Tour Confidential: Tiger’s TGL format, LIV Golf’s Promotions event, bucket-list courses

TGL league

A virtual rendering for the new TGL arena, named SoFi Center.

Courtesy

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 newly announced TGL format, the importance of its star power, GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World ranking and more.

1. As the January debut of Tiger Woods’ tech-infused golf league nears (TGL), last week we found out the format they’ll play in the SoFi Center in Palm Beach, Fla. It’s 15 holes per competition, with three-man alternate shot for the first nine holes (“Triples”), then six holes of head-to-head play (“Singles”). What do you think about the format? Is it intriguing enough to keep your attention? Or the average fan’s attention?

Tiger Woods and Justin thomas
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By: Sean Zak

Josh Berhow, managing editor (@Josh_Berhow): I think it is, especially since they are somewhat handcuffed with options. It’s not like we are going to watch these guys play a scramble. But I think the most important aspect here will be the 22,000-square-foot short-game area, which they’ll use for anything inside 50 yards and putting. We’ve never really seen anything like what this short-game area promises to deliver — in a stadium surrounded by spectators, with actuators and jacks to change the slope of the 3,800-square-foot green — so that will be fun to see how it works.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): Makes me think of those old, silly skills challenges, updated for the high-tech, reality-TV age. In that sense, should make for a good showcase for ridiculously talented shotmakers, so golf fans should get a kick of that part. The problem with that kind of entertainment is that a little of it goes a long way. Whether the spectacle draws a wide and long-term audience will depend, I think, on other elements of the production. The quality of the editing. The commentators. The banter among the players. The silly season was fun because it was a short season. I’m not convinced there will be a sustained appetite for what TGL is serving, but then I thought Holey Moley was unwatchable and it went on for several seasons, so what do I know?

Sean Zak, senior writer (@sean_zak): I really like the idea of three-man alternate shot. And just 15 holes. And a time slot that doesn’t stretch past two hours. I think part of the allure of this product will be creating some form of heroism. Where on a given night, Boston Common wins because Keegan Bradley made consecutive 30-footers and the in-arena reaction flies around social media. But, as LIV Golf realized, you can create a platform for golfing brilliance, but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen right away. (If I’m making the schedule, I’m leading with Rory’s team against Justin Thomas’, and every commercial break I’m playing promo for Tiger’s debut the following week. Unfortunately, I’m not in charge of the schedule.)

2. Also last week, we learned TGL now has one less star, since Jon Rahm withdrew from the league after he was originally one of the first players to sign on. While there are still several stars on TGL’s roster, how important will securing the big-name players be to its longevity and success? Or can the fun, laid-back format fuel it?

john rahm looks on at a golf tournament
Jon Rahm makes surprising WD from Tiger Woods-led golf league
By: Josh Berhow

Berhow: It’s going to be crucial, and some players might come and go over the years if this thing sticks around, but it’s a lot like what we see in a regular PGA Tour season: More people are going to watch if Tiger, Rory and Rickie are playing. (I’d really love to see Spieth join this league, by the way! He has the star power and personality to be a really nice addition). That said, one of the most important factors here will be the entertainment element. These guys can hit the shots, yes, but we’ll need some fun banter or stories or conversation to keep it loose. Some of the forced chatter we’ve seen in some of the made-for-TV matches won’t cut it.

Sens: The names do seem crucial for the initial draw. But if it’s going to last, there has to be more to it than Rickie and Tiger and Rory hitting amazing wedge shots and talking their (let’s be honest) pretty boring version of smack. This gets down again to the other elements of the production. There’s lots of competition out there for eyeballs, and attention spans are even shorter than an indoor course. 

Zak: Losing Rahm feels like a pretty big deal. He’s slowly becoming one of the most influential voices/figures in the sport. He’s probably the single player most likely to remain in the top 10 for the next 10 years. Maybe he’ll join season two! If there is a season two …

3. As first reported by Sports Illustrated, PGA Tour players can play without penalty at next month’s LIV Golf Promotions event, where the top-three finishers secure one of LIV Golf’s 48 available spots. The Tour said this LIV event is “a qualifying event only and not a part of an unauthorized series.” Are you surprised? And does this tell us anything about the PGA Tour and LIV’s relationship at this point?

