Lynch: Greg Norman’s Saudi schedule may finally force shameless golfers from the shadows

Eamon Lynch, Golfweek

The true scale of a huckster’s toxicity is never apparent in the cost to his reputation—by definition, he has little to defend—but rather in how easily he imperils the honor of anyone who associates with him. After two years of speculation and rumor-mongering, the day is near when we’ll finally learn who among the world’s best golfers is willing to sacrifice his standing on Greg Norman’s amoral altar.

Since he is clearly bereft of shame, let’s assume it was out of respect that Norman waited three days after Saudi Arabia executed 81 men for such crimes as “deviant beliefs” to unveil a schedule for LIV Golf Invitational, a tournament series financed by that same regime solely for the purpose of sportswashing things like summary mass executions at home and war crimes abroad.

In multiple media interviews—many of which verged on ego-stroking panegyrics—Norman continued to reveal himself to be a craven apologist for abusers.

“I’m not getting into this political dialogue,” he told Gary Williams, who was among the few who pushed the great white pilot fish on human rights issues during his 5 Clubs podcast. “I’m staying focused on what I’m doing and growing the game of golf … I’m not even going to go down that path of trying to get into a political discussion about it.”

Imagine a housekeeper cleaning a hotel room that resembles a slaughterhouse without concern for how it reached that state. Norman may think heads rolling in the squares of Riyadh or a consulate in Istanbul are above his pay grade, but the stain of his association is undeniable and indelible. And he’s eager for other prominent players to assume the same mark.

June 9-11 in London will see the first event in the LIV Golf Invitational (decide for yourself if the name is a Roman numerical reference to its 54-hole formats or a ghoulish joke about what the regime doesn’t permit critics to do). The second tournament is planned for July 1-3 at Oregon’s Pumpkin Ridge, whose members were simultaneously hit with a dues increase to upgrade facilities and news that they’ve been conscripted into a sportswashing exercise.

Policy requires PGA Tour members to obtain permission to compete in events staged by other tours. Releases are routinely granted for those who wish to wheel a barrow of appearance cash home from Asia, Europe and the Middle East, but there are established parameters. The PGA Tour has never issued a waiver for its members to play a tournament held in the U.S. against its own schedule, and there’s no reason to think commissioner Jay Monahan will rescind that policy for Norman’s bonesaw invitationals.

The denial of waivers may trigger litigation that has been inevitable from the outset. In antitrust law, the action could have two fronts: whether the PGA Tour is erecting unfair barriers to prevent a competitor from entering the market, and whether the Tour can stop independent contractors (the players) from working for another entity.

In antitrust, public language matters. This is why Norman’s March 15 letter to players announcing the series and inviting their participation likely wasn’t authored by Norman. The intemperate screed he sent Monahan last month displayed an intellect so shallow it ought to have been scrawled in crayon. This letter was carefully crafted, stating that LIV Golf would complement the existing ecosystem while offering fans an enhanced product. The wording is noteworthy.

Antitrust law centers on what is best for the consumer, with three lynchpins of greater options, higher quality and lower costs. It’s easy to laugh off the letter describing the Saudi venture as a “start-up,” as though it’s a scrappy enterprise aiming for a conventional return on investment, but that framing is intended to suggest a fledgling outfit being stymied by Monahan’s monolith.

It’s debatable if LIV Golf can claim to provide consumers with a better product given that it plans fewer events, fewer players, fewer holes and fewer viewing opportunities. But even if the PGA Tour is found liable for antitrust violations, the Saudis would have to prove harm inflicted, which history shows is no easy task.

In the 1980s, the USFL filed suit accusing the NFL of antitrust violations somewhat similar to what LIV Golf might allege against the PGA Tour. The USFL won but was awarded damages of just $1. By the time the NFL cut a check, the USFL was long shuttered. The award was so paltry because the jury found that the USFL’s inept mismanagement contributed greatly to its own failure. It would require resourceful counsel to defend the artless bungling that has defined the Saudi project over the years. Norman might want to familiarize himself with the ‘victory’ of King Pyrrhus in the Battle of Asculum.

Understandably, public interest will center on what player(s) will step forward to be the face(s) of a Saudi-funded lawsuit over their freedom to play where they wish. That too will be drawn-out and complex. Monahan is not telling Tour members they can’t play for the Saudis; he’s telling them they can’t play for the Saudis and continue to play on the PGA Tour at the same time. To do that, he needs “pro-competitive justification” for placing restraints on independent contractors. And an argument for that exists.

