Good morning. No introductory paragraph could possibly bridge the gap between the horrific scene in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and golf updates. So while golf is certainly not front of mind for most of you, we do have some news and action to recap.
Be like Mike
In a surprise announcement on Wednesday morning, LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan said he will be stepping down in 2021. “I simply wouldn’t leave the LPGA if I thought the future was uncertain or not trending straight up,” Whan explained. “One of the hardest jobs of a leader is to know when their work is done. If the Covid-19 pandemic taught me anything, it was that the LPGA executive staff has full control of our business and is capable of incredible things.”
Over his 11-year tenure, Whan helped add 10 events to the LPGA Tour schedule and nearly doubled the amount of prize money available to players. He invested in international markets, brought in new sponsors, marketed the personalities of the tour’s athletes, and promoted junior girls programs. In just over a decade, he completely transformed the LPGA Tour.
Mike Whan’s efforts deserve all the praise they have received, and we’ll be curious to see where he goes next. (Incidentally, Mike Davis will be stepping down from his position as USGA CEO at the end of 2021.)
A different (Sentry) world
As it does every year, the Sentry Tournament of Champions made golf fans gaze longingly at their TVs on Thursday evening. Morning showers and a lack of wind provided ideal scoring conditions made the course even more gettable than usual. Justin Thomas and Harris English are tied for the lead after rounds of 65 (-8), and nine players are within three shots of them. Sentry Tournament of Champions Leaderboard
Instead of running through all of the big names in the mix (nearly everyone in the field is a big name), let’s make some predictions for the year based solely on the opening round of 2021. Obviously these are all going to be correct because of the enormous sample size on which they are based. Enjoy.
Justin Thomas will win PGA Tour Player of the Year – Our leader and founder Andy Johnson has already predicted that JT will finish the year as the top-ranked player in the world. Not a bad take. Aside from a squirrely drive on the 13th hole on Thursday, Thomas was in full control of his golf ball. An elite tee-to-green player, JT revamped his putting stroke in the off-season, and so far the results look promising. He could very well win four or five events this season.
Sungjae Im will break into the top 10 of the OWGR – Sungjae Im has had our full attention since his record-breaking 2018 season on the Korn Ferry Tour. Last year, he collected his first PGA Tour victory at the Honda Classic, and we fully expect this workhorse to give himself many, many chances in 2021 to get his second. Top 10 in the world is certainly within his reach.
Tony Finau will have a down year – Despite his consistency over the past three years, Finau hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. Everyone keeps expecting him to break through, but it just hasn’t happened. So maybe instead of having the dominant season we’ve all been waiting for, Finau will actually cool off in 2021 before coming back strong in 2022. His opening 74 at Kapalua is incontrovertible proof of this theory.
Bryson DeChambeau will “black out” – Predictably, Bryson gave a wild interview, this one about “blacking out.” He didn’t play great, yet he managed to rack up five birdies en route to a 69. He is T-12 heading into Friday. If he keeps his blow-up rounds to a minimum, it’s hard to see Bryson finishing worse than T-25 anywhere. Granted, we don’t exactly know what “blacking out” means for him, but we are excited to find out.
Golf Channel anchor Damon Hack voiced his disappointment that Annika Sörenstam and Gary Player accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump on Thursday, one day after the riot at the Capitol. Player’s eldest son Marc also tweeted his disapproval.
In other news at the fraught intersection of golf and politics, pressure is mounting on the PGA of America to cancel its deal to take the 2022 PGA Championship to Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. After Wednesday’s events in Washington, D.C., the cozy relationship between the Trump family and some of golf’s most powerful institutions is under the microscope.
Typically a multiday pro-am played across three golf courses, this year’s American Express will forgo the pro-am component and limit itself to just two courses at PGA West. Full Story from Rex Hoggard
Our favorite thicc boi was the answer to a question on Thursday night’s Jeopardy. Well, technically speaking (as we know the big man likes to do), he was the question to the answer—as in, “Who is Bryson DeChambeau?” On a more solemn note, the episode was the second-to-last that the great Alex Trebek taped before he passed away in November. RIP.
2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lukas Michel won the Australian Master of the Amateurs this weekend. Michel shot rounds of 72-70-71-69 to grab the two-shot win. Results
The Latest from The Fried Egg
The Fried Egg Podcast: 2021 PGA Tour Preview with Sean Martin
Sean Martin, Senior Editor at PGA Tour dot com, joins Andy to discuss the 2021 PGA Tour season. Both Sean and Andy identify five things they will be watching for this year. They talk about the youth wave on tour, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and much more. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Shotgun Start: Moving the 2022 PGA, Competition vs. Entertainment, and Bryson’s CNS
This Friday episode begins with Andy disclosing a mice problem that’s vexed him all week. Then they turn to the real, actual problems of the week, notably what took place at the Capitol building and how it should impact golf’s relationship with Donald Trump. They discuss next year’s PGA Championship and whether the PGA of America will move their major from Trump Bedminster. A full review of the year’s first round a Kapalua then ensues, with a breakdown of what they liked and didn’t like from one of their favorite events. This covers the amusing details of Pat Reed’s non-deal for apparel, Lanto getting his commercial, and Adam Scott’s quote that there are only 10-12 serious competition events and the rest is “a bit of entertainment.” Bryson’s latest on endorphins, CNS, and speed training until you blackout is pondered with great amusement. Flashback Friday is on a hard-luck TOC runner-up who also happened to be the first player on Tour to use a metal wood. They close with hope, and maybe a bit of delusion, that Deshaun Watson may be heading to the Bears because he followed a couple Chicago weathermen. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
If you’re one of those people from the commercials that received a car with a big red bow this holiday season, make sure you keep your keys close by with a Fried Egg or Shotgun Start key ring. Get yours today!