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EXCLUSIVE: PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan recaps the 2020 season with Michael Williams

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This has been a year like no other in America. First, a global pandemic brought a halt to virtually every aspect of daily life, including professional sports. And then the slayings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor unleashed a seismic wave of protest that was felt and echoed around the world.

The PGA Tour was affected as much as any of the sports leagues. Commissioner Jay Monahan and his team faced the challenge of how to safely open a league that travels to a different city every week in an environment where many people don’t feel safe leaving their house. And once open, the sport had to compose an effective response to calls for diversity and inclusion despite a lingering reputation for being among the most exclusive of the major professional sports.

I talked with Monahan in an exclusive interview about the turmoil and triumphs in 2020, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the PGA Tour will make its mark in America’s reckoning on racial justice on and off the course.

Michael Williams: I just want to start off with a helicopter view of the job of PGA Tour commissioner. By my count, there’s only four guys who have held the job in history; how has the job changed? What’s the biggest difference between Dean Beman’s job and the job you have to do every day?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: Well, I think when Dean took over as commissioner of the PGA Tour, in its simplest form, the tournaments themselves were not run by or controlled by the Tour itself. And the media rights for the events were controlled by the tournaments in the local markets. And so in essence, Dean realized that for the Tour to thrive, the tournament’s needed to…all come underneath the PGA Tour and be operated at the direction of the Tour. And in order to maximize playing and financial opportunities, those media rights needed to be pooled. And the stroke of genius back then was that as a means of accomplishing that, all of our tournaments were organized for the benefit of charity. And so you fast forward today, and, you know…we’ve generated over $3 billion since inception, and that’s such a critical part of what we do every day.

I look to the fact that the game, it’s truly a global game—we’ve got 94 players from 29 countries that are participating on our tour of roughly 250 members. We play seven events outside the U.S. You look at our domestic media partnerships with Viacom, CBS, and NBC internationally with Discovery; just the presence and the profile of the Tour is, you know, it’s truly global, it’s a global game. So managing the global business itself and the complexities that come with that is probably what’s different today versus back then, but it’s also just been a natural part of the evolution of the Tour and the game.

Michael Williams: Let’s talk about the 2020 season. Even though we still have two major championships to go, oddly enough, we’re talking about the close of the 2020 season. Given everything that was going on with COVID-19, are you more surprised that you were able to start this season or that you were able to finish it?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: I would say that I was probably more surprised that we were able to start and start when we did, just because of all the uncertainty that we inherited when we stepped away during the week of The Players Championship. So there was a period there of 30 to 45 days where, you know, you’re trying to reimagine, restructure your schedule. Given that we were stepping away after 24 weeks, we were also trying to do that in the context of “What does this mean for the members of the PGA Tour in terms of their eligibility, and is this going to be an official season?” And then you had all the safety—health, and safety protocols—so solving those three important issues or challenges, was a significant undertaking. I think, well, I think we just had a number of moments along the way that gave us an indication that we would be able to return in June…and once we were back, we all recognize that we were going to experience some challenges and some setbacks, it’s just the nature of the virus.

But we felt like we had a great plan and that there was strong accountability with those that were going to be in our bubble—a bubble that was moving from market to market. And I always felt like we’d get here, but, you know, getting back and starting that week of June 8th, I think that was the most challenging part of the exercise.

Michael Williams: Are there any policies or procedures that you’ll carry forward into future seasons that you learned from operating in this environment? For instance, some people like the look of the tournaments being played without grandstands around the greens are thousands upon thousands of fans lining the fairways and surrounding the greens. And of course, you love to have the fans there, but is there any discussion about maybe limiting the number of fans at events to improve the fan experience on the course and for the viewers at home?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: Your example is something I’ve heard from a lot of people about. You look at other sports where you’ve got empty stadiums and they’re doing everything they can to create energy and to bring people virtually or through cardboard cutouts to the venue itself. And while we have not been able to have spectators at our events, I think we have the natural beauty of several hundred acres moving from market to market. But I also think part of the beauty of what happens week in and week out is, the number of fans that we have; it just creates this incredible energy. That’s, I think a big source, of what we experience when viewing the events, but then when you take it away…you gain an even greater appreciation for the beauty of the game itself and the beauty of the landscape of these courses.

