Six things we’d like to see happen to ensure golf dominates the headlines

Golf may be a niche sport, but in 2022, the game found its way into the mainstream, conversations sparked by two words: LIV Golf. 

Greg Norman’s disruptor tour was indeed an underlying thread, but there were also stories of hope and heartache that helped us all remember why we love the game in the first place.

With the new year now upon us, there are plenty of reasons to believe it could be golf’s most productive period yet. But to get there, some things need to change. Here are a few cheeky predictions:

LIV and PGA Tour finally sit down together. What a scene. Greg Norman and Jay Monahan swapping pleasantries over a cappuccino. Such a gathering would likely produce nothing more than a photo opportunity but, hey, at least it would be a start. The constant verbal slanging – and lawsuits – between both tours is getting tedious. Rory McIlroy’s calls for Norman to vacate his role as LIV Golf boss because “we need an adult in the room” for such discussions to take place would have more credence had the world No.1 not later revealed his new mission in life was to be a giant “pain in the arse” for Norman and LIV Golf. Come on, Rory. You too can try being a big boy in this mess.

The Majors dump the Official World Golf Ranking as a vehicle to determine who should play in their events. The Majors need to come up with their own criteria. That’s not to say new tours like LIV Golf should get a free pass with the OWGR. If there are processes and timelines in place to determine eligibility, then so be it. But it’s clear the current grading of global tournaments is a joke, and the four Majors best start thinking about a contingency plan or risk diluting their fields in the interim.

Minjee Lee sorts out her putting and becomes No.1 on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. It might be the most incredible stat in golf. Perth’s Minjee Lee gained 2.02 strokes on approach shots in 2022, putting her alongside Tiger Woods in the ShotLink era as one of the greatest iron players of all time. But that’s not the stat we’re talking about. Here’s the real jaw-dropper: Lee finished 158th in Strokes Gained Putting (-1.050 per round). To put that into perspective, new world No.1 Lydia Ko led the tour with 1.360 strokes per round, meaning Lee was effectively giving up 9.6 strokes per tournament to the Kiwi. Just let that sink in for a moment… Even halving that deficit should be enough for our superstar to reach golf’s summit – and stay there.

LIV Golf Adelaide to be so successful that Greg Norman brings a second LIV event to Australia in 2024. As the PGA Tour reportedly explores the idea of bringing its secondary Korn Ferry Tour Down Under as a counter measure to the Saudi-backed tour’s movements, the Shark must surely be thinking he can go for the jugular here by bringing Cam, Leish, DJ, Bryson, Phil and co. back for another dose? Ultimately, Australia’s reaction to April’s inaugural LIV Golf Adelaide will determine what’s possible. But with 35,000 tickets selling in the first week – 60 percent of those buyers under the age of 45 – the early signs suggest Aussie golf fans may well have a thirst for more starpower on our shores. Sorry, Jay. You’ll have to do better than the Korn Ferry Tour.

More matchplay. At club level and a return to the format at the Australian Amateur (which won’t happen in 2023 but should). Every year we seem to fawn over matchplay coverage and the unscripted drama that comes with clutch golf. Yet we continually fail to give the people more of it. It makes no sense. As they say, the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

An ironing out of concurrent men’s and women’s tournaments. The blending should be encouraged further, but only after more refinement of the logistics [see page 28]. December’s ISPS Handa Australian Open, while ultimately a successful showing that produced very worthy winners, was met with a wave of scrutiny, particularly its controversial second cut after 54 holes that saw an early exit for the tournament’s most marketable commodity, Cam Smith. Look, it was worth a try. Ultimately, though, it’s just too big a risk for a tournament that already lacks international starpower to have their main drawcard heading for his private jet a day before he should. That said, the crowds all four days on the Melbourne Sandbelt were great. 

In relation to the mixed format, perhaps golf following the lead of tennis is worth some consideration? Think about it: the tennis Australian Open combines men and women at the same venue, just not on the same court at the same time (with the exception of mixed doubles). Golf could do worse than employ a similar itinerary. At a suitable 36-hole facility (let’s just say Royal Melbourne or Peninsula Kingswood), one gender could start on a Wednesday on one course while the other could start on Thursday on the alternate layout. The fields would then rotate courses each day, with the Wednesday starters playing their final round (think: Grand Slam final in tennis) on the Saturday and the Thursday starters would close out on the Sunday. Both Aussie Open champions would get their time in the spotlight. Both fields would remain unimpeded by disparities in depth of talent, pin and tee placements. Tournament officials would have far fewer headaches in the setting up of the respective courses each day. All while the optics of our best men and women coming together remains intact, just like it does for tennis. What’s more, a Wednesday start is already a proven measure at the PGA Tour’s WGC–Match Play. Extending the tournament week would only add value to sponsors and broadcasters. Just a thought.

What would you like to see in 2023? E-mail your thoughts to [email protected]