In this week’s edition, we celebrate the boundless energy of youth, welcome Bryson DeChambeau – rust and all – back to the PGA Tour and lament LIV Golf’s transition from the theoretical to the very real.
Youth. The old and envious will tell you that youth is wasted on the young, but 25-year-old star-in-waiting Davis Riley seemed to have a pretty good handle on his youthful limitations when we asked him last Sunday at Colonial if he gets tired.
“This couple-week stretch has kind of got the best of me,” he admitted. “Another hot week at the [AT&T Byron Nelson] and then the passion obviously being a major [at the PGA Championship] is just a grind anyhow, and then to come in here and it's 95-degree weather, it's pretty grueling.”
This week’s Memorial is Riley’s seventh start in eight weeks, as well as his fourth consecutive, and his 22nd start on the PGA Tour this season. But following his tie for fourth place last week, the grind doesn’t seem to be impacting his game, as evidenced by an opening 67 at Muirfield Village for a share of the Day 1 lead.
Riley needs a solid week at Jack’s Place to crack the top 60 in the world and qualify for the U.S. Open. If not, it’s more golf with Monday’s 36-hole championship qualifier looming.
“I think if I have a really solid finish, I'll have a good chance of getting in off my world ranking. But as of now I'm scheduled to play the Monday qualifier in Columbus,” he said with youthful confidence.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
B.A.D. Bryson (middle name Aldrich) DeChambeau returned to competition for the first time since the Masters and undergoing surgery on his left hand, with predictable results.
DeChambeau posted a sloppy 76 on Day 1 at the Memorial and followed that with a 77 to miss the cut. The poor play could easily be ascribed to rust, and he didn’t seem to be overly concerned with his opening round.
“As the day went on, there were some mis-hits and shots that just didn't feel right. With my golf swing, hand felt great. No issues with that,” he said.
DeChambeau’s focus is on the U.S. Open in two weeks and given the nature of his surgery he’s owed a minute before observers start punching alarms, but there’s no escaping the thread that the player who threatened to redefine the game on his own terms may have pushed too far past the limits of the human body.
Rules of Golf. In recent years, golf has wrested itself from an often-stoic past by simplifying and condensing the rulebook. But as we learned Thursday at the Memorial, there’s still room for improvement.
Hideki Matsuyama was informed by Tour rules officials as he was making the turn at Muirfield Village that he was being disqualified from the event for violating Rule 4.a.(3): “A substance or any treatment can't be applied to the face of a club which could influence the flight of the ball, the spin, the loft or anything on the ball, how the ball performs.”
There was paint on the face of Matsuyama’s 3-wood that made it nonconforming. A Tour official explained that because the paint was on the clubface, and not down in the groves, he would be disqualified.
The problem here is that according to at least one equipment rep, paint – unlike some other substance, like, say, Vaseline – would have no impact on the club’s performance. Perhaps golf’s rules makers have a different opinion, but shouldn’t there be some room for a discussion as well as some common sense?
The road back. Tuesday’s past-primetime release of the field for the first LIV Golf event came with plenty of surprises – Dustin Johnson was in; Phil Mickelson was out – but it’s been the fallout that’s been most intriguing.
How the Tour plans to respond is the multimillion-dollar question, and who else might be considering a jump to the Saudi-backed breakaway league looms. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he had any sense of whether those who are signed up to play next week’s LIV event in London even wanted to play the PGA Tour again.
“Not really, I guess,” McIlroy said after a long pause. “You know, you have some guys in a position where, like, they are literally not guaranteed a job next year. As we've seen, it's a young man's game nowadays.
“Someone that isn't guaranteed their Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we'll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you're playing for a ton more prize money, and you're playing less events, you can spend more time with your family. … It's very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position.”
The players who have signed with LIV have made their choices and perhaps there is a hope that, either through a likely legal challenge or an unlikely detente between the rival circuits, they will be able to someday play both tours. But given how things have escalated the last few years, it’s hard to see a road back.
Tweet of the week:
The only thing missing from Homa’s tweet was the perfectly apropos GIF of Jon Stewart shoveling popcorn into his mouth as he watches Rome burn. Whether competition is good for professional golf remains to be seen, but there is no questioning the intrigue it’s created.