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GAJTKA: The Most Interesting Fall Golf? Don’t Look on the PGA Tour



Captain Brooks Koepka of Smash GC speaks at a press conference during the practice round ahead of LIV Golf Chicago at the Rich Harvest Farms on Wednesday, September 20, 2023 in Sugar Grove, Illinois. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/LIV Golf)

The PGA Tour. Just. Won’t. Go. Away.

For some reason, the biggest legacy brand in pro golf is still in midseason form — even if it’s actually early in the next season, and it feels like it should still be late in the season.

It’s as confusing as it sounds.

In all seriousness, I get what the PGA Tour is trying to do with their ‘FedExCup Fall’ concept, but it still feels suspiciously like the ‘wraparound’ season concept they’re actively trying to ditch. You can’t build to a crescendo like the Tour does with its playoffs, then come back literally two weeks later with more golf that’s supposed to mean something, albeit more for next year than this.

It’s narratively incoherent.

Or, just dumb.

In odd-numbered years, you realize in the fall how anodyne and antiseptic your typical PGA Tour event is. No offense to Sahith Theegala’s breakthrough — well-earned, by the way — but rolling from the Fortinet Championship to the freaking Ryder Cup in a couple of weeks, then back to the Sanderson Farms Championship to open October is an unkind juxtaposition for the Tour.

It’s not an exaggeration that the Tour would be better off simply going dark for at least a couple of months following the Tour Championship at the end of August. It’s just oversaturation with the same stroke-play product and the same milquetoast atmosphere they roll out through most of the calendar.

And I suppose the combatants have technically lowered their gloves, but with LIV Golf returning to action this week with its second (annual?) Chicago event, the PGA Tour’s limping into autumn only makes its erstwhile rival tour look more vibrant by comparison.

I’m on record saying that I appreciate many of LIV’s ideas — I won’t go as far as to call them innovations, as welcome as they are from my perspective — and you don’t have to be a PGA Tour ‘hater’ to acknowledge that.

Now that the PGA Tour and LIV (actually, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund) are supposedly one big, happy family, it makes even less sense than usual for the PGA Tour to continue to try to be a year-round presence. It only diminishes the Tour, and — in my opinion, at least — the entirely of pro golf itself.

I understand that every week can’t be the Tour Championship, the Memorial, the Genesis or Pebble Beach. But there’s no reason to carry on deep into the autumn with any number of anonymous, interchangeable events.

From what I’ve seen from afar and in person, LIV’s approach to pro golf should be a net positive for the sport. If there was a a major sports property on this planet that needed revitalization, it was (and is) men’s pro golf.

Will shotgun starts and a team-individual hybrid competitive model endure? I’m not sold on that. My feeling is that, whatever the fate of LIV may be, a general loosening of the pro golf culture might be its greatest contribution to the sport — whether it’s something as simple as playing wearing shorts, music on the course or a general encouragement of fan boisterousness.

(No, in case you’re wondering, the PGA Tour doesn’t get much credit from me for the refreshing atmosphere at the Waste Management Open. That’s a fortunate case of an individual event taking on a life of its own, not a directive from Tour leadership.)

As I prepare to journey around Lake Michigan this weekend for another round of LIV coverage, I’m grateful for the variety of options available to golf fans over the final two weeks of September, from Chicagoland all the way to Italy.

Of course, the United States’ quest to capture the Ryder Cup on European soil for the first time in 30 years will be a worthy crescendo to the proper golf season. Don’t sleep on the Solheim Cup, either, which begins this weekend in Spain.

I won’t strain to extend the team-golf connection to LIV Chicago. Like I said, I’m not sure the Crushers, the Four Aces and the like endure under the upcoming unification of worldwide elite pro competition.

What I will say is that I prefer seeing many of golf’s best get together under a new approach to the sport, instead of one of these autumn tweener events the PGA Tour is trying to pass off as significant.

In the end, what LIV does on the course might not register as much as the fact that it tried something different. And I think that’s worth more than a polite round of golf applause.

A 15-year veteran of sports media, Matt Gajtka (GITE-kah) is the founding editor of PGN. Matt is a lifelong golfer with a passion for all aspects of the sport, from technique to courses to competition. His experience ranges from reporting on Pittsburgh's major-league beats, to broadcasting a variety of sports, to public relations, multimedia production and social media.

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