First things first: If you’re looking for an unbiased opinion on marijuana’s place on (or off) the golf course, go somewhere else — you outta know where we stand.
Weed’s already legal in some form in 22 states in this country, fully legal in 11 of them, and adding more to the list with each election cycle. The NHL doesn’t punish players for using it, the MLB has removed it from its list of banned substances, too, and hoards of athletes, including some golfers, have begun citing the benefits and even promoting the use of cannabis products. Yet some powers that be still believe a drug is a drug is a drug — and drugs are bad, mmmkay.
Robert Garrigus learned the PGA Tour’s stance on the issue last March after he was suspended for testing positive for “elevated levels” of THC. The 22-year Tour veteran lives in Washington State (where weed is legal for medicinal and recreational use), reportedly owns a weed farm himself, and uses it to treat knee and back pain as prescribed by his doctor. While he’s no stranger to the drug culture, having checked himself into rehab in 2003 and speaking publicly about his struggle with substance abuse, he’s still a far cry from your standard “pothead” stereotype. He tried his best, with the help of his doctor, to stay within the tour’s limits and play by the rules to no avail, and it cost him 12 Tour events.
If anything, Garrigus should be heralded, not punished, for overcoming his past of alcohol and drug abuse and speaking publicly about it. After all, anyone remember what Tiger Woods went through?
After his return at the 3M Open in July, Garrigus’ stance on marijuana hasn’t changed, and it’s a familiar tune that mirrors some of the common sense that’s allowed for marijuana legalization to become so widely accepted.
“I could be on OxyContin on the golf course and get [an exemption] for that. I think that’s ridiculous. The Tour can talk to me all they want about it but that is a double standard,” Garrigus told USA Today. “The fact that it is socially unacceptable for cannabis and CBD right now blows my mind. It’s OK to take Oxycontin and black out and run into a bunch of people, but you can’t take CBD and THC without someone looking at you funny. It makes no sense,” Garrigus said.
Let’s play a quick game of Would You Rather. Would you rather you or a loved one take pharmaceutical substances proven to be highly addictive and often lead to overdose, or smoke a plant? (In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic in this country that’s being fueled by pharmaceuticals like OxyContin.) Next round: Would you rather you or a loved one take OTC drugs proven to cause liver and kidney damage with prolonged use, or smoke a plant? And for the bonus: Would you rather athletes and their doctors be able to decide what’s best for them to be able to perform, or leave it up to the business people representing a sports brand?
I know my answers.
“[The Tour] had to deflect. They have an image to protect and uphold.” Garrigus said after meeting with Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan at the 2019 John Deere Classic.
Let’s talk about that image for a second then. Alcohol and golf often go hand-in-hand, and the likes of Arnold Palmer, John Daly and others made smoking heaters and stogies a fixture in the highest levels of the sport. There’s no controversy there, no sponsorship money lost or anything close to suspensions. Why is recreational marijuana so much different? The question still stands outside of recreational use: Why can’t a player use a legalized, prescribed medication to treat themselves off the course?
It’d be one thing if changing its stance on marijuana meant the Tour would be overrun by weed brands or whatever else it deems unsavory to its image, but that’s not going to happen — the NHL and MLB are certainly no worse off. At the end of the day, it’s not even about upholding the sanctity of sport, or upholding an image at all. PEDs and “hard” drugs aside, who the fuck cares what people do in their off time so long as it’s not affecting the results on the leaderboard?
Really, as legalization becomes even more widespread, the Tour’s just setting itself up for more stories like that of Garrigus’. It’s an issue that’ll keep on growing, like a weed.
Once the official announcement is made, the Tour will see its broadcasting value increase a ridiculous 60%. That’s thanks to the new broadcasting deals with CBS and NBC totaling $700 million per year, up from $400 million. The 9-year agreement keeps the two networks as the official homes of golf, and begin once the previous contracts expire at the end of the 2021 season.
Why such a dramatic increase?
Tiger Woods, probably. The 2018-2019 season was the best we’ve seen from Tiger as of late, and from the Tour as a whole. It was emotional, it was controversial, and it was super fun to watch. The “Tiger Effect” is back in full fucking effect.
At this point it doesn’t even matter to the masses if Tiger wins or loses — so long as he’s playing, we’re watching — it just so happens that he’s coming off one of his best seasons to date, and performing better than many thought he would after making his comeback. And lucky enough for the Tour, it’s all happening as their current broadcast deals are expiring. The Tour did make a little gamble by not opting out of the deals and making a go at a larger amount back in 2017, good call.
