First Tee to Last Call: The Times They Are a-Changin’
The PGA season is winding down, and this may be the last time we see it in its current iteration. There are many changes in the works, and the mounting pressure to fight back against the LIV Golf Tour is driving the need for the PGA to evolve.
One change you will probably hear about frequently over the next few weeks is the change in field size for next year’s FedEx Playoffs. The playoffs will move from 125 players down to 70. In addition, there will also be a tournament series throughout the year featuring the top-50 players in FedEx points standings with increased purse size to help entice players to stay engaged and provide the possibility of making a substantially larger payday.
Many events on the normal Tour cycle are exploring the possibility of increasing their purses. The amount ranges from $15 million to $25 million, and there are several of them. However, the bump in money seems to be a long time coming. Dustin Johnson’s signing to LIV makes more money with a single signature than Tiger Woods.
You will probably hear less from our PGA team at In-Between than in previous years until January. This is because the new season for the PGA will focus on a January-to-August schedule. There will still be a “swing season” of sorts, but it will focus on lesser-known players earning spots at larger events within the main season. The PGA is making this change, and in my opinion, primarily to allow players to have more time off.
LIV’s short and limited event schedule provides players with a much better personal/professional life balance. However, the counterpoint to this schedule change for PGA players is that the overall earnable income is still substantially less than that of the players on the LIV Tour. The LIV players will also enjoy a shorter schedule with more breaks within their season.
I applaud the PGA for making strides to improve the climate for its members. But at the end of the day, they still will not compete with LIV financially and personally for many of the players.
More Trouble Ahead
The continuing rumors swirling about some of the biggest names on the PGA defecting to LIV are looking to be more and more true. The interest of many young players (some of which aren’t even out of college) is a real threat to the talent pipeline of the PGA. In addition, these young players do not seem to have the loyalty to the game’s history that many of the aging PGA superstars are hanging onto.
I want to be a hopeless romantic and stay optimistic that there are players we haven’t even heard of who will be the next generation’s historians of golf. Yet, the practical side of me sees the argument for taking a massive payday and not having to fight for your job every few years. It’s hard to argue about making more money in three years than most professionals make in a lifetime. The money is undeniable.
The fan experience is another thing that will need to be addressed sooner than later by the PGA. LIV is a party. The events are shorter, not only as a whole but for a single day. The fans get to experience concerts before and after the actual golf with a tailgate-like atmosphere. In addition, the actual golf is played within a five-hour window, which is a stark contrast to the 12-hour day for a fan at a PGA event.
The coverage for LIV is engaging with many innovative camera angles and mic’d-up players. It’s more casual and fun. So many people knock the four-man team format. I don’t mind it; selfishly, I hope it catches on. It might go a long way to helping people who are new to the sport learn to enjoy it. I wish the newbies on my public course would play as a scramble on a Saturday; I’m getting tired of a six-hour round of golf.
Once you get past the negative press, the vibe is fun and refreshing. Golf has always been so buttoned up, and LIV feels more on brand with the younger generations.
I am a lover of the game. I don’t need to be involved with the politics of the individual leagues. It’s easy to find the morally gray underbelly of almost any professional sports league or entertainment company in the world if you look hard enough. Honestly, it’s staggering how many major media groups and sports organizations have funding coming from the exact same place as LIV.
I know it’s an unpopular take in this space, but if you’re going to boycott LIV, you’ll have to boycott damn near every social media platform and most of the sports you watch. LIV is not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. I, for one, will try to enjoy it for what it is at face value, a different golf league with a fresh take.
Onto the Green: BMW Championship
Wilmington Country Club Course Breakdown
• Par 71
• 7,534 yards
• Bent grass greens and fairways, fescue/bluegrass rough
This is the second leg of the FedEx Playoffs; the top 70 players in the field with no cut and the top-30 players in FedEx cup points will move forward to the championship next week. This is the first time at this course, so there’s not much to go on here. The course appears to be very straightforward – hit the ball to a point, nail your approach and make your putts. The course does have tree-lined fairways. Yet, they are far enough removed from the fairway that I don’t see this being a massive issue.
The greens are much larger than tour average but have many greenside bunkers and some runoff areas. I’m anticipating the greens will be relatively receptive and should not be hard to score on. There are three par fives on this course. Of those three holes, two measure more than 600 yards. There are four par threes. Of those, two measure over 200 yards. The par fours will be where players are making their hay.
• Driving Distance+Accuracy
• Approach from 150 yards & In
• Three-Putt Avoidance
• Par Three Scoring
• Par Four Scoring
• Birdie or Better Gained
• Fairways in Regulation (FIR) & Greens in Regulation (GIR)
There’s no set recipe in my mind. This is a straightforward course, but I do think you have to be able to score.
2022 BMW Championship Picks
Jon Rahm ($10,300)
John Rahm may be peaking at the right time. He has struggled with many aspects of his game at different points of the season but is fresh off of a fifth-place finish last week, gaining strokes in every metric. What I am looking at makes me confident that this may be Rahm’s week.
He is an excellent driver of the ball. His approach game is stout, boasting a 73 percent GIR rate. The putter that had escaped him most of the season seems to be back and on fire, as well. John Rahm is a fiery competitor. When there is blood in the water, he goes for the kill. Watch out for Rahm this week. I see him making a run at winning this leg.
Tony Finau ($9,700)
How do you make an argument against the hottest player in the world right now? Tony Finau is on fire. Everything about his game is dialed in, and there are no signs of slowing. Finau rated out No. 1 overall in my model this week, leading the way in almost every category. He will be popular, but at $9,700, it’s hard to fade him with such high win equity.
Cameron Young ($8,900)
Cameron Young has been “my guy” all season. He is the real deal and the complete package. Young’s a great driver and has a strong iron game, scoring a lot of DraftKings (DK) points. I like Young for a top-five finish, and he might be my favorite to win or, at least, give Rahm a run for his money. Lock him in.
Other Golfers in My Pool
• Rory McIlroy ($10,500)
• Xander Schauffele ($9,600)
• Joohyung “Tom” Kim ($9,000)
• Corey Conners ($8,300)
• Aaron Wise ($8,100)
• Cam Davis ($7,600)
• JT Poston ($7,300)
• Mito Pereira ($7,100)
• Emiliano Grillo($6,600)
• Taylor Moore ($6,400)
• Alex Smalley ($6,100)
“Last Call” Dart Throws of the Week
• Maverick McNealy ($7,000)
• Tom Hoge ($6,300)
Cheers! Thanks for reading and considering my 2022 BMW Championship picks. Good luck! Let’s win some money this week!
Conor Coughlin (@Cough_DFS)