Counsel for the PGA Tour could argue a need to protect its branding by avoiding confusion about who plays on what circuit, or a necessity to protect its investments in players—their skills, their health, their potential stresses from competing on multiple circuits—to best deliver its product, which is competitive golf at an elite level. In short, that the PGA Tour’s ability to continue delivering a product that consumers recognize as theirs requires an aligned commitment from players. Those are reasonable legal stances to take, albeit positions poorly messaged by the Tour, which has allowed a narrative to take root about threats of lifetime bans, which only plays into Saudi claims of unfair barriers.

As hesitant as players must be to become the public faces of a Saudi hijacking of professional golf, there are office buildings full of lawyers salivating at the billable years ahead. Any player who does step up to demand the right to play with the Saudis and the PGA Tour simultaneously faces a long and lonely road as public sentiment, sponsors and peers turn against them, as Phil Mickelson can attest. PGA Tour pros often peddle a sentimental cliché that how they play the game reflects their integrity. There’s something to that. But in this particular time, it’s no less testimony to a man’s character for whom he plays the game.

What an article, you’ve gotta respect Eamon Lynch’s ability to write one hell of a piece. Greg Norman has never cared about what people thought, just inquire about his reputation around Jupiter, FL. This Saudi venture just doesn’t seem like it will ever take off as nobody is going to turn on the PGA Tour. They’re obviously just trying to use the massive purses to coax players over to the LIV but the PGA Ture’s purses are at an all-time high and showing no signs of slowing down. The USFL comparison was the perfect example and reminds me of how Marcus Dupree got duped into playing that league as opposed to the NFL. That move never allowed him to achieve is true potential.

Any player under the age of 40 that’s dreamed of playing the PGA Tour since childhood will sign with this Saudi break-off league. How can the LIV last more than one season? They aren’t naming any players because they’re short list surely lacks any kind of star-power (except for Phil and maybe Bryson). One season may be a stretch actually, I personally think the 1st event will be a wash in London and the league will fold immediately. What a disaster it would be to see Phil go all-in on this league, ruin his reputation more than it already is, then end his career in disgrace. Phil has been America’s brash gun slinging champion since he won in Phoenix as an Am in 91′. Golf needs Phil… here’s to hoping he releases a real apology in the form of a Tom Rinaldi interview. Only Tom’s heart felt way of asking important questions can fix this.

Three-time champion Phil Mickelson will not play in 2022 Masters

Steve Dimeglio, Golfweek

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson will not compete at Augusta National Golf Club this year.

Mickelson, who won the green jacket in 2004, 2006 and 2010, is not listed in the field of active players for the Masters. The six-time major winner and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame is listed as a past champion who is not playing, according to the tournament’s website.

SI.com was the first to report the news.

Mickelson is on a leave of absence from golf; he last played on the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. The reigning PGA champion, who became the oldest winner of a major at Kiawah last year, played in his first Masters in 1993. He’s played in the tournament every year since 1995.

Mickelson has been embroiled in controversy for derogatory comments he made to Golf Digest and Fire Pit Collective about the PGA Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, as well as the repressive Saudi Arabia regime, which is bankrolling a breakaway league led by Greg Norman that will rival the PGA Tour.

Mickelson called out the PGA Tour for its “obnoxious greed,” and said he would use the rival league backed by enormous financial resources as leverage against the PGA Tour despite the country’s long history of human rights abuses.

A Masters without Phil Mickelson is so foreign and makes me think he is suspended. Past Champions at Augusta don’t stop playing, unless you’re Trevor Immelman, until they’re well into their 70s. My apologies too Trevor if he is injured currently. Phil has been in hiding since the Fire Pit article came out that led to his sponsors bailing so you’ve got to think after making such inflammatory comments he got a couple-month slap on the wrist. Lefty has a legitimate chance of winning at Augusta, as most freakishly talented left-handed players do. When you play from the wrong side of the ball the push fade works like a dream at The Masters. Conversely right-handed players have to hit tight draws that don’t dive out of the sky. The spinny draw is a very difficult shot to hit over 72 holes. Another name that was strangely missing from the list is Tiger Woods… why on earth would they not list the 5-time champion and recent HOF inductee? I’m sure the list I saw wasn’t anything too official, but why would you list “El Pato” and not Dubs.

2022 Valspar Championship prize money payouts for each PGA Tour player

Adam Woodard, Golfweek

It pays to play well on the PGA Tour, folks. Just ask this week’s winner, Sam Burns.

