PGA Tour’s ‘nanny’ approach being exposed as a liability by Saudi event

The term ‘nanny state’ is widely credited to Iain Macleod, a member of the British parliament who felt the government was unduly overprotective and shielded people from the consequences of their own actions. Macleod died in 1970, so he didn’t live to see his notional concept perfected by a succession of executives in faraway Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

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Rory McIlroy had a disappointing major in Tulsa, but time is on his side. Just ask Ray Floyd.

It’s a glib Hallmark sentiment to note that 155 men departed the 104th PGA Championship disappointed and only one didn’t. A handful of the 20 club professionals competing surely had no real expectation of making the cut and were happy to make folks proud at the club back home. Same for a few ex-champions content to enjoy a 36-hole stroll down memory lane. Disappointment is a burden particular to those with expectations, and within that there are tiers.

Dispirited. Dejected. Despondent. Distressed. Whatever box a player checks isn’t necessarily related to his departure time. A man who packs up Friday evening might be deflated, but he’s hardly feeling worse than one who gets into contention and comes up painfully short.

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In Tulsa, Tiger Woods moves toward an uncertain future one pained step at a time

Sporting legends are often condemned to a middle age in which they’re judged against the macro numbers posted during the flush of youth. For Tiger Woods, those past accomplishments cast a lengthy shadow—15 major championship victories, 82 PGA Tour wins, 11 player of the year awards, to cite but a few. Micro numbers matter in as much as he still signs his name below one on a scorecard. Saturday’s micro-moment at the PGA Championship was disheartening if measured against the Woods who won the Tour’s Vardon Award for best scoring average nine times, yet still heartening in the context of Woods today.

A 79 left Woods in a tie for 76th place at Southern Hills, occupying the bottom rung of a leaderboard that he has been atop when it mattered four times. There are ample statistics that explain how he came to be there—dead last in strokes gained tee to green, dead last in strokes gained around the green, making five consecutive bogeys for the first time in his majors career—but there are no metrics for how he came to be here competing at all.

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He looks like a typical millennial, but Justin Thomas is the most old school player in golf

In some respects, Justin Thomas is just what you’d expect to get if you asked central casting to send over a millennial golfer—joggers and hoodies, niblick-thin physique, social media playfulness, an easy swagger that is the privilege of youth. Yet a case can be made that Thomas is the most old school player on the PGA Tour, and Friday at the PGA Championship should be entered into the book of evidence.

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Thursday a good day for golf, but a lousy one for Greg Norman.

Too often lately golf has seemed less a sport than a business, with every precinct of the professional game consumed by news, gossip, threats and intrigue about rival leagues and red lines. Thursday at Southern Hills promised a welcome return to the good ol’ days, when the game’s reference dictionary entries for ‘B’ included birdies and bogeys, but not bonesaws: a major championship, a sublime venue, a blockbuster group, a wealth of storylines—in short, golf as it used to be. That promise was delivered upon, and even the brief intrusion of the aforementioned corporate chicanery was positive.

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Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman getting a cool reception at the major they’re not attending.

Thirteen years after he last competed in one, major championships are still proving a reliable source of disappointment for Greg Norman. At last month’s Masters, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley clearly signaled his support for golf’s existing world order, thereby tacitly rejecting Norman’s Saudi-funded effort to carve off the top of the professional game. On Tuesday at the PGA Championship, the Great White Pilot Fish was served even less nourishment.

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Finally, a reason to root for the Saudis — they’ll take Sergio Garcia!

Somewhere deep in the bowels of the budget for LIV Golf, well below the lucrative prize funds and exorbitant gratuities to overlook the gratuitous, closer to the paltry media buys to induce velvety coverage, there should be a line item for diaper-changing facilities to be used by the increasingly infirm or dependably infantile who will occupy its locker rooms.

Take Sergio Garcia (“please,” quoth Henny Youngman). Garcia is not entirely a one-dimensional dipstick. He can on occasion be amiable and funny, but even at 42 he is proof that age and maturity are mutually exclusive. In Thursday’s first round of the Wells Fargo Championship, he demonstrated anew his tendency to process every inconvenience as an injustice.

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Three majors will be cheapened in this season of Saudi sportswashing.

In their more reflective moments, it must rankle the triumvirate of Messrs. Waugh, Whan and Slumbers that the most compelling drama in golf over the coming months is likely to occur outside the ropes of their respective major championships. The 58 days between Tuesday at Southern Hills and Thursday at St. Andrews will be contentious and do much to shape the sport’s future landscape, and will leave many industry executives yearning for the halcyon days of Shells Wonderful World of Golf, when the influence of oil money in the game was considerably less toxic.

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As Greg Norman’s clown show rolls on, his Saudi bosses can’t be laughing

It’s performance review season in corporate America, when employees are either congratulated on jobs well done or held to account for shortcomings. If Greg Norman were disposed toward self-reflection (stay with me), he might feel relief that his Saudi-backed outfit isn’t held to such conventional standards on performance, or for that matter on commercial viability, ROI or morality.

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Tiger Woods finishes at The Masters, thankful he reached the starting line.

There was a time when Tiger Woods would have been disdainful of a lowly finish at the Masters, when his demeanor between the 18th green and the scorer’s office would have betrayed only a flinty dourness, when keyboard jockeys would have bemoaned wall-to-wall coverage of a player so distant from the top of the leaderboard. Sunday was not one of those days, and it’s unlikely any of Woods’s tomorrows will be either.

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Masters Honorary Starter Gary Player has done everything in golf. Just ask him.

It isn’t bragging if you can back it up, Muhammad Ali famously said, but even the cocky old prizefighter might have had his tolerance for bombast tested Thursday at Augusta National.

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At Augusta National, even Fred Ridley’s non-answers carry a clear message.

Pedants will tell you that Augusta National is a property, not a governing body, a depthless observation that is equally true of the White House, Downing Street and the Élysée Palace. Augusta National is golf’s real seat of power, not only in the public imagination but in its ability to set priorities and effect change. This is why the closest thing our sport has to a State of the Union address comes Wednesday of Masters Week, when the club’s sitting chairman offers prepared remarks to the media before fielding questions on pressing issues in the game.

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From Tour winner to not knowing where the ball is going, a lonely search for answers.

Fans invariably focus on the glamorous end of a leaderboard—triumphs, trophies—but stories are often no less compelling at the hardscrabble end of things, where blood vessels pop more often than flashbulbs. If there’s truth in the cliché that it’s lonely at the top, the bottom can be downright desolate.

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Greg Norman’s Saudi schedule may force shameless pros from the shadows

The true scale of a huckster’s toxicity is never apparent in the cost to his reputation—by definition, he has little to defend—but rather in how easily he imperils the honor of anyone who associates with him. After two years of speculation and rumor-mongering, the day is near when we’ll finally learn who among the world’s best golfers is willing to sacrifice his standing on Greg Norman’s amoral altar.

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Jay Monahan has an edge on his Saudi rivals, but more forced change lies ahead.

Success stories in sport often owe as much to the ineptitude of the vanquished as to the brilliance of the victor. When future generations of Tweeters analyze the past few years in golf, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will be credited for deft backroom diplomacy in building crucial alliances both public (key players) and private (Chairman Ridley). Yet a thorough accounting should note the extent to which Monahan has benefitted from the bumbling of those pushing a Saudi-financed rival league, a mutiny of clowns that could make Bozo seem Churchillian by comparison.

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