Rory’s LIV breakdown, Tiger’s gait, golf’s new referees | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where there’s no referee, no timeouts and certainly no shot clock — but more on that in a bit. Let’s get to it!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
On Monday Rory McIlroy helped introduce a new four-player team as part of the launch of a groundbreaking startup golf league. Later he was asked about the future of the PGA Tour and said he “sincerely hope the PIF are involved.” Those two things in combination would have been unthinkable last summer; McIlroy was never a likely LIV captain, after all, and in what other context would those two stances make sense? Go back two summers, meanwhile, and it would’ve been word salad. The future of golf seems to get rewritten about once a month at this point.
Inevitably McIlroy was asked during the inaugural Boston Common GC press conference how he could support the TGL — the league he and Tiger Woods have co-founded in conjunction with the PGA Tour — when he was so staunchly anti-LIV. He explained the biggest difference, which is that LIV was introduced as direct competition to the PGA Tour, while the TGL is supplemental and complementary. (Not to mention held in a stadium!)
“This isn’t adversarial at all, this was trying to — how can we be additive to the entire system,” he said. When he and Woods had been approached by league co-founder Mike McCarley, they’d insisted on getting the Tour on board, McIlroy said. They certainly did that.
McIlroy has tried to stay away from too much anti-LIV talk of late, but he couldn’t quite resist a couple shots at the rival league while he was at it.
“We’re not pretending to be — we’re going to be competitive, and it’s going to be a different type of golf, but it’s not the traditional golf that you see week in, week out,” McIlroy said. “I don’t want to sit here and talk about LIV, but I think you could make the argument that they haven’t innovated enough away from what traditional golf is, or that they’ve innovated too much, that they’re not traditional golf. They’re sort of caught in no-man’s land, where this is so far removed from what we know golf to be.”
LIV has been relentlessly self-promotional since its inception, sometimes crossing the line into disingenuousness. That’s where McIlroy’s “pretending” shot originates. The critique that LIV is either too similar or not similar enough to the current PGA Tour is probably a fair one, too. LIV has struggled with its identity. It’s a disruptor … that still seeks the approval of the OWGR and entry to majors. It’s an adversary … that is currently negotiating a ceasefire. See what I mean?
The only tricky thing is that this is pretty nuanced stuff; McIlroy’s getting in the weeds with this analysis. That makes sense on the Monday Finish — it’s what we do! — but it can be tougher when the juiciest snippet of your press conference is going to be blasted out to the masses via social media.
Rory’s press conference hinted at his ongoing antipathy towards LIV. His post-press conference appearance on CNBC reminded us of the complex future for the PGA Tour and for LIV — and for whatever uneasy marriage the two could craft. Beside him sat Tom Werner of the Fenway Sports Group, one of the firms in the running to snag a slice of the Tour.
“We confirm that we’ve had conversations,” Werner told CNBC’s Scott Wapner during the show “Halftime Report.” That was all he’d say. As for McIlroy?
“I feel like we’ve got a fractured competitive landscape right now,” he said. “But hopefully when this is all said and done, I sincerely hope the PIF are involved and we can bring the game of golf back together.”
The Monday Finish is staying out of the prediction game for the moment. Let’s sit back a couple weeks and see how this progresses.
Who won the week?
Erik van Rooyen eagled the 72nd hole to cap off a preposterous back-nine 28 and a two-stroke win at the World Wide Technology Championship, the second of his career. But it was most notable because of the motivation behind it; the 33-year-old South African said he was playing for his friend and college teammate Jon Trasamar, who has terminal cancer and was recently given just weeks to live.
Mone Inami won the Toto Japan Classic, the first LPGA Tour victory for the 24-year-old. You may know Inami from her silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, where she beat out Lydia Ko for second place. She declined to accept LPGA membership for the remainder of the season but still has a week to accept playing privileges for 2024.
Who almost won the week?
Matt Kuchar held the lead for much of the weekend but was undone by a quadruple-bogey 8 on Saturday; he shot a bogey-free 66 on Sunday to post 25 under for the week, good enough for T2. He was joined there by Camilo Villegas, who has largely been playing on the Korn Ferry Tour but now slips inside the top 150 in the FedEx Cup.
Shiho Kuwaki finished T2 in Japan in her first LPGA Tour start, while another woman who plays her golf in Japan, legendary former World No. 1 Jiyai Shin, finished fourth.
This week’s loser was Old Man Par, who got decimated by the field in Los Cabos. Not only did it take 27 under par to win, it took 5 under to make the cut and 7 under just to beat last place on the weekend. Kelly Kraft wasn’t particularly fond of the course, suggesting on Instagram that the PGA Tour could “do a better job picking.” Dumping on the first Tiger Woods design to host a Tour event is certainly a move! But Tour pros on site were reportedly unhappy with just how many birdies were required to keep pace; Kraft shot 8 under for the week to finish 71st. Old Man Rough wasn’t a factor, either — there basically wasn’t any, and pros hit a preposterous 90 percent of their fairways for the week. Adam Long hit every single one! The average for the year is 58 percent.