I think we’ll listen, but for us to be able to make the charitable impact and the community impact that…have had [and] that we want to return to, you know, we’re going to need to get back to the way things were. And obviously we can’t wait for our fans to come back and our players cannot wait to be playing in front of fans. But to the heart of your question, there is no doubt that there are a lot of learnings that we will apply to the business…as we go forward. When you operate a certain way for a long period of time, and you can no longer operate that way, you identify inefficiencies, you identify things that maybe you hadn’t been doing that you should be doing.

You think about what the player experiences. For example, a big part of what happens at PGA Tour events is amateurs that are playing with professionals on Wednesday, right inside the same field of play. And that experience is a huge part of our economic model. We couldn’t have Pro-ams and haven’t been able to. At the end of week two going into week three, I get a call on Monday from Bubba Watson in his RV heading from Hilton Head to Hartford. Bubba was mic’ed up on the previous on Sunday with Wesley Bryan, and they had some really good back and forth during that round. We were picking up a lot of commentary in the broadcast, and we’ve gotten good feedback on that.

So Bubba says, “Hey, we’re not playing Pro-ams, it’s harder for us to support these tournament organizations. What if we do a charity event on Wednesday where we mic guys up, and I’ll start it off? I’ll pick three guys and we’ll have a match.” And in Detroit [at the Rocket Mortgage Classic] we started it, to raise funds to address the digital divide in the city of Detroit. We raised well over a million dollars. And from that, each week we’ve held an event and our players have been raising their hands [to participate]. Just this past week, we raised a million dollars on Thursday for the East Lake Foundation. So, it’s just little adjustments like that I think are things that you’ll see us continue to find a way to apply as we go forward.

Michael Williams: Let’s turn to the other large issue of this summer, which is obviously the racial upheaval and reckoning that’s been happening in the country and all over the world. It was interesting to me to find out that you actually convened an inclusion leadership council within the PGA Tour long before this happened this summer. What prompted you to do that? Did you have a premonition that the severe inequalities in society could lead to the type of upheaval that we’re seeing?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: I was named deputy commissioner of the Tour in 2014, and one thing everyone talks about when they talk about the game of golf is that the game of golf is fairly homogenous and we need to diversify our sport. We need to create more opportunities within our sport. And, as an organization, we [at the PGA Tour] also recognized that we wanted to reflect society when you look across our organization. And so the question was, “How do we go about understanding where we are organizationally and how do we go about understanding how we can have a bigger impact on our game using our platform?” So, that led to the formation of our Inclusion Leadership Council, where we’ve got eight [PGA Tour] executives on the council that my office meets with frequently.

And we’ve looked at everything from our hiring practices to our employee demographics, to our messaging and some of the things that we’re doing to make sure that when we’re talking about the game, we’re celebrating the welcoming and inclusive nature of the game. And so that was the start of our journey. And Michael, [forming the council] was more an inward look to really understand where we were, and then how we could improve, how we could set benchmarks and how we could raise conversations and talk more openly and real about where we were.

And I think the most important thing here is that we’re a culture where we’re celebrating diversity of opinion, diversity of thought. Prior to 2014, and I give my predecessor [former commissioner Tim Finchem] all the credit for this, with the formation of the First Tee, we have been actively trying to make our mark through the First Tee with the establishment of 150 chapters, being in 11,000 elementary schools, and using our platform week in and week out to talk about the life skills that the game of golf can teach you. We have really, again, looked inward at what has happened in society and how that affects us. We have, as I talked about last week, we are significantly doubling down on using our tournaments and all the markets where we play to identify causes that we think will make an impact on racial and social injustice. And then how do we use this incredible program at the First Tee that makes it certain, that we’re getting into more Title I schools, Title I communities, and getting further into underprivileged and underserved communities. We’re doing good work, and we’ve got a lot more work to do. But I’m really excited about some of the things that we’ve identified that we think could have a huge impact on our game.

