Each week check out the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us Tweet embed. This week we discuss the latest news from Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and John Ram’s victory in the Mexican Open.
1. Last week, the 2022 PGA Championship field became more visible, as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson officially entered the event, May 19-22 at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. But we still have questions, and let’s start with Tiger. Not only did he score, but he also played a highly publicized practice run there on Thursday. At this point, would it be more surprising if Woods didn’t play PGA? And what will the location of Southern Hills be for him?
James Colgan, Assistant Editor (Lord save her): At this point, yes, it would be pretty surprising if he didn’t play. As for performance, Tiger took time in the Masters to stress the importance of staying out of extreme conditions given his current health. Jill Hansey and Jim Wagner’s 2018 Southern Hills restoration opened up the track in a big way, and while I bet there’s plenty of thick Bermuda coming championship week, I think these tweaks will benefit his game.
Nick Piastovsky, Senior Editor (Tweet embed): Yes, tiger plays. Of course, we’re not doctors – we just play them online – but by all accounts, he looked good on Thursday, and he looked good during the Tiger Jam event in Vegas. As for the South Hills, it’s different from what he saw when he won in 2007, but it’s familiar, and that should be comforting as he picks and chooses his events.
Josh Sens, senior writer (Tweet embed): he is playing. We don’t always get PGA Championships with world-class designs like Southern Hills. As difficult as it is, I would say the finer details of the architecture will work in his favour. This is not a bomb-and-go cycle. It takes imagination, creative lead making, and a charming short game. Nobody has more of these three than a tiger.
Sean Zack, Senior Editor (Tweet embed): It would be surprising if he didn’t play it at Southern Hills, but I refuse to believe the course would go well for him. I can not. He’s seen it, which is pretty cool, but he’ll know it as well as the rest of the field. And they won’t be 46-60-years-old. Doses of reality about Tiger are rarely met with anything other than stinging online, but I don’t see him going so well if just a couple of weeks ago he was shedding a 78-78 weekend at the Masters.
2. For Mickelson, his agent, Steve Lowe, sent a statement saying that Phil had scored at both the PGA and US Open, but – perhaps most important – also requested a PGA Tour release for the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event in London in June. However, there was a careful warning. “Phil does not currently have specific plans for when and where he will play,” Lowe said. “Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open.” Mickelson has apparently not played since he announced he was taking some time away from the game after his controversial comments he made earlier this year, the first time we’ve heard from Mickelson or his camp in months. How likely is Mickelson to defend his PGA title, and if you’d advise him to come back, what would you say to him?
Colgan: It would be a really dramatic move if the American PGA banned Phil from playing, which I think it would require so he doesn’t play later this month. For Phil, I think it makes sense to go back to PGA, where he will likely find a suitable audience. for the PGA? Well, that’s the (million dollar) question, isn’t it?
Piastovsky: I will say this: playing an elephant is less likely than playing a tiger. However, let’s put the 75 percent figure that Lefty plays. How does he not defend? And should, I think, it’s about holding a press conference and then moving on. But what about Phil’s future then? Whew, only he knows.
Sense: defends. He must die. Like James, I don’t see him forbidden. advice him? He said a few thoughtless things and then compounded them with some really bright talk to the media. I would remind him to be frank in his answers, and not try to deflect responsibility. and moved. If some people can’t forgive him so be it. He can’t control it. As he said himself, he wants to do better. Go ahead with this in mind.
zachLike Tiger, I think it would be shocking if Mickelson didn’t play on the PGA. If I were his publicist for a week, I would ask him to act exactly as he acted on Kiawah Island: in short, to the point, dashing away from reporters as the sun sets to get more range swing. The fewer words, the better. The fewer questions, the better.
3. While it’s not entirely surprising that Mickelson is keeping his options open for some of the upcoming majors, were you at all shocked to see him take the appropriate steps to play in his first LIV Golf Invitational Series event, given what has happened over the past few months? Lowe’s statement came on the same day that Sports Illustrated reported that 15 of the world’s top 100 players had ordered releases for the first tournament. Despite what happened earlier this year, will Mickelson’s presence continue to attract other potential big-name players?
Colgan: It strikes me as following the tried-and-true PR guide of giving up for a while before getting back to doing exactly what you were doing. Although I bet Phil is a closed book about LIV Golf financiers and the PGA Tour is headed forward.
