Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the Hawk & Purk podcast, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.
Will Zalatoris is ineligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs because he played on the PGA Tour this year as a non-member. Given the circumstances involved, should the Tour have given Zalatoris a special exemption for the postseason?
Hawk's take: Despite a terrific rookie campaign (eight top-10 finishes) and his position in the Official World Golf Ranking (31st), Zalatoris is on the outside looking in, a victim of the Tour’s decision not to promote the top 25 players from the Korn Ferry circuit last fall. On the surface, Zalatoris’ hard-luck fate seems like an inexplicable outrage. And very fixable, although the Tour clearly did the right thing in not granting Zalatoris any special treatment.
Twenty-four other Korn Ferry guys failed to earn big-league status because of the pandemic-shortened 2019-2020 season. If the Tour had rewarded those 24 at the expense of everyone who didn’t have a full chance to retain their card, would that have been easier to justify? Of course not.
Zalatoris would have clinched a spot in the playoffs with a victory in any of his 25 starts. He played well but didn’t win, and in this case, if you don’t win, you don’t get in. Blame COVID-19 for Zalatoris’ exclusion, not Camp Ponte Vedra. This isn’t a loophole or an administrative mistake. Just an unfortunate situation.
Purk's take: The PGA Tour has tried especially hard to penalize Will Zalatoris. When he racked up enough FedEx Cup points to equal or surpass No. 125 on the list from last season, he became a Special Temporary Member. So, he’s a member and special. What makes him not temporary? Either finishing the season inside the top 125 in points (he would be No. 25 if his points counted) or winning a tournament, which would make anyone a member who wasn’t one, regardless whether they were special or temporary. Make sense so far?
In other words, it’s more a policy than a rule and the Tour or the Policy Board or the Player Advisory Council could take care of this with one email. Make Zalatoris a full Tour member at the end of the regular season, thereby eligible for the playoffs. He’s earned his card for 2021-22, just like every one of the top 125. That’s so disarmingly simple and easy.
Allowing Zalatoris in the playoffs hurts no one. The Tour wouldn’t need to kick out the No. 125 player on the list, in this case, Chesson Hadley. You’d just have 126 players for the first playoff event, this week’s Northern Trust.
If any players have a problem with that, they should play better. Zalatoris did.
Is it necessary for Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau to make peace before the Ryder Cup?
Hawk's take: For crying out loud, pun intended, hell no! The Oakland A’s won three consecutive World Series in the 1970s while bawling and brawling with each other like drunken college boys. Maybe America’s best golfers are too nice, too soft, too afraid to dent anybody’s fender, and that mentality hasn’t been doing them any favors against the fiery Europeans. Let ‘em not like each other. Let ‘em tussle in this feud full of muscle.
All the pushing and shoving between Koepka and DeChambeau on social media is merely humorous and utterly harmless. One has to figure both Brahma bulls own enough common sense to set aside their differences for the duration of Ryder Cup week; U.S. skipper Steve Stricker isn’t the type of guy who would attempt to broker a temporary settlement. Nor is one needed. Maybe the two brutes can arm-wrestle in the team room the night before the matches begin. Talk about loosening things up….
Purk's take: Lots of people have had their share of fun with this made-for-social-media feud between Koepka and DeChambeau. (Well, maybe DeChambeau not so much.) It’s time to shut this down. Like it or not, the Ryder Cup has become serious business and U.S. captain Steve Stricker, along with the rest of the team, don’t need this headache – and potential serious distraction.
The last thing you want is for the American contingent to be constantly walking on eggshells and Stricker having to figure out how to keep these two apart all week. Pairings and strategy to beat the Europeans should be all that’s on everyone’s mind, not some silly snit between star players.
Although it’s not immediately clear how they’d do it, but you can bet European captain Padraig Harrington, his vice captains and team members have all been putting their heads together trying to figure out how to exploit this U.S. unrest to their advantage.
Sit down, boys. Shake hands and declare an end to this self-serving, ego-inflating unnecessary chest-thumping. You have teammates, a captain and a country to think of. For once, just this week, it’s not solely about you.