Fire pit collective
How to fix the World Ranking, save the Presidents Cup and laugh off Bryson's near-decapitation
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.
In his #AskAlan column this week, Fire Pit Collective senior writer Alan Shipnuck delivers his thoughts about Homa’s ascent, Bryson’s near-decapitation, U.S. dominance at the Ryder Cup, fixing the World Ranking, saving the Presidents Cup, Pat Perez’s bona fides, choking in golf and much more.
I feel Max Homa is poised to make the next step toward stardom. You? @aaw1124
He’s pretty much already there! Four wins in his last 41 starts is a historically great percentage, and Homa has proven himself on two of the best courses on Tour: Riviera and Quail Hollow. The walk-off chip-in to go back-to-back at Napa was special. And Homa might be the nicest, funniest, most relatable player on the PGA Tour, and his good mojo on Twitter has turned him into a fan favorite. Of course, to become one of the game’s keynote players he needs to become a consistent contender at the major championships, where his record has been shaky. Homa did take a baby step in the right direction at Southern Hills, finishing 13th at the PGA. Given his sharply upward trajectory and superb all-around game and palpable confidence, you have to assume Homa will make some noise at next year’s majors, along the way becoming a certified star.
Eyes on Europe: Did you watch the Italian Open and what’s your view on the estimable Robert MacIntyre? Serious point: Does the Ryder Cup have legs? @mikesuff9
I watched most of the final round and loved MacIntrye’s grit and iron play. He’s definitely a contender for next year’s European team. And I think Marco Simone looks like a fine Ryder Cup venue, although the course is not as important in match play as stroke play; at the Cup you’re competing against the other guy, not par. The larger question is the future of the event. Back in 2017 the Nostradamus of the golf beat predicted that the Americans would embark on long-term dominance, and it already is coming true: After two decades of futility, the U.S. has won two of the last three and will be overwhelming favorites in ’23. If a compromise is not reached to bring LIV players back into the fold, Europe will have been stripped of its most experienced and inspirational players/future captains: Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell. Losing Dustin Johnson, the star of the ’21 Cup, is a blow to the U.S., but as things stand, 12 of the top 18 in the World Ranking are Americans, including four major championship winners in Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler, plus an Olympic gold medalist (Xander Schauffele) and FedEx Cup champ (Patrick Cantlay). The average age of these cornerstones is 27.8. The U.S. can fill out its team with young(ish) studs like Homa, Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris, Sam Burns and Cam Young, or wily vets such as Kevin Kisner, Billy Horschel and Brian Harman.
Europe has two superstars in Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm and a sturdy building block in Shane Lowry, but after that it gets a little iffy. Yes, Matt Fitzpatrick just won the U.S. Open, but in two previous Ryder Cup appearances he is 0-5-0. Viktor Holland went 0-3-2 as a Ryder rookie at Whistling Straits and was further exposed during the final round of this year’s British Open. The only other Europeans in the top 30 of the World Ranking are Tommy Fleetwood (winless since 2019) and Tyrrell Hatton (winless over the last 20 months). Half the squad in Rome could be rookies.
It will be crucial for Europe to put up a good fight next year. We are already seeing how badly the Presidents Cup has been diminished by LIV defections. If the U.S. rolls to an easy victory in Rome, which would be its first win on European soil since 1993, that will be an especially bad omen considering the existing imbalance of young talent.
Could P#t P#r#z make a cut on the PGA Tour right now? (Ryan French would like to know to settle a recent Twitter ‘argument’…) @cordeiroconolly
Charles Laberge/LIV Golf
Perez’s ongoing struggles/triumphs on LIV have become an unexpected source of mirth. Yes, his game is a little off, but on the PGA Tour in 2021-22 he made 12 of 19 cuts, with a pair of top-10 finishes. So Perez has proven quite recently that he could hold his own out there.
Sadly, yes. The easiest fix is to make the Prez Cup co-ed. That would instantly elevate it from a Ryder Cup knockoff to a global showcase, especially because international players are frozen out of the Solheim Cup. The strength of Korea and other international hotbeds means the women could help the Internationals bridge the talent gap.
I love golf so much (playing and following all aspects of the game), but I’m just extremely turned off by the state of the pro game right now. I can’t get myself to watch LIV, and the PGA Tour events just seem flat and like they’re missing something now. Am I overreacting? @cparsons981
No, you’re not. The bard of the golf beat, Michael Bamberger, has been podcasting and writing about these same emotions. Naked greed, political tone-deafness, press conference bitchiness and social media trolling do not exactly elevate the sport or encourage fans to invest their time and emotion. Hopefully this weird, contentious year will give way to a little more civility. But that’s hardly a sure thing.
Is choking in golf a real thing? @Steve614
On my bookshelf is a Gary Player instructional tome entitled “Don’t Choke,” so you tell me. Actually, I’ll tell you: Of course choking is a real thing. That’s all Johnny Miller talked about on TV! It exists in every sport, but golfers are all alone out there with nowhere to hide, so it’s more graphic when they are overwhelmed by the moment. Related: Kudos to Danny Willett for his class and grace after a devastating debacle on the 72nd hole in Napa. That was hard to watch.
It’s clear Cam Smith and DJ belong near the top of the OWGR. Should the ranking create an exception of the one-year latency period and consider awarding points to LIV? What’s the right thing to be done? #AskAlan @RealTurtleBR
Something has to happen quickly or the World Ranking will become a farce. Hopefully when this gets sorted out—and it has to get sorted out—the points will be backdated to LIV London so we can again have a unified ranking with actual meaning.
Would love to hear your thoughts on Matt Ginella’s icy-cold take from earlier this week regarding club pros and developmental tour guys. @BurDee_Machine
This year alone I have been the guest on probably 20 podcasts and hundreds of talk-radio shows, so I say this as a quasi-expert: When being interviewed, sometimes on the journey from your brain to your mouth the words don’t come out quite right. Matt’s point was how cut-throat professional golf is, and he brought up club pros’ relative job security to underscore his argument. If he could have the moment back, he would make the point differently, or phrase it another way. But I was proud of him for how he handled the blowback. It’s a sign of good character that when you make a mistake you own it, offer a sincere apology and try to make things right. Matt has done all of that; he is at work on a podcast and a typed story that will highlight the lives of club pros and that should add needed context for all of us. I hope that next time I say something dumb—and that day will surely come—I handle myself with as much humility and sincerity as Matt has.
Have you heard anything from the manufacturers on if/how they intend to market the LIV guys? Like, when new clubs get released next year will DJ do any promos for TaylorMade or just Rory/Tiger? #AskAlan @jjgottschalk
We shall see, but so far the endemic golf companies have been loyal to the LIV players. It’s not personal, it’s business: The manufacturers are desperate to break into new markets, and LIV is going to help facilitate that. And while few fans are tuning into the live-streams there is still tons of coverage of LIV in various ways, so all those logoed caps and polos are getting a lot of play.
I’ll never forget the 72nd hole of the 2018 Masters. I was in the Augusta National locker room interviewing Reed’s adversaries, but as he played 18, I wandered over to a seating area where a handful of green jackets were monitoring the telecast. After Reed rolled in his short par putt to secure the victory, these members looked at each other and sighed. They spoke no words, but the expressions on their faces were clear: “Awww, shit.” So you might be right.
It was glorious. Run-ins with the rope are not uncommon at tournaments but what elevated DeChambeau’s mishap into performance art was his cinematic flop, the guttural profanity and the exceptionally churlish towel grab. Throw in the Zapruder-like cell-phone footage and we have a Brysonian moment for the ages.