It’s not all luck, perhaps. Golf has come along way in reimagining itself in recent years (still thanks in large part to Tiger). Brooks, Rhambo, DJ, Rory, JT, Phil, Rickie — there is no shortage of superstars to root for. And now, going out on a limb a little here, the Tour is enjoying its very own international super villains in Patrick Reed, and, to a lesser degree, Bryson DeChambeau, too. Golf is younger, flashier, and a whole lot more interesting. Those trends show no signs of stopping, and when you add the second-coming of Tiger Woods to the table, it’s no surprise it’s paying off for the PGA Tour.
As if there weren’t enough excitement surrounding the 2019 Presidents Cup already, the week that saw the Hero World Challenge provided a whole lot more to buzz about heading into Melbourne.
Topping the list is Patrick Reed’s now-infamous rules infraction during the third round of the World Hero Challenge in the Bahamas. Leading the tournament at the time, Reed found his second shot at the par 5 11th buried in a waste bunker. With a camera locked on, Reed can be seen grounding his club and sweeping a generous amount of sand from behind the ball — twice.
That little number earned Reed a two-stroke penalty at the end of his round, the loss of the lead heading into the final day, and ultimately the tournament. A couple stroke penalty and little social media chastising would usually be enough for everyone to move on, but not when it’s Patrick Reed.
Like him or not, Reed is one of the most socially scrutinized golfers on Tour and isn’t known to do himself any favors when it comes to his public perception. That continued with his statements after the penalty, in which he claims he didn’t intend to improve his lie, and something about the camera angle making it seem more egregious than it was (yeah, OK, Pat).
Adding even more fuel to that fire is Reed’s spot on the American Presidents Cup team, captained by Tiger Woods, the host of the tournament at which Reed made a fool of himself. The memes and calls for his removal from the America team immediately flooded social media, garnering reactions from other tour players and the bringing promise from some that Team USA, and Reed in particular, are gonna get it from the International fans in Melbourne.
International rookie Cameron Smith made his thoughts known unabashed. “I don’t have any sympathy for anyone that cheats. I hope the crowd absolutely gives it to not only him, but everyone [on the American team] next week,” Smith told the Australian Associated Press. “If you make a mistake maybe once, you could maybe understand but to give a bit of a bullshit response like the camera angle … that’s pretty up there.” Marc Leishman echoed the sentiment saying Reed’s brought the verbal lashing on himself.
With the odds stacked against them (US -275 at the time of this writing), the International team has asked fans to not screw up their would-be home-field advantage. “I’ll be disappointed if they are cheering enthusiastically for Tiger or anyone on the U.S. team,” Adam Scott told the Herald Sun last week. “Last time it was too friendly.”
Patrick Reed or not, that’s a tall order considering we’re talking about Tiger, the GOAT, Woods and the rest of the star-studded American roster. Woods is hot right now, finishing fourth at the Hero after winning the ZOZO Championship in October, and he’s clearly feeling himself.
Paired with Justin Thomas for the opening round of the Hero, Tiger set the tone for HIS weekend by trolling JT on the tee box:
There was one Team USA name missing from the tee sheet last week. Dustin Johnson withdrew from the Hero to recover from a knee surgery he had after the Tour Championship, but says he’ll be ready to take on the International team. As for his teammates, along with Woods, Reed, Thomas, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, and Tony Finau all finished top-10 last week, giving team USA plenty of momentum heading into the week. (Oh yeah, Henrick Stenson took the Hero Challenge and the $1,000,000 purse at 18-under par.)
After last week, as we eye the opening rounds of the 2019 Presidents Cup, we already know what we don’t know. We know the International players and fans want to get under the Americans’ skin, we just don’t know if they can. We know the American pairings are going to be good, we just don’t know how good. And we know the Americans are going to win, we just don’t know by how much. We’re ready to find out.
Coverage begins Thursday, December 12, with the fourball opening round followed by the foursome matches on Friday. Saturday brings a full slate with the second round of fourball and foursomes, and closing on Sunday with the singles matches. Tune into the Golf Channel for live coverage Thursday through Sunday, and NBC for a replay of Sunday.
When word that the PGA Tour Policy Board had passed and will implement new pace-of-play guidelines during the 2020 season began to spread, the age-old cycle of news headlines, analytics, anonymous sources, finger pointing and speculation got another big boost. We don’t know all the details of the new plan, and won’t until the Tour makes its official announcement about the change (reportedly coming early 2020), but we do know enough to keep the speculation going until then.
