2023 was another strange year for pro golf, but lucrative for players

The 2023 LIV Golf schedule produced 14 world-wide tournaments featuring 48 well-paid players and will add Masters champion Jon Rahm and his team to the 2024 program.

OCALA, Florida – It’s most appropriate to wish all our golf enthusiasts a happy holiday season. This is a season-ender is like no other, however.

Only the much-debated “Framework Agreement,’’ that is to bring together the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Tour, is left among major golf developments in 2023. The agreed upon deadline for this agreement is Dec. 31, but I don’t expect anything substantial to be announced. Men’s professional golf is, sadly, in for another year of turmoil.

Jon Rahm’s late-season jump to the LIV Tour was monumental, and Viktor Hovland’s comments in the immediate aftermath of it suggest that peace in the wonderful world of golf is a long way off.

Hovland may be the best young star in the game. At least he has my vote as player-of-the-year. Hovland says he won’t leave the PGA Tour like Rahm did, but he’s not happy either.

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The No. 1 conversation among golf enthusiats is centered around Jay Monahan and whether he will be replaced as PGA Commissioner.

“The (PGA Tour) management has not done a good job,’’ said Hovland. “They almost see the players as labor, and not part of the members. After all, we are the PGA Tour. Without the players there is nothing.’’

Being more specific about tour management, Hovland says “They are not professional golfers, after all. They are businessmen…There is a great deal of arrogance behind it all.’’

Rahm’s jump to LIV may not be the last. LIV boss Greg Norman says “eight to 12 guys’’ are interested in filling the last two or three available positions on LIV’s 2024 roster thanks to the interest Rahm’s jump created.

“Since Jon signed I know he’s been inundated by players saying ~I want to play on your team. How do I do that?’’ said Norman. But he didn’t say who those players are.

Anyway, these things also bother me:

* There’s a growing call for PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to resign. He did a terrific job bringing the circuit through the pandemic but the competition with LIV is another matter. I was stunned to see Sportico’s report that the PGA Tour’s legal fees jumped from $2 million in 2021, when the PGA-LIV battle began, to $20.7 million in 2022 and Monahan’s overall compensation climbing from $13.9 million in 2021 to $18.6 million in 2022. The 2022 numbers for Monahan cite a $1.8 million base salary, $9.2 million in bonuses and incentive compensation and an actuarial estimate of $7.4 million for non-cash benefits Monahan will receive after he retires. Do those figures make sense to you?

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Jon Rahm joins LIV Golf marking pro golf’s latest shocker.

* Then there’s the return of Angel Cabrera. Winner of two major titles, he spent 30 months in jails in Brazil and Argentina in gender violence cases again two ex-girlfriends. Cabrera was released on Aug. 4 and competed on the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour three months later. Seems odd that a 54-year old who last played on PGA Tour Champions before doing all that jail time (and fathering a child while he was incarcerated) could be back in action while two young players on the Korn Ferry circuit are serving suspensions for violating the tour’s gambling rules.

* On a positive note, the PGA Tour found a sponsor to replace the Honda Classic, a fixture on the Florida Swing at PGA National, and is finally putting a tournament in the golf mecca of Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Cognizant Classic will replace the Honda with Feb. 29-March 3 dates. The new sponsor, a New Jersey-based personal services company, has a six-yer agreement. Honda ended its 42-year sponsorship run in 2023. The new Myrtle Beach Classic will be held May 9-12 at The Dunes course. My only thought on both is, why did it take so long?

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Scottie Scheffler is ranked World No. 1 in a world ranking system that is seriously flawed.

* The Masters, of all tournaments, needs more players. The first major championship of the year is in April, and it’s an invitational. Generally the membership wants to hold the field under 100 (it last went over that number in 1966 when 103 competed). Usually the field is between 85 and 100 but this year the likely number of starters is only 77 unless the club revises its invitation policies.

* And, finally, there’s the recent rollback announcement from the U.S. Golf Association and R & A to revise golf ball test conditions. That won’t begin until 2028. Do you think the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV can reach an agreement before that?

Happy New Year and may 2024 bring you more birdies and pars!

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Len has been covering golf for over 50 years. He was the golf columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for 41 years and has been in the same role for the Daily Herald and several regional newspapers since 2009. Len is also a regular contributor to the Chicago District Golfer magazine and the Illinois PGA website and his travel pieces are regularly published in Illinois Golfer and the Ohio Golf Journal. His works for all publications are available at lenziehmongolf.com. It is in its 10th year of operation and has been enhanced by the photography provided by his partner Joy Sarver in the last four years. Since moving to PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, FL, in 2016, Len has added the Morning Read and its partner wheretogolfnext.com website to his regular writing duties. An inductee into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 (for his reporting and youth coaching, not as a player), Len will also be inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame on Oct. 18. He is also on the Advisory Board of the International Network of Golf, is a lifetime member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a member of the Golf Travel Writers of America.

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