The 25-year-old took down rookie Davis Riley with a 33-foot birdie putt on the second playoff to defend his title at the 2022 Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida. Burns, the fourth two-time champion in the event’s history, will take home a cool $1,404,000 for his efforts and now has three PGA Tour wins under his belt. Riley will pocket $850,200.

Check out how much money each PGA Tour player earned this week at the 2022 Valspar Championship.

Valspar Championship prize money

Position Player Score Earnings
1* Sam Burns -17 $1,404,000
2 Davis Riley -17 $850,200
T3 Justin Thomas -16 $460,200
T3 Matthew NeSmith -16 $460,200
T5 Matt Fitzpatrick -14 $301,275
T5 Brian Harman -14 $301,275
T7 Sahith Theegala -12 $228,930
T7 Stewart Cink -12 $228,930
T7 Kevin Streelman -12 $228,930
T7 Robert Streb -12 $228,930
T7 Adam Hadwin -12 $228,930
T12 Brooks Koepka -11 $159,900
T12 Shane Lowry -11 $159,900
T12 Alex Noren -11 $159,900
T12 Xander Schauffele -11 $159,900
T16 Brian Stuard -10 $118,950
T16 Luke Donald -10 $118,950
T16 Scott Stallings -10 $118,950
T16 Matt Kuchar -10 $118,950
T16 Tommy Fleetwood -10 $118,950
T21 Richy Werenski -9 $85,020
T21 Brandon Hagy -9 $85,020
T21 Gary Woodland -9 $85,020
T21 Tyrrell Hatton -9 $85,020
T25 Austin Smotherman -8 $65,910
T25 Tyler Duncan -8 $65,910
T27 Jhonattan Vegas -7 $54,600
T27 J.J. Spaun -7 $54,600
T27 Mito Pereira -7 $54,600
T27 Brice Garnett -7 $54,600
T27 Nate Lashley -7 $54,600
T27 Troy Merritt -7 $54,600
T33 Kevin Kisner -6 $41,600
T33 Kramer Hickok -6 $41,600
T33 Viktor Hovland -6 $41,600
T33 Patton Kizzire -6 $41,600
T33 Brandon Wu -6 $41,600
T33 Bernd Wiesberger -6 $41,600
T39 Curtis Thompson -5 $29,250
T39 Seung-Yul Noh -5 $29,250
T39 Dustin Johnson -5 $29,250
T39 Doc Redman -5 $29,250
T39 Kiradech Aphibarnrat -5 $29,250
T39 Chez Reavie -5 $29,250
T39 Joel Dahmen -5 $29,250
T39 Harry Higgs -5 $29,250
T39 Adam Svensson -5 $29,250
T48 Webb Simpson -4 $19,439
T48 Martin Kaymer -4 $19,439
T48 Max McGreevy -4 $19,439
T48 Denny McCarthy -4 $19,439
T48 Bill Haas -4 $19,439
T48 Joseph Bramlett -4 $19,439
T48 Danny Lee -4 $19,439
T48 C.T. Pan -4 $19,439
T48 Greyson Sigg -4 $19,439
T57 Michael Thompson -3 $17,706
T57 Henrik Stenson -3 $17,706
T57 Paul Barjon -3 $17,706
T57 Harold Varner III -3 $17,706
T57 Russell Knox -3 $17,706
T62 Christiaan Bezuidenhout -2 $17,004
T62 Louis Oosthuizen -2 $17,004
T62 Cameron Tringale -2 $17,004
T62 Wesley Bryan -2 $17,004
T66 Ryan Brehm -1 $16,536
T66 John Huh -1 $16,536
T68 Collin Morikawa 1 $16,224
T68 David Lipsky 1 $16,224
T70 Pat Perez 2 $15,912
T70 Nick Taylor 2 $15,912
72 Blake Kennedy 3 $15,678

Officials say horrific fire caused $80M loss to Oakland Hills Country Club. Here’s how it started

Emma Stein, Detroit Free Press

A month after the devastating fire that burned down the Oakland Hills Country Club, new evidence shows the fire appears to have started from construction workers using a propane torch against a wall.

The construction workers were on the east side of the building trying to rebuild a patio, said Bloomfield Township Fire Chief John LeRoy in a news conference this week.

They were using the torch to install rubberized flashing, and the heat from the flame helps dry it in the cold weather, he said.

After using the torch, the workers appeared to see smoke coming out of the wall and used a hose. Then, the video cuts to flames bursting out of the wall after firefighters axed it. He said the fire was able to live and spread between the walls.

