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Could the summer of 2022 be the strangest we’ve seen so far in golf? Absolutely.

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AKRON, OH - AUGUST 01: Phil Mickelson (L) and Tiger Woods meet during a preview day of the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club South Course at on August 1, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of this month’s Masters, I’ve had a hard time putting into words how I felt. With the exception of the one hole on Sunday when Cameron Smith came close to taking the lead, and the 18th hole when Rory McIlroy capped off a superb 64 from the bunker, the Masters lacked the usual flair. There was the Saturday cold, when people rushed into the merchandise area to buy items they couldn’t wear. There was Scottie Scheffler’s five-shot lead on Friday, which he never relinquished. There was an impending attention shift away from the leaders and toward Tiger Woods, who had a pair of weekend 78s.

In a nutshell, this year’s Masters was strange.

We should probably get used to hearing that word. Looking at the calendar, the summer of 2022 could be the wackiest we’ve ever seen in golf, starting with the Tour’s elephant in the room.

Phil Mickelson

At the Masters, Tiger Woods did Mickelson a favor simply by showing up. Woods had been the story of the Masters for weeks, with fans refreshing the field list on Masters.com on a regular basis. Mickelson was at the bottom of the list, labeled as not competing. Woods, in the field, was just a little higher on the page, telling the story of the tournament from Day 1. When the conversation went to Phil Mickelson, Chairman Fred Ridley claimed Mickelson confirmed his decision to miss the Masters through text, and the globe was once again engulfed in Woods Mania.

That will not be the case at the PGA Championship, which takes place next month. Not only is it possible that Woods may not be present, but Mickelson’s homecoming as the defending champion is also in doubt. It’s impossible to talk about the PGA without mentioning the reigning champion. It isn’t possible. You can’t write about it, question players about it, and the PGA can’t advertise itself on TV without mentioning Mickelson. That’s the reality we’re dealing with right now: a slew of confusion around one of the world’s most popular golfers.

When will Mickelson return, if not to the PGA? Could it be at Brookline for the US Open? Or – gasp! — a LIV Golf tournament, possibly the strangest of all?

LIV Golf Tournaments

How can the potential of LIV Golf Invitationals be accurately assessed? We believe they will take place. Although there is a full calendar of eight events available online, we only know of one contender who expects to attend the initial version of shotgun starts and three-round events in London: Robert Garrigus. Are there any more names on the way? Surely… we just simply don’t know who it could be.

We’ll make the announcement shortly, but we’ve been repeating those six words for months. Will the public be able to see the events on your television? TBD. Will you be able to see them live if you buy tickets? Yes. But would you buy a ticket to a sporting event not knowing who you’ll be watching?

One of the tournaments will take place at Trump Bedminster, a venue in which no golf brand appears to be at ease right now. The U.S. Women’s Open was held at Donald Trump’s New Jersey club in 2017, which is more than five years prior to this year’s LIV Invitational, which begins on July 29th. For everyone concerned, things were different back then.

Bedminster was set to host a large event the next month, but everything changed on January 6, 2021. After all, Trump Golf’s pro event will be held at Bedminster in 2022, on the same weekend as the Rocket Mortgage Classic, right in the middle of the Open Championship and the FedEx Cup Playoffs. In July and August, money will be pouring in. To whom? At this point, it could be anyone.

Quarterbacks competing during the US Women’s Open

The next edition of Capital One’s The Match is a little less odd, but it’s still bizarre. A fictitious rivalry between Woods and Mickelson turned into a genuine one between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. None of those guys will be participating this time. To be precise, there are no professional golfers. There’s only four quarterbacks.

Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen will oppose Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Isn’t that entertaining? Yes, we believe so. However, when viewed through a more critical lens, it’s more difficult to recognize it as a brilliant golf tournament. For starters, this will be the sixth edition of The Match that does not feature a female golfer. The only female golfer involved in the series so far has been Cheyenne Woods, who serves as an on-course reporter. Furthermore, the event will take place on June 1, the first day of the US Women’s Open week. On the eve of the U.S. Women’s Open, staging a men’s amateur made-for-TV event that will be shown in primetime on a different network doesn’t exactly scream out support for the women’s game.

Perhaps that isn’t something The Match should be concerned about. But it’s still strange!

A truly unique Womens’ Open

And while we’re on the subject of the women’s game, there’s one unique feature of this summer’s schedule that we really like: a Women’s Open at Muirfield.

The R&A put the hammer on the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers just six years ago when it insisted that it amends its membership policies to include women. The club’s 272-year history had gone unquestioned on that front, at least by the R&A, and the club would not host any R&A championships unless they altered. The Open Championship, for instance.

Only a year later, the club membership approved female membership in response to the call-down. In 2019, the club welcomed 12 new female members, bringing the total number of female members to 18, with the number likely to rise to 20 by the day the club hosts its first Women’s Open in August. Action has followed from the initial promises, according to Lindsey Garden, one of those female members.

“When they considered whether they were going to have a mixed membership, it was all or nothing,” she told the Scottish Sun.

“There are still golf clubs in the west of Scotland who will tell women they can join but they can’t play at a certain time or they can’t go here or they can’t play in this competition and so on. With the Honorable Company, everything is even and there is no difference between male and female members.”

This isn’t entirely appropriate for a column about oddities. It’s not unusual to see women playing at Muirfield. It’s appropriate. That’s correct. It’s been a long time coming. But, without a doubt, it will be a part of the story this summer.

Tiger in Europe

Part of the strangeness surrounding the Masters was the fact that Woods played, and played exceptionally well for two rounds. That 71 in the opening round? Delicate and amazing. But it’s possible that the next time we watch Woods isn’t at the PGA Championship. It’s also possible that it won’t be at Brookline. Both arrangements are detrimental to him. His next guaranteed stop isn’t even at a professional tournament. It’s during a pro-am tournament in western Ireland.

Woods is committed to compete in the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Limerick County. On the Monday and Tuesday of the Scottish Open, the week before the British Open, Woods will tee it up in Ireland. Would he be brave enough to go back to Florida and then to Edinburgh a few days later? Surely he wouldn’t subject his 46-year-old body through such an ordeal.

It’s not the first time he’s done it. Only the most wealthy, competition-crazed golfers could pull off this strange flex with ease.

One thing is evident given Woods’ journey to Ireland and his early commitment to the Open: he is ready for linksland, particularly the Old Course, which is the flattest course on the planet. It’s his all-time favorite course. That doesn’t mean he’ll be a good player this time around. All it means is that we’ll be much more thirsty for the opening round than we were two weeks ago in Georgia.

If all of that isn’t strange enough, you may have become accustomed to these stories. Every one of the next four months will bring this energy. Consider how things were a year ago, when the PGA Championships were held at Kiawah Island and Atlanta Athletic Club. Even the US Opens at Torrey Pines and Olympic Club. As far as comparisons go, this is a far cry from the usual.

Original article posted on Golf.com

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