Michael Williams: So, one of the outcomes you announced last week is the $100 million pledge to address racial inequality. Talk a little bit about that, how you decided on, making that a part of your response to the issues of the day, and also talk a little bit about how those funds will be dispersed. How do you determine who’s going to who are going to be the recipients and how do you determine effectiveness?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: So…we returned the week of June 8-11, the week [after] George Floyd’s killing. And for us, I pledged that we were to be part of the solution, pledged to really listen and understand and engage, and try and find a way for us to make an impact. At the time, you really felt like he wanted to do something and do it right away. And it felt like it was important to recognize the fact that we’ve been doing great work and every community where we play for a long period of time. And we needed to go back to our strength. And that is to talk to our tournaments…and keep in mind, we just announced a 50 event schedule for the 2020 2021 season.
As I mentioned up front, the beauty of our model is that our tournaments are run by what we call host organizations in each community. And those host organizations have business leaders, civic leaders, and anywhere from 800 to 3000 volunteers. So they are the pulse of that community and they’ve raised millions of dollars through the years. And we felt like if we could organize, get our tournaments together and pledge to identify a cause that’s specific to their market that they believe can make an impact. And then they make a commitment to, not only raise funds, but to engage with and celebrate those organizations as we go forward. That is us doing what we’ve always done, applying what we do exceedingly well towards the issue of racial and social injustice. And all of our tournaments very quickly raised their hands and said, “we’re on board and we’re going to get to work.” And so that’s an important part of how we felt like we could make a difference. You know, every market has different organizations and is in a different state; you’re going to get different perspectives on what needs to be done. And we felt being “local” with the organizations was the right way to go about it as one of the things that we’re doing.

Michael Williams: And I’ve heard that it’s minimum $100 million who doesn’t necessarily need to stop there. I want to ask is about the players themselves. I always think of it as around a hundred different sort of little mini teams in a league. When it comes to messaging on social issues such as this, does it make your job more difficult that you have to manage a hundred “teams” rather than an NFL or an NBA, which has more of an actual team structure and may be a little bit more coordinated in how they message to the public?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: Well, our players are independent contractors. And when you look at the PGA Tour, you’re really looking at about, on average 250 members. I would say that, because our players are independent contractors and, given the nature of our sport, which is so philanthropic-minded, so civic-minded…a lot of our players very early on in their careers, once they start to achieve success, and really success starts when you become a member of the PGA Tour, a large number of our players have either formed their own foundations or are aligned with an organization. And they’re making that their life’s work. You couple that with what we [at the Tour] do each week. There’s so many different causes that we support and our players know that one of the beauties of playing in that event is that they’re going to be contributing to making an impact in that in the community.

So I think one of the opportunities that we have is that we’ve got a great working relationship with our players and our players expect and understand that we’re going to identify the causes that are going to help society, help the game, help this organization. And because it’s tied back to our tournaments, they provide incredible support and they’re the reason that we’re able to make that impact. So our players are spending a large amount of their time helping others, and they’re doing it when they’re at home, they’re doing it at tournaments. And when they sign up Friday night at five o’clock the week prior to an event, every one of those players is contributing to a massive charitable and economic impact in every community where we play.

But going back to your question, I think complex societal issues become complex for every business. And what we try to do is communicate and make sure that we’re engaging our players in dialogue, that our players are comfortable talking to us and reaching out to us and sharing their thoughts on issues, sharing their thoughts on what they think can be done. And I’d like to think that there’s a lot of confidence that from them, that they know we’re going to distill that into the right set of actions.

Michael Williams: Tiger Woods is arguably the most influential player in history, which makes him certainly the most influential player of color in history. Have you discussed with him directly and personally his role in implementing the tour’s diversity and inclusion mission?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: You know, I talk to Tiger about all facets of our business, facets of the game, and he has a world view that’s very valuable to me. And it’s just fun to engage him in dialogue on really any subject. But when you look at Tiger, you go back to 1996, 1997. Tiger, his dad and his family came together and said that providing educational opportunities and providing access to STEM learning was going to be his life’s work. And since that point in time, he has built the TGR Learning Lab out in Anaheim. He has two other physical facilities, and I think 165,000 kids have gone through the program.

