Mickelson’s warning, Maltbie’s return, Norman’s bold claim | Monday Finish

Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman at the 2022 Saudi Invitational.

Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman at the 2022 Saudi Invitational.

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Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’ll accept any major championship invitations that are still floating around. To the news!


We’re getting the band back together!

NBC announced its broadcast plans for this June’s U.S. Open — and it includes a few notables.

After months of speculation surrounding who will fill Paul Azinger’s lead analyst chair for Pinehurst and beyond, Brandel Chamblee and Brad Faxon will share that seat as part of a four-man booth; Chamblee and Dan Hicks will take the even holes (including the 18th hole on Sunday) while Faxon and Mike Tirico will handle the odds. I know he’s polarizing but I think the addition of Chamblee is excellent; he’s sharp and intensely well-prepared and there’s no questioning his passion for the role or its subject matter.

Bones Mackay is joining the coverage as an on-course reporter; the golf world was curious whether he’d pick up a new bag or return to the broadcasting world following the legendary caddie’s split with Justin Thomas before April’s Masters.

And the tandem of Roger Maltbie (on-course reporter) and Gary Koch (analyst, working alongside Steve Sands) will join NBC’s coverage following positive reception to their return on Thursday and Friday of this year’s 50th Players Championship; this time they’ll be around all four days. The two were let go in controversial fashion at the end of the 2022 season after more than a quarter-century with NBC, but it’s clear the fans — and now the network — want more.

Golf viewers criticizing the broadcast is a sport in and of itself, so I don’t expect NBC to receive universal praise for this (or really anything else it does) but these all feel like wins. So, too, does the network’s promise of fewer commercials for the week. There’s work to do — that lead analyst chair still needs a long-term plan, for instance — but these specific additions will help the U.S. Open feel big. That’s golf stuff I like.


Who won the week?

Taylor Pendrith won the first PGA Tour event of his career at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson in Fort Worth. The golf was impressive, to be sure. But I enjoyed the moment immediately after his final birdie putt dropped on No. 18 and Mackenzie Hughes appeared on the green, light beer in hand, dousing Pendrith in celebration. The two aren’t just fellow Canadians; they were college teammates at Kent State, too, and on the day Hughes won for the first time at Sea Island, Pendrith woke up at 3 a.m. and drove down to show his support. He appreciated Hughes returning the favor. “It was pretty special for him to be there with a beer waiting for me. That was pretty nice,” he said.

Brooks Koepka won LIV’s event in Singapore, his final tune-up before defending his PGA Championship title. Koepka said he’s keen not to repeat his performance at the Masters, where he finished T45.

“I think the embarrassment of Augusta really kicked things into overdrive for me and really having to put my nose down and grind it a little bit harder and having to look my team in the eye and apologize,” he said over the weekend. “I’m not looking to do that again.”

Adrian Otaegui won a rain-shortened Volvo China Open for the fifth DP World Tour title of his career after a final-round 65 turned a five-shot deficit into a one-shot win.


Most people aren’t.

Ben Kohles was on the brink of his first PGA Tour victory as he played the finishing par-5 at TPC Craig Ranch. He certainly didn’t feel on the brink of defeat, not even as he played his third from just beside the green on a hole where not a single player had made bogey all day. But then a funky lie and a decelerated swing at his chip shot left him in an even worse spot for his fourth. He wound up missing the six-footer for par, handing Pendrith the victory in heartbreaking fashion.

“I mean, of course it stings, right? You feel like you had it right there and let it slip away,” he said post-round. But he was intent on focusing his attention on the positives, of which there are many: A berth in this week’s Quail Hollow Championship, a leap from No. 154 to No. 67 in the FedEx Cup, a check for over a million dollars… “I did so many good things this week, and I’m just going to keep reminding myself of that and try to get myself back in this position,” he said.

Sebastian Soderberg was hunting a wire-to-wire victory in China but was undone by his first hole on Sunday, where he drove it into a penalty area, and by his last hole, where he drove it out of bounds. Still, the finish marks his third podium in his last three starts as he’s slipped past Alexander Bjork for third in our increasingly competitive Swede Ranking.

Anthony Kim played his best round since joining LIV, shooting an opening-round two-under 69. But he followed that with back-to-back 75s and finished ahead of just one player. It still seems to me like Kim is playing reasonably well, given the absurdity of a 12-year layoff — but I expect he’ll have to start showing more consistently competitive form at some point this season to get a re-up from LIV.


LIV Golf talking a big game.

LIV Golf has always talked a big game — that’s kind of their thing — but two statements from this week stood out in particular.

