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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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Morning 9: Smith reels in first-round lead | Ko going low again | IOC won’t require vaccs

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Good Friday morning, golf fans.

1 Career-low 62, first-round lead for Cam Smith

AP report…”Cameron Smith birdied the difficult 17th and 18th holes at Harbour Town to shoot a 9-under 62, his career low on the PGA TOUR, and take a one-shot lead over Stewart Cink at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.”

  • “Cink finished his 63 around lunchtime and no one appeared likely to beat that score in overcast, breezier afternoon conditions. Yet Smith played his best down the challenging stretch.”
  • “The Australian chipped in for birdie on the par-3 17th, then stuck his approach to the lighthouse finishing hole within 5 feet to take the lead. Smith surpassed his previous low of 63, accomplished three times on TOUR.”

Full piece. 

2. Lotte Championship: Another low one from Ko

AP report…”Lydia Ko went low again, shooting a 9-under 63 at Kapolei Golf Club on Thursday to take a 3-stroke lead midway through the second round at the Lotte Championship.”

  • “Ko, a two-time major champion who’s seeking her first win since 2018, is 24 under par her last three rounds. She nearly caught Patty Tavatanakit with a final-round 62 last week at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration.”

Full piece. 

3. Austrian Open: Canizares ahead

AP report…”Alejandro Canizares defied chilly and windy conditions to shoot a 5-under 67 Thursday for a one-stroke lead after the opening day of the Austrian Open.”

  • “The Spaniard carded an eagle and four birdies to sit in front of a quartet of players, which included former No. 1 Martin Kaymer and John Catlin, a two-time winner in 2020.”

Full piece. 

4. Hideki’s first interview since Masters win

Cameron Morfit for PGATour.com…“In his first interview since winning the Masters and returning home to Japan, Hideki Matsuyama said becoming the first from his country to win the coveted Green Jacket…was almost too overwhelming to think about as he navigated the course Sunday.”

  • “I was filled with nerves from the first hole to the last…I never felt there was a time for me to let up even a little bit and relax.”
  • “…Matsuyama, who spoke Sunday of inspiring kids back home, said in his press conference in Japan that he hopes his daughter will be among them…”
  • “Now comes the question of what’s next. More history? Perhaps. Asked about capturing the remaining three major titles, he said he’ll have to draw up some new goals…”

Full piece. 

5. “Fried” Zalatoris marches on

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Coming off his runner-up showing at the Masters Tournament, the 24-year-old Zalatoris got right back on the saddle Thursday for his first round of the RBC Heritage. He carded five birdies as part of an opening 3-under 68, which had him five shots off the early lead set by Stewart Cink.”

  • “I thought I did a nice job today of kind of staying patient knowing that I probably wasn’t going to be as mentally fresh,” said Zalatoris, who despite his world ranking (27) and dream showing at Augusta National remains a special temporary member on the PGA Tour, with only a victory qualifying him for this year’s FedEx Cup Playoffs.”

Full piece. 

6. IOC won’t require vaccinations

Tom Schad for USA Today…”The International Olympic Committee has said it will not require athletes to be vaccinated prior to competing this summer, though IOC president Thomas Bach has strongly encouraged athletes to take them.”

  • “(We’ve) made it clear from the very beginning that we would not impose any obligation for vaccination,” Bach said last month. “And we have also from the very beginning stated that we will work with the (national Olympic committees) to get as many as possible of the participants being vaccinated – but always within the relevant national guidelines.”

Full piece.

7. $600 million win?

Our Gianni Magliocco…”Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at Augusta National has taken the golf world by storm, and it could pave the way for monstrous endorsement deals for the 29-year-old, according to a Sports Marketing Expert.”

  • “Speaking to Sportico.com, Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising, revealed that the win could earn Matsuyama up to $20 million a year in endorsements over the next 30 years, thanks to the longevity in careers golfers enjoy.”
  • “Barring any career-ending injury or scandal, I’d say a Masters win is easily worth $600 million for Matsuyama. He’ll be an icon in his golf-mad country.”

Full piece. 

8. Cam Smith WITB

A look inside the bag of the RBC Heritage leader.

Driver: Titleist TSi3 (10 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Yellow 60 6.5 TX

3-wood: Titleist TSi2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: UST Mamiya Elements Platinum 8F5 X

7-wood: Titleist TSi2 (21 degrees)
Shaft: UST Elements Red 8F5 (X)

Irons: Titleist U500 (4), Titleist T100 Black (5-9)
Shaft: KBS Tour 130 Custom Matte Black X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (46-10F, 52-08F, 56-08M), WedgeWorks 60T
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 Custom Matte Black (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue Onyx X100 52, 56, 60 degrees)

Putter: Scotty Cameron 009M Prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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Tour Photo Galleries

Interesting photos from the RBC Heritage – Part 3

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The first round of the RBC Heritage gets underway today and with that, we have an unprecedented part 3 of our most interesting pictures from the event. As a refresher, the field of 134 is battleing on the tight treeline Pete Dye designed course, for the $7.1 million purse with $1.28 million going to the winner.