Something north of 5,000 teachers have been trained on STEM through their curriculum, trained and certified. And just this past year, I think 114 Earl Woods scholarships were given out—four-year scholarships for first-generation college students, 98% of whom are minorities. You look at the tournaments he hosts, from the Genesis Open to the Hero World Challenge. The amount of time he has given to supporting that work, the amount of financial resources he has provided, his level of engagement in the lives of these kids and knowing where they are and how he can help is…It’s absolutely remarkable. And, you know, there are times when I hear he gets criticized for not being more vocal on issues. And I think everybody handles differently, and their ability to know how they want to talk about how they want to be engaged…we’re all different.

We all have different comfort levels. The level of action he has put into helping others is the thing that I focus on. And he continues to do it in ways that people don’t see—that I just find to be absolutely remarkable. I know other athletes, you know, the likes of LeBron and others have done incredible work. But Tiger is Tiger. As far as I’m concerned, he has done more than anybody else over an extended period of time that I’ve seen. And it’s something that we’re proud to support.

Michael Williams: Did he ever talk to you about doing any sort of PSA or something like that? Literally speaking into a microphone about the issues and his feelings on them?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: We talk about a lot of things. And as you can imagine with, with all of our players, part of the beauty of being able to have a dialogue and discussion and, and get candid feedback on any number of subjects is that I can use that information to shape how we’re going to continue to evolve as a business, but those conversations are conversations obviously that I keep between myself and the athletes. I’ve talked to him about every subject you can imagine as I have with so many of our players,

Michael Williams: Well, we look forward to being privy to some of those conversations and, at some point in the future, seeing the result of them. One of the things I tell people about the game is that it’s one of the most, uh, prejudice-free environments that I’ve ever run across. But still there are moments that inform me and let me know about the homogenous nature of the game that you talked about before. They’re the outliers and the exceptions, but they do exist. Is there a moment or an incidence of racism that you have seen personally in your career or in your personal life that affects and informs your work decisions and your personal positions on issues of race and inclusion?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, outside of Boston, and went to the public school system there. And, as I’ve made my way through life, like so many unfortunately have, I have seen…racism. And I know the difference between right and wrong and that shapes the way I think and the way I lead and the way I try and apply myself to the work I do. And I mean, we’ve all experienced it in our own personal lives. And I think in today’s day and age, where we have with phones and digital platforms and the ubiquitous nature of media, everyone has seen what has happened over the last several months. So I’d just say for us as an organization, it comes down to what can you do in the role that we’re in to make a positive impact on our communities and on the game itself. But I think your question is, have seen or experienced racism in my life? I have.

I think the things in particular that have struck me are my black colleagues, my black friends, and the stories that they’ve told me. People share with you the way that they’ve been affected…and because you care, you know…I think life is all about caring for others. When people you love and people you work with and people that you think you fully know, start to share with you ways that they’ve been affected that you didn’t know before…that’s what shakes you. I think those are the most powerful moments. And I think that it’s taken tremendous courage from my colleagues and friends to tell me some of those stories. And I continue to learn from others that are telling their stories, those that I don’t know. And that’s part of, that’s part of how we work through this really challenging time, to try and really listen to what others are saying, others that are impacted ways that, candidly, I have not been. I feel like as a human being, I feel connected and I feel inspired to try and help make a difference.

Michael Williams: Last question: Put yourself 10 years into the future. If the efforts that you’re implementing and embarking on now are successful, what will it look like 10 years, 10 years from now, what will be, what will be different and significantly changed?

Commissioner Jay Monahan: First of all, I’d say that as a game, you’ve got the PGA Tour, you have the LPGA Tour, then you have the four major championship organizations, the PGA of America, 29,000 teaching professionals that they represent that run the PGA Championship, Augusta National with the Masters, USGA with U.S. men’s and Women’s Open…the R&A with the…men’s and women’s Open Championship…

I think as a sport it’s a matter of us [PGA, R&A, USGA, PGA Tour, LPGA, Masters] all working together to make an impact on our industry. But from my standpoint, I would just see us be one, being in a position where we can talk market to market about the impact that we’ve had on racial and social injustice through organizations, financial efforts, and in terms our engagement.

