Tour Confidential: Golf rivalries, the U.S. Women’s Open, The Match returns and more
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 discuss Brooks vs. Bryson, the new LPGA boss, the women’s second major of the year and more.
1. The Brooks Koepka-Bryson DeChambeau rivalry added another chapter, when, on Monday night, a previously unseen video featuring an interview with Koepka was posted to Twitter. Over the next few days, the two continued to trade jabs over social media. Is this feud good for golf?
Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): Like mom used to say, it’s all good fun until someone loses an eye. Or finds an eye. We’re talking about it. Other people are talking about it. Clicks! As long as it doesn’t devolve into juvenile hostilities, no problem, to my mind. Every sport is better with the tension of a rivalry. I’d definitely prefer a few benign barbs between Brooks and Bryson to shirtless selfies of them spring-breaking together.
Josh Berhow, managing editor (@Josh_Berhow): Oh yeah, great for golf. We wrote about it and tweeted about it and all that good stuff, but so did all of those other sports sites that cover more than just golf. That always helps bring more eyes to the game. Feuds, rivalries, controversies — it’s all entertainment. Now, how much of this is actually a legit beef, and how much of it — especially the social media aftermath — was the result of a certain Player Impact Program? Who knows. But my guess is it’s a little bit of both.
Sean Zak, senior editor (@sean_zak): It’s definitely good for golf, and will be even better if they continue to play great golf. The thought of them paired together in contention is everything we need. And for the record, I think they really, really don’t like each other. Nothing played-up about that.
Nick Piastowski, senior editor (@nickpia): YES! And it gives us more than the “I know this is cliche, but I really did take it one shot at a time” quotes. It gives us personality. Great stories have heroes and villains, and this one does — though we’ll let you decide which one is the hero in this case. As long as it’s harmless, give us more!
2. At the end of September, the Ryder Cup kicks off at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Is the Koepka-DeChambeau issue problematic for the U.S. squad? If you’re captain Steve Stricker, how do you turn down the temperature?
Sens: You don’t. You put them both on the same team but you don’t pair them. And you expect them both to compete as professionals, which they will.
Berhow: It’s not ideal, but the U.S. is well aware it’s won just two of the last nine meetings, and the last thing the captains and veterans want is something like this throwing a wrench in team chemistry. So it will likely be addressed behind the scenes, but then it’s up to the players. Also, pairing them together seems like a disaster, so I don’t think that’s something we’ll see.
Zak: It’s definitely problematic, but the brilliance of a 12-man team (plus many others) is that two guys in the group don’t need to get along for your squad to win. They’ll have their agents and caddies and significant others around. The team room is spacious. Phil will be holding court. Just guessing, but Tiger might be there. Brooks and Bryson could easily fade into the background.
Piastowski: If Stricker does, it’ll be short. I imagine the European side is enjoying watching this, but while Brooks and Bryson may be bickering, everything to those two takes a back seat to winning. They’ll put team first, ants and abs second. (I imagine it all might make for good locker room fodder, too.)
3. The LPGA named Princeton University athletic director Mollie Marcoux Samaan as its new commissioner, replacing Mike Whan. What, in your opinion, should be Samaan’s top priority?
Sens: Anything to get more eyeballs on the players, more personalities into public view. More tournaments with Saturday finishes. Maybe a deal to get one of the Tour’s stars to take part in the next iteration of The Match. Ask Brooks and Bryson to each have daughters quickly and raise them to be rivals?
Berhow: Mike Whan did a great job and now it’s up to Marcoux Samaan to keep building. What we have said in this space for a long time I’ll say once again — get a mixed event with the men on the schedule. It would be so much fun. Intriguing formats, maybe a skills competition, heck, make captains draft for teams. Something needs to be done. And PGA Tour brass need to help here, too.
Zak: I’d pressure the media. Yeah, us! Pressure the media to care as much about the women’s game as the men’s game. That can mean anything, really. I just wholeheartedly believe that most viewers don’t know where to go or what to watch until you tell them.
