A homily popular among PGA Tour members is that they eat only what they kill, and that unlike other athletes they must perform to get paid. It’s never actually been true, at least for the top players—sponsors incentivize excellence, but they don’t withhold payment for missed cuts—and certainly not in this era of the Player Impact Program and the coming guaranteed money events, both of which will compensate regardless of on-course results.
Professional golf is a club whose members can feast on past glories long after they’ve started cashing social security checks. That’s why the PGA Tour Champions exists. It’s an honorarium masquerading as competition. Only the middle and lower ranks of PGA Tour players subsist on what they butcher with birdies. And yet there are some who would see those guys go hungrier still.
Schedules are sacrosanct in golf. Each season rotates around the immovable cornerstones of the calendar — springtime in Augusta, summer amid wintry weather on a British links — and each week is identified not by its dates but by its PGA Tour stop. Valspar last, Match Play this, Valero next. There are schedules within schedules, the roll call of tee times that lines up the action and the broadcast listings that bring it all home.
The abandonment of the Players Championship began (at least) 11 desolate weeks without Tour play, severed our tethers to the schedule, and left both fans and players adrift.
I chatted recently with a caddie who had the misfortune of being grouped with one of the PGA Tour’s slowest players for the final round of an event in which his boss was contending. Just a few holes in, the twosome was put on the clock. The caddie, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, simmered quietly. The Tortoise quickened for exactly as long as the rules official remained and ground to a near-halt immediately after he departed. The caddie boiled over and angrily whispered directions to the Tortoise on how he ought to go forth and multiply.
Some folks will consider such a comment out of order. They’d be wrong.