I think for the First Tee, it’s a matter of continuing to address some of the disparities or barriers, getting into more underprivileged, underserved communities, and putting young kids on a path where they can either continue to play the game or ultimately continue to want to be in the game and pursue careers in the game. As much success as we’ve had, I think that’s going to be an important part of our evolution. We have supported the Advocate’s Professional Golf Association since 2013. We’re now going to be working with the APGA to identify the top five black college golfers coming out of HBCUs. We’re going to provide them with access and sponsorship to play on the APGA and give them a path to get to the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying school.

And then we’re going to take the great resources we have at the PGA Tour Performance Center and give these players the best instruction that we have available to us to try and contribute to seeing more minorities, more black players, continuing to evolve across our tours and ultimately to the PGA Tour. And I think continuing to see more diversification in what you’re seeing inside the ropes and outside the ropes at our tournaments and more people coming into our game is what I hope to be talking about 10 years from now. And I’m not alone. That’s what I think all of us across the organization want. You know, we’ve been restricted with what we can do outside, so they’re more and more people playing golf people that haven’t played the game before.

And the PGA of America and the professionals at each of these courses have been forced to respond in ways that they couldn’t have imagined. But ultimately, I know that the game itself is trying to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible…we want everybody playing this game. It’s such a great game, and that’s going to be a big part of how we’re going to be looked upon 10 years from now—what we did with this opportunity that we had.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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5 things we learned: Thursday at the Masters

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The rains came early at Augusta, just as they did in Buffalo. The distinguishing factor was, they had a tournament to start in Augusta. Folks in Buffalo simply went to work, and paid attention to the clouds in north Georgia. By ten o’clock, the skies had cleared enough to begin play. Honorary tee shots were hit, and competitive play began. The delay assured that some of the afternoon groups would not sign scorecards on Thursday evening. Instead, they would rise early for completion of play, then turn right back around and go out for round two.

Round one was filled with the usual characteristics of major championship golf. A pair of golfers shot low rounds, with no guarantee that either would be able to preserve the blistering pace. Others gave shots inexplicably away, on the most confounding of holes, to push themselves away from the dream of the green jacket. Others played solid if unspectacular golf, to maintain the top of the board in sight. Finally, some held to a preserver for dear life, finding a way to stay within shouting distance of the leaders.

With that little bit of tease to lead us in, let’s get straight to the five things that we learned on Thursday at the Masters.

One: Can a horse be a horse for a course, for more than one round?

Both Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler have plenty of successful memories ’round the Augusta National course. Scheffle owns the ultimate prize, the 2022 green jacket, while DeChambeau was low amateur in 2016. That’s where the similarities end, however. DeChambeau has never finished higher than that low-am T21, while Scheffler has never finished outside the top 20 in four starts. DeChambeau has had fits of brilliance over the MacKenzie hills, but Scheffler is the one with four-round history.

While it seems unlikely the DeChambeau will miss the cut for a third consecutive time, the question of his ability to put rounds together remains. On Thursday, DeChambeau notched eight birdies on the day, and stumbled for bogey just once, at the ninth hole. For much of the day, he held a multi-shot lead over former champion Danny Willett, until Scheffler finished fast, with birdies at 12, 13, 15, and 16. His 66 brought him within one shot of the leader. Scheffler went without a bogey on the day, and ensured that DeChambeau would have much to consider over the night’s sleep.

Two: Find a way to hang around

Rory McIlroy never looked like he had his best stuff on Thursday. Three bogeys on the day, including one at the gettable second hole, had him steaming. Unlike prior years, when his not-best stuff led to mid-70s numbers, Roars was able to four birdies along the way. His 71 won’t win any crystal, but it will keep him in the tournament. Does he need a 67 on Friday? Absolutely.

Will Zalatoris plays Augusta National as well as anyone. Eagles and birdies are always on the table for the young Texan. He reached four-under par at the 15th, but closed with two bogies for 70. Without the shot that you see below, he may never have found the mojo needed to reach minus-four. Moral of the story: find a way to get in the house with a number.

Three: When you do things like this, find a way to keep it together!

