Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)



The Grind

The Koepkas’ wild New Year’s Eve, a painful Christmas lesson and one person we know NBC won’t be hiring

January 02, 2024

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are never ordering Christmas gifts from random Instagram ads again. I got suckered into buying two things for my wife from companies I’ve never heard of, and (Shocker!) neither arrived by Christmas. Then when one of the two purchases finally got to my house on New Year’s Eve, it was missing a part. So now that has to be returned. And the other one is still MIA a month after being ordered. Thankfully, I followed through on the two hints she sent me (AKA she just sends me a link to something she wants), so I wasn’t left empty-handed on the big day. And most importantly, neither were the kids:

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Hope everyone had a happy holiday season—and that the Michael Block haterz got a big lump of coal in their stockings. OK, let’s get caught up on some golf happenings as we enter the new year.

WE’RE BUYING

PGA Tour and PIF extending negotiations: Yes, everyone is tired of hearing about this, but if you’re a golf fan that doesn’t want the pro game to be fractured to the point of no return (hopefully, we’re not there already), this is good news. Originally, these two entities had set a Dec. 31, 2023 deadline, but, perhaps in the spirit of Tiger Woods’ Dec. 30 birthday, have now extended that negotiating window. Strategic Sports Group (SSG) is also involved in talks with the tour, and there’s still plenty to hammer out, but this is a positive sign that some kind of agreement will happen—and perhaps that some kind of world tour will be formed where we can watch all the best players compete against each other more than just four times a year at the majors.

NBC’s reported target: Nothing is official, but there are reports that NBC is looking to hire Geoff Ogilvy as a full-time replacement for Paul Azinger as its golf analyst. This is great news for Golf Twitter. Except for the fact that Golf Twitter will have a LOT less to complain about. And, sadly, I guess it means I didn’t get the gig:

Maybe I’ll be ready by the time Trevor Immelman hangs it up. (*Googles Trevor Immelman*) Wait, he’s only three years older than me?! Sigh.

The Stack System: You’ve probably heard about this speed-training program because it helped Matt Fitzpatrick claim the 2022 U.S. Open. Well, now I’m hoping it helps me as well. Like my boss, Sam Weinman, who recently wrote about using the Stack, I am giving it a try too—and so far, so good! The app spits out something called “distance potential” and in less than two weeks I’ve improved by 21 yards in that metric. That puts me on pace for about the same gains Sam enjoyed during his first completed program:

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To be clear, this is just “potential” and these numbers are all from swings in my basement. But it’s an encouraging sign. Especially because I can’t have Sam hitting it past me this year.

Tua Tagovailoa: We’ve all seen he’s a great football player, but apparently, he’s an even better teammate. The Dolphins star got the Miami QB room golf simulators. Well, minus Dan Marino, because he already has one. Check it out:

Well played, Tua. And Tua obviously didn’t order those bad boys from some fake company because they were actually delivered. On time. What a stupid I am.

WE’RE SELLING

Harold Varner’s DWI: No news is good news during a down time in the sport, but sadly, that wasn’t the case for HVIII. The popular PGA Tour pro turned LIV golfer was arrested for driving "while subject to an impairing substance” and blew a BAC of 0.16, or twice the legal limit.

Obviously, there’s no excuse to ever drive while impaired, but star athletes doing it is mind-boggling. A.) They’re risking so much putting themselves and others in danger; B.) They have plenty of money to afford calling a cab. Heck, Varner made $4 million from ONE golf tournament last year. Let’s all be more careful out there in 2024, deal?

Rahm and Rory MIA: The PGA Tour resumes this week with a signature event and an incredible field, but it’s hard not to notice two guys who won’t be in Hawaii. Defending champ Jon Rahm, of course, has been suspended by the tour for signing with LIV. And it’s going to be tough for PGA Tour fans to get used to him not being there. Then there’s Rory McIlroy. Look, I know he usually skips this event—and Tiger and Phil used to before him—but when you’re THE face of the tour, I don’t think it’s crazy to be expected to start your year on that tour instead of in Dubai like he will in a couple weeks.

