrible business person, wildly out of touch with the pulse of the populace, because high-tech arena golf sounds brutally boring to me.
Colgan: It’s hard to say what any of this means without knowing how much the investment really was. Cohen — net worth of $18 billion — placing a $20,000 bet on the TGL is a *little* different than a $20 million bet. Good for Tiger’s new league for attracting some big names.
The fall season of the PGA Tour schedule begins Thursday with the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort in Napa, Calif. What storyline are you most interested in monitoring: Can Max Homa three-peat? Or will Justin Thomas turn in a good result following his Ryder Cup captain’s pick?
Zak: It’s all about Justin Thomas. If he finishes in the top 10, no one is worried about his form ahead of the Ryder Cup. If he misses the cut, the scrutiny only increases. Keegan Bradley only gets more annoyed. Jordan Spieth’s form gets brought into discussion, as a result of being Thomas’ preferred playing partner. It all gets…hairier. And frankly, more fun to talk about. But I’m rooting for JT to make it a non-story.
Sens: Sean has summed it up well. Another way to put it is that this is what we call a ‘slow news week’ story.
Colgan: Correct. A top-10 and nobody says a peep until we get to Rome. An MC, on the other hand, and the discourse may threaten to reach a fever pitch.
Next week, GOLF will unveil its first-ever list of the Top 100 Resorts in the World. Whether it’s on that list or not, what’s your favorite golf resort you’ve ever been to, and why would you recommend it to our loyal golf-mad readers?
Zak: This will feel like a cliche answer, but I adore Pinehurst. Being down there feels like going to golf camp. There’s so much variety, and so few things to care about. And now a 10th course is on the way, if nine didn’t already do the trick for ya.
Sens: I’ll go every bit as cliche: if you’re after golf alone and not the fancy extras, nothing tops Bandon Dunes. On a more far-flung tack, one place that comes to mind is Laguna Lang Co. in Vietnam, with amazing accommodations on a stunning coast, and a very cool course grazed by water buffalo.
Colgan: Pinehurst is the Mecca (for literally every reason), but I had a brilliant time at Forest Dunes up in Northern Michigan. The Loop is as funky and fun a course as exists anywhere.