The leaders’ board was filled with golfers like Ryan Fox (five-under through 12, inexplicable bogey at 13, finished minus-three), Erik Van Rooyen (minus-four through 13, only to close with three bogeys to finish one deep) Viktor Hovland (four below through nine, double at ten, one below at day’s end) and Matt Fitzpatrick (four deep through 13, three bogeys coming home.) What keeps these golfers from going deeper under par, or at least preserving their successful stature? It’s usually greed or the razor’s edge. There are too-safe places on the greens of Augusta, but there are always properly-safe areas, from where a two-putt is a probablility. In the case of most of these golfers, they either went at flags and short-sided themselves (leading to bogey) or tried to preserve their position, and landed in the three-putt zone.

Four: How could you do this?

Rickie Fowler  at 76, alongside Hideki Matsuyama. Guys, there were plenty of birdies out there! How could you manage to avoid them, and instead, stockpile the bogeys? Well, at least Hideki has a green jacket already, and at least Rickie has some crystal from Wednesday. Odds are that one of them will post 68 on Friday and make the cut.

Five: Which golfers do we hope to see finish strong?

With plenty of round-one action left for Friday morning, we’ve scanned the board and determined that Nicolai Højgaard looks pretty good at five-under through fifteen. We’ll take three pars. We expect one birdie. We’d love to see two or three birdies coming home. Yup, we’re greedy!

Max Homa bounced back from bogey at 12 with birdie at 13, to get back to four under par. We have the same expectations for the California kid: lots of birdies coming home. We have our eyes on a couple of guys at minus-one, and then there’s Tyrrell Hatton at three-deep, along with Ludvig Åberg at minus-two. Plenty of golf left for first-round positioning. Set your alarm for early and don’t miss a single shot!

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Morning 9: Tiger’s Monday practice round | Brooks, Sergio switch putters | Masters eclipse glasses

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we gear up for the 2024 Masters!

1. Tiger’s Monday practice round

Will Cheney for the Augusta Chronicle…”The early reports from Tiger Woods’ Monday practice round at Augusta National Golf Club were good.”

  • “The five-time Masters Tournament champion landed in Augusta on Sunday afternoon and played a Monday morning practice round with Will Zalatoris. Woods withdrew from the 2023 Masters after making the cut, due to a plantar fasciitis flare up.”
  • “He played great today,” Zalatoris said. “He outdrove me a couple times so there was some chirping going on. So, you know, he looks great. He’s moving as well as he can be. Again, with everything he’s gone through, it’s pretty amazing to see how good he’s swinging it.”
Full piece.

2. Langer delays Masters farewell

ESPN report…”Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer, whose hopes to play the major for a final time were cruelly dashed after suffering a torn Achilles in February, on Monday said that he’ll instead try to bid farewell as a participant at Augusta National in 2025.”

  • “Most likely,” Langer, 66, told Reuters when asked if the 2025 edition would be his final Masters start. “I hope so, but it all depends how the recovery is going.”
  • “The German player tore his Achilles while playing pickleball and is forced to miss significant time. He said his recovery is trending in the right direction and that he has not had any setbacks.”
Full piece.

3. Rahm: LIV events should be 72 holes

Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington…”It was to be a sticking point for Jon Rahm as he mulled whether to make the jump from the PGA Tour to the LIV Golf League late last year. In the end, the fact that LIV events were just 54 holes, and included shotgun starts, didn’t keep the Masters champion from making the move and signing a reported $350 million deal with the upstart circuit, but it’s something he hopes might still change in the future.”

  • “I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I definitely wouldn’t mind going back to 72 holes,” Rahm said in an interview with the BBC ahead of his title defense at Augusta National.
Full piece.

4. Sergio, Brooks make putter switches

Our Matt Vincenzi…“Brooks Koepka, who’s used a Scotty Cameron Teryllium Tour Newport 2 for the past handful of years, had what looked to be a Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5 in the bag this week at LIV Doral.”

  • “Koepka has been struggling on the greens this season, but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see him switch to a mallet-style putter so close to the season’s first major.”
  • “Koepka finished with -4.4 strokes gained with his new Phantom following a tough week in Miami.”
  • “With the poor performance on the greens at Doral, it’s worth monitoring whether or not he switches back to his traditional Scottie Cameron at Augusta.”
  • “Sergio Garcia, who lost out in a playoff at LIV Doral, also made a notable putter switch last week.”
  • “The Spaniard asked Scotty Cameron to refurbish the 1999 Scotty Cameron Del Mar Prototype he used as a rookie on the PGA Tour. Garcia used the putter when he went head-to-head with Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah as a 19-year-old. He also used the putter in his first Ryder Cup.”
Full piece.

