Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)



FIRE PIT COLLECTIVE

Scottie Scheffler carrying the Tour, Tyrrell Hatton's temper, Patrick Cantlay as a villain and much more

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Jamie Squire

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.

March 14, 2023

Does Scottie Scheffler have the X-factor to carry the PGA Tour further? @PeteKnot

In a word, no. He’s a wonderful human being and clearly a spectacular golfer but Scheffler does not ooze charisma and there’s not much dramatic tension in his story: nice guy wins. I think he’s a fun supporting character to have around and I enjoy watching him play golf but if Scheffler is the leading man the Tour may feel it at the box office.

I have a media pass this week for the LIV event. Never been in this situation. What should I do? @therealslimcat

Don’t drink your morning coffee (or whiskey) so you’re extra grouchy. Skip breakfast so you’re starving and can destroy the free buffet lunch. Pick out a stained shirt, ideally with three or more logos, and don’t brush off the dandruff. Do not, under any circumstances, shower. Wear pleated pants, chunky New Balance sneakers and a faded hat emblazoned with your company logo.Try to work “disruption” or “bifurcation” or “leverage” or “algorithm” into every sentence. When the collection agency calls your cell phone answer by saying, loudly, “Hi, Rory, thanks for getting back to me so soon.” If you see a comely spectator, cozy up to them with your INSIDE THE ROPES lanyard prominently displayed; if flirting commences, tell them you’d love to get them DJ’s autograph but, alas, it’s “unprofessional.” Tweet something snarky. Bring your laptop into the press conferences so it looks like you’re sweating a tight deadline when in reality you’re watching cat videos on YouTube. Never ask a question so as to appear more brooding and mysterious. Tweet something snarky. Complain about the parking to other reporters, even if the parking lot is 10 ten steps from the media center. Complain about the coffee being too weak. Tweet something snarky. Complain about the air conditioning being too strong. Complain about the chairs being uncomfortable. Tweet something snarky. Complain about how slow the transcripts are being released. Complain that the free afternoon snack “doesn’t have enough protein.” Engage the other scribes in a strident discussion about why Jim Murray should have gotten a Pulitzer before Dave Anderson. Tweet something snarky. Discuss in detail your preference for the em dash over the semicolon. File a 450-word story but say loud enough for everyone to hear, “I just worry that today’s readers don’t value a 3,000-word think piece.” On your way out, fill up your computer bag with free granola bars, potato chips and beverages. Tweet something snarky.

#AskAlan The DP World Tour event in Kenya had a Kenyan make his first-ever cut. Tom Hoge barely made the cut at the Players before shooting a course record. Don’t the golf kingpins understand the no-cut events ruin great moments and diminish a great sport? @david_troyan

Yeah, they know and plainly don’t care. Right now professional golf is a clash of titans, and, apparently, catering to the top players is all that matters. For now, we’ll just have to savor these little moments as they come.

Personally I think there should still be cuts at the designated events next year. If a player is +10 on a Friday at an event and the leaders are somewhere around -10, he doesn’t deserve to play on the weekend. @PhillipeStLeger

Totally disagree—make these guys suffer! If they want free money they are going to have to slog through four rounds no matter meaningless they are. That’s the only way we’ll get the stars to reconsider their position and embrace cuts in the designated events.

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Andrew Redington

If Tyrell Hatton was from SoCal would we talking about how’s he the biggest a$$hole on tour? @fakePOULTER

I personally love watching Hatton play. We disparage many pros for being emotionless robots but that ain’t Hatton. We want the players to avoid cliches and give us real answers, and it does’t get any ballsier than criticizing Augusta National *and* Riviera. In conversation Hatton is quite courtly and funny and even thoughtful. That he completely loses his mind on the golf course is, to me, riveting theater. I hope he never changes.

How many LIV guys top 20 at the Masters? @theanfieldscoop

17 or 18. They are going to bring a raging intensity as if their entire professional reputation rests on a strong performance, which it kind of does.

In the vein of tomorrow’s announcement about a possible equipment rollback: what would any of the top 20 players shoot on, say, Augusta with a brand new, vintage 1975 set of Wilson clubs and balls? @GothamGolfClub

First of all, it’s wild that the USGA and R & A have had decades to control distance advances but have somehow waited to do it until this very fraught moment when the professional game is turmoil. As Bamberger and I podcasted about last week, both LIV and the PGA Tour are straining to present more entertaining products, so why would they agree to new rules that some (many?) fans will think makes the golf less compelling? If one tour opts out of bifurcation with its own local rules then surely the other one will have to do the same; it’s hard to sell Scottie Scheffler driving it 260 yards with throttled-back equipment if Dustin Johnson is blasting it 360 with his current weapons. So, there are still various moves left of the chessboard.

To your question, it depends on which Augusta National they’re playing. If it’s the 1975 version, at 6,800 yards with no rough and few trees and slower greens, then plenty of top players are going to shoot in the mid- to high-60s. But few would break par if they have to take on today’s ANGC, which is much tighter, more penal, significantly brawnier and has more fearsome greens.

