Tour Confidential: A surprising finish in Detroit, LIV Golf’s TV (and venue) future

Akshay Bhatia reacts to his missed putt at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Akshay Bhatia could have joined rare company Sunday.

Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

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 at @golf_com. This week, we discuss the wild finish at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Seth Waugh’s surprising PGA departure, LIV’s TV (and venue) future and more.

1. Cam Davis won the Rocket Mortgage Classic for his second PGA Tour win of his career after Akshay Bhatia three-putted the 72nd hole for bogey. The bogey robbed Bhatia of a playoff and a chance to win for the third time of his career, which only five players have done on the PGA Tour before turning 23 in the last 40 years (Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Tom Kim). Bhatia doesn’t turn 23 until Jan. 31, 2025. Do you think he joins this list? And, despite the loss, is he the game’s youngest rising talent?

Cameron Davis watches a shot at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Cam Davis wins Rocket Mortgage Classic after Akshay Bhatia’s shocking 3-putt
By: Jack Hirsh

Nick Dimengo, senior editor (instruction): Crushing ending for Bhatia, who’s one of the brightest stars in the game — at a point when the sport really needs one. However, it’s tough to envision him joining that list quite yet. He’s been on fire lately, so maybe he’ll prove me wrong and perform like this moving forward, but it’s going to take a major to really get my attention. As for young guns, I still have Aberg and even Cameron Young ahead of him in terms of “next up.”

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): My only concern about Bhatia is that, at 6-foot-1, 130 pounds, he might be condemned by building inspectors who deem him structurally unsound and in danger of collapsing in high winds. He could win another by January 1, with chances all the better if pegs it a few more times against lower-wattage fields. He’s an impressive talent. But Aberg is still the alpha among the barely legal crowd.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): Oh boy. He could definitely win by January — he’s been knocking on the door! — but if Davis’ Sunday win was a reminder of anything it’s that winning is hard and it doesn’t necessarily happen very often. Always take the under.

2. Meanwhile, Cameron Young started the day one off the lead but shot 73 — his worst score of the week by six strokes — and tied for 6th. He’s still yet to win on the PGA Tour, and the 27-year-old pro’s seven runner-up finishes since joining the Tour in the 2021-22 season are the most of any player without a win in that span. What’s holding him back?

Cameron Young broke his driver with five holes to go Sunday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Cameron Young loses it on driver, snaps shaft with five holes to go
By: Jack Hirsh

Dimengo: Young is easily my favorite young talent (see previous), but he’s really missing the “it” factor. Cliche, I know. His short game is the most glaring weakness in his game, but I also think it’s between the ears for him. He’s got to feel that taste of victory before he releases the pressure in his mind — then look out. Remember, it took Phil seven years on Tour to win his first major — and he’s now got six on his resume.

Sens: The short game for sure. The stats back that up. He’s 127th in strokes gained: putting and 118th in strokes gained: around-the-green. That doesn’t get it done very often on Tour, no matter how many lasers you hit from tee to green.

Dethier: This Sunday felt different than other Young close calls. Steam was coming out of his ears. The guy was right in the mix and broke his driver shaft on the 14th tee! Had Young made a four-footer on 16, two-putted on 17 and parred 18 he would have tied Davis at 18 under par. Instead, he finished three shots back. I hope for his sake this ends soon — the pressure looks like it’s understandably worn him down.

3. PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh announced he’s leaving his post after six years on the job. Much has happened with his organization during his tenure, but what do you think was his most important contribution?

seth waugh pga of america
PGA of America chief steps down in latest golf-leadership shake-up
By: Sean Zak

Dimengo: Maybe I’m just a big softy since I’m a new dad, but much respect to Waugh for his belief and promise as CEO to expand the PGA REACH Foundation, which helps grow the game for younger and diverse players, as well as for those without much access to golf. It’s such an important initiative to introduce a wider audience to the sport, and Waugh led the charge by securing hundreds of millions of dollars to support it.

Sens: Under Waugh’s watch, what springs to mind for me is PGA of America’s move from Florida to impressive new headquarters in Texas, and a long-term TV deal with CBS and ESPN—something that looks better and better all the time, given all the tumult in the game. Maybe both would have happened with another CEO in place, but Waugh’s business acumen couldn’t have hurt.

Dethier: I’m not sure how to assign credit here, so this is probably more correlation than causation — but the PGA Championships have been quite good in recent years. Valhalla wasn’t the test that fans want from major championships but it produced Sunday drama with a high-wattage leaderboard and Oak Hill, Southern Hills and Kiawah did the same in years before. The tournament has established a slightly stronger identity, they’ve stuck to a setup philosophy that keeps players happy and fans have flocked to its photo finishes. Here’s hoping his successor has the same success.

