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PGA Tour Resolves Spieth Participation Violation, Continues Being a Player’s League

Golf.comAccording to the PGA Tour, the Jordan Spieth scheduling violation saga has come to a conclusion. And, according to the Tour’s chief of operations, fans will be pleased with the resolution.

After next week’s Ryder Cup, Spieth will finish the 2017-2018 season with 24 events played. That leaves him one short of a 25-event minimum and leaves him open to a fine of at least $20,000 or a possible suspension in accordance with Tour policy. Last week, Spieth acknowledged he would “obviously accept whatever fine it is,” but it appears that the two parties have come to a different sort of resolution.

Andy Pazder, the Tour’s chief of operations, told Golf Channel on Tuesday that the situation had been dealt with.

“I have talked to Jordan and we’ve resolved it,” he said. “We have come to a resolution. I’m not going to be able to share the details of that, [but] I will say the result is something that you will see next season. It’s resolved in a way that’s going to be a win for our tournaments, our fans and golf in general.”

For now, we’ll have to take his word for it — when it comes to discipline, golf’s powers-that-be still make such decisions behind closed doors.

When the news first came out that Jordan Spieth would be facing a fine and potential suspension for not playing enough tour events this year, I initially thought it was a perfectly fine rule for the tour to uphold. After all, having more stars at more events is good for the tour and the PGA in general. 

The poor man’s understanding of how the PGA works is this: unlike the MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL, the PGA players are not members of a union. That is, the athletes who play the other four major sports are all members of the players association of their respective leagues. For anyone who doesn’t understand the concept of unions, basically it’s a banding together of workers to bargain on behalf of everyone against the league in order to ensure the protection, safety, and success of players and the league. It’s mutually beneficial, but it’s basically a system of tradeoffs. So although the players get paid a league minimum and aren’t forced to practice all year round, they agree to wearing shoes that the league approves and take drug tests, which in the event of a failure, may have the results aired out to the public. 

PGA players, however, are contracted. So they aren’t guaranteed any money by the tour just for showing up to events, but they get the luxury of having discipline handled on a case by case basis and usually in private. That’s why we don’t exactly know the details of Dustin Johnson’s break from the tour a few years ago, but we know the exact breakdown of how many particle of THC have been found in Josh Gordon’s pee. 

So the PGA established the minimum event policy so that its stars aren’t just playing in major, full field events and avoiding the smaller tour stops. Its the reason why the Wells Fargo Championship and the Valspar Championship have seen growth in recent years and its great for fans, players, the tour, everyone. 

So Jordan Spieth, in planning out his schedule, made kind of a cocky assumption. In order to get to 25 events, he would need to both qualify for the Ryder Cup and play in all four FedEx Cup playoff events. This means that he assumed he would be one of the top Americans in golf and be one of the top 30 players who compete for FedEx cup points. That’s a whole other level of confidence. That’s like Patriot fans buying hotel rooms for the 2020 Super Bowl this year. 

You can’t really blame him though. People don’t really understand the grueling nature of the PGA season. They think, “oh, they’re just getting paid to play golf,” but it’s not really like that. Each week long event includes practice rounds, four rounds of golf, being hounded by the media, and off course charity events and dinners. Top players like Jordan don’t travel cheap, either. Although money is certainly no issue for him, players pay their own way for housing, their caddy, their coaches, their chiropractors, family, etc. It may not get up to the $20,000 that the tour threatens to fine players who don’t fill their schedule, but it’s a fucking lot. 

When Spieth found out he wouldn’t be one of the top 30 players to make it into the Tour Championship, he handled it about as well as he could. With a little bit of egg on his face, he said he would accept any fines that are levied against him. 

So now that the issue has been resolved, what do I think was said behind closed doors that will be a “win for our tournaments, our fans and golf in general?”

I think he will play well over 25 events next season. I think we will see him at a few smaller events such as the RBC Heritage after the Masters and perhaps the Greenbrier tournament. I think he will participate in all of the Wednesday Pro Ams and potentially a few Monday ones. We may see participation in a few First Tee Clinics and a lot more media time. I’m almost positive there’s no suspension, as a suspension would be counter-intuitive, but there may even be a donation in lieu of a fine. 

I think the PGA wanted to bring to light the issues of getting major tour players skipping events in favor of rest for the majors. This past season, Tiger showed up to an unexpectedly large number of small events, so I think the PGA isn’t seeing this as a tour-wide problem. They simply want golf’s favorite Texan to get back to help growing the game. 

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