This is the introduction to the newsletter. Sometimes we can’t come up with a good one and just have to ramble for a little while before we start talking about golf. Let’s do that now.
Take me to your (new) leader
The USGA confirmed on Wednesday that LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan would come on as USGA CEO this summer. Last month, Whan announced that he would step down as LPGA Commissioner after 11 years heading the tour. He will replace Mike Davis, who has served as the executive director and CEO of the USGA for the past 10 years. Press Release
When Davis announced he was leaving, many wondered who could fill his shoes at such a vital time in USGA history. The Distance Insights Project has been hotly debated, and the organization will need strong leadership to see it through. The consensus right now seems to be that Mike Whan will provide just that. Over the past decade, Whan has helped transform the LPGA Tour and bring more attention and money to the women’s professional game. He’s well regarded for his communication skills, an area in which the USGA has historically struggled.
It’s impossible to know exactly how Mike Whan will adjust to his new role, but his track record gives reason to be optimistic about the future of the USGA.
A good player in his own right
The Korn Ferry Tour is back and so are the eye-popping scores. Sixteen players shot 65 or better on Thursday at the LECOM Suncoast Classic. The three leaders—Brett Coletta, George Cunningham, and Albin Choi—recorded 63s. Leaderboard
No disrespect to Cunningham and Coletta, but Albin Choi is the story of the tournament right now. You may remember Choi as the player who filled in as Sungjae Im’s caddie when Im won the Honda Classic last spring. Choi has faced his share of challenges. While in college at North Carolina State, he lost his mother to suicide. Since turning professional, he has struggled to find his footing, and he’s still looking for his big break. This week, Choi Monday-qualified for the Suncoast Classic and is in excellent position for the weekend. For more on his story, read Brian Wacker’s piece for Golf Digest.
Riviera Country Club delivered once again. In the first round of the Genesis Invitational, the George Thomas classic played firm and fast, and the shortish rough dared players to try shots they wouldn’t consider if they were hacking out of cabbage. Sam Burns (64) holds a two-shot lead over Max Homa and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Leaderboard
Without fail, Riviera is the most entertaining stop on the PGA Tour’s pre-Masters calendar. It shines especially when the weather behaves and produces the kind of firm conditions we saw yesterday. So if you didn’t on Thursday, carve out some time this weekend to watch the Genesis. Before long we’ll be back at venues like TPC Twin Cities, yearning for Riv.
Willie Mack III, a member of the Advocates Pro Golf Association who received the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into the Genesis Invitational, shot 70 on Thursday. This is Mack’s second career PGA Tour start after he filled in for Kamaiu Johnson at the Farmers Insurance Open. If you haven’t yet, read Ryan Lavner’s piece on Mack from earlier this week and learn more about the APGA from this Brentley Romine article.
At the LECOM Suncoast Classic yesterday, Austin Truslow withdrew at the last second, and there were no alternates on site to take his place. Andy Pope, the next alternate in line, was not notified promptly, so he didn’t make it to the course in time. “[The PGA Tour] just built a $90 million headquarters, but the website can’t update the [alternate] list,” Pope told Ryan French of Monday Q Info. On a tour where every start matters, this is a brutal lapse in communication.
Playing his first career PGA Tour event via a sponsor exemption, Tae Hoon Kim made two eagles in his first seven holes, including a hole-in-one on No. 16 at Riviera. The ace earned him a 2021 Genesis G80. Solid first day!
The LPGA Tour has announced a new match-play event at Shadow Creek! The Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play will be played in late May and structured like the WGC Match Play. Sixty-four players will start in pods of four, and the final 16 will form a bracket to determine the champion. Good stuff. Full Story from Beth Ann Nichols
The Latest from The Fried Egg
Charleston Muni: Raynor Revival – New video! Seth Raynor’s influence can be felt at some of Charleston’s premier private clubs. Now it can be seen at the local municipal course as well.
The Fried Egg Podcast: Geoff Ogilvy – Instruction, Patrick Reed, potential rollback, and mixed events
Geoff Ogilvy is back! He joins Andy to talk about recent golf news, including the USGA’s potential adjustments to equipment standards and Patrick Reed’s rules incident at Torrey Pines. They also chat about the new Players Series events in Australia, which are mixed tournaments in which male and female pros as well as amateurs play for the same prize money. Geoff hosted one recently, and he discusses the concept’s potential long-term impact on the game. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Shotgun Start: Elevated Status Slams, Alternate list fiascoes, and Flashback to “Mr. Icicle”
This Friday episode begins with an apology and some relief on the Bears dodging the Wentz bullet. Then Brendan and Andy debate what’s worse—the narrative of an Elevated Status Slam now subtly being pushed, or the Tour Champ’s thirsty chase for the Happy Gilmore content train. Then they get to some initial thoughts on Riviera, which was playing quite firm and fast in the opening round. They discuss a few of their favorite holes, some “big names” taking their lumps, and Bassy Munoz’s new Flex Seal sponsorship. On the 2021 Web Tour debut, they discuss the alternate list fiasco that Mr. Golden Tee Andy Pope brought to light on Twitter. There’s a double helping of Precision Pro Flashback Friday, with Andy tackling a legendary duel that lasted more than a week before the next event at Pebble intervened, finished, and the Tour drove back to LA to finish up a playoff at Riviera. Brendan tackles Mr. Icicle, the four time LA Open winner, World Golf Hall of Famer, a war hero of the highest regard, and 11-time heart attack survivor. They close with news, which is a discussion on the pros and cons of Mike Whan taking the reins at the USGA. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
On the other side of the country from Riviera Country Club is the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, host of this year’s PGA Championship. Andy Johnson took a trip there this winter and grabbed some great photos, which are now live in the Photography Prints section of our website. Save 20% on all Kiawah prints through Sunday!