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Tour Confidential: Ryder Cup concerns, Brooke Henderson, LIV broadcasts
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss concerns over the Ryder Cup, Brooke Henderson’s win at the Evian Championship, LIV broadcasts and more.
1. Ryder Cup Europe removed Henrik Stenson as its 2023 captain after Stenson was among the latest batch of pros to join LIV Golf. At this point, how worried should the governing bodies of the U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams be that their premier event could be watered down? What’s the solution?
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): I think their biggest worry should be the fact that the players whose careers have been most defined by the Ryder Cup — think Sergio and Poulter — were so willing to give it up, and now Stenson was willing to go back on his word and give up the captaincy, too. The European core of Rory and Rahm are still eligible, and most of its top young pros are, too. But it’s worrisome that the Ryder Cup’s cache doesn’t stand up to a bucket of gold bricks. It’ll be interesting to see if they hold that line.
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): Losing Stenson, Poulter and the like doesn’t significantly water down the Ryder Cup since those players’ Ryder Cup careers are largely behind them. But the balance feels very precarious. If bigger and younger names continue to jump to LIV, the Ryder Cup as we know it will feel radically changed.
James Colgan, assistant editor (@jamescolgan26): Agreed, Dylan! I saw someone ask the other day who was left among the Europeans to captain a Ryder Cup team … and I don’t know the answer! And on the American side, who, if not Phil, is going to captain them at Bethpage in ‘25? What a hornet’s nest the powers-that-be have wandered into.
Josh Berhow, managing editor (@Josh_Berhow): They should be worried. The Ryder Cup always seemed untouchable to me. When LIV defections started, I didn’t think those players would be key Ryder Cuppers — at least not the ones who have several good years left in the event. But as LIV picks up steam, I’m starting to think the Ryder Cup might take more of a hit. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. A watered-down Ryder Cup stings a bit, but I don’t see the PGA of America giving in.
2. Brooke Henderson won the Evian Championship to claim her second career major title, and now, at just 24 years old, she’s the first Canadian-born player (male or female) to win multiple major titles. Does this feat alone make her the best Canadian-born player ever? And are you taking the over/under on 4.5 career Henderson majors?
Dethier: Oh boy. Props to Henderson for righting the ship on Sunday (after an early four-putt!) and doing some seriously big-time stuff down the stretch. Birdies at 14, 15 and 18? Hell yeah. I’ll resist becoming a prisoner of the moment and take the under. Four majors for Henderson, when it’s all said and done. I’d gladly be wrong!
Sens: It makes her the most accomplished Canadian-born player. But I’d still probably take Moe Norman or Mike Weir in theoretical match play. I’ll take the under on 4.5 because winning is hard. How long has Rory been stuck on four again?
Colgan: Someone call the oddsmakers, we need a line adjustment! I’ll take the under on 4.5 majors, and the over on 3.5.
Berhow: I couldn’t believe she’s still only 24 when I looked it up today. It was a pretty entertaining victory with all of the necessary ups and downs, but I think she’s got lots more great things to show us. Give me the over.
3. NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley confirmed in an interview with the New York Post that he recently met with Greg Norman to discuss a broadcasting role with Norman’s controversial, Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series. While Barkley didn’t commit to anything publicly, David Feherty announced he is leaving NBC for LIV, and a Golf Digest report confirmed that Gary McCord has also been in discussions. What would this crew do for interest in the league? Would a newcomer like Barkley help interest?
Dethier: It would up the entertainment value, though not necessarily the golfy credibility. Barkley has been a welcome addition to the Match broadcasts and can shake up golf’s too-stodgy defaults. So yeah, Barkley may add to the “exhibition” feel, but he’d help drum up interest. How many media members are better or less predictable quotes?
Sens: There’s not a more entertaining broadcaster in any sport so yes, Barkley would move the needle. But I think we are still at the point with LIV where every move still fits with people’s confirmation biases. For LIV supporters, landing Barkley would seem like an extra-strength boost in mass-market appeal. Anti-LIVers would see it as further evidence that LIV is deeply funded but dumbed-down golf. Each side digging in its heels.
