This isn’t exactly an expansion draft, but Justin Thomas is the first player to join one of the six teams in the new TGL League.
Thomas, a two-time PGA champion, is the first of four players to join Atlanta Drive Golf Club.
The TGL League starts in January and will be shown on ESPN. It pits players from two teams going head to head in a South Florida arena in which some of the shots involve a high-tech simulator and shots around the green will be actually made.
Atlanta is among five of the six teams already named. The others are in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Player announcements for other teams — including the sixth team not yet revealed — are expected over the next week.
The teams feature high-end owners from sports and entertainment, such as Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons owning the Atlanta Drive.
“To be aligned with an owner like Arthur Blank and his incredible variety of businesses as they expand their golf portfolio feels like a great fit for me,” Thomas said. “I promise our team will compete hard to win championships and have a lot of fun along the way.”
Some of the assignments are based on regions — Thomas grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and played college at Alabama — and how players’ PGA Tour and European tour schedules will align with the TGL matches.
Most of the matches will be held on Tuesday in prime time on ESPN platforms.
TGL was developed by TMRW Sports, owned by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. The acronym doesn’t stand for anything official, though the “T” most likely stands for TMRW (not Tiger).
TGL already has a full roster of 24 players. Twelve have won majors and six players have reached No. 1 in the world.
ANNIKA IN GREEN
Augusta National has a longstanding policy of not discussing membership. Chairman Fred Ridley was willing to make an exception given the fame of one of the recent additions: Annika Sorenstam.
“I am very excited about Annika, so I’ll just say that,” Ridley said at the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in Australia. “She is a delightful person. As you know, we have a number of women members and have for a quite a few years. I think it made us a better club and they are an integral part of our culture.”
Golfweek first reported Sorenstam had been invited to become a member.
While women long have been able to play the home of the Masters as guests, the first women were not invited to join Augusta National until 2012, when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore joined. Since then, others invited to join include former USGA president Diana Murphy and Pebble Beach co-chair Heidi Ueberroth.
Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion, said he played with Sorenstam when Augusta National re-opened for member play a few weeks ago.
“I’ve known Annika for quite some time, and I think she is going to be a great addition to the club,” Ridley said.
PATH TO THE TOUR
Ryo Hisatsune chose to skip a PGA Tour event this week because he wants to play in a lot of them next year.
Hisatsune, a 21-year-old from Japan, closed with a 66 and tied for sixth in the Zozo Championship two weeks ago. The top 10 earned him a spot in the field at the World Wide Technologies Championship in Mexico.
He also is No. 14 in the Race to Dubai on the European tour with only two tournaments remaining. That puts Hisatsune in the 10th spot among the 10 leading players who earn a full PGA Tour card for 2024.
Hisatsune, who won the French Open this year, leads by 88 points over the 11th-place player (Joost Luiten). The Nedbank Challenge is next week in South Africa, followed by the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
HAVE A WEEK, ALISON LEE
Alison Lee began her week at the Aramco Series-Riyadh by tying two Ladies European Tour records — eight consecutive birdies and an 11-under 61.
That turned out to be just the start.
Lee, coming off a playoff loss in the BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea on the LPGA Tour, followed with another 61 to reach 22-under par. That shattered by six shots the LET record to par over 36 holes.
She closed with a 65 to win by eight shots over Carlota Ciganda and break by five shots the record score to par for a 54-hole event on the LET. She parred the last three holes to tie the LET record under par set by Gwladys Nocera over 72 holes in the 2008 Goteborg Masters.
Lee has yet to win on the LPGA Tour but now two LET wins, both in the Aramco Series.
“It’s surreal to think I played that well,” Lee said.
For California club pro Michael Block, his 15 minutes of fame is lasting all the way to the end of the year.
Block left his mark at Oak Hill when he played the final round of the PGA Championship with Rory McIlroy, made a hole-in-one on the 15th hole, finished with a sublime par save and tied for 15th. He accepted two sponsor exemptions in the weeks that followed.
More PGA Tour competition follows. Block is considered the PGA section pro this week, meaning he will be playing the World Wide Technology Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
And then he’ll be headed Down Under for the Australian Open the week after Thanksgiving. The tournament, featuring men and women competing for separate trophies, will be held at The Australian and The Lakes.
“It has been a truly unbelievable year for me, both on and off the course, and what better way to finish (the year) than to head to Australia, play some golf and see the sights of Sydney,” Block said.
He’ll be playing alongside the lies of Cameron Smith and Adam Scott, with Minjee Lee and Hannah Green highlighting the women’s field.
Billy Davis, a 17-year-old from Chula Vista, California, makes his PGA Tour debut in the World Wide Technology Championship by winning a playoff for the final spot in a qualifier. He is the twin brother of former Augusta National Women's Amateur champion Anna Davis. ... Women's PGA champion Ruoning Yin has returned to No. 1 in the women's world ranking, replacing Lilia Vu. Celine Boutier, a four-time winner on the LPGA this year, is No. 3. ... The Asia Pacific Amateur will be held next year on the Gotemba course at Taiheiyo Club in Japan. The tournament was last played in Japan in 2010 when Hideki Matsuyama won at Kasumigaseki Country Club. ... Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina will host the Arnold Palmer Cup in 2025, matches between college players from around the world. Congaree hosted the CJ Cup in 2022 won by Rory McIlroy. ... Rose Zhang has been mathematically eliminated from winning LPGA rookie of the year because she is too far behind Hae Ran Ryu and is not playing next week. Zhang did not receive 150 points for winning the Mizuho Americas Open in her pro debut. Otherwise, she would be second in the standings and still have a chance.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Twelve players currently in the top 50 of the world ranking, including Justin Rose at No. 37, are not yet eligible for the Masters. The top 50 at the end of the year receive invitations.
“It’s the one tournament that every golfer wants to play in their life and now that that’s going to be a reality for me