4. This week’s Italian Open on the DP World Tour — won by Marcel Siem — included a curious placement of hospitality suites just steps behind the 18th green at Adriatic Golf Club. In some cases, a shot into the suites resulted in a free drop nearly onto the green. We’ve seen setups like this influence play before, although rarely have they been this close to the action. What’s your take? Harmless? Despicable? A tournament oversight? A fun fan experience? Something else?

Andrea Pavan gets a crazy drop from a grandstand.
Pro’s rules break after airmailed approach leads to wild birdie
By: Jack Hirsh

Dimengo: Hey, course management is a thing, right? In this case, maybe the least popular opinion was actually the best golf decision! So, in that vein, I look at it as a fun fan experience. Sure, people are going to get pissed about it, but they’re probably the ones yelling at young kids for chipping onto their lawn. Let’s bring this to the Open Championship in a couple of weeks (partly joking).

Sens: Terrible. Bad shots should be punished. Obviously, tournaments need infrastructure, so you can’t entirely eliminate the occasional fortunate bounce or drop off the grandstand. But they essentially gave the players a risk-free backstop. It was bad.

Dethier: I like Sens leaning directly into Dimengo’s bait there. Stop chipping onto his lawn! But yeah, it’s bad. There should be punishment around exciting greens. Find a way. In the meantime it’s sort of tough to blame the players for doing what they can to shoot the lowest possible score — this is on the setup team.

5. LIV Golf’s first streaming partner, Caffeine TV, shuttered midway through its first season of their partnership, meaning LIV Golf is without a paid streaming rights partner in the U.S. with six events still remaining in its 2024 schedule. While there are still ways to watch LIV Golf, what does this mean for the league? And how much will it hurt LIV’s quest to reach viewers and expand its footprint?

greg norman stares at LIV Golf event in grey vest and black hat
LIV Golf TV partner shutters midway through inaugural season
By: James Colgan

Dimengo: Golf viewership is down across the board, so this isn’t that shocking, but it is a major blow to the league. In the end, what makes LIV, LIV, are the events. It’s not quite on par with the environment fictionalized in Happy Gilmore, but tournaments are much more relaxed and accessible than many PGA Tour events.

The product is still a new one for golf fans (with the whole team concept and 54-hole idea), so until more people understand it and can experience it for themselves, the league will continue to struggle — which is the biggest impact that losing a streaming partner has.

Sens: I don’t think the question is so much what this means for LIV but what it tells us about the product. LIV can easily afford to strike another streaming deal, but that doesn’t mean people will want to watch it. That’s been LIV’s problem from the start, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Dethier: I don’t think it meant much for LIV when the Caffeine TV deal was announced and I don’t think the streamer’s death means much, either. The streaming numbers they trumpeted around Caffeine were weird and nonsensical and ultimately pretty meaningless. What’s the big picture? Tough to say. LIV’s cable numbers are not good. I would love to hear the app numbers — I get the sense that’s where the league’s diehard fans watch — but I don’t think the release of those numbers is imminent, either. 

LIV has shown progress and has rightfully claimed victories for certain successful events, like its well-attended Nashville tournament last week. But from a business perspective, LIV is spending money like crazy, making money at a much lower rate and would still benefit from some sort of alliance with the rest of pro golf.

6. Speaking of LIV Golf and its reach, there was a report last week that said there’s early but mutual interest between LIV and Chambers Bay to potentially host a future LIV event. While pros had mixed reviews about Chambers when it hosted the 2015 U.S. Open, it shined on TV and is now a popular public track. Could LIV generate more interest by aligning itself with unique, well-known courses we don’t see on the PGA Tour like Chambers? Or do you think golf fans have already made up their mind if they are interested in LIV and few things (including the aforementioned streaming deal) can change it?

jordan spieth hits approach shot at chambers bay in 2015 us open
‘They throw a great party’: Chambers Bay considers LIV Golf event
By: James Colgan

Dimengo: I live in Seattle, so anytime we can get a big-time golf event that features globally recognized players at Chambers, bring it on! LIV would be wise to align with unique courses in golf-crazed areas (which is sort of their strategy already), so expanding that even more could help the brand overall. The league is made up of superstars, and, as long as that doesn’t change (and it becomes a B-level league), I think it has potential to grow.

Sens: Great venues never hurt. But LIV already has plenty of differentiators that set it apart from what we get week in, week out on the PGA Tour. The league will need more than a handful of cool courses to draw the kind of fan interest its organizers are after.

Dethier: Like Dimengo, I live in Seattle and love Chambers Bay. I love it! The Pacific Northwest is underserved as a golfing host and the failure to bring a PGA Tour event here at least semi-regularly feels like an institutional failure. Speaking specifically there are some spectator challenges that come with watching golf at Chambers, so it’ll be interesting to see how they tackle those and how they’d put one of the world’s most aesthetic tournament golf courses on display. Speaking generally I think venues do matter some — I’d rather watch the LIV guys tackle Chambers than Bolingbrook outside of Chicago, for instance — so I’d expect a slight boost. But it won’t solve all the league’s challenges right away.

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