“It looks to me that they were like, ‘Uh oh, we got a problem here,’ and were trying to figure out what to do, that’s where the hose comes in,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

As of now, Bouchard said it appears there was no intent to start the fire. But the footage is incomplete, and officials are continuing the investigation. Bouchard said it could take a full year to finish it.

“Some things look conclusive, but may not be,” he said.

It is unclear how long the fire went before someone called 911, LeRoy said, and the 911 call came from the pastry kitchen in the basement.

The surveillance footage was recovered from a hard drive submerged in water during the fire, and investigators are working to figure out the timestamps to “piece it all together,” LeRoy said.

The historic country club burned to the ground on Feb. 17, taking with it a century of golf history and mementos that can never be replaced. It took firefighters all day to battle the blaze.

Oakland Hills Country Club fire

Firefighters battle a fire at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, on Thursday, February 17, 2022. (Photo: Eric Seals-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Bouchard said the fire caused an $80 million loss to the country club.

Oakland Hills is a 106 year old Donald Ross masterpiece so for this to happen at one of America’s best venues is such a bummer. They’ve hosted the biggest golf events in the world on many occasions so the games best have surely created some great memories in that clubhouse. Now it’s been reduced to ash by a contractors misstep. That poor construction worker that was torching the wall had to be destroyed… one has to think he’s used that method many times. Maybe using a propane torch on a wall isn’t the most prudent move for a contractor. Golf courses always do upgrades and repairs in the off season but when your in Northern Michigan working in February  it’s gotta be damn near impossible to dry anything outdoors. Keeping that torch on the rubberized material releases flammable vapors so he must’ve rushed the job a lil bit. RIP to all the historic items in the clubhouse that were lost.

Roll Tide: Rookie out of Alabama Davis Riley rolls to 62, low Tide over JT and leads by two at Valspar

Adam Schupak, Golfweek

Davis Riley heard the cry of “Roll Tide” several times during the third round of the Valspar Championship and couldn’t help but smile. Some of them may have even been for the 25-year-old rookie out of Alabama.

The majority of them were for his older, better-known, and more successful playing competitor Justin Thomas, who once showed around young Riley on a recruiting visit. On this day, it was Riley who deserved the majority of the applause in this friendly third-round pairing as he birdied half the holes at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course. It included dunking a bunker shot at the ninth for birdie en route to a bogey-free 62 and a two-stroke lead over Matthew NeSmith.

“It was really impressive,” Thomas said. “It’s a big moment for a rookie and anybody, and he handled it like a rock star and made 9-under look very, very easy barring a crazy chip-in there on 9.”

On another warm, sun-soaked day, Riley improved to 18-under 195, setting the 54-hole scoring record and on pace to break the 72-hole scoring mark at the Valspar Championship set by Vijay Singh in 2004 (18-under 266).

Veteran caddie Lance Bennett joined Riley on the Korn Ferry Tour in July. The last time he’d caddied for that circuit? In 2006 with Matt Kuchar, which led to a decade together.

“I knew how good (Riley) was so I was like I’ll make the investment,” Bennett said. “There are a handful of guys on the range (at KFT events) that you know they won’t be there for long and he was one of those guys.”

Riley notched two wins and seven top-10 finishes during the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season to earn a promotion for finishing in the Top 25 of the regular season. He’s recorded just one top-10 finish in 13 events so far, entered the week ranked No. 121 in the FedEx Cup standings and No. 399 in the world, but he’s learned from playing with the likes of Jason Day, Adam Scott, and current World No. 1 Jon Rahm during the final round of the American Express.

Riley, who opened with rounds of 65-66, birdied his first two holes Saturday, wedged it tight at No. 6, and then stole another birdie after driving it left at the seventh. He punched a 7-iron below a tree that scooted inside 10 feet and canned the putt.

“That’s just one of those shots that you try to judge, and I judged it perfectly,” Riley said.

For his next trick, he drove it right, punched low into the front greenside bunker, and from 69 feet from the hole jarred it for birdie. Riley punched the sky with his right fist and high-fived Bennett.

“Those are the things that fairytales are made of for this young man,” PGA Tour Radio’s Mark McCumber said.

“It was on the up slope of the bunker so I knew I had to hit it pretty hard to get it back there to a back pin and I actually clipped it really good,” Riley said. “It was funny because I was walking up to get it out and Justin is just looking at me laughing, I’m like, yeah, that’s pretty lucky.”

