PGA Tour Confidential: Money Matters, Adam Scott's Win Down Under and the New Look for the Old Course

PGA Tour Confidential: Money Matters, Adam Scott’s Win Down Under and the New Look for the Old Course

Tiger Woods won the Las Vegas Invitational in 1996, his first PGA Tour victory.
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Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. The Players Championship and the PGA Championship are both going to have $10 million purses in 2014. Has the astronomical rise in purses made professional golf better or worse?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): The money, like all the TV exposure, has helped to make golf more of a big-time enterprise, so that's a good thing. But no doubt many talented players have grown fat and happy and failed to realize their potential, which may explain why this era has produced so few legends. 

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): The public doesn't care that much about the purses. The crazy money has become a disincentive for players, however. The best players today play fewer times than the best players of 25 years ago–I'd have to look that up to verify. When you've got $3 mil in the bank, why bust your ass? It's easier to go the Stricker-Mickelson-NIcklaus route and play a limited schedule because you can afford to. Ideally, you want the best players to play as much as possible.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): Worse. I don't see too many players with Lee Trevino's work ethic. Maybe a young Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh in his early forties, but otherwise I see a lot of players who are doing very well finishing in the top 10 every so often. They will counter that it's harder to win now than it was in Trevino's day. Whether or not that's true, there are certainly more distractions, and money is one of them. 

Mike Walker, senior editor, (@michaelwalkerjr): The money is obscene, but no different than any other big-time sport. Overall, it’s a plus. These purses show that the professional game is healthy, fields are deeper than ever, and the game is truly worldwide. And I believe the very best players burn to win tournaments as much as players of any era.

Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel (@joepassov): Worse. So much money is great for the rank-and-file players, but it's changed the competitive nature of professional golf. Back when Jack and Arnie were rocking it in the '60s, you had to win tournaments to make any real money — and claim any significant endorsements. These days, one third-place finish and three sevenths and your year is considered successful (financially) and you're likely considered endorsement-worthy. Too many players back off late in tournaments because of available money, FedEx Points, Ryder Cup points. In the days of my youth, it was all about the Ws.   

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Worse. On the one hand, there is the trickle-down economics benefit of creating more opportunity throughout the game. But mostly what it does is make the top players even more pampered, aloof and unresponsive to the game's greater good than they already are.

2. Chris Kirk held off Briny Baird to win the McGladrey’s against a star-challenged field. Do PGA Tour events such as the McGladrey's deserve full FedEx Cup points and Masters invites to the winner when the majority of the Tour's top players are playing elsewhere in the world?

SENS: Any mention of Briny Baird should come with the warning: "Do Not Attempt to Operate Heavy Machinery While Typing His Name. And Certainly Not While Watching Him Play." Happy for him that he almost won but not a good sign for the tournament itself, whose winner should not get full FedEx Cup points or a Masters invite. The field is just too watered down.

WALKER: That’s precisely why the McGladrey’s winner should get FedEx Cup points and a Masters invite: to help these PGA Tour events compete against flashy international tournament with lucrative appearance fees.

SHIPNUCK: Sure, why not? Winning a Tour event is a big deal, and playing in the Masters is an important stepping-stone for a guy like Kirk. He conquered a good course and a pretty good field, so let's give Kirk his due. 

PASSOV: I'm torn on this one. I guess if you're going to hand out the serious hardware for star-deprived tournaments such as Memphis, Greensboro, Texas and the John Deere then go ahead and do so for these former Fall Series events. It just feels so hollow, when nearly every current superstar is either skipping the event, or playing in Turkey or Australia — much like the Fall Series tournaments always were. I keep hearing that the depth in the tournaments is far superior to where they were a year ago, but I'm not convinced that these tournaments are any more deserving of full-benefit status than they were last year.

VAN SICKLE: The McGladrey's should get a Masters spot and FedEx Cup points. It's a PGA Tour event. It's no McGladrey's fault that some top names went elsewhere. Besides, the field wasn't all that bad. Many of the new Q-school qualifiers weren't able to get in the McGladrey's field — or most of the other fall events.

MORFIT: The Masters organizers are going to do their own thing and are way more likely to drop an event with a weak field. But if you're the PGA Tour you have to award full FedEx points to those events in order to try to protect them. The new wraparound season is going to take some time to come into focus.

3. The R&A began work on its second round of changes to the Old Course this week, as captured in photographs by former Golf Magazine intern Graylyn Loomis. What do you think of these changes: a necessary evil or should the Old Course and other classic courses be deemed untouchable?

PASSOV: I litigated this issue a year ago and I'm holding to my argument. No classic course should be deemed untouchable. Every great course, from Pine Valley to Pebble — and especially the Old Course — has changed through the years, especially if it wants to stay relevant for longer, straighter hitters. Tiger told me last year that he was fine with most of the changes — and the Old Course is his favorite course in golf. Admittedly, we should exercise the utmost care in altering golf's holiest ground, and wield the lightest touch possible over similar shrines, but it's been done countless times over the centuries.   

VAN SICKLE: The Old Course changes are deplorable. The earlier changes were painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. This round is erasing the mustache and painting in a nose ring and stitches. Blimey, f it ain't broke, don't fix it!

SHIPNUCK: Every course evolves over time, none more so than the Old. The real issue is what is driving the changes. In this case, it has very little to do with play for 259 out of every 260 weeks. But because of the R&A's (and USGA's) negligence in reigning in driving distance for the pros, we have to desecrate the Old Course to accommodate the Open once every five years. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad. 