One came from LIV commissioner Greg Norman, who doubled down on the idea that, merger or not, LIV is here to stay.

“My boss told me LIV is not going to go anywhere,” he told Bloomberg, referring to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who governs Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and also chairs LIV. “It will be well and truly in operation well past his death — and he’s a young guy. He’s asked me to just stay focused and deliver LIV. LIV is a standalone entity. He’s invested billions of dollars into this and we’re starting to see an ROI within this. So we’re gonna stay focused over here.”

Norman also mentioned to Bloomberg the idea of LIV teams buying golf courses to serve as their home venues, like an English Premier League team has in soccer or the Indian Premier League in cricket.

“And now you can build out around that,” he said. “It’s not just a golf course. You bring in education, you bring in hospitality, you bring in real estate, you bring in merchandise, you bring in management, you bring in all these other different opportunities that the game of golf has to deliver to a community, to a region. We are gonna be doing that.”

The second statement came from Phil Mickelson via Twitter as he entered the debate around LIV guys’ major-championship eligibility.

“Maybe some LIV players won’t be missed. But what if NONE of the LIV players played?” he asked, seemingly suggesting a potential boycott. Mickelson later deleted the tweet. And on Monday LIV players Talor Gooch and David Puig declared they’d received invitations to the PGA Championship.

What to make of the statements, then? Take Mickelson’s first: probably not much. Koepka has talked all season, including during this week’s win, about using LIV events as major championship prep, and Cameron Smith said it was great to play well heading into a major. These guys haven’t forgotten where their legacies are made, and it’s tough to imagine the likes of Koepka, Smith or Jon Rahm passing up a chance at a major title. That’s kind of the point, y’know? It’s also tough to imagine LIV players receiving much sympathy from the general public should they strike. Still, Mickelson’s tweet was the latest in an increasingly escalating war of words in which LIV continues to double down on itself.

As for Norman’s remarks? On the one hand it’s tempting to be dismissive of his over-the-top bombast; it’s easy to roll your eyes at someone guaranteeing a fledgling sports league will be around for decades to come. Nor has Norman’s track record been particularly spotless when it comes to grandiose claims; just think back to late 2022, when he claimed seven of the top 20 players in the world would come to LIV only to roll out a group headlined by Thomas Pieters.

But regardless of specifics, the subtext of Norman’s claims are significant and dismissing those would be foolish. Not just because the idea of home games is intriguing (LIV’s Adelaide event remains its proof point on this sort of stuff, including the power of untapped markets and cohesive team storylines) but because of the seriousness behind them. Take comments from Koepka, who isn’t prone to LIV hyperbole but sought to clarify a detail about the much-discussed merger this week.

“I mean, the merger is also between PIF (the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund) and the PGA Tour,” Koepka said at LIV Singapore. “I think that’s the difference. It’s not LIV Golf, it’s the PIF and the PGA Tour. I think that’s something that needs to be well known.”

LIV’s future has been a sticking point of negotiations and that only seems more true with time. Even as we wait to hear more about Rory McIlroy‘s reappointment — or lack thereof — to the PGA Tour’s board, his hopes for reunification run counter to everything LIV is saying. Monday marks 11 months since the surprise announcement of a PIF-PGA Tour-DP World Tour merger that would unite the golf world. It’s not clear in what concrete ways that merger has actually progressed since.


Monday Finish HQ.

The arrival of May means it’s cruise ship season. Have you ever stood beside a cruise ship? Absolute behemoths. The one sitting at port right now is called Quantum of the Seas; it’s operated by Royal Caribbean and should be headed up to Alaska this afternoon. It’s over 1,100 feet long, has 16 decks and is worth, like, a billion dollars. Do I want to go on a cruise? I do not. But I am in awe at the size of these lads.


3 things to watch this week.

1. Will Nelly’s chase continue?

Nelly Korda has won the last five golf tournaments she’s played in including the Chevron, the year’s first major. That means if she wins this week’s Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey she would have, as I understand it, six wins in a row. Good grief.

2. Will Rory take his seat?

What’s going on with Rory McIlroy and the PGA Tour Policy Board? Hopefully we’ll get more details this week.

3. Will Scottie’s rival emerge?

Scottie Scheffler will miss this week’s Wells Fargo Championship while (still!) on baby watch. Will someone step up to stake their claim to top challenger? Rory McIlroy, who’s won here on multiple occasions? Wyndham Clark, who won here last year? Or did Brooks Koepka just re-stake that claim in Singapore, reminding us who should be really be favored at Valhalla? Time will tell…

We’ll see you next week.

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