Riley tacked on birdies at both par 5s – Nos. 11 and 14 – and two of the three par 3s on the back nine – Nos. 13 and 17. When Riley drilled his 17-foot birdie putt at 17 to reach 18 under for the tournament, Thomas gave him a thumbs-up as he walked off the green. Riley needed just 20 putts and gained nearly four strokes on the greens in shooting his career low on the PGA Tour. (He’s first in Strokes Gained: Putting this week as well as leading the field in SG: Off the Tee and SG: Around the Green.)

“They were all going in,” Thomas said. “They were going in with great speed right in the middle. Very, very effortless.”

Early on, NeSmith continued to play stress-free golf and looked as if he might run away with the tournament. He backed up his second-round 61 with four birdies on the front nine and was the first to get to 18 deep. But after going 45 consecutive holes without a bogey, NeSmith made four bogeys on his way to the clubhouse, including at Nos. 16 and 17 to finish with a third round 2-under 69. Both NeSmith and Riley are seeking their first Tour title.

Thomas, on the other hand, is chasing No. 15. He shot his third straight 66 and is tied for third at 15 under with defending champion Sam Burns. He’s long been impressed with Riley’s game and his work ethic and noted that Riley was the player he remained closest to at Alabama after he turned pro.

“We’re very, very similar in terms that we’ll work really hard and we expect a lot out of ourselves and have high expectations,” Thomas said.

They’ve shared texts back and forth this week, including Thomas saying on Friday evening, “About dang time we played together.” Thomas always has been an open book to Riley but a Thomas pep talk ahead of the final round may not be in the cards. “I hope he does (text me) tonight so I can ghost him so fast,” Thomas said. “I think the world of him, but respectfully, I hope I destroy him tomorrow.”

The powerhouse golf school down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama hardly feels like it’s part of the state. It’s so incredibly steeped in tradition with the revolving door of PGA superstars it’s been pumping out the last decade… we can’t discount Dicky Pride though! He’s as “good ole boy” as they come and he couldn’t be more different than this younger crop of talent. These young guys are tall, polished, and they look like they’ve been in the gym since birth. Davis Riley is the cookie cutter Ture star that Bama produces… he launches it high (which is perfect for the Tour) and rolls it beautifully. I played with him at the Huntsville Championship last year and right when you thought his back was against the wall he went on an epic 25 footer + putt run. Never count this young gun out. Great story about NeSmith… I played the US Open qualifier in ATL back in 2015 and saw that I was paired with an Am. I was a little annoyed because ya neva know how that’s gonna go. It turned out to be South Carolina’s #1 player Matt NeSmith. He went on to shoot -17 for two rounds qualifying for his 1st US Open by 10 shots. Who’s laughing now? Him… at me.

The Valspar Championship’s 54 hole leader Davis Riley is a can’t miss player on the biggest stage. Sure, he has just recored one top-10 in his short career out there but it was in Bermuda where it was blowing 1000. I rode in the bus back to the hotel with him after Sunday’s round (I caddied for Russell Knox that week) and was pretty blunt in saying, “I gotta be honest dude I didn’t think your high-launch would work in this wind.” Willy was wrong again… Davis can hit the ball highly in the wind but the strike is so pure that it doesn’t matter. So impressive from the Mississippi native turned Bama boy. Roll Tide. Good luck today Ture boi’s

Four share lead at Valspar Championship

The Associated Press

Sam Burns prefers to look at what’s next instead of what happened, and that was a big part in how he responded for a 7-under 64 and a share of the lead Thursday in the Valspar Championship, his first time as defending champion.

He used the phrase “flush and move on,” and that’s what he did. Twice after taking bogey, he took aim at the flag on tough par 3s and make short birdie putts. That featured an 8-iron to 2 feet on the par-3 17th and a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Innisbrook.

Burns shared the lead with past champion Adam Hadwin, the well-traveled David Lipsky and Jhonattan Vegas, who had a bounce-back of his own variety.

Burns was closing in on the lead set earlier in the day by Vegas when his bunker shot from right of the 16th green came out soft and he missed the 10-foot par. He followed birdie-birdie.

“It’s OK to be frustrated,” Burns said. “I think it’s just what do you do with that frustration? Do you let it carry over to the next shot or do you address it, flush it and move on? I think that’s the most important thing.”

He felt the same way about his title defense. Burns didn’t get caught up in memories of closing with a 68 to win by three shots last year. The Copperhead course, a sturdy test even in the ideal scoring conditions, was among his favorites even before he won.

“The thing about last year is it has nothing to do with this year,” Burns said. “So many things are different. There’s not much correlation between the two. … I’ll look back forever on that event, it being my first win. Wins don’t happen out here often.”

