Check out unfiltered opinions each week from our writers and editors covering the hottest topics in sports, and join the conversation by tweeting us at @golf_com. This week we discuss the return of Tiger Woods, Paul Azinger’s exit at NBC, and the PGA Tour and LPGA Finals.
1. Tiger Wood announced that he would play his Hero World Challenge in two weeks in the Bahamas, which will be his first start since withdrawing from the 2023 Masters and undergoing ankle surgery. We already know that a “win” for Woods would be a healthy four rounds. But what is a “victory” for him in 2024? More good health? In competition ? What are your predictions for Tiger 2024?
Alan Bastable, editor-in-chief (@alan_bastable): Tiger’s Hero’s engagement was a pleasant surprise – I thought we wouldn’t see him until the cart-friendly PNC – and an indicator that his ailing body is back to a place where he feels confident he can walk 7 200 meters for at least four consecutive years. days. What Woods actually feels, looks and sounds like Friday (or Sunday!) night in the Bahamas should give us a better look at his prospects for 2024. A ‘win’ for 24? Staying off the operating table, playing at least half of the major tournaments and delighting TGL fans with his short game magic. Whether Woods is competitive next year or not, just having him in and around the game in any capacity is a “win” for all.
Zephyr Melton, Associate Editor (@zephyrmelton): More good health. There’s no doubt Tiger still has the ability to compete, but the wear and tear of four rounds — let alone a full season — is what will hold him back. It would be a massive victory if he could make it through 2024 without major health issues.
Jonathan Wall, editor-in-chief (@jonathanrwall): Health. That’s the realistic win for now until we see he can handle four rounds of competitive golf – while walking. I still don’t believe we’ll see him many times next year, outside of the TGL dome. Tiger uses his time to watch Charlie thrive on the course; I just can’t see him getting into regular Tour events. He has nothing more to prove. After everything he’s been through, just the fact that Tiger is getting back into it is a miracle.
2. Paul Azinger is as an NBC golf analyst after his five-year contract was not renewed. Are you surprised that NBC is moving in a different direction and why they decided to do so?
Bastable: My jaw didn’t drop, no, considering NBC has already moved in a different direction. When, late last year, the network decided to move on from two of its mainstays, Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch, and bring in a relatively untested talent in Smylie Kaufman (along with Brad Faxon), it was a clear signal that the Peacock was thinking about the future. Zinger generally wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, but ultimately it also felt like he relied on his instincts too often and didn’t do his homework. With so much analysis now available in the professional game — not to mention an army of media observers tweeting every misstep — senior analysts must bring to the presidency a combination of fearlessness and statistical savvy. It makes you wonder…is it finally Brandel’s time?
Melton: I’m not necessarily surprised that NBC is going in a new direction, but this move seems to come out of nowhere. There was no indication that such a move was going to happen… then the news broke and here we are. Azinger wasn’t incompetent on the range, but in an era where golf is trying to become younger and hipper, he didn’t exactly fit the profile.
Wall: Somewhat. I thought Zing did an admirable job of filling Johnny Miller’s shoes with his spontaneous shots and ideas. I agree with Alan that Brandel would be a logical choice for NBC executives. I’m not sure anyone else would bring the juice at the moment.
3. The Classic RSM, won by Ludvig Aberg, capped the PGA Tour’s inaugural series of seven fall events. So, did the new format work? Or has the drama of finishing in or out of the top 125 fallen flat compared to previous years?
Bastable: There’s no doubt the new framework injects a bit of drama, although the 126-150s still retain conditional status for 2024, so it’s not like the guys who narrowly missed the mark are totally set aside. the door. I’m most excited about the reintroduction of Q-School this year, through which five Tour cards will be given out next month. There is perhaps no more democratic – or fiercer – system in all of sports.
Wall: I spent the first part of the week at Sea Island and can confirm that the new format certainly did the trick. There was a ton of nervous energy in the booth that was non-existent last year when the RSM was just the last event before the end of the year. End-of-year drama is never a bad thing, even if everyone still had their eyes on football.
4. Rory McIlroy abruptly resigned from the PGA Tour board of directors, leaving a vacancy and raising questions about why McIlroy left before the end of his three-year term. McIlroy simply said that “something had to give” with everything going on in his life. Does his resignation have any significant meaning for Tour pros? Or to the fans?
Bastable: Yes, this decision makes a lot of sense! During the LIV era, McIlroy established himself as the PGA Tour’s most ardent supporter and voice for his peers. He could have quietly finished out the remainder of his term and started reducing the time and energy he was investing in PAC affairs, but instead he pulled the plug completely. If you take McIlroy at his word, his decision was driven by his busy schedule. That was undoubtedly a factor, but surely so was his legitimate dissatisfaction with the Tour’s secret dealings with the Saudis. This level of betrayal is not easy to overcome. Inquiring minds might also wonder whether McIlroy’s deteriorating relationship with colleague Patrick Cantlay played a role. In a recent interview, McIlroy described his relationship with Cantlay as “average at best,” adding, “We don’t have much in common and see the world very differently.” » It is helpful to have a variety of opinions on the board, but only if the sources of those opinions are mutually respectful.
Melton: This absolutely makes sense. Rory has been the voice of the establishment in the LIV-PGA Tour war, and seeing him abruptly step down is not a good sign. As AB notes above, the secrecy surrounding LIV probably left Rory with a sour taste in her mouth. Once you lose someone’s trust, it is difficult to regain it. Jay Monahan and Co. almost certainly lost Rory’s trust this summer, and it doesn’t appear they’ve done much to earn it back.
Wall: Of course! Rory was the voice of his peers – or at least a large majority of them – when LIV was trying to poach top talent from the Tour. You can’t go from taking action in the middle of action to giving up without people questioning the reason for the decision. Sure, Rory was spreading himself too thin, but if the Tour wasn’t seriously considering a frame with PIF, I’m pretty sure he would have stayed on board to some extent – even if he had slowed down in 24. In terms of simple, what he fought for burned him. Many would have done the exact same thing if they were in his place.
5. Amy Yang capped the LPGA season by win the CME Group Tour championship by three shots over Alison Lee and Nasa Hataoka. With another season behind us, what will be your notable memory of the 2023 LPGA campaign?
Bastable: How can you top Lilia Vu’s rapid rise to world number 1, which included two major titles, and a player who just two years ago was on the Symetra Tour? Europe’s spirited play at the Solheim Cup – especially that of Leona Maguire – was also a joy to watch, as was Lexi’s thrilling run to qualify for the PGA Tour. She narrowly failed but beat 36 players that week. Incredible stuff.
Melton: It must be Carlota Ciganda closing the Solheim Cup in her home country. When I spoke to her last fall, she was already excited about the chance to play her favorite event in front of friends and family. Becoming the hero of the Europeans after all this development is the stuff of legend.
6. Happy Thanksgiving! What are you grateful for in the golf world?
Bastable: I continue to be grateful that golf courses are one of the precious few places in the world where time slows down. May it last long!
Melton: I’m just grateful this silly game exists. Most of my life revolves around golf, and without it, my cup would be a lot less full.
Wall: Golf balls. My game has been in a dark place recently and I’m glad my golf locker is filled with boxes of these products. It may still not be enough!