In part one of this week’s “most interesting photos”, we covered putters, for part two we covered some of the action around the course, and for part 3 we have a little bit of both.

Don’t forget you can check out all our image galleries in the GolfWRX Tour Equipment forum.

Snedeker with that “new driver” look

The 2012 FedEx Cup champ is quietly one of the biggest driver testers on tour, and he was looking thirsty at a couple of TaylorMade SIM2 drivers on the range. Also noted his Miura CB-301 irons.

Build your own training aid

Path board – check, digital level – check, alignment rod – check, extra club – check. Why spend all kinds of money when you can just build your own simple training aid?

Its armlock – but backward

Matt Kuchar brought the arm-lock style to the PGA Tour and it looks like he might be changing course again since he was spotted testing a “reverse” arm-lock Bettinardi on the practice green of Harbour Town links. This is a reverse style because the grip rests against the trailing arm versus the lead one.

Maybe graphite is the new steel

We’re not sure whose caddie this is, but the interesting thing in this photo is the graphite shaft in the putter. Although Bryson wasn’t the first, he certainly has opened the door for more players testing and putting ultra-stiff graphite shafts into their putters for stability.

Si Woo, and Charles Howell talking putters

Everyone knows Charles Howell loves to talk gear, and here he is chatting with Si Woo Kim about a couple of putters—just imagine the nerd level conversation being had.

Na continues to test the new Callaway Epic

Kevin Na is one of the last holdouts on tour with an original Epic driver in the bag, and again this week we spotted him testing one of the new Epic Speed drivers. Considering his chances this week based on the course length, it will be interesting to see if he officially made the switch.

 Maverick’s unique Toulon

Maverick McNealy’s slant-neck San Diego has a very different shape from the retail version and looks to be both longer heel to toe and also shallower—it reminds this writer of the classic Ping Anser 4.

Davis Love III has a full bag of familiar sticks

Davis Love has won the RBC Heritage 5 times (yes, 5) and this past champion has a full bag of Titleist gear including 718 AP2s and SM8 Vokey wedges. You can get all his full WITB here: Davis Love III WITB RBC Heritage

Who has 2 thumbs and loves to test putter? Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace was working with a number of Toulon putters Tuesday, and although they all had something a little different to offer, the one thing that stayed the same is his preferred 2-Thumb grip.

The grind doesn’t stop for Furyk

Did you know Jim Furyk is 3rd all-time on the PGA Tour career money list with over 71 million buckeroos banked. Crazy right? So imagine the drive it takes to continue to work your butt off week in and week out on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour to find every edge.

Speaking of edge, Jim was seen on the range working with Callaway tour reps on a Callaway Epic Speed triple diamond to hopefully gain a few mph of ball speed. Gotta respect the grind.

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Morning 9: Sports book cometh to TPC Scottsdale | Zalatoris’ unique position

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Good Thursday morning, golf fans. A smattering of odds and ends this morning as the golf mediaverse nurses its collective Masters hangover.

1. A sports book is coming to TPC Scottsdale

David Purdum at ESPN…“The PGA Tour is putting a retail sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale, one of golf’s most raucous environments.”

  • “The PGA Tour announced Wednesday that DraftKings will operate the first-of-its-kind sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale and become the exclusive sports betting partner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.”
  • “Three locations at TPC Scottsdale are being discussed for the “19th hole” sportsbook, which will be open year-round and include in-person betting windows. The goal is to open the sportsbook by the Super Bowl in 2023.”

Full piece. 

2. Zalatoris’ unique position

Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio…“Despite all the heady stuff going on in his world, Zalatoris remains level-headed. His meteoric rise – he was ranked 1,514th in the Official World Golf Ranking in April of 2019, was 483rd in April of 2020 and now rests at 27th after nearly becoming the first rookie to win the Masters in 42 years – hasn’t changed his good nature and calm demeanor.”

  • “He’s still the same guy who was Monday qualifying for Korn Ferry Tour events two years ago, the same guy who won his lone pro title at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes on the Korn Ferry Tour last July.”
  • “Then again, he’s not the same guy inside the ropes and he might just be on the USA Ryder Cup team. Since winning in Colorado, he’s made 22 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour and finished in the top-10 10 times and the top-25 18 times. He tied for sixth in the U.S. Open and fell one shot shy of Hideki Matsuyama in the Masters – the only two majors he’s played as a pro.”

Full piece. 