Danny Lee was among four players at 65, Justin Thomas was another shot back and Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka led the large group at 67.

Hadwin, who won the Valspar Championship in 2017, finished with a birdie to cap off a day of remembering why patience is so important to the way he plays. It’s all about knowing when to attack for Hadwin, and even a little bad judgment worked in his favor.

He went for a front right pin on No. 6 with a pitching wedge when he says he should have taken a safer approach with a 9-iron and leaving a 15-foot putt. No matter he chipped in for birdie. And on his final hole at No. 9, uphill and over a bunker, he had about the same yardage.

“I immediately went to the 9 in that situation, just get it long past the pin, try not to be too greedy,” he said. “And I ended up making birdie.”

His strategy is simple: “Keep it out of the water, hit as many greens as possible.”

Lipsky went to the same Los Angeles-area high school as Collin Morikawa. He’s 9 years older than the two-time major champion, and his road to the PGA TOUR wasn’t quite so smooth.

“I just wanted to play wherever I could,” he said. That took the 33-year-old Californian to a pair of wins on the Asian Tour and the DP World tour, and a Korn Ferry Tour win — the same day Morikawa won at Muirfield Village — that eventually led to a PGA TOUR card.

Lipsky played bogey-free at Innisbrook, which he described as one of “crusiest” rounds he could play. He was rarely in trouble. His birdie putts were on the short side. The few times he had to save par, the putts were never far out of range. And he signed for a 64. Cruising.

As for Vegas? He needed a round like this.

Still stinging was his finish Sunday last week at THE PLAYERS Championship. Despite hitting two balls in the water on the island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass, Vegas came the par-5 ninth hole right on the cut line and 25 yards from the hole in two shots.

He he bladed a gap wedge over the green and into a bunker, made bogey and missed the cut.

The recovery process is off to a great start.

“Absolutely great,” Vegas said. “Exactly what I needed after last week. Game was there. I took advantage of the great conditions this morning. Greens are a little softer, not much wind, absolutely a perfect day out here.”

Vegas gave his round a boost with a 4-iron to 6 feet for eagle on the par-5 first hole after he made the turn. He had a 25-foot birdie on the par-3 fourth, a tough putt from right of the hole that can get away from players if they’re not careful, and a 6-foot birdie on No. 7.

The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is a stern test every year the event is played. Hopefully the greens keepers caught the correct weather pattern so the course will play the way they want it too. The 2nd year I played the event they planted the rye grass and got much higher temperatures than forecasted… this led them to have to excessively water the fairways… leading to mud ball after mud ball. Getting paired with Jim Furyk on Sunday was a treat and he put on a brave face despite the frustration with the golf course he was clearly feeling. We talked about how great of a course it was and what a stern test year in and year out it provides.  Then we approached the scoring tent and his vail of sanity was lowered as he berated the official in the scoring tent about, “what an embarrassment the course was and that they should be ashamed.” Needless to say I was shocked as he forced a smile for 18 holes all while knowing he was gonna blow up once he got to scoring. This must’ve been some sort of Bob Rotella exercise.

Innisbrook is the epitome of the horses for courses theory. Year in and year out superior ball strikers navigate their way to the top of the leaderboard. Adam Hadwin, Kevin Streelman, Sam Burns, DJ, Brooks, and JT to name a couple. You can’t argue with their flushiness, and they will be present on Sundays final round surely. 7 under is silly good around there as the Copperhead forces you to use pretty much every club in your bag. That’s what makes it such a great test. You will have sand wedge through 4-5 iron into the par 4s and the par 3s also make you think a lot with their meandering front numbers and difficult bunker carries that go deep into the green. The players will face up hill lies, down hill lies, and brutal side hill lies this week. This ain’t your typical Florida course folks. Stay Ture

NTSB: 13-year-old boy was driving truck in Texas crash with University of the Southwest golf team van that killed 9 people

Christine Fernando, USA Today

The National Transportation Safety Board investigating the Texas crash that killed nine people and left two others injured said Thursday that a 13-year-old boy was driving the pickup truck involved in the collision.

The news came as family and loved ones grieved the victims of the fiery crash, which included six members of the University of the Southwest golf team and their coach. Two other golfers were hospitalized in critical condition.

Flowers, golf balls and a sign with a cross were laid at a memorial for the six New Mexico college students and their golf coach who were killed Tuesday.

“These kids were great kids, and they were great, great community members,” said Ben Kirkes, manager of Rockwind Community Links, where the students practiced in Hobbs, New Mexico. “They were polite and they were just a pleasure to be around.”

