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Column: The new year on the PGA Tour more mysterious than ever

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — For a moment, the splash of a humpback whale’s tail pierced the Pacific blue beneath the plantation course in Kapalua. Shortly after, as the players began to line up for practice rounds, a brief downpour sent everyone looking for shelter.

It was a great start to a new year on the PGA Tour, where circumstances can change without notice. As for what to expect in 2023 – the short answer is anything – check with Scottie Scheffler and what he would have liked to do last year.

“A win would have been nice,” Scheffler said with a laugh. “When you have zero, all you’re looking for is one.”

He ended up with four, including a green Masters jacket, a PGA Tour record $14 million in tournament winnings and bronze status from Jack Nicklaus awarded for player of the year.

In these times, trying to decipher which player will emerge is secondary to so many other off-course issues. Here are six topics to consider for 2023:


The question of “who’s next?” gave way to “what’s next?” for the rival Saudi-funded league. LIV Golf has remained largely silent over the past month, except by revealing that its chief operating officer has quit. A 2023 schedule was expected in November, but by the end of the year only seven venues had been announced for the 14-tournament schedule.

Much more pressing is whether LIV Golf can find a TV partner for the US and UK, even if they have to pay for it.

As for who’s next, expect rumors to swirl as soon as the PGA Tour kicks off this week in Kapalua, although there has been no substance in speculation involving the top players.

Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann waited until after the FedEx Cup qualifiers to join LIV Golf last summer. LIV’s first tournament will take place February 24-26, a week after the West Coast Swing ended at Riviera with a $20 million purse at the Genesis Invitational.

Despite the millions of dollars LIV paid to sign top players last year, it’s hard to imagine the rates dropping to get a big name. LIV can’t afford to lose momentum.


It’s not so much where Tiger Woods plays as how much he plays.

The plantar fasciitis that kept him from playing in the Bahamas and hampered him from the PNC Championship has raised more doubts about his future. His emotional crossing of the Swilcan Bridge in St. Andrews in July was the last time Woods played in a tournament.

The first Woods could play is at Riviera in February for the Genesis Invitational. The Masters is definitely a target (Woods has never missed the cut as a pro). The PGA Championship is at Oak Hill in May, which could be chilly. Woods was tied for 39th in 2003 and 40th in 2013 at his previous two PGAs at Oak Hill.

Woods remains active to help reshape the PGA Tour. But the fans want to see him play.


The Masters waited 11 days before the end of the year to say their criteria will remain the same for April, even though chairman Fred Ridley expressed disappointment at the disruption caused by LIV Golf.

Most telling was a reminder that any tweaks or changes to the invitation criteria would be announced in April. One possibility is to rely more on the prize list than the world rankings, as he last did in 1998.

The US Open will decide on any changes at its annual meeting in February. The PGA Championship used the PGA Tour money list and invitations, which are usually for the top 100 in the world, but are not listed that way on the entry form.

When or if LIV gets world ranking points, most players will have slipped out of the top 50. Climbing the rankings with fields of 48 players won’t be easy.


It’s the name of Augusta National’s 13th hole, a par 5 that has been hit in two with a driver and a sand wedge by some of the longest hitters. And everyone seems to hit it long these days.

The Masters eventually decided to lengthen one of the most dynamic holes on the course, extending the tee so the hole played 35 yards longer.

Ridley quoted Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones as saying a decision to go green in two at 13 should be momentous. “And I have to say that our observations of these great players hitting mid and even short irons in this hole is not a big deal,” Ridley said in April.

Tony Finau was there in November when it was mild and wet and hit the 3-iron and 4-iron in the rounds he played. He expects players to hit around the 5 iron in April. It remains to be determined whether the decision is “crucial”.


The question has been the same for five years: who qualifies first for the Grand Slam in their career? Rory McIlroy is the obvious choice at the Masters, after a stellar season that saw him return to world No.1.

Jordan Spieth earns his seventh place finish in the final round of the PGA Championship.

The difference is Augusta National and the scar tissue it leaves from being the only major played on the same course. This will be McIlroy’s 15th appearance at the Masters. Sergio Garcia (19) and Mark O’Meara (15) are the only two players to have played the Masters often before finally winning. Neither was heading to the final stage of the Grand Slam.

The other, of course, is Phil Mickelson. He will be 53 when he tries to win the US Open.


The first question is who is playing?

The Americans had three players on the winning Whistling Straits team who joined LIV Golf and are ineligible to earn points. Given the depth, they are easily replaceable.

Europe lost five players from the ’21 squad at LIV Golf, despite all of them being in their 40s and nearing the end of their careers except Bernd Wiesberger at 37. The core team – McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Viktor Hovland – is intact.

The matches will take place in Italy for the first time. What’s not new about the Ryder Cup is the perception that Americans are favored to win. It has been that way for much of the past 30 years since they last won on European soil.


AP Golf: and

FILE – Phil Mickelson lines up a shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV golf tournament in Bedminster, NJ on July 29, 2022. Players who left the PGA Tour to join Saudi-funded LIV golf are still welcome at the Masters next year, even as Augusta National officials expressed disappointment Tuesday (December 20) at the division it has caused in golf. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Column: The new year on the PGA Tour more mysterious than ever

Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning the 86th Masters golf tournament on Sunday, April 10, 2022 in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Column: The new year on the PGA Tour more mysterious than ever

Tiger Woods, right, hugs his son Charlie Woods, left, after completing the 18th hole during the final round of the PNC Championship golf tournament Sunday Dec. 18, 2022 in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Kevin Kolczynski )


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