In this week’s penultimate playoff, we celebrate the return of the bubble, acknowledge the need for a new “slate”, and question what was or wasn’t in Henrik Stenson’s European Cup Ryder contract.
The bubble is back. It’s been hard to focus on golf lately, so the return of the Tour bubble with two weeks left in the regular season is a welcome respite, thanks to the likes of Webb Simpson.
The veteran had his worst season on the tour mired in 125th on the FedExCup points list (see New Math item below). Much of Simpson’s problems can be attributed to a nagging injury and two months away from the game’s recovery, but that doesn’t make his predicament or the looming deadline next week any easier.
That’s why his stealth-free 66 on day one at the Rocket Mortgage Classic was such a big boost.
“Overall, just very strong, I haven’t given myself as many pitches as I’m sweating over it on an equal footing,” Simpson said. “Very happy with the work I did last week on my vacation and yes, where I want to be after the first round.”
The distractions in professional golf are here to stay, but the competition and competitors can still provide a respite.
Full field scores from Rocket Mortgage Classic
Tweet of the week:
Dahmin was responding to a quote from Homa on the eve of the duo pairing up for the first two rounds of this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.
“They say you have to be humble in this game, so I felt humbled. Gone from tiger [Woods] for Joel. Homma said of playing alongside Woods at The Open, and now with Dhamin in Detroit, what a world of golf this is.
It’s easy to enjoy the elevated moments these two regularly present and to ignore how special it is to have two superstar players at the height of their careers and comfortable enough to rely on their self-deprecating nonsense.
Making unfinished pieces (MDF)
new math. With playoffs looming in two weeks, the Tour finally announced how the circuit plans to deal with the FedExCup roster and those players who have been indefinitely suspended from playing LIV Golf events.
The solution was to create a second rating called the “Eligibility Score List”, which would be used to qualify for the playoffs and beyond not including those who were suspended. Currently, there is an eight-player difference which means Simpson, number 125 on the FedExCup list, ranks 117th on the eligibility list.
According to a memo sent to players by Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and obtained by GolfChannel.com, the circuit has moved to ensure that “suspended members do not adversely affect other players’ tournament eligibility, their position in the Priority Rankings or their eligibility to compete in the FedExCup Qualifiers.”
Player and audience reaction to the new roster has been predictably mixed, but it’s worth noting that the replacement roster gives the tour some much-needed flexibility in the event of a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the suspensions – such as those granted by an English court. Earlier this month – Required and awarded and allowed LIV players to compete in the post-season.
Nosy captain. The sports world got busy with contracts this week. Kyler Murray and whatever his bosses at the Arizona Cardinals were trying to achieve dominated the news cycle, and Henrik Stenson’s agreement with the Ryder Cup Europe became a moot point.
It remains unclear exactly what was in Stinson’s deal with the DP World Tour and Ryder Cup Europe that made him the European Ryder Cup captain next year and he appears to indicate that he has not violated any part of the agreement by joining LIV Golf.
“I have made every possible arrangement here to be able to fulfill the duties of a captain,” Stenson said at this week’s LIV event in New Jersey. “Obviously the contract between the captain and the Ryder Cup Europe is a private one, and I won’t go into details on what is in that contract.”
There may have been no specific language in the Stinson deal that prevented him from joining the LIV, but it was certainly implied. It also seems quite clear that Stenson was able to take advantage of his status as European leader to negotiate a better deal with LIV.
Everything that motivates players to join the LIV is entirely up to them and the moral ambiguity thrown in their direction is baffling, but if Stenson has tapped into the Captain for more money that feels wrong.
Referral / promotion. This week’s SI.com story outlined how the LIV League plans to deal with relegation and promotion, which has been a particularly interesting topic given the team’s unique concept in the ring.
According to the story, four players will be relegated each season and replaced with four players from international series and Asian Tour events. This, however, is a “soft” four given that “team owners” and players with long-term contracts will be exempt from relegation.
During his press conference at his first LIV event this week, Charles Howell III correctly pointed out that the Tour version of the ups and downs is full of lowercase that allows the veterans to play well after their prime.
“That drop, by the way, is real,” Howell said. “With the PGA Tour sometimes, you can still go down to 126 to 150, you can drop to the previous champion and play X the number of times. That goes to zero.”
Again, Howell’s point is valid, but compared to the LIV version of maybe four players – maybe not four players, it’s impossible not to admit that at least the Tour version has a legitimate trajectory for young stars (see Zalatoris, Will; Young, Cameron, etc.).