Resurgent Rickie, buy or sell? #AskAlan@DeeFnCee

Buy! I’ve always loved the saying, “Form is temporary but class is permanent.” Fowler was a world-class player for a long time. He got fired by Butch Harmon because the swing guru was frustrated by Rickie’s lack of commitment, which can happen when a guy is devoted seemingly every day off to shooting commercials and cashing endorsement checks. But a lot of that has fallen away and Fowler has been left behind by his peers. At 34, he has to know time is running out if he’s ever going to be the player he was, or the player he was supposed to be. A focused, motivated Fowler can still do some dynamic things in this game.

Can I bring a GoPro on a practice day at the Masters? @easetweets

Definitely—the guards will be happy to hold it for you at the security checkpoint until you’re leaving the grounds.

Azaleas are in full bloom in Atlanta this week and I assume will be in Augusta well before the Master’s. Am I right? @ERobfratesi

I love that we’re actually fretting about flowers three weeks before a golf tournament. Every year upon arriving in Augusta you hear the whispers: “It’s a bad year for the flowers”; “The dogwoods came early”; etc. etc. Somehow the course always looks nice, so I am unbothered about what is or is not blooming in Atlanta right now.

When will the PGA Tour players be able to wear shorts in competition? Another LIV thing they can copy. @ABFlorida21

Hopefully never. I know it makes me sound like a fuddy-duddy but I’m not a fan of the look—all that leg hair and those dainty little socks, and lots of dudes clearly skip leg day. Even when I’m covering hot, humid tournaments I wear pants; I’m there to work and it makes me feel (and look?) more professional. It’s not asking too much for the players to do the same thing.

What are your thoughts on the Tiger tampon incident and any ‘fallout’ since? Too harshly criticized? Dealt with fairly? Swept under the rug too quickly? @Deven_Stillar

To quote one of our great philosophers, it is what it is. It was a dumb joke and, after what seemed like Woods’s heartfelt apology, the whole thing disappeared quickly, probably rightfully so. It wasn’t a newsflash that Tiger has a sophomoric sense of humor and, despite the trappings of middle age, has never really grown up.

#AskAlan Is Scottie Scheffler the perfect example of successfully “being who you are” on the golf course? Just takes it one shot at a time, recovers when necessary, aims for the big part of the green, etc. Boring guy playing boring golf. @the_agrippa

This is a great call. Part of Phil Mickelson’s longevity was that he never stopped being Phil Mickelson on the golf course. A guy like Brooks Koepka had to always find new motivation and ways to pump himself up for big events and that seemed kind of exhausting and unsustainable, so no surprise he burnt himself out. It’s easy to imagine Scheffler ambling his way to big wins for a very long time.

#AskAlan Which tour is better equipped to survive this war? While your tweets give an indication of your favorite, I’d like to hear it from you out loud one day. @mundungus22

I’m not sure to which tweets you’re referring, but in the short-term there is an obvious answer. The Tour has lost three longtime sponsors in the last month plus (Honda, Dell, Mayakoba) and others are pushing back against the ever-increasing price tag for a product that has lost a lot of starpower. Many of the Tour’s lesser players are also grumbling about the new way of doing business. Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco posted a profit of $161 billion in 2022. That money feeds into the Public Investment Fund, which floats LIV. So, if this is a question of resources, LIV clearly has a monumental advantage, as even Jay Monahan has admitted. But there is more at play here. The point of sportswashing is to improve your public image. I’m not sure LIV has done that for Saudi Arabia. A few years ago I don’t think golf fans collectively gave much thought to MBS, but now everyone has an opinion, and, judging by what I read on Twitter, most of them are quite negative. If LIV fails to attract a large audience, and some stars jump ship and the whole thing disappears from the public consciousness, that does’t reflect well on its benefactors, especially in a culture that values saving face. The PGA Tour is not going anywhere. LIV has a lot more money but remains a more precarious experiment.

I still haven’t found out if you are for or against LIV? @ReneSchaufuss

Good. Why do I have to pick a side? The golf world, and the golf media, has already become too tribal. I am intrigued by LIV and exasperated and amused. They have made some monumental mistakes and gotten some things right. The players can be obnoxiously self-righteous and comically oppressed but they also make a lot of good points. The tournaments are kind of ridiculous but also sort of fun. The Saudi Arabian government has done some abhorrent things but, from the genocide of the Native Americans to the internment of Japanese citizens to the treatment of Blacks during the Jim Crow years, so has the U.S. government. The source of the money is extremely uncomfortable but it’s also true that we all happily burn Saudi gas, and many American politicians (and business leaders) are in bed with the Kingdom so it seems weird to hold golfers to a higher standard than actual public servants. I know nuance is unfashionable in these polarized times but that is what I aspire to.

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Jared C. Tilton

Conventional wisdom says LIV took all of the Tour’s villains, but is Cantlay a candidate for that role? There’s rumors he’s been total pain in these top player meetings, and he seems to want to get paid while having zero interest in being entertaining. What say you? #AskAlan@cpfolds

Recently a Tour player who has had to deal with Cantlay on some governance issues described him to me as a “terrific penis.” I was slightly baffled until another person in the conversation said, “That means he’s a big dick.” I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. Cantlay can certainly be smug and smarmy, which is a good starting point for villainy. So is a Goldman Sachs hat. But Cantlay is so corporate and controlled I don’t think he’ll ever lean into the role like an Ian Poulter or a Patrick Reed, which is a shame because, as you point out, there are presently way too many nice, normal, boring dudes on the PGA Tour.