This snake: Kudos to the brave souls involved with catching this nine-foot-python with some 9-irons:

Snakes alive! Remind me never to visit Marco Island. Actually, I might just never play golf anywhere in Florida again.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour returns for The Sentry, AKA that one at Kapalua, AKA that one that used to be the official start of the season, AKA that one that’s back to being the official start of the season, AKA that one you used to have to be an actual champion from the previous year to get into, but now, not so much. The criteria has expanded slightly, but it’s still a limited field to start the season with a whopping $20 million purse as the tour's first signature event of 2024. It’s also a chance to witness some history as Viktor Hovland, who won the final two events of last year’s FedEx Cup Playoffs will attempt to join a small, select list of guys to win three consecutive PGA Tour starts in recent times.

Random tournament fact: Cameron Smith broke the PGA Tour 72-hole scoring record by shooting 34 under par here two years ago. So watch out for the Aussie in Hawaii this week! Oh. Right. Never mind.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

—Varner’s 4Aces captain Dustin Johnson knows about his DWI: 100-to-1 odds

—Viktor Hovland will win at Kapalua: 9-to-1 odds (actual odds)

—Cameron Smith is fishing instead of playing golf at Kapalua: LOCK

PHOTO(S) OF THE WEEK

Man, talk about a trip down memory lane. Can’t believe we’re coming up on seven years. Time flies.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Jessica may be the star of the family, but don't sleep on Adam.

CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIRAL VIDEO(S) OF THE WEEK

Tua and his team can only hope to share a moment like this with those new golf simulators:

That’s awesome. That doesn’t count as a real hole-in-one. But that’s still awesome.

And this is the normal-people version of a great golf gift—although having been to Pinehurst, this cost a pretty penny, too!

Well done. That’s true love right there.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS

We know from past tweets that Mikal Bridges loves golf, but apparently he also loves Chipotle. In fact, he might love it even more than Viktor Hovland.

Every day for 10 YEARS in a row?! Unreal. Then again, this is a guy who has played in 425 consecutive NBA games so he’s no stranger to streaks. Anyway, sorry, Viktor, you are not the biggest Chipotle fan on the planet.

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

While this old man was long asleep, it looks like Brooks Koepka and Jena Sims were enjoying one heckuva New Year’s Eve party.

Not sure what exactly is going on there, but they were living it up. Here are some other scenes from their wild night:

Too bad this happened after I filed my 54 things that happened to Brooks Koepka in 2023 piece.

And forget about Cam Smith fishing, turns out he was busy getting married!

Congrats, Cam! Although, who are we kidding, he is 100 percent fishing on the honeymoon.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

It’s a long one, but an impactful one from Hovland, who sided with Jon Rahm against the PGA Tour’s leadership:

"It would be a bit silly to criticize the players for leaving," Hovland said (English translation via Sports Illustrated). "After all, you only hear one angle in the media, and there are quite a few different parts happening at the same time here. I totally understand why he left. That's a lot—a lot of money. [Especially] when the management of the PGA Tour has done such a bad job.

"Just to be clear: I'm not complaining about the position I'm in, and I'm very grateful for everything. But the management has not done a good job. They almost see the players as labor and not as part of the [membership]. After all, we are the PGA Tour. Without the players, there is nothing.

"When you get to see what happens behind closed doors, how the management actually makes decisions—which are not in the players' best interest but best for themselves and what they think is best ... They are businessmen who say that, 'No, it should look like this and that.' There is a great deal of arrogance behind it all."

Wow, he even dropped the A-word! Pretty damning. And then he probably went out and had a nice meal from Chipotle to feel better.

THIS AND THAT

Congrats to Jon Rahm, Lilia Vu and Steve Stricker for being named Player(s) of the Year on their respective tours by the Golf Writers Association of America. And, yes, I voted (correctly) for all three. … Happy belated 48th birthday to Tiger Woods. Let’s hope he at least has one more PGA Tour title in him. … If you’re not ready to dive into something like the Stack System, but still want to improve your game this year, check out Golf Digest’s 1 Percent Challenge. Plenty of easy ways to get better in 2024. … And, speaking of getting better, it looks like we may have a chip off the old block in my house when it comes to cornhole:

Imagine the pressure on her to be great, though? She’s going to know what it’s like to be Charlie Woods.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

How much do Brooks and Jena pay their babysitter?

Will Julia ever beat me at Cornhole?

Will I ever get that other Christmas gift I ordered?