Piastowski: TV. More of it. There’s a growing stable of talented and interesting players. Let’s see them. And money for the players. More of it. These talented and interesting players have earned it.
4. The first of two 2021 U.S. Opens in California begins this week at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, where the women tee off on Thursday. What storyline are you tracking?
Sens: As always, I’m all in on watching Lydia Ko, as fun a player to follow as there is in the game. How does she handle this bear of a course? She banked a comeback win. Now can she get back on major-championship track?
Berhow: Both Korda sisters won earlier this year and haven’t since, and both are still looking for major victory No. 1. Nelly is ranked 4th in the world and Jessica 12th; they are already stars in their sport, but a U.S. Women’s Open title would launch ‘em into the stratosphere.
Zak: I’m all in on Patty Tavatanakit. She’s younger than everyone else in the top 20 in the world, she’s contended multiple times in this young season and bagged a major already. She is only ascending and we’re going to be talking about her as world number one (I think very) soon. Does she have U.S. Open-style game? I think she does.
Piastowski: I’ll be following all of these, for sure. I’ll add one more: 14-year-old Chloe Kovelesky, the youngest player in the field. According to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols, she drives it between 280-290 yards. And look at that swing!
5. LPGA pro Shanshan Feng conceded her consolation match (and $23k more she could have won) in the inaugural Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play on Sunday at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, where temps peaked in the mid to high 90s all week. Feng, who advanced through her group and played 41 holes on Saturday, lost her semifinals match on Sunday morning before opting out of the afternoon match, saying she wants “to be well-rested and protect myself” for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open. Do you have a problem with her WD? Or do you think the tournament format (the same as the WGC Match Play) is in need of a fix to avoid these issues?
Sens: I have a problem with her WD. If you commit to an event, you owe it to yourself and everyone else involved to play to the finish, unless you’re injured. She knew the format. She also knew the U.S. Open was coming up next.
Berhow: I do not like these match-play consolation matches. The players in them usually aren’t banking on the outcomes to pay their mortgages and they often just seem listless. I’d get rid of them altogether. That said, they still exist, and this isn’t a great look. Hard to harp on someone for being honest and saying they were tired, but if you sign up and are healthy you gotta play! Side note: It admittedly is a tough spot on the schedule for those who played into the weekend.
Zak: I’m with Berhow. They aren’t necessary and are simply made to help keep the TV audience awake. No issues with her WD’ing — the real issue might be hosting this event prior to a major — and I hope she’s a buzzsaw at Olympic.
Piastowski: It must be nice to pass up 23 grand. But to each their own. Love the dedication to the U.S. Open.
6. The latest edition of The Match was announced on Wednesday, with Phil Mickelson re-teaming with Tom Brady, and Bryson DeChambeau pairing up with another NFL quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, in July at Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, Mont. In the past, the event has featured various creative side bets. What action would you like to see in play?
Sens: Long-drive competition. Bryson with five-iron against the two QBs. Who can hit the flagstick first — Tom Brady from 40 yards with a football or Phil from 15 yards with a wedge?
Berhow: I have been pleasantly surprised with how much better these matches have been getting, and I think that’s due to extra cameras, mics, solid production and, well, Phil Mickelson. The side bets don’t really interest me — although I love that they go to a great cause! — but I’ll tune in regardless to hear Phil talk about making coffee, fasting, wine or whatever else crosses his mind.
Zak: I’m a very vulnerable Packers fan right now. If I have to watch this while Rodgers is still considering leaving the franchise, while getting trolled by Brady and heckled by Phil, I might not survive. To say nothing of Bryson. Sorry for not answering the question.
Piastowski: Sean, don’t worry, great franchises like the Packers just reload, and Jordan Love will win the next 20 Super Bowls. Back to golf. Brooks has to dial in and bet this. Or live-tweet it. Something. And a Brady-Barkley wager of some kind would be spicy.