Photo: The Canadian Press
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — “Max, can you hear me?”
Lead analyst Trevor Immelman was in the broadcast booth talking to Max Homa, who had just hit his drive on the par-5 13th at Torrey Pines. Homa was listening through an earbud.
And with that, the PGA Tour and CBS embarked on a new wrinkle in their telecast Friday.
Just don’t get the idea this happened on the fly.
Homa said he had been talking about the plan with CBS and with Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of operations. And while it may not be for everybody, Homa proved to be the perfect fit.
“I’m very excited about the idea,” Homa said after his two-shot victory. “I thought it was great for the fans to look into, push that envelope for the fans. Not just myself, but the tour — CBS, NBC, all these broadcasting streams — seem to be wanting to add something to the viewing experience.”
For years, some players have balked at the idea of wearing microphones, and the networks have boom mics on the course, anyway. On other tours, the conversation has come across as stilted.
Not every tour has the benefit of Homa, who delivers refreshing insight without really trying.
The question was how he chose to shape the shot off the tee. Homa typically plays a cut, and the par 5 moves from right to left.
“My coach and caddie let me draw one maybe once a day, maybe once a week,” Homa said. “This was not the one.”
From there, he went on to explain his approach to going for the green on a par 5, mainly about the ideal position for the third shot.
Homa has heard chatter, like everyone else, that networks could never get someone as intense as Tiger Woods or Jon Rahm to go along. So it might not work for everyone. But it did for him, regardless of the outcome.
“It was 20 minutes. It was not invasive,” he said. “I’m hoping other players would want to do it. ... I’m sure there’s some interest in this whether I won or didn’t. Hopefully we can kind of keep pushing that or tweak it, just anything to help golf kind of gain some attraction to all the viewers hopefully a little bit younger than our typical audience.”
Jason Dufner is in the field at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, making him the first — and so far, the only — player to make good on his pledge for getting a conflicting event release to play the Saudi International last year.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan granted some two dozen releases for the Saudi International (held the same week as Pebble), provided they agree to play Pebble Beach at least once over the next two years.
Nineteen players who sought releases now are part of LIV Golf.
According to the PGA Tour, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Xander Schauffele and Jhonattan Vegas each received releases provided they played Pebble once over the next two years. That means they are required to play in 2024.
Tyrrell Hatton and Lucas Herbert would be required to play in 2024 and 2025. Herbert is in the Saudi International field again this year.
Monahan said in January the same arrangement was in place for this year’s releases, which include Cameron Young and Cameron Champ. The tour has not said what penalty would apply if players did not live up to the arrangement.
NEXT UP FOR LIV
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that Sebastian Munoz of Colombia is the latest player to join Saudi-backed LIV Golf, after previously reporting Mito Pereira of Chile was joining.
Both are in the Saudi International field this week, even though neither PGA Tour member requested a conflicting event release to play (as was the case for the likes of Cameron Young and Cameron Champ).
More evidence on Pereira — he is listed in the field next week for the Asian Tour's International Series stop in Oman, electing to pass on the $20 million purse at the WM Phoenix Open.
LIV Golf has not officially announced new additions to its league, which starts next month at Mayakoba in Mexico.
Tom Hoge was not on the Saudis' radar screen until he won at Pebble Beach last year for his first career title. While the offer to join LIV Golf was not what Hoge described as generational wealth, it was enough for him to consider it.
Ultimately, he chose to stay, with no regrets. Hoge now is No. 29 in the world, eligible for all the majors for the second straight year. The deciding factor was places he hadn't been and had access to through his win at Pebble.
“There were so many tournaments I’ve wanted to play in the first time,” he said, citing the Tour Championship and the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua as examples. “When I went to bed at night, I wasn't ready to give those up.”
But money is money, especially when it's guaranteed. Hoge has spent a career trying to make sure he made it to the next year, and securing a financial future was tempting.
“It was a hard decision to make, but I’m very happy with where I’m at,” Hoge said.
It took Adam Scott some 20 years on the PGA Tour before he agreed to join the Player Advisory Council, which advises the PGA Tour board on competition matters. And he wasn’t alone.
The full 16-member PAC includes Rickie Fowler (in his 14th year on the PGA Tour), along with four players who are among the top 15 in the world ranking — Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, Max Homa and Sam Burns.
“I think you’ve seen kind of more players become more involved in stuff with the tour in the past year,” Scheffler said. “I think with LIV, that’s kind of an obvious deal that we had to make a few changes in order to improve our tour in a different way.
"For me, having an opportunity to be on the PAC and talk with guys across all different levels of our tour — whether it’s a guy finishing 100th on the money list or first — it’s kind of nice to be in the room and have those conversations and figure out what is collectively going to work best for all of us so that this tour can succeed.”
Scott, meanwhile, joins Maverick McNealy and Kevin Streelman on the ballot to determine who will be PAC chairman and eventually moves to the full PGA Tour board. The election ends Feb. 13.
Sepp Straka spent two weeks in the Middle East with hopes of earning Ryder Cup points. But he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Straka is No. 27 in the world. ... Rory McIlroy ended 2022 as the European tour’s No. 1 player based on points. The Seve Ballesteros Award for player of the year went to Ryan Fox on a vote of the players. Fox won twice and was second in the DP World Tour Rankings to McIlroy while playing a full European tour schedule. It was a vote of the players. McIlroy came in second. He played six regular tour events. ... Marcus Byrd, who won the APGA Tour event at Torrey Pines and received the Charlie Sifford exemption for Riviera, has been given an exemption to play in the Honda Classic. ... Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, plans to play a few more PGA Tour events this year. He's in the field at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Scott Brown made the cut on the Korn Ferry Tour in the Bahamas on a Monday (he was tied for 34th), withdrew and made the cut on the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines on Friday. He finished 72nd at Torrey Pines and made $17,487. That's roughly the equivalent of finishing 14th on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“Sometimes you’re just one good swing thought away from being good again.” — Max Homa.
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