Cut Line: Time for PGA Tour to change up its swings?

Cut Line: Time for PGA Tour to change up its swings?
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In this week’s edition, we take a deep dive into parties, politics and the perfect PGA Tour schedule.

Made Cut

The Thunderbirds. This week’s WM Phoenix Open is a testament to what professional golf wants to become.

Although Tour officials and traditionalist likely cringe at the thought of a weekly parade of party holes, the essence of what the Tour is trying to do with its signature-event concept and LIV Golf’s vision is to introduce golf to new fans via a more modern and engaging product.

The Thunderbirds, the charitable organization that runs the WM Phoenix Open, and its executive director, Chance Cozby, have spent decades perfecting the party, likely against the Tour’s better judgement from time to time.

Events from South Florida to Connecticut have tried to replicate the madness that is TPC Scottsdale’s final four holes with varying degrees of success, but no one has been able to duplicate the mayhem.

Players often explain that while they enjoy the TPC Scottsdale experience they would be reluctant to embrace this type of frenzied atmosphere every week, but if professional golf is serious about moving into the mainstream, the Thunderbirds have created the boozy blueprint.

Mr. 57. It’s important to get the journalism out of the way when it comes to Cristobal Del Solar’s record-setting 13-under 57 on Thursday at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Astara Golf Championship in Bogota, Colombia.

Del Solar, 30, fired a 13-under 57 in the first round of the Korn Ferry Tour’s Astara Golf Championship in Bogota, Colombia.

On Day 1,the Pacos Course at Country Club de Bogota played at 6,254 yards (and around 8,600 feet above sea level). Del Solar’s scorecard came with a “yellow sticker,” which means players were allowed to use preferred lies.

The facts are important because as we learned following Wyndham Clark’s third-round 60 at Pebble Beach last week, there will be those who question the validity of the achievement because of the use of preferred lies or, in Del Solar’s case, the perceived ease of the golf course.

The historians will decide where Del Solar’s and Clark’s rounds fall in the record books, but in the meantime it’s best to simply celebrate an unbelievably good round.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Atmospheric rivers. The same storm, dubbed an atmospheric river by meteorologists, that rocked Pebble Beach on Sunday and forced the event to be shortened to 54 holes made the first few days at TPC Scottsdale equally uncomfortable.

Out of an abundance of sympathy, the Tour can’t control the weather (full stop). But it can control the calendar. As the circuit continues to reinvent itself, it might finally be time to take a deep dive into when some events are played, with Pebble Beach being the best example.

Anyone who lives in Northern California will tell you the late spring and early summer offer the best forecast and the same argument can be made for next week’s Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles.

The West Coast and Florida swings are the byproducts of a bygone age when travelling from coast-to-coast wasn’t as easy as it is now, and while it’s worth repeating the Tour can’t control the weather it could give its players a better chance of avoiding another atmospheric river.

Missed Cut

Division. Last week, many of the world’s best players were at Pebble Beach battling each other — and the weather — at the year’s first full-field signature event while the rest of the best were in Mexico at the LIV Golf season opener.

There’s a party in Phoenix and one in Vegas. But the road connecting the two is anything but smooth.

The notion that the current professional model isn’t sustainable has been largely embraced by those on both sides of the Tour-LIV Golf divide and the last two weeks, with the Tour in Scottsdale, Arizona, and LIV Golf in Las Vegas, at the moment, have proven that a fractured sport isn’t good for fans, sponsors or media partners.

But if most agree the current path isn’t sustainable, the degree of difficulty for unification has also been evident with Rory McIlroy saying the quiet thing out loud at Pebble Beach: “If [players who joined LIV Golf] still have eligibility on this Tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back,”

Many, including world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, scoffed at that notion.

Scheffler disagrees with Rory McIlroy about whether LIV members should be punished before being allowed to return to the PGA Tour.

“You had some guys that left our Tour and then sued our Tour. That wasn’t really in great taste,” he said this week on Golf Channel’s “Golf Today.” “A path towards coming back, I think it wouldn’t be a very popular decision, I think, if they just came back like nothing ever happened.”

The nuanced difficulties of negotiating a multi-billion dollar deal are challenging enough for officials from the Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but it will likely be the ultimate human desire for retribution that makes any deal exponentially tougher.

Spiraling agendas. Anyone who tuned into the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearings last summer watched as golf became a tool for lawmakers to pick away at other, unrelated pet topics.

Last week brought more of the same as the subcommittee questioned executives from four consulting firms – Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, M. Klein & Company and Teneo – as part of their inquiry into the potential definitive agreement between the Tour and PIF.

Senators have requested various documents from each of the firms but the fund was granted temporary injunctions in a Saudi Arabian court to keep the consultants from providing the information the subcommittee has requested.

Tuesday’s hearing lasted nearly two hours and touched on each firm’s work with PIF and the fund’s interest in professional golf, but senators also used the platform to dig in on other topics, like a particularly uncomfortably contentious exchange between Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bob Sternfels, the global managing partner of McKinsey & Company.

“How is it that you end up with so many clients who are state-owned Chinese corporations who are hostile to the United States,” the senator asked, and followed up, “You’ve advised 22 of the 100 biggest, state-owned companies in China … Why did you do that? It doesn’t have anything to do with money, does it?”

That line of questioning went on for more than 10 minutes and is a glimpse into what awaits Tour and PIF officials if/when they reach a definitive agreement.

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