Colgan: I think the biggest question re: Chuck is whether he took seven figures to go to LIV, or eight. (I think the answer is eight.) Adding Chuck does *nothing* to help the league’s credibility among golf audiences, but perhaps that’s the point? LIV seems rather laser-focused on ‘winning’ with Gen Z, but is it worth sacrificing everyone else to do it?
Berhow: One of my biggest issues with LIV Golf is that it’s going to be extremely difficult to get fans, media (and players?) to care about who wins. It’s 54 holes, has an odd field and still seems like an exhibition to me. And adding Sir Charles to that mix just seems even more like an exhibition. Maybe that will go away eventually. But it would be a splashy hire, which I think LIV would count as a major win.
4. The USGA hosted the first-ever U.S. Adaptive Open this week in Pinehurst, N.C. The 54-hole event featured a field of 96 players (both men and women), each of whom had a disability. The hope, USGA CEO Mike Whan told GOLF, is to elevate adaptive golf’s profile in the United States, starting with its inclusion in the Paralympics. Why was this week an important development for the sport writ large?
Dethier: Because it was taken seriously. (James Colgan told the story wonderfully from on site.) The USGA gets a lot of heat, but this was a concrete example of doing something innovative and doing it well. I’m allergic to the phrase “growing the game,” but this certainly moved it forward.
Sens: Exactly. Handled poorly, it could have felt gimmicky or patronizing. It was beautiful and Inspiring. But also serious and sustainable.
Colgan: I can’t begin to tell you how many families and players told me they had no idea adaptive golf *existed* until they started playing. That is an unbelievable issue — and hopefully one that ceases to exist should this event help bring adaptive golf into the Paralympics.
Berhow: James did a great job telling stories for us while he was there, and it’s only going to get bigger as it gets more exposure. Also very cool to see it all happen at a place like Pinehurst. Unbelievable athletes.
5. The 245-yard par-3 5th at Anstruther, down the road from St. Andrews in Scotland, is the stuff of nightmares and was even once dubbed the hardest par-3 around by a British golf magazine. (A few of our staffers put it to the test.) What’s the most difficult hole you’ve ever played?
Dethier: The first hole at Gamble Sands in central Washington, where I played U.S. Open qualifying last summer after a few years away from any sort of tournament competition. It was playing over 500 yards, which made it a beefy par-4. I hit a weak push off the tee, lost the ball and made 8. It was a reminder that it’s more often the artist rather than the canvas. A nervy golfer can make any hole hard.
Sens: The jitters I felt on the first tee of the 1994 Masters were so intense that …. wait. That wasn’t me. But this was — at a course called Dinosaur Trail in Drumheller, in western Canada. It’s cut through a wild badlands-like landscape, kinda like Wolf Creek in Mesquite, Nevada, but more extreme in places. As I remember it, a couple of holes had fairways about as wide as sidewalks with severe drop-offs into oblivion on either side. By the time I got to the back nine, I was convinced I was on Candid Camera. This couldn’t be a real course. Someone had to be pranking me.
Colgan: I think I need to play more with you, Sens. Scariest hole of my life? Probably the 100-yard par-3 5th at my old place of employment, Rockville Links. Most hours of the day, the hole is a cupcake — a flipped wedge over a manmade lake — but that all changes around dinner time. The hole overlooks the clubhouse patio, which is usually packed in the early evening (coincidentally the same hour caddies were permitted to sneak out for a twilight nine). From the tee box, I never stood more than a shanked wedge away from the end of a poor diner’s life — and my looping career.
Berhow: Every hole at Oakmont. Also, when on a family vacation a few years ago, I snuck out to Top of the World Golf Club a few hours north of New York City. I can’t recall the hole number, but it’s a par-4 with almost an exact 90 degree turn about 200 yards or so off the tee. You are enclosed by trees, so you need to position your tee shot in an extremely small window there or be forced to punch out to a better angle. From there, it’s a downhill shot that’s not necessarily hard, but getting into Position A is difficult. Although maybe that’s not necessarily a difficult hole. It might be more peculiar.