LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rory McIlroy was on a shuttle ride back to the Liberty National clubhouse in August 2019 when he was surprised to hear during a chat about tour policies that no foreign-born player has ever served on the PGA Tour policy board.
“That’s going to change,” McIlroy said with a smile.
The change arrived Tuesday when McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, won a player election as chairman of the Player Advisory Council, the 16-man committee that provides input to the four players who serve on the board.
As chairman, McIlroy will move up to the board next year and begin a three-year term, replacing Jordan Spieth.
McIlroy won the election over American Kevin Streelman and Russell Knox of Scotland. The policy board dates to 1969, the first year the PGA Tour broke away from the PGA of America.
Why it took so long for a foreign-born player to be elected to the board is a mystery, especially since international players have been a prominent part of the PGA Tour for close to 40 years. Last year, nine of the top 20 players from the final FedEx Cup standings were from outside the United States.
It starts with players agreeing to be on the ballot as PAC chairman. Among those who have run in recent times are Paul Casey and Geoff Ogilvy. The entire membership votes, and there was a feeling that a majority of the players wanted to make sure the board was not filled with top players who might not relate to the rank-and-file.
McIlroy is popular with his peers and outspoken on issues that matter to him, such as his strong opposition to the proposed Premier Golf League last year.
He will be on the board next year with James Hahn, Charley Hoffman and Kevin Kisner.
Fresh off his PGA Tour debut at Pebble Beach, with a few more exemptions on the way, Kamaiu Johnson is equally passionate about a new program he could have used long ago.
Johnson is now a brand ambassador for a ClubCorp program that provides select teenagers from The First Tee with junior memberships at private golf clubs. The pilot program is called “ClubLife Gateway,” and just over three dozen First Tee participants in the Dallas area have taken part at ClubCorp properties.
“If I could have had something like that when I was younger, that would have gone a long way,” Johnson said. “I’m honored they would even think of me.”
One of the issues around The First Tee in its early years was where kids would go after they grew up. Johnson speaks from experience about better golf courses being pivotal in developing the game. He recalls the first good golf course he played was when he qualified for the Florida State Open.
The membership in the ClubLife Gateway Program includes tee times, practice facilities and tournaments, along with club members serving as mentors for issues on and off the golf course. The teens are chosen based on personal growth and development through The First Tee, along with their performances on the course.
Johnson, who is Black, has worked his way up through the Advocates Professional Golf Association. Another APGA player, Willie Mack III, is playing at Riviera this week on the Charlie Sifford exemption.
David Pillsbury, the CEO at ClubCorp, said he heard Johnson talk about the need to make golf “look more like America.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Pillsbury said. “Our members have enthusiastically and emphatically stepped up to volunteer to share their love of the game with these aspiring young players and empower them to take on new challenges as they pursue their goals. These are remarkable teens with remarkable stories who have earned everything they are receiving and more.”
WORKDAY TO THE RESCUE
When the John Deere Classic decided to cancel last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco-based Workday stepped in as title sponsor of a one-year replacement event held at Muirfield Village a week before the Memorial.
Now, Workday has agreed to take over a World Golf Championship this year.
The PGA Tour announced that Workday will be title sponsor of what now is called the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession. It will be played next week at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida.
The WGC was supposed to be in Mexico City — the Mexico Championship began in 2017 — but was moved this year because of logistical problems created by the pandemic, including no fans at Chapultepec.
After sponsoring the Ohio event last summer, Workday signed a 10-year deal to be the presenting sponsor of the Memorial starting next year.
“With the challenges we’ve faced with the pandemic in the last 12 months, Workday has been the epitome of a true partner and today’s announcement of their support of our relocated World Golf Championships event in Florida is further evidence of their commitment to golf and the PGA Tour,” Commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Daniel Berger switched swing coaches to Cameron McCormick. What he didn’t change was his swing.
“He’s totally given me a different outlook on short game, on putting, just a different outlook on golf in general,” Berger said. “He’s allowed me to be artistic. He hasn’t changed me in a way that where you get worse before you get better, which I know happens to a lot of people when they change swing instructors.”
Most critical was the short game. Berger says he hit the same type of shot around the greens, and McCormick told him to consider the likes of Jordan Spieth (another of his pupils) and Phil Mickelson and the need to see different shots to match the occasion.
“So he’s really given me a different outlook on how to work on those different aspects of my game without being super technical, which is something that I’ve never been,” he said.
A DIFFERENT PEBBLE TEST
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am wasn’t the same without the amateur partners or the spectators. Mostly empty golf courses have become a common sight since golf returned from the pandemic-caused shutdown.
The PGA Tour rules officials at least took the occasion to give players a different look at Pebble Beach.
Because of threesomes on the weekend, the tour decided to use a front tee on the par-4 10th hole that was only recently discovered from old photographs of Pebble Beach. The USGA used the forward tee — a tiny patch to the right of the ninth green — for one round of the U.S. Amateur in 2018.
It played about 340 yards, a shot that carries over the beach, and Will Gordon hit driver just over the back of the green.
Without grandstands, the tour was able to move the tee forward on No. 4 — Daniel Berger drove the green to 8 feet — while moving the tee on the par-3 17th all the way back. The far back tee on the 17th ordinarily can’t be used because of bleachers to the right of the traditional fourth tee.
Minnesota senior Angus Flanagan won the Collegiate Showcase at Riviera with a 15-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to earn the final spot in the field at the Genesis Invitational. … Along with being Florida State alumni, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger won consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour by making two eagles in the final round. … Former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Gabi Ruffels is making her professional debut next week in the Gainbridge LPGA in Orlando, Florida. Ruffels still plans to finish out her degree at Southern California. … SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, will host the U.S. Senior Open in 2023. The course previously hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 1986 and the U.S. Junior Girls in 2019.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jordan Spieth has earned $767,408 in his last two tournaments. He made $648,138 in his previous 18 tournaments.
“Winning a golf tournament just feels like you’re having a heart attack on every hole.” — Daniel Berger.