The PGA Tour suffered an early, downright no good, really bad week — and it’s its own fault.
The bad vibes started when Mayacoba Classic winner Matt Kuchar’s compensation for fill-in caddie David Ortiz came to light. Of Kuchar’s $1.2 million purse, Ortiz had requested $50,000 — caddies are often paid more for top-10 finishes — but Kuchar paid him $5,000. Though technically Kuchar did pay Ortiz a bonus, telling golf.com the two had originally agreed to $3,000 to $4,000, the payment caught the attention of social media (and you know how that goes).
“I certainly don’t lose sleep over this,” Kuchar told golfchannel.com, not making things any better.
It didn’t take long for Kuchar to flip his script and apologize to Ortiz, paying him the full $50,000 requested and making a charitable donation to Mayacopa Classic charities — and saving a some face in the process. In hindsight, a minor blemish in an otherwise good start to the season.
Later in the week, with fewer “KOOOOCH” cheers and little more heckling, the attention had shifted to the Genesis Open, but the Tour’s bad week was just getting started. After a tortuous 5.5 hour round and a disastrous finish from Justin Thomas, J.B. Holmes hoisted the trophy for his fifth Tour victory.
No one cared about Holmes’ win. Instead, the Tour found itself in the crosshairs for its rampant pace of play problems and apparent unwillingness to enforce the rules, and Holmes became the face of the issue.
Pace of play isn’t a new problem, and Holmes has never been known to play quickly. The difference now is the right people are voicing their frustration, and have the platforms to make sure a lot more people hear it.
Before the Genesis incident, Adam Scott joined the likes of Brooks Koepka and others in keeping the issue in the headlines, going as far as volunteering to be penalized for slow play so the Tour can set a precedent.
“I’ll take the penalty,” Scott said in an interview with Golf Digest. “The only way it’s going to work is if you enforce it.”
This comes on the heels of Koepka’s now famous “embarrassing” remarks earlier this month.
“Guys are already so slow, it’s kind of embarrassing,” Koepka told the Golf Monthy Podcast. “I don’t get why you enforce some things and don’t enforce others.”
Koepka’s comments came after video surfaced of Bryson DeChambeau calculating the barometric pressure during his pre-shot routine.
An insight into @B_DeChambeau’s process 🔬 pic.twitter.com/WfTyzstkDu
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 27, 2019
“I think that anyone that has issue with it, I understand, but we’re playing for our livelihoods out here, and this is what we want to do,” DeChambeau said.
It’s easier for the “The Scientist” to get a pass for his slow play as he’s established himself a fan favorite, but while Holmes brushes off his slow play as well, he doesn’t share the same distinction.
Unfortunately for the Tour his ugly win combined with the growing backlash created a shit-storm large enough to cast a shadow on the otherwise fun Genesis Open weekend. What’s worse for the Tour: this is a controversy that won’t go away until it actually starts enforcing the rules.
In the same interview Scott said real change won’t happen until tv sponsors step in and that “it’s a waste of time” talking about it. But that’s where he may be wrong.
Yes, sports leagues answer to tv and money contracts. But tv broadcasts, in the long run, answer to the viewers tuning in to see the players play, and talk about playing. Now, with more of the world’s best players speaking out publicly, and more often, the Tour won’t be able to hide from the problem anymore.