Cut Line: U.S. Women’s Open a start to more ‘incredible’ moments in women’s game
In this week’s edition, we celebrate the art and angst of the transaction, Rickie Fowler’s return to the winner’s circle and the hope for a kinder, gentler social media platform.
USGA. During media day for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, USGA CEO Mike Whan paused to gaze down the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach and offered a familiar take, “this is incredible.”
Bringing the women’s championship to Pebble Beach for the first time was not entirely Whan’s doing, but the former LPGA commissioner was clearly instrumental in this week’s historic stop and the move has set an encouraging precedent.
The U.S. Women’s Open has already been played at Pinehurst and the USGA is poised to give the championship a similar rotation to the men’s legacy venues, including Merion Golf Club (2034 and ’46), Oakmont (’28 and ’38) and Oakland Hills (’31 and ’42).
There’ll be plenty of those “incredible” moments this week at Pebble Beach and beyond.
RIIIIIIIICCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!! That’s how Justin Thomas celebrated his friend Rickie Fowler’s victory Sunday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the reaction across the golf world was varying themes on that excitement.
Fowler’s 4 ½-year title drought was similar to many on the PGA Tour. The difference is that few endured as much scrutiny as Fowler as one of the game’s most high-profile players and even fewer handled the bad times with as much grace. He brought an uncommon perspective to a game that can be brutally humbling.
“You never really know with this game. You definitely learn to appreciate the good times and when you’re playing well,” he said Sunday. “You hope the struggles don’t last, but sometimes they last longer than you would hope for.”
It’s a testament to Thomas’ reaction that through those tough years, Fowler remained the Ted Lasso of professional golf.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
The Transaction. Whatever version of team golf emerges from the framework agreement between the PGA Tour, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and the DP World Tour, there’s a part of what LIV Golf has created that will be difficult to ignore – the transaction.
Unlike other sports, professional golf doesn’t get lost in the weeds of the transaction – consider, for example, the ongoing saga of Damian Lillard and his NBA future – until LIV Golf introduced the concept with the interchangeability of four-man teams and the inevitability of personality conflicts.
Take Brooks Koepka’s not-so-gentle shade this week directed at his Smash teammate Matthew Wolff.
“I mean, when you quit on your round, you give up and stuff like that, that’s not competing,” Koepka told SI.com. “I’m not a big fan of that. You don’t work hard. It’s very tough. It’s very tough to have even like a team dynamic when you’ve got one guy that won’t work, one guy is not going to give any effort, he’s going to quit on the course, break clubs, gets down, bad body language, it’s very tough.
“I’ve basically given up on him. A lot of talent, but I mean the talent’s wasted.”
When asked this week at LIV’s event outside of London if he wanted to remain on Smash, Wolff shook his head and walked off, SI reported.
We can debate the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the unwritten norms of professional golf but everybody loves the transaction.
Tweet of the week: This week’s space is dedicated to the idea that Twitter (and, for the most part, all of social media) can become something more than a barren landscape filled with faceless and irrationally angry eggs.
This week, Meta launched what is being called the “Twitter killer,” which was a very Twitter-looking alternative to what Elon Musk has created. An analyst with the market research firm Insider Intelligence told The Guardian that “Threads” promises “a saner, kinder place than Twitter.”
We can only hope.
Speaking of the faceless masses. Phil Mickelson checked in on the framework agreement for the first time publicly this week telling SI.com that he’s “excited about the direction of professional golf” and referencing a long post on Twitter by a Portland, Oregon, real estate investor.
The investor goes by the handle @BobBallPdx and offers only Bob “Golf” Ball and a blue checkmark as his bona fides to break down what has the potential to be a billion-dollar deal that could reinvent the professional golf landscape.
Perhaps “Ball’s” thoughts have some validity and his warning to Tour players about the deal – “you are all in trouble and screwed if you don’t support the framework agreement” – should be taken seriously, but the future of the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LIV Golf and even professional golf depends on how this agreement goes from framework to definitive, which seems a weighty topic to leave to someone who is comfortable hiding behind a Twitter handle.
The Hill. In a quest for accountability, next week’s hearing before the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will bring a dollop of clarity to the table but those expecting detailed updates on the framework agreement will likely be disappointed.
The Tour informed the committee earlier this week that instead of commissioner Jay Monahan, who continues to recover from a “medical situation,” it will be Ron Price, the circuit’s chief operating officer, and Jimmy Dunne, an independent director on the Tour’s policy board, testifying on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., had requested Monahan, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman and the governor of the PIF, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, to testify at the hearing, but not surprisingly both Al-Rumayyan and Norman have “scheduling conflicts” and cannot attend the hearing, which, also predictably, did not sit well with the committee.
“Both Governor al-Rumayyan and Mr. Norman have valuable information to share about the operations of the Public Investment Fund, the future of LIV Golf, and Saudi Arabia’s plans to invest in golf and other sports.
Consistent with our subcommittee’s practice, we look forward to working with both witnesses to find a mutually agreeable date for them to appear in the very near future,” a joint statement from Blumenthal and Johnson read.
The lawmakers want answers, which is understandable given the Tour’s tax-exempt status, but until the “framework” becomes definitive there simply aren’t any.