Piastovsky: No, I don’t think having Mickelson would attract other players. At this point, it may deter people. But the story about the round has not changed – the money will bring the players. Lots and lots of money.
Sense: I’m with Nick. I don’t see his presence attracting more players. But it will attract more eyeballs, which could have a ripple effect in attracting more players later.
zach: big-name players? Number of players least? yes! There will be an event in London that will definitely give the tour its releases. And a player outside the top 50 might make more money than Jordan Spieth all year. It is only reasonable, but reasonable. This will attract some interesting reactions.
4. GOLF has learned that the Tour Players Advisory Board recently discussed a schedule change for the second time this year, a change that could open the door to a new fall competition series with the main season running from January to August. A drop will give senior players a break without losing FedEx Cup points and “disqualify” players who need to improve their FedEx Cup status compared to the previous season. Will you participate in this fall schedule change?
Colgan: Ah, hell yeah. Take a look at the fall schedule and tell me what events would you miss if you were dwarfed by the new team-based fall series? You’d be hard pressed to find one.
Piastovsky: I am, especially if the reports of more unconventional events are true. But does these paint the “biggest” names? I want to see some additional details.
Sense: I am biased in this. I would like to see golf closed to take a break, like other sports. I understand the commercial interest in a year-round schedule, but we fans already have enough fluff to consume throughout the year. Take time to rest. Absence is heartbreaking and all that.
zach: We all support creating breaks in the tour schedule where going back to work will be inherently more exciting than just bringing the circus to another city the following week. I think the biggest thing about this hold is whether the wallets in the international series are huge – $15 million apiece, or something of that scale. Coming to these conversations, the tour acknowledges that there is competition here.
5. Jon Ram was the favorite at the Mexico Open, wire-to-wire and shot 69 in the final round to win by one, making it the second time in seven attempts to convert a 54-hole lead or combined lead. Ram didn’t have his best on Sunday, but he held on to the win. For top-tier pros like him, are final rounds like this, when you’re a prominent name and a favorite in the big bets, more difficult to win than stronger field events where you’re expected to be on top?
Colgan: I think it’s easier to beat Brandon Wu and Kurt Kitayama as favorites than Colin Morikawa and Scotty Scheffler as a minor underdog.
Piastovsky: I wrote a little bit about this in the story of Ram’s win. Is it easier against a “lower” field? surely. But expectations are growing a bit. And players hate this idea. For what it’s worth, I loved Ram’s quote on CBS after his tour: “I don’t look at bets or anything like that. I like to think every time I work, I’m the favorite because I’m there to win and have played really well the past few years.” “. So I think he always thinks he has to win.
Sense: You can’t get to Ram’s place in the game without being more than mentally strong enough to handle the stress of expectations. Was winning this way easier than winning a lot of other events? definitely. But dozens of men had the opportunity, and only Ram succeeded in this.
zach: The difference between Morikawa, Scheffler, Wu, and Kitayama is very thin some days, and other days very gigantic. I think when you win on Sunday at the Tour after passing 54 holes, that’s an amazing feat, no matter what time of year it is.
6. The LIV Golf Invitational Series has released exclusive tickets for the inaugural draft party scheduled for June 7 in London, just days before its first tournament. The package includes admission to evening events, a place to watch teams selected by captains, an open bar and more. Single ticket price? Just a shade under $2000. We won’t ask if you’re ready to open your checkbook for this book, but it got us thinking: What a fan experience (for a premium price) would you like to see the PGA Tour show?
Colgan: I’ll pay an extra $100 a year for a commercial-free copy of broadcasts on NBC and CBS. I’ll pay an extra $50 if all broadcasters promise not to talk through turned on mics.
Piastovsky: The opportunity to play the tournament the day after the final round. Or beers with the hero.
Sense: At some point during the four days of competition, every player on the field has to pull a fan from the gallery and make that fan hit them. Don’t hit the tap. The shortest allowed snapshot will be 15 footers long. yes. stupid idea. But I still wanted to see it.
zach: Piastowski on something. Double the $10,000 and you can play the course on Sunday morning before the tour pros do. You just have to clarify your disability ahead of time, and be comfortable with each shot of you being shot. CBS will have a field day.