Golf Digest reports the new policy will shift the Tour’s focus on players in groups that are out of position to individual players regardless of group position, which is in-line with the Tour’s August announcement that it would be taking a closer look at the pace-of-policy. That announcement came on the heels of the “recent incidents,” the Tour cited at the time — those incidents being Bryson DeChambeau’s antics at the 2019 Northern Trust and a whole other p-o-p rabbit hole. But back to the new policy. To shift the focus to individual players, the Tour is reportedly going to create a secret shit list of the slowest players so they are more likely to be put on the clock. If a player records a second bad time during a round they will incur a one-stoke penalty.
The new policy is supposed to start a week after the Masters, at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina. That seems a pretty quick turnaround for what’s being talked up as some kind of sweeping, answer-to-all-problems policy — but is it really any of that? There are rules meant to address slow play on the Tour already on the books, though they are pretty weak, obviously. But the bigger part of the problem, one the rulebook can’t fix, is the Tour’s inability to enforce it’s own rules, or unwillingness to do so.
Pace-of-play has been a massive problem for the Tour ever since, well, ever. Any time it looks like the Tour is ready to do something about it, it doesn’t — a story seemingly as old as the game itself. Are we really to believe this new policy is going to change anything?
It’s no secret who the slowest players are, certainly amongst the players themselves, but the fans know it too. What’s keeping a list of the most-likely suspects going to achieve if the same rules officials won’t penalize anyone anyways? What’s the point of keeping the list secret in the first place if we can guess who’s on it? Maybe some good ol’ fashioned online public shaming is the change we need to speed things up.
Despite the announcement, right now the Tour is no closer to solving the problem than it was to begin with. This new policy gives it a new approach at highlighting AND enforcing the problem, but given its track record for penalizing players, or lack there of, the prospect that the Tour has effected any meaningful change is still a toss up.
At least we won’t have to wait too long to find out for sure.
An artist rendering of the new Crush Golf facility in Colorado Springs, opening summer 2020.
With the explosion of TopGolf and Drive Shack popularity across the US, we here in Southern Colorado have been patiently waiting for our turn at a brightly lit, titillating year-round golf venue. Come summer 2020, the wait will be over.
In a November press release, developers of the ever expanding Polaris Pointe retail complex on the north side of Colorado Springs announced the upcoming opening of Crush Golf and sister facility AirCity360. Currently under construction, Crush Golf will span 54,000 sqft, housing 75 heated driving range “suites” with Trackman Golf tech, a 250-yard driving range, dining and meeting facilities. Crush Golf with be the “first of its kind golf facility in the Pikes Peak Region,” according to the release, offering southern Colorado golfers a way to cure their FOMO with our neighbors to the north (Top Golf has already staked a claim in the Denver area with two locations).
Crush Golf’s sister facility, AirCity360, is said to be an all-family entertainment venue with everything from a roller coaster, climbing wall and “Ninja360” course to dodgeball, trampolines and much more. The two facilities join a host of other attractions in the Polaris Pointe center, including go-karts, shopping centers, restaurants and more to make it one of the premiere entertainment centers south of Denver, located east of I-25 and Northgate Boulevard.
Leaving zero time for speculation, Woods gave the nod to world no. 21 and fellow BD energizer Rickie Fowler — Sorry, Kevin Kisner — who’s on the up-and-up after a gastrointestinal infection that made him withdraw from the Myakoba Classic earlier this month.
While Koepka will certainly be missed, the substitution shouldn’t shock anyone or muddy Team USA’s chances of absolutely destroying the International Team. Fowler has repped America in the last two Presidents Cups (2015 and 2017), made six top-10 finishes in 2019, won the ’19 Waste Management Open, and finished top-10 in the Open (T6) and the Masters (T9) this year, and finishing top-20 in the FedEx Cup rankings. Again, not the world’s number one player’s numbers, but still better than the majority of the inexperienced International team. (Plus, who doesn’t love “Big Dick Rick” just because?)
2019 Presidents Cup coverage begins Thursday, December 12, with the fourball opening round followed by the foursome matches on Friday. Saturday brings a full slate with the second round of fourball and foursomes, and closing on Sunday with the singles matches. Tune into the Golf Channel for live coverage Thursday through Sunday, and NBC for a replay of Sunday.