Kirkes helped set up the memorial at the golf course in the city near New Mexico’s southeast border with Texas.

The pickup truck crossed the center line of a two-lane road, hitting a van that was carrying nine students from the men’s and women’s golf teams at the University of the Southwest, a private Christian school near the state line. They were returning home from a tournament in Midland, Texas.

Head coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico, was among those killed. The students who died were identified as: Mauricio Sanchez, 19, of Mexico; Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas; Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado; Karisa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Texas; Laci Stone, 18, of Nocona, Texas; and Tiago Sousa, 18, of Portugal.

The two people in the pickup truck also died: Henrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole, Texas; and the 13-year-old boy, who has not been identified.

NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said Thursday that the crash occurred at high speed and that the front left tire of the pickup truck, which was a spare, was blown out before the impact.

In Texas, the minimum age for a teen to begin driving as part of classroom courses is 14, and they must be 15 to receive a provisional license. Department of Public Safety Sgt. Victor Taylor said a 13-year-old driving would be breaking the law.

University of the Southwest provost Ryan Tipton said Thursday that the two students who were critically injured remained at the hospital and were making steady progress.

“There is no indication for how long it’s going to take, but they are both stable and recovering and every day making more and more progress,” he said during a press conference.

A counselor and worship team are on campus to support grieving students, Tipton said.

As a Christian university, he added, “we also place our faith in something bigger than ourselves, and that’s what helps us heal.”

Well this certainly is a shocking twist in the terrible tragedy from Texas. The story of the USW golf team already had people grasping for answers, and this development just makes it all the more difficult to swallow.  When anyone gets behind the wheel they are taking their lives and other drivers lives into their hands… especially when there is a spare tire on the front. What an unbelievable lapse in judgement by the adult that accompanied the 13 year old in the oncoming vehicle. When faced with a blowout the immediate reaction would be to slam on the breaks and I’m speculating but the 13 year old most likely followed that course of action. There will inevitably be a swerve but if you can coast to a stop it will limit the fishtailing. The poor kid wouldn’t have had nearly enough experience to make the right decision in that fateful moment.

The golf community is coming together in a big way to help the families. Highlighted by MacKenzie Hughes giving $500 per birdie this week at the Valspar Championship. This move was driven by Golf Canada detailing the fact that two Ontario natives were in the van carrying the golf teams. Hayden Underhill and Dayton Price are in critical condition after surviving the crash that killed 9. When anyone that’s college aged loses their life it’s incredibly sad but this story hits closer to home for many people in the golf community so the GoFundMe pages are very important. Anything that can provide some solace and offset any costs the families are facing is a must. Ok, I’m going to stop typing now and go donate… as should everyone else.

Greg Norman announces Saudi Arabia-backed 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series will start in June, feature $255 million in prize money

Steve DiMeglio, Golfweek

Last month, Rory McIlroy was one of many of the game’s biggest stars who pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour flag and waved away playing in a proposed golf league driven by Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia.

“It’s dead in the water, in my opinion,” McIlroy said.

Not so fast.

Norman, aka the Great White Shark, reemerged Tuesday by sending a letter to players stating the league backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was not on its last breath. On Wednesday, Norman, the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf Investments, which is funded by the Saudis, announced the league that would rival the PGA Tour has serious teeth.

Starting in June, the LIV Golf Invitational Series will begin and feature eight events and consist of individual and team play with prize money reaching $255 million. The first event will be played June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club in London; the first seven events will have $20 million purses with an additional $5 million split among the top three teams each week.

After the first seven events are played, the top three in the individual format will split $30 million. The final event, Oct. 28-30 at a site yet to be determined, will be a team championship with $50 million in prize money.

In the U.S., Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, The International in Boston and Rich Harvest Farms west of Chicago will host events.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has said any players joining the league would face banishment from the PGA Tour. Norman replied in a letter the PGA Tour cannot ban players. Litigation seems likely in the future.

More: Premier Golf League plan to partner with PGA Tour features massive paydays, ownership stakes for tour members

LIV Golf Investments, which has already invested $300 million over 10 years on the Asian Tour, is providing more than $400 million to launch the series.

The events will feature 48 players and 12 four-man teams. They will be 54 holes with no cut and shotgun starts.

“I want golf to grow, players to have additional opportunities, and fans to have more fun,” Norman said in a release. “My mission is to help the game reach its full potential and we know the role of golf as an entertainment product is critical to overall participation in the sport.

“In many ways, we are a start-up. We have a long-term vision and aim to grow. I believe we have a very bright and exciting future.”

