We’re skipping the customary quip today. Too much to discuss.
RIP Lee Elder
The great Lee Elder died at the age of 87 on Sunday. Elder’s efforts toward breaking through golf’s racial divide go far beyond what we can cover in this newsletter, but here are a few of his many accomplishments: he was one of the first Black players in PGA Tour history after the PGA of America ended its infamous Caucasian-only clause in 1961; he became the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters in 1975; he broke the color barrier in South African golf when he played in the 1971 South African PGA Championship; and he was the first Black player to qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Earlier this year, he served as an honorary starter at the Masters alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
For more on Lee Elder’s life on and off the golf course, read Bill Fields’s eulogy on PGATour.com.
Into the spotlight
On Monday, Tiger Woods made his first public comments in over nine months when Golf Digest released an interview between him and Henni Koyack. Woods then gave a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He talked for roughly 40 minutes both times, discussing a range of topics, including his health, his future in golf, and his son Charlie. On one point he was very clear: he’s a long way from returning to high-level golf.
Many, of course, were interested in how Tiger would handle questions about his February car accident. Koyack didn’t bring up the subject in her Golf Digest interview, but at the Hero press conference, Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post asked Woods what he remembered from the crash. Tiger’s reply: “Yeah, all those answers have been answered in the investigation, so you can read about all that there in the post report.”
Before this week, we knew next to nothing about the accident. We still know next to nothing now.
Tiger’s modus operandi has always been privacy first. He occasionally gives the public well-rehearsed glimpses of his personal life, but he has typically shut down questions about the scandals and controversies that have partly defined his image. On Tuesday, Woods made it clear that he was not going to talk about the crash, and the reporters in the room didn’t press him on it particularly hard.
Afterwards, Dylan Dethier wrote a thought-provoking piece for Golf.com that touched on the issue of how much the public deserves to know. As Dethier explains, we have to weigh Woods’s understandable desire to keep personal matters private against the public’s understandable interest in the cause of a dangerous accident. Regardless of how anyone else feels, though, Tiger appears set on keeping the details of that day in February under wraps. And if the past is any indication, that’s not going to change.
As if there wasn’t enough going on in the golf world, the Saudi International bucked its head on Tuesday. The Asian Tour (wink) announced a list of notable players who have committed to the February event, including Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, and Lee Westwood.
The PGA Tour has indicated that it will not grant releases to the Saudi International, so these players will likely face fines. We’re sure the checks from Golf Saudi will more than make up for the losses.
What the PGA Tour does next will signal how it will handle future dealings with Saudi-backed golf ventures. Clearly Ponte Vedra wants to squash out rival tours as quickly as possible and keep the likes of DJ and Bryson happy. Let’s see if the moat squad can do both!
Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau headline the Hero World Championship. Yes, for whatever reason, there are Official World Golf Ranking points on the line in this 20-person field. Morikawa can move to No. 1 in the OWGR if he wins this weekend.
Suzann Pettersen will captain the European team at the 2023 Solheim Cup. The two-time major winner clinched the 2019 cup for Europe when she defeated Marina Alex in a dramatic match at Gleneagles.
Lee Westwood apparently passed up the opportunity to captain the 2023 European Ryder Cup team. The English veteran explained his decision in an interview with Golf Digest’s John Huggan: “They were telling me the Ryder Cup captaincy is a full-time job…. I spoke to Thomas Bjorn [2018 captain], and he told me I would definitely have to forego my career if I did become captain, which made me feel like another year would be a better fit for me.”