5. Zalatoris returns to Masters a year after back surgery

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”Will Zalatoris’ mom sent him a text Monday morning to remind him how far he’s come over the past 12 months.”

  • “It was the one-year anniversary of when he underwent back surgery.”
  • “Another reminder came just a few hours later, when Zalatoris linked up with Tiger Woods to play the second nine at Augusta National.”
  • “Over the past several months they’ve been swapping war stories about the microdiscectomy procedures and their different recoveries. It’s been comforting to Zalatoris not just to know that he’s not alone, but to understand the value of patience and his own process.”
  • “It’s always special to be here,” he said, “but obviously given the last year that I’ve had this was a very special day.”
Full piece.

6. GolfWRX’s resident statistician on who can win the Masters

Our Rich Hunt…”Since 2013, I have created a filtering process to help determine the players who are most likely to win the green jacket based on criteria that have strongly predictive outcomes to success at Augusta. The list of players that can win at Augusta is usually filtered down to 20-24 players and in that time I have correctly shortlisted every Masters champion.”

  • “This includes last year’s winner, Jon Rahm. Even though Rahm essentially walked away with the green jack and did not make it very close, there were some close calls on top of the leaderboard as I had filtered out Phil Mickelson (t-2nd) and Patrick Reed (t-4th) as the LIV Tour is still behind on providing advanced analytics for their tour. Russell Henley was also filtered out and finished t-4th, five strokes from Rahm’s winning score of 276.”
  • “If you’re watching at home, the “critical holes” that will likely determine the top finishers will be holes No. 7, 8, 11 and 13. The 11th hole is projected to be the most critical of holes as over the past five Masters the top players have gained nearly a 1.5 strokes for the tournament on that hole alone.”
  • “Just like last year’s column I will get the LIV Tour players I’ve filtered out of the way. Since LIV Tour does not provide ShotLink or Trackman data, it’s more of a guessing game as to how certain LIV Tour golfers are playing. I did utilize recent performance as well as performance at Mayakoba and Doral as they were two former PGA Tour courses that have some semblance of crossover to playing Augusta.”
Full piece.

7. Fields: Listen to the course whisperers

Bill Fields for Masters.com…”Many years after making his debut in the Masters Tournament in 1959, Jack Nicklaus had a sharp recollection of the tutorial he received that spring at Augusta National….Difficult lessons, after all, often are the most memorable.”

  • “Nicklaus was a 19-year-old amateur on the ascent, on his way to becoming one of the best golfers – the best, if measured by his ultimate major-championship tally, highlighted by a record six victories in the Masters. Yet, 65 years ago, the learning curve was steep for him. Despite his credentials, he shot 76-74–150 to miss the cut by one stroke as defending champion Arnold Palmer led at the halfway point.”
  • “I played pretty well from tee to green,” Nicklaus once recalled of that first competitive experience at Augusta National. “I hit 31 of 36 greens. But I had eight three-putt greens in 36 holes and got done and found Arnold was leading the Tournament at 140. He had hit 19 greens in regulation. I said, ‘You’d better learn how to chip and putt and understand what happens on this golf course.’ That’s what I learned.”
  • “Nicklaus, of course, isn’t alone in receiving such an education. More than two decades after the Golden Bear first turned up in northeast Georgia, another promising young golfer experienced the school of hard putts. Bernhard Langer of Germany, 24, was a three-time winner on the European Tour when he played his first Masters in 1982.”
Full Piece.

8. LIV Golf officials invited to Masters

John Turnbull for Bunkered…”It appears that defending champion Jon Rahm and his colleagues will not be the only LIV Golf representatives at The Masters this week.

  • “Despite golf’s civil war rolling on, officials of the Saudi-backed circuit have been invited to The Masters, according to reports.”
  • “The Telegraph has reported that at least one high-ranking LIV official will attend the first major championship of the year.”
  • “LIV’s chief executive Greg Norman, who was a three-times runner-up at the tournament, is not expected to show face at The Masters.”
Full Piece.

