PGA Tour players need to stop being fragile, pampered babies
The fourth Rocket Mortgage Classic is in the books – Tony Finau won by five strokes with a near-perfect performance for his second straight PGA Tour win – which means it’s time to look back on the annual Tour event at Detroit Golf Club and hand out some birdies and bogeys for the week’s hits and misses.
Let’s start with one of the main reasons for the success of this tournament.
The estate: Birdie
Executive director Jason Langwell has done a great job signing a strong group this year, snapping up five of the top 20 players in the world. They all made the cut and played well, if not great. Three of them were in contention on Sunday, led by Finau, the world No. 16 winning the trophy at a record 26 under par. Meanwhile, number 4 Patrick Cantlay and number 19 Cameron Young finished tied at three for second place with Canadian rookie Taylor Pendrith.
The tournament has been helped by its position on the schedule, with players trying to pick up FedExCup standings points in the final two weeks of the regular season. But Langwell has also done its part with strategic recruiting visits and player introductions since the start of the season.
Apart from a windy Thursday afternoon, the scoring conditions were perfect and the quality of the game reflected it, particularly among the elite players. Having the best golfers on the course playing their best and vying on TV for the final round only helps the ratings — and Langwell’s recruiting for next year.
Pampered Players: Bogey
The first bogey is important because it’s not just a few isolated incidents.
Let’s start with an overview of what’s happening at pretty much every PGA Tour event. Journalists are allowed to request a player after he has signed his scorecard. More often than not, players accept the request. But sometimes – and more often than you might think – players turn down the request because they’re upset about something like poor finishing.
I can only assume that’s part of the reason Morgan Hoffmann and Max Homa declined interview requests during the tournament. Homa, who is generally known as a good guy on the PGA Tour and very colorful on Twitter, declined an interview request after his first round, when he bogeyed his 16th for a less than stellar 72. Hoffmann declined a request after he missed the cut on Friday.
It wasn’t me who made those claims, but I’ve been shot multiple times in my nearly 20 years of professional golf coverage. You know a guy who never said no whether he played well or not? Tiger Woods. If a player hopes to be as good as Tiger, start there. Be a pro all the time in everything you do.
It is not a question of distinguishing between Homa and Hoffmann, or of complaining about the dissident journalists. After all, this is not new behavior. But what’s new is the threat the PGA Tour faces from LIV Golf, which markets itself as a livelier brand of professional golf. I don’t know how much more accessible the players are on LIV, but I do know that this tour – although I object to its very existence – is trying to promote professional golf by connecting with fans in a different way .
That’s why the PGA Tour should be concerned about players who refuse interview requests and, by extension, promote their tour. Journalists are present at tournaments to talk to the players and tell their stories, helping to increase interest in the players, the tournament and the tour.
If there’s pushback among PGA Tour players who want a bigger slice of the tour’s financial pie, perhaps hoping for contracts that other athletes get in professional leagues like the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, they should be reminded that these four organizations either have a league requirement, or a strong expectation, that players speak with reporters on game days.
The Tour was not quick enough to react to the LIV threat and should learn from this misstep. It must require its actors to work in partnership to promote their mutual interests.
The vibe: Birdie
Langwell likes to say the Rocket had “three 1 years” before this year: the first regular tournament in 2019, the tournament without fans during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and the return of fans last year.
This means it was the first truly normal tournament – a weekend without adjusting to the different logistical requirements – since 2019. It really felt like the event had hit its stride.
Langwell told me early attendance numbers and merchandise sales were promising. But more than that, the tournament seemed to run more smoothly. Everything from the improved walking area, to the traffic in the merchandise tent, to the concession lines and the traffic around the clubhouse, made it all go smoothly.
To be completely honest, this year’s tournament was one big siesta party. It’s no one’s fault, but I missed all the drama last year when Phil Mickelson started a blood feud with the Detroit News over a report about his gambling (I’m so shocked !) and that Bryson DeChambeau separated from his caddy the day before the tournament, then missed the cut.
Oh, how I dreamed of a repeat of last year. How I spent so many restless nights thinking of ways to do my part in those 50,000 random acts of kindness that Phil demanded of us Detroiters. How I looked forward to the next fight Bryson might have, whether it was with a cameraman or a caddy.
Instead, nothing. Just a ho-hum tournament filled with spectacular weather, cheering fans, great golf – and a trademark champion we all recognize.
I can’t wait for next year.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.