WHAT WE’RE SEEING
Tiger caddying — by foot!
That would be Tiger Woods, 15-time major champ, who hoofed it around the NB3JGNC for his son Charlie, who shot 3-under 68 to finish inside the top 20 for the week. There was understandable attention paid to the gait of the father, though, who hasn’t walked this much in public since he underwent surgery earlier this season. It’s an encouraging sign, to say the least.
Now the question becomes: What is Woods gearing up for? He knows his presence will be crucial for the success of the TGL come January. He’ll desperately want to play the PNC Championship in December. Might he try four days of walking at his own Hero World Challenge? And does he have Augusta National in mind?
We might hear from Woods around the launch of his own TGL franchise, or we might not hear from him until he takes to the mic at the Hero at the end of November. This portion of the golf calendar has become, for better and worse, Tiger Speculation Szn. Here we are again.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING
The next TGL franchise is…
Our Sean Zak has been doing some digging to find out exactly where Tiger Woods might end up playing…
I fear for the TGL fandom in the middle of the country. If you live west of Atlanta but east of Los Angeles, who do you pull for? We might need an expansion to Chicago or Dallas before this thing even kicks off…
WHAT WE’RE READING
Shot clocks and referees.
What’s black and white and red all over? [crowd leans forward in anticipation] A referee with a sunburn! [crowd groans]
Okay, so sunburns won’t be an issue inside the new Sofi TGL stadium in Palm Beach Gardens, which is being finalized ahead of the league’s January launch. But there will be referees, timeouts and even a shot clock, bringing elements of more familiar stadium sports to the TGL. (More details here.)
As I wrote last week, I’m still TBD on TGL. But I’m game to try it out! I will say they need to escape the perception that it’s a “simulator league,” which connotes your local bowling alley or your buddy’s basement. I’d force the idea of “stadium golf” rather than “simulator golf” especially, as McIlroy noted in the same CNBC interview, given that the “screen” in the stadium is 20 times the size of a typical simulator and the built-out green complex will be 10,000 times more satisfying than rolling a putt towards a portion of your simulator screen — something that has only ever made me feel like an idiot.
Anyway, we’ll see. But a shot clock is a good idea, a referee is a good idea, timeouts are a good idea. They seem to be nailing a bunch of the small stuff. It’ll soon be time to see if the big-picture concept holds water.
An intriguing sponsorship.
Rory McIlroy (Nike), Adam Scott (Uniqlo), Keegan Bradley (Travis Mathew) and Tyrrell Hatton (Adidas) each has his own clothing sponsor. But it seems like Greyson has snagged Boston’s team sponsorship. It’ll be interesting to see how little business intricacies like this shake out as the TGL plays on. Is it an issue that many of the golfers will be wearing non-sponsor gear in a primetime, nationally televised competition?
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
I’ve actually departed the great dreariness of November in the PNW for a cross-country trek to the Sunshine State, where I’ll be spending a couple days doing a couple things that I am very excited to share with you in a couple weeks. I won’t give too much away for fear of jinxing things, but I will say that the offseason is a good time for goal-setting. That’s true for golfers and it’s true for people that write, talk, and think about golf, too. I’ve been sketching out some ideas with some of the brightest talents at GOLF and these next few weeks we’ll have a chance to test ’em out. I’ll report back.
3 things to watch this week.
1. The Butterfield Bermuda Championship’s alternate list.
The order in which replacements get shuffled into PGA Tour events has to change at some point, given the high level of play at the Korn Ferry Tour level. But for now, a fall event on the island of Bermuda attracts some hearty Tour pros in search of FedEx Cup points, rum cocktails, friendly people, delicious Atlantic Ocean views and a Masters invite — but also, plenty of guys just say no. Their loss!
2. The ANNIKA
The tournament named for the modern GOAT of women’s golf returns to west Florida, where west Florida resident Nelly Korda looks to win her third consecutive edition of the tournament. It’s the penultimate event on the LPGA schedule; they’ll wrap up with the CME Group Tour Championship next week.
3. “Africa’s major”
One very cool byproduct of the PGA Tour relaxing its fall requirements is seeing guys play different events worldwide, and this week that includes Max Homa and Justin Thomas making the trip to the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa. They took advantage of the location of the penultimate DP World Tour event to sneak in a pre-tournament safari, too, before heading to Gary Player Golf Club for what’s known as “Africa’s Major.” We’ll let JT take us out:
See you next week!
Dylan Dethier (cautiously) welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.