Tour Confidential: Max Homa’s jump, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed controversy
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 Max Homa’s win at the Farmers Insurance Open, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy’s ‘Teegate,’ Reed’s ‘Treegate’ and more.
1. Max Homa won the Farmers Insurance Open to claim the sixth win of his PGA Tour career, and fourth in the past 17 months. Are you surprised Homa rose from a strong pack to win at Torrey Pines, and what’s made his game jump to the next level over the past couple of years?
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): I’m sure a deep dive into the data could show how he’s done it statistically. But the biggest factor has to be the one Homa has alluded to himself. Self-belief. There’s a momentum that comes with confidence, and you can see it and hear it in the way he carries himself. There can be a disconnect in public perception — the sense that a clever, relatable guy on social media can’t also have a killer instinct. Homa’s keeps getting keener. Given his record in California, we should all be looking forward to the U.S. Open in Los Angeles.
James Colgan, assistant editor (@jamescolgan26): Nope! He’s just really freaking good at golf. It’s that simple. Homa has been one of the best golfers in the world over these past eight months — and for that we can thank his newfound closing gene.
Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): Sens said it well — it’s all about self belief. Once Homa proved to himself he could win consistently, it became a whole lot easier to actually do it. And with a swing like his, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win a whole lot more in the years to come.
Nick Piastowski, senior editor (@nickpia): Surprised that Homa won? Nah, that much. He’s good. The surprise, though, is that Jon Rahm didn’t win. Torrey is home to the Spaniard, and a two-over 74 is a stunner. But back to Homa. To me, we’ve become a bit conditioned now to the fast risers that we forget that pro golf is hard and success takes a while. I go back to this line in the wonderfully written feature on Homa by our Dylan Dethier: “Alongside Tiger Woods, Homa’s favorite athlete is likely Kobe Bryant. And there’s a framed quote that used to hang beside Bryant’s locker: the Stonecutter’s Creed. ‘Look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.’”
2. We had drama in Dubai, as Rory McIlroy ignored Patrick Reed’s attempt to say hello on the driving range, leading to Reed playfully tossing a tee in McIlroy’s direction. We learned afterward that Reed’s lawyer had subpoenaed McIlroy on Christmas Eve. “I’m living in reality; I don’t know where he’s living,” McIlroy said. “If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake.” Reed told the Daily Mail that McIlroy acted like an “immature little child.” What’s your take on Teegate?
Sens: Junior high school at the driving range – a clueless dude and a cold shoulder. McIlroy is not wrong, though. Reed obviously can’t read a room. And he’s calling Rory a child?
Colgan: Other than the abject hilariousness of it all, I thought it was interesting that Reed pumped oxygen into a story that was almost dead with that “immature little child” comment. Maybe these LIVers have a little bit more of a chip on their shoulder than they’re letting on publicly!
Melton: Reed projecting the “child” behavior onto McIlroy would be funny if it weren’t so sad. The lack of self awareness from Reed never ceases to amaze me.
Piastowski: (Incredulous facial expression.)
3. Speaking of Reed, he found himself at the center of a controversy a few days after his incident with McIlroy, when he took an unplayable on the 17th hole of the Dubai tournament when his ball was stuck in a tree. Reed identified his ball by specific markings in the tree, so he wasn’t forced to re-tee. The shot circulated on social media, and some thought his ball appeared to get stuck in a different tree than the one he dropped near. According to the Guardian, “a further layer of complexity was added by the fact umpteen golf balls sat in the branches of the tree being inspected.” Let’s clear this up: any controversy here, or nothing to see?
Sens: There were rules officials on hand. Let’s trust their judgment over jury-by-social media. The problem for Reed is the boy-who-cried-wolf thing. Past conduct matters, and Reed has a muddy enough track record that almost any ruling he’s involved in is going to raise some suspicions. In this case, I think we can be comfortable that things were played fair and square.
Colgan: Reed’s argument was backed up by a crew of two rules officials and “several marshals.” Unless new information comes to light, I think we should take that crew at their word.
Melton: Social media loves to get out the pitchforks for Reed, but this seems to be a nonstory. Those on the ground had a better look than any of us, and if they think it’s kosher, then I’m inclined to believe them.
Piastowski: Was it handled by the book? Yes. Could TV replay have helped point everyone involved in the right direction, no pun intended? Also yes. (And Golf Digest has reported that’s coming to the PGA Tour for rules situations.) I’ll leave it at that.
4. According to Sports Illustrated, LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman has essentially been promoted. Norman will absorb the role of LIV’s managing director, Majed Al-Sorour, who will take a step back as the circuit enters its second season. What does an increased Norman role mean for the league?
Sens: Dropped titles. Resignations. Promotions. Pfft. My guess is that the same decision-makers who have been pulling the strings will continue pulling them. The significance seems more in appearance than actual function. Continuity of LIV in the title at the top of the masthead. And, for LIV critics, a chance to continue pointing to Norman as a divisive figure with an ax to grind.
Colgan: I think it means there’s a consolidation of power atop the LIV hierarchy. Maybe that manifests itself in clearer organizational messaging in 2023, but one thing seems pretty clear: “Greg” isn’t going anywhere.
Melton: It means LIV feels OK going all in on The Shark’s leadership abilities. Time will tell if that decision will come to haunt them.
Piastowski: I agree with Sens. It’s window dressing. Bottom line: The Saudi money is still calling all the important shots here.
5. The first CBS golf broadcast of 2023 debuted at the Farmers with some noticeable changes. Obviously Trevor Immelman replacing Nick Faldo was the biggest, but we also saw new camera angles, a walk-and-talk with a player, and even an in-round interview with a contender’s mom. What were your thoughts on some of the changes?
Sens: Like the Tour itself, the CBS broadcast has often felt tired and complacent in recent years. These changes are welcome. A mic’d up Homa was especially good. The more these telecasts can showcase personalities while sharing actual insights, the better. If some of it feels gimmicky, so be it. These telecasts are ripe for a shakeup.
Colgan: I was encouraged. The product was faster, smarter, and worked a little bit harder for the viewer. There are still too many commercials, but then again, the Tour’s gotta pay for those new tournament purses somehow!
Melton: It was an encouraging step, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. The golf broadcast product has been so stale for so long that any innovation is a welcome one — but let’s not get complacent. The TV product has a long ways to go before I’m ready to declare anything “fixed.”
Piastowski: It was a change for the better. Take that for what you will. But I’m going to flip the question around, to the readers, and ask this: What would make a good broadcast? I’m seriously not being sarcastic or anything here; just really curious. I hear a lot of, ‘Oh, golf TV is so very bad,’ but I rarely hear solutions other than, ‘Less commercials for my network golf’ and ‘More story-telling during a live tournament.’ So I wanna hear it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a Twitter DM @nickpia.