The schedule will not compete with the four major championships or heritage events. Each event will have teams comprised of different players determined by a draft the week of the event.

“Our events are truly additive to the world of golf,” Norman said. “We have done our best to create a schedule that allows players to play elsewhere, while still participating in our events. I believe players will increasingly make progress in achieving their right to play where they want. We will help in any way possible and will provide golfers with opportunities to achieve their full potential.”

Said Joel Schuchmann, senior vice president of Communications for the PGA Tour: “As we have stated repeatedly in recent weeks, the PGA Tour has moved on.”

LIV Golf Invitational 2022 schedule

Date Location
June 9-11 Centurion Golf Club – London
July 1-3 Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club – Portland
July 29-31 Trump National Golf Club Bedminster – New Jersey
Sept. 2-4 The International – Boston
Sept. 16-18 Rich Harvest Farms – Chicago
Oct. 7-9 Stonehill – Bangkok
Oct. 14-16 Royal Greens Golf Club – Jeddah
Oct. 28-30 Team Championship – TBD

Another league is circling in the waters, too. The Fire Pit Collective was the first to report that the Premier Golf League has divulged plans to the PGA Tour and certain players including McIlroy for a series of events that would partner with various tours. The format consists of 18 events, with 12 teams of four players competing in team and individual championships that run simultaneously throughout the season. Purses would be worth $20 million, with an additional $1 million going to the winners of the team event. A winner-take-all prize of $20 million is also up for grabs to the winner of a season-ending team event.

The PGL also plans to allocate 100 million shares to PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and DP World Tour players in a tiered system.

So if I’m reading this correctly the SGL has morphed into the LIV Invitational Series? Third Leg Greg mixing things up with a curve ball in the form of a name change.. well played haha. The concept of misdirection is at play here but Monahan isn’t having any of it. It’s still Saudi backed and players are going to be potentially banished from the PGA Tour for their participation. How in the hell are they going to fill these fields with top tier talent? The prize money may entice some older players that aren’t worried about the PGA Tour anymore but no young player is going to sign away their lives to a tour that may not even make it. Saudi Arabia may grow bored with this at any time thus leaving the players marooned with nowhere to play.

The PGL is still a mystery to most I’m assuming as well… it seems less ominous than the LIV series though. The Players Championship created a monster snowball with their 20 million dollar purse this season. That number is being thrown out all over the place in these side leagues. The team-format their proposing seems like a decent idea but every event being a team event is going to get old. Especially since it’s four-man teams. Will these be massive member-guest style events with much higher quality of play? Kinda sounds like it. Stay over here boys… the Tour has always been good to you and it’s just going to keep getting better. The purses skyrocket each year and these events are steeped in tradition. Don’t mess up a great thing.

University of the Southwest golf teams involved in fatal, head-on crash in Texas killing nine people, including six students and a coach

Adam Woodard, Golfweek

Both the men’s and women’s golf teams from the University of the Southwest were involved in a fatal bus crash Tuesday night.

“The University of the Southwest can confirm that there has been a fatal bus accident involving the USW men’s and women’s golf teams,” the school said in a statement. “The university is currently attempting to notify family member of those involved in the accident.”

A 17-passenger van carrying the golf teams collided with a pickup truck head-on after the truck veered into the van’s lane in western Texas, killing people in both vehicles. Tyler James, in his first season as the coach of both teams, was killed, as were six students and two others in the truck.

According to NBC News, two other students were critically injured in the crash and flown to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas.

“It’s a very tragic scene,” said Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco. “It’s very, very tragic.”

The University of the Southwest is a private Christian university located in Hobbs, New Mexico. Teams were competing at the TankLogix Collegiate at Ranchland Hills Golf Club in Midland, Texas.

Prayers for the families that lost loved ones in this terrible accident. A two-lane road in West Texas is a lonely stretch of highway. The speed limits out there are usually pretty high as well. Who knows what led the oncoming driver to veer into their lane but that misstep has changed a university and the lives of so many people. USW was carrying the Men’s and the Women’s teams on this journey as well… you don’t hear about both programs traveling in the same vehicle too often so that made this crash particularly heart-wrenching. What can you say in a tragedy like this? It’s so sad on so many levels. These kids were just starting their lives and having a blast playing college golf, and in an instant that was taken away. I hope there is a GoFundMe set up for all the families involved. Everyone in the golf community needs to chip in… in my opinion. RIP to all the student athletes and the newly assigned Head Coach, and the oncoming passengers that also lost their lives. Sad day in golf.