MORFIT: This is a sad story. Ben Crenshaw told me it was like defacing the Mona Lisa. Why redo a classic? If the wind is up the course is plenty tough. 

WALKER: These classic courses should be on a historic register of some sort and deemed untouchable. The game needs permanent yardsticks and St. Andrews is a pretty good one. If you can’t hold a major championship there, then something else is wrong.

SENS: Necessary evil if the course is going to continue to be a stage for the game's best players. It would be easier to get into a traditionalist's lather over all this if the changes were fully transforming the character of the course. But they're not. They're subtle. It's not like they're installing a waterfall behind the 18th green.

4. The pro-anchoring PGA of America and the pro-anchoring PGA Tour announced a partnership/cooperation agreement this week. Is this a reaction to the USGA’s ban on anchored putting? How does a PGA of America/PGA Tour partnership change the balance of power in golf?

PASSOV: Given the end-of-the-world schism the PGA of America and PGA Tour experienced in 1968, it's remarkable that they've formally joined forces on anything. I'm not sure where it will all lead, but it seems they must identify and define their leadership role in the game vis-à-vis the USGA.

MORFIT: I was thinking their press conference was going to address anchoring. Maybe they'll cross that bridge later. It seems more likely this week than it did last. 

VAN SICKLE: I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the PGA Tour and PGA of America so-called alliance. I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

SENS: You would have to be an especially odd brand of conspiracy theorist to see this as being all about anchored putting. But this is about trying to exert greater control over the game's future direction and, of course, the revenues that come with it.

WALKER: The anchoring issue showed a real fissure between PGA Tour/PGA of America and USGA/R&A. And I suspect we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

SHIPNUCK: All I know is I can't wait to see Tim Finchem and Ted Bishop in the remake of Thelma and Louise!

5. After Phil Mickelson stated that he's likely to cut back on his schedule in 2014, he then chooses to play Abu Dhabi, rather than the Bill Clinton-supported Humana event. Reactions?

SHIPNUCK: Yawn. Pro golfers like money, and if offered enough they'll peg it at the Hades Open. But Phil better not whine about being tired later in the year…

PASSOV: I'm not going to judge any of these semi-independent contractors too harshly on the decisions they make. I'm sure not going to single out Phil Mickelson, who has more than paid his career dues. He can come and go as he pleases as far as I'm concerned. For crying out loud, though. For a historic, newly inspired U.S. PGA Tour event that needs all the help it can get, one that's a two-hour drive from his house, it's pretty sad that Lefty would pass that up in order to fly to the Middle East — then come right back and play in San Diego. Does he really need another appearance fee at this time of his life? 

MORFIT: The PGA Tour's ban on appearance money is always in the news early in the year, when the Euro Tour stops in the oil-rich Middle East. Nothing new here. 

SENS: See above comment about the corrosive effects of too much money in the game. Not good when the bigger purses and appearance fees play such a defining role in who plays where, when.

WALKER: Mickelson has supported the Palm Springs event the last couple years since President Clinton got involved. But as Tiger said about the Shanghai event last week, the players are independent contractors. We can’t hold two guys responsible for the success of every PGA Tour event.

VAN SICKLE: It's not as if the Humana is one of the great stops on the PGA Tour. Also, you can bet that Phil is going overseas for a hefty fee. A guaranteed million (or probably more) versus a guaranteed nothing? It's called business.

6. Where does Adam Scott's win at the Australian PGA rank? On par with Mickelson's Scottish Open win? Given the global nature of the game and the endless season, should we wait until the calendar year is done to anoint a “Player of the Year”?

PASSOV: Wonderful, convincing win on a mediocre resort course. There was a modicum of pressure involved, in that his first return to Australia since winning the Masters was much ballyhooed, and there were a handful of world-class players teeing it up (save Brandt Snedeker, felled by a Segway mishap). Impressive, but not quite to the level of Mickelson at Castle Stuart for the Scottish Open. It raises the question, though, that if a player of Scott's stature wins some of the Aussie "majors," and/or an Asian or South African biggie towards year-end (summer in that part of the world), shouldn't that count towards possible world player of the year honors? Yes, it should.

VAN SICKLE: If you're talking PGA Tour Player of the Year, that season ended in October. If you're talking global Player of the Year, yes, you should wait til the end of the year. Suppose Scott wins a couple more before '13 concludes?

WALKER: We should wait until the end of the year to anoint a Player of the Year, and, yes, the Australian PGA adds some more luster to Scott’s already strong POY case (Masters win, T3 at British, T5 at PGA). Tiger, Mickelson and Scott all submitted POY-worthy seasons, which is why 2013 has been so much fun.

SENS: Not nearly as surprising/noteworthy as Phil's win at the Scottish Open, which was a watershed for Mickelson — showing that he could win on links courses. But yes, given golf's fast-changing schedule and the shift of influence overseas, it makes sense to wait longer in the year before announcing the POY.

MORFIT: Nah. That's the thing about pro golf in this day and age. The season never ends and the calendar year's strict start-stopping points mean less than ever. Keep it as it is. 

SHIPNUCK: It's a great win for him and all of Australia, on par with Phil's triumph in Scotland. And yes, POY should be based on the calendar year. That's why the GWAA award is valuable, because we vote at the end if the year. And because I value the opinion of the writers more, too. 

The PGA Tour Confidential debate continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.