Jay Monahan
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By: Nick Piastowski

Berhow: We probably shouldn’t be, given the framework agreement among the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF, yet it’s still a little surprising, given we previously haven’t been used to any semblance of unity between the PGA Tour and LIV. But I’m extremely interested to see how many or which PGA Tour members enter the promotions event.

Sens: Not surprising. The tours have already agreed to lay down their gloves. The legal battle is over, and the PGA Tour has also lost any claim to being on the right side of any fight over ‘ethics.’ This seems like a further extension of the olive branch that has already been offered. But given all the lingering questions about the proposed merger itself, it seems too early to see this as evidence of anything other than neither side has the energy for, or interest in, any kind of a fight. 

Zak: I’m actually not surprised at all. The only players who will consider doing this are the fringe folks who missed out on keeping their Tour card. In the event they qualify, it’ll be up to them if they want to take the plunge into LIV full-time. And by the time the next season begins, there should be more clarity on if LIV and the Tour are enemies, frenemies or cousins within the same family. 

4. GOLF released its latest edition of the Top 100 Courses in the World, with Pine Valley leading the way and eight newcomers appearing on the list. What stood out to you about the latest ranking?

medley of five top 100 courses
Top 100 Courses in the World for 2023-24: Our latest global ranking is here
By: GOLF’s Course Ratings Panel & Ran Morrissett, Architecture Editor

Berhow: I’m far from a course rater, but I think it’s worth highlighting this nugget from our architecture editor, Ran Morrissett, who points out that in the past 18 years, the number of parkland courses in the Top 100 has essentially been cut in half, with about 20 parkland courses on this year’s list. Interesting, right? While there’s no perfect explanation here, courses being built on ideal terrain complete with million-dollar coastal views (several have been built over the past decade) seem to be attracting immediate attention.

Sens: Spectacle matters, for sure. But so do the architects. You set the likes of Bill Coore and Tom Doak loose on some of these sites, and that makes for some seriously stiff competition. And of course these far-flung destinations wouldn’t be sustainable if the golf market itself hadn’t shifted in recent decades as well. The remote locations of some of these courses  — and the price tags that come with them — speak to a hard-core golf audience that is increasingly up for adventure and — crucially — has the money to afford it. 

Zak: That there’s such volatility toward the bottom of the ranking, which is good! That should inspire some courses to make a change here and there, and who knows, maybe you’ll launch into the top 80. St. George’s Hill jumped 17 spots. Rock Creek Cattle Company jumped 11 spots. Les Bordes 14 spots. To say nothing of the eight new courses added to the ranking this year. All it means is the difference between being 91st and 101st is razor thin. 

5. Among those Top 100 courses, half of them you can play. Give us a go-to itinerary for our loyal readers who might be seeking some bucket-list golfing adventures.

pebble beach 17th hole
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Berhow: You can knock out three of the Top 100s at Bandon Dunes alone, but I also like to recommend Cabot Links, where they have two Top 100s and added a par-3 course since the last time I visited back in 2018. The final four holes at Cabot Cliffs remain one of my favorite stretches I’ve ever played. Beyond that? Scotland. North Berwick, Cruden Bay, St. Andrews, Kingsbarns, etc. (Plus lots of other fun courses not in the Top 100.) It’s worth every penny.

Sens: It’s a long trip from the U.S., but you won’t find a better concentration of courses than in the Melbourne Sandbelt: Kingston Heath, a newly revived Victoria and my personal favorite anywhere, Royal Melbourne. And there’s plenty beyond those three — Metropolitan, Commonwealth and Yara Yara among them— that are well worth hitting up while you’re there.

Zak: I intend to make good on this with a few pals soon: the ultimate golf-football trip. And by football I mean European football. Fly into London, explore the heathland, attend Match No. 1, then train up to the north for Merseyside’s best links and Match No. 2. You’ll see some of the world’s best sporting venues and have access to a number of courses in the top 50. 

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