Tour Confidential: Justin Thomas’ struggles, Jay Monahan’s return and slow-play controversy

justin thomas stares

Justin Thomas missed the cut at this week's 3M Open.

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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 Justin Thomas’ continued struggles, Jay Monahan’s return from a monthlong absence from the PGA Tour, a slow-play controversy on the LPGA Tour and more.

1. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan returned from a monthlong absence atop the PGA Tour and announced a flurry of news about the PIF merger, the Tour and the future. What was the most interesting takeaway you read?

James Colgan, news and features editor (@jamescolgan26): I’m super-intrigued by the addition of Raine Group’s Colin Neville as a “special advisor” on the merger. Neville was one of the first figures involved with the creation of the PGL, which later became LIV. Now he’s working for the Tour in helping to shape the future of team golf. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a big deal from the outside, but it sure feels that way to me.

Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): I’m interested in the task force that will develop “potential pathways back to the PGA Tour for LIV players who wish to reapply in the future.” I think everyone wants to see golf reunified, and I’d like to see what that will potentially look like.

Claire Rogers, senior social media manager (@kclairerogers): I’m also very interested in the task force, especially after Phil Mickelson tweeted this is regard to it: “Not a single player on LIV wants to play PGA Tour. It would require a public apology and restitution to LIV players for paying millions to Clout media to disparage all of us. A better topic is future sanctions for the many players who now come to LIV.” I’m so so curious as to how all of this will unfold.

2. Monahan also confirmed the Tour won’t support the USGA’s proposed Modified Local Rule on the golf-ball rollback. “Although there has been some level of support for limiting future increases, there is widespread and significant belief the proposed Modified Local rule is not warranted and is not in the best interest of the game,” he said. What does this mean for the proposed rollback going forward?

Colgan: It means the PGA Tour simply isn’t operating from a position of strength with players right now, and it’s showing. The Tour’s decision was clearly driven by a shortsighted desire to placate players ahead of a possible “definitive agreement” with the PIF; not the long-term best interests of the sport. The irony of it, though, is that Augusta National falling into line with the governing bodies would give those competing on the PGA Tour no choice but to play a rolled-back ball, lest they game a new ball solely for the majors.

Melton: James is exactly right. The Tour has used all of its leverage with players — and they know it. I’d expect lots more catering to players in the coming months as Monahan and Co. attempt to mend the relationships they strained during this process. 

Rogers: If the MLR doesn’t have support from players, and the Tour isn’t going for it, then who is? The leaders of the USGA and R&A? I’d say this thing is dead in the water, except for the fact that 2023 proved that the majors are really in charge of golf these days. It’s really going to depend on what Augusta National decides.

3. Justin Thomas missed the cut at the 3M Open, a tournament he added to aid a late push to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He’s still outside the top 70 with one more late addition, the regular-season ending Wyndham Championship, up next. If he fails to qualify, he won’t have any starts remaining before Ryder Cup auto-qualifiers and captain’s picks are finalized. If Thomas has another underwhelming showing at the Wyndham, is there a chance these late additions to his schedule could do more harm to his chances than good?

Colgan: Thomas’ spot on the U.S. team was in a precarious position the second he shot 82 on Thursday at the Open Championship. If he misses the cut in two of the weakest Tour fields of the year to miss out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the harm will be entirely self-inflicted. His playing schedule has nothing to do with that.

justin thomas stares longingly 3m open
Justin Thomas’ fragile Ryder Cup candidacy just took another blow
By: James Colgan

Melton: Not sure we can point to the schedule as a valid reason for JT’s precarious Ryder Cup position. He’s just been playing flat-out bad golf this year. After the disaster at Hoylake, he had to add these events to his schedule. His MC last week is just another poor performance in a long list of them in 2023.

Rogers: JT fired an 81 on Friday at LACC and an 82 on Thursday at Royal Liverpool before heading back to the U.S., only to miss the cut at the 3M Open. I’m sad to say I don’t think we’ll be seeing him at the Ryder Cup this year. Then again, I love a good personality hire so wouldn’t hate to see him in Rome.

4. Celine Boutier claimed her first major title and became the first-ever French golfer to win the Evian Championship, lapping the field by six. How did she make this one look so easy?

Colgan: A little bit of home cooking never hurt. I’m sure playing in front of her countrymen and -women was all the boost she needed to outright lap the field, and good on her for it.

celine boutier poses with french flag
Celine Boutier completes dream week with win at Evian Championship
By: Zephyr Melton

Melton: When you’re hot, you’re hot. Brian Harman showed us as much at Royal Liverpool, and Boutier caught some of that lightning in a bottle and took it to France. The good vibes of competing at home didn’t hurt, either.

Rogers: Colgan is right. It was awesome to see hundreds of fans screaming Boutier’s name as she came down the 18th fairway on Sunday, and I think knowing that everyone there was on her side must’ve helped. That plus some insanely good golf.

5. Speaking of the Evian, Carlota Ciganda was disqualified when she refused to sign her scorecard after a slow-play penalty, and she later took to social media to plead her case, saying she was penalized for taking too long on a 10-footer on the final hole (when the group behind wasn’t even on the tee on the par-5). Ciganda, who has been dinged for slow play before, added: “I wish everyone gets treated the same and they don’t pick on the same players all the time!” Should there be some leeway given to players if, like Ciganda said, they aren’t currently holding anyone up? And do you think she has a point about focusing on certain players?

Colgan: When I was growing up, my parents had a favorite saying: “Reputation is earned in drops and lost in buckets.” If Ciganda doesn’t want extra attention for her slow play, I recommend she take a long look in the mirror. And as for the asinine suggestion it isn’t slow play if it isn’t holding another player up, let’s not give oxygen to bad ideas.

Melton: I empathize with Carlota’s frustrations as she’s been on the receiving end of a couple costly slow-play penalties, but it’s about time she does some self reflection. She’s long been known as one of the slowest players on the LPGA Tour, so it’s to be expected she’s under the microscope. It’s unfortunate that her slow play has cost her so dearly, but I’m glad the LPGA is serious about policing pace-of-play issues. 

Rogers: Let’s compare the issue of slow play on tour to speeding on the highway. Just because we all do it doesn’t mean you can’t still get pulled over. If you don’t want to get pulled over, don’t speed! Same thing goes for slow play, especially when the player has been dinged before. Also, I think the idea that you shouldn’t be penalized for slow play if you aren’t holding anyone up is a very bad one.

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