3. More thoughts on the possible coming surge in golf, equipment sales in Japan

Mike Stachura for Golf Digest…“Because as challenging as closing the deal on becoming the first Japanese-born male golfer to win a major championship clearly was during Sunday’s frenetic finish, now the shy, workman-like Matsuyama stands at the forefront of what one long-time Japanese golf business observer called “an epoch-making event.” Japan may comfortably stand as the world’s second largest golf market, accounting for a fifth of the global golf business all by itself, but it is long removed from the country’s golf boom of the late 1980s and ’90s. With the last decade seeing flat revenues and declining play and players, Matsuyama’s win is an opportunity to inject new life in a nation that has been waiting for a golf moment like this for more than half a century.

  • …”Over the last 25 years, the number of golfers has decreased by nearly half, from more than 12 million to now around 6.5 million. The country’s 2,500 golf courses of a generation ago, while likely overbuilt, have seen several hundred shuttered. Sales of golf gear in Japan still account for well more than $2 billion annually, but those numbers have largely been unchanged for the last decade. According to the World Golf Report, a joint research project of the global golf business produced by Golf Datatech and the Yano Research Institute in Japan, Japan accounts for 22 percent of the world’s golf economy, second to the U.S. at 45 percent. Still, golf equipment sales, which rebounded somewhat in the second half of 2020, finished the year down 5 percent, and over the last five years, they are down 1 percent while worldwide sales were up 11 percent.”

Full piece. 

4. Boo’s comeback bid

Brian Wacker for Golf Digest…”Boo Weekley hit a small bucket of balls on a driving range last week, yellow ones to be precise. He was wearing a mesh trucker’s cap, wrinkled tan shorts and a faded, loose-fitting gray t-shirt with the image of a large deer head and a tree screened on the back between the words “Save a tree, Harvest a buck…”

  • “In January, Weekley underwent surgery to have his left hip replaced after it was discovered that the cartilage that serves as a cushion between the hip socket and the femur, or thigh bone, had worn out, leaving the two bones in excruciating contact with one another. Had it been a decade ago, it would have been career over for the former three-time PGA Tour winner. Advances in modern medicine being what they are, the man born Thomas Brent and nicknamed after a fictional character (Yogi Bear’s sidekick Boo-Boo) instead has a chance to author one final chapter in a career that most would find hard to believe.”

Full piece. 

5. LPGA hoodie

Brittany Romano for Golf Digest…“Piggybacking off the WNBA’s wildly popular logo hoodie launched last fall, Michelle Wie has teamed up with the LPGA to release a golf version that is expected to create a lot of buzz. The tie-dye hoodie officially launches next week, but we got a sneak peek of the LPGA logo sweatshirt when Warriors guard Damion Lee was seen wearing it while traveling. The image was tweeted by the LPGA Twitter account and the hoodie almost instantly sold out on the LPGA merchandise site. The hoodie is expected to be restocked over the weekend”

Full piece. 

6. Matsuyama’s pre-Masters putter change

Our piece for PGATour.com…”As Hideki Matsuyama brushed in his winning putt at Augusta National on Sunday evening, the setting Georgia sun glistened off his 2012 Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Tour Prototype as he carried the wand with him off the famed Georgia course’s 18th green.”

  • “While most viewers who have seen the Masters champion in action over the past two years likely assumed from the finish and shaping it was the same flatstick Matsuyama has been stroking putts with all season, Japan’s first men’s major winner actually only put this particular putter in play at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play two weeks ago.”
  • “Matsuyama consulted with Scotty Cameron TOUR rep Drew Page and had a Lamkin Deep-Etched Cord Full Cord installed as well as a stepped putter shaft.”
  • “And while Hideki’s exact specs are under lock and key, Page and company dialed in the same loft, lie, and head weight as the Newport 2 GSS Timeless Matsuyama has played since the 2020 BMW Championship.”

Full piece. 

7. Simpson’s strengths

Justin Ray of the 15th Club writing for PGATour.com…“While Simpson has flashed strong approach play consistently over the last several seasons, it’s far from the only reason he is among the best players in the world. Simpson essentially does everything well.”

  • “Let’s look at the top 20 players in Strokes Gained: Total from last season on the PGA TOUR. As you might expect, many players see their biggest advantages come from one, or two, particular sets of skills. For example, Collin Morikawa ranked 14th on the PGA TOUR last season in Strokes Gained: Total. Seventy-two percent of his strokes gained came from approach shots alone. Matsuyama, who ranked 17th in Strokes Gained: Total, also made more than 70% of his gains with his approach play.”
  • “On the flipside, Matt Fitzpatrick, who ranked 16th in Strokes Gained: Total, gained 76.5% of his strokes on putts and shots around the green. Patrick Reed followed a similar trend, gaining 70.7% of his strokes in the same manner.”
  • “That brings us back to Simpson, and the balance within his game. Of those top 20 players in Strokes Gained: Total in 2019-2020, only one player gained more than 40% or more of his strokes on approach shots – and 40% of more of his strokes on putts and shots around the green combined: Simpson.”

Full piece. 

8. Billy’s apology for returning club to bag with great authority.

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