9. Masters eclipse glasses

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7 PGA TOUR courses you need to play

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Golf is a unique sport in that you can play where the pros play and make golf history of your own. Nothing in golf can compare to playing a world-renowned course and following in the footsteps of the game’s best golfers. The feeling is incomparable, and it’s one we think more golfers should experience!

To get you started, here are our picks of the best PGA TOUR courses you can (and should!) play:

PGA Tour courses you can (and should) play

Pebble Beach Golf Links (AT&T Pro-Am, U.S. Open, PGA Championship)

Early morning light on the par-4 8th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula.

One of the most recognizable golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach Golf Links is the definition of a bucket golf course. Golfers will play iconic holes like the par-3 7th to the stunning par-5 18th. Enjoy great views of the Pacific Ocean as you play amongst the clifftop fairways and make memories that will last a lifetime when you play this PGA TOUR and major championship course.  

TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course (THE PLAYERS Championship)

The 17th hole of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL Photo by: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA)

Home to arguably the most famous par 3 in golf, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a top bucket-list course designed by Pete and Alice Dye. A challenging layout awaits that will test all facets of your game, especially shot shaping and course management. Subtle elevation changes, undulating greens, and unique bunkering add a degree of difficulty that stump even the best players in the world. Not to mention one of the best finishing stretches in golf with the long par-5 16th, the iconic 17th hole island green, and the testy par-4 18th. 

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill  (Arnold Palmer Invitational)

A course fit for “The King” is what you will experience when you visit Orlando and play Bay Hill’s Championship Course. This classic Florida layout offers generous landing areas off the tee with few trees, but bunkers guard the greens and large ponds will make you rethink your shot choices. The course is only available for members and guests staying at The Lodge, so a stay is required to play this stunning course. But with year-round sunshine and pristine course conditions, it is never a bad time to visit Bay Hill! 

Torrey Pines – South  (Farmers Insurance Open, U.S. Open)

Another California clifftop course that should be on your bucket list is the South Course at Torrey Pines. Located just north of San Diego, this annual PGA TOUR stop has also hosted two U.S. Opens, which adds to the allure of the property. Narrow fairways and tall rough combined with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and the California coastline make for an unforgettable round of golf. Large bunkers and elevation changes add to the challenge of the course, but the moderately sized greens offer golfers some respite. Who would’ve thought that a municipal course could be so exciting?

Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)

Hole 18 Harbour Town

Most recognized by the famous red and white striped lighthouse behind the 18th green, Harbour Town is the brainchild of Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. While the course is relatively short for a PGA TOUR event, the challenging design offsets length for accuracy with the narrow fairways framed by overhanging trees making it a shot makers course. A majority of the course winds through the wooded and sandy terrain before looping back towards the coastline with the final two finishing holes playing along the water. 

PGA National – Champion Course (Honda Classic, Ryder Cup, PGA Championship)

With the prominent golf tournaments this course has held, it is hard to leave it off the list. A fantastic Jack Nicklaus design, the Champions Course at PGA National is also home to a famous stretch of golf holes called “The Bear Trap.” The fairways and greens are player-friendly while the bunkers and water hazards are the course’s biggest defense. You will enjoy a 5-star experience and feel like a professional when you visit PGA National’s Champion Course.

Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead Course (Valspar Championship)

At more than 7,200 yards the Copperhead Course is the most recognizable of Innisbrook’s four Tampa, Florida courses and plays host to the PGA TOUR’s Valspar Championship.

One of the more under-the-radar courses on Tour, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort still offers a challenge even to the pros. Designed by Lawrence Packard, the course, while not heavily wooded, requires accuracy with tight fairways, strategically placed bunkers, especially around the greens, and a decent amount of water hazards that come into play. As you head towards the clubhouse, you will encounter “The Snake Pit;” a collection of the most difficult finishing holes on the PGA TOUR.

There you have it, GolfWRXers. Have you played any of these PGA TOUR tracks? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with Golfbreaks. When you make a purchase through links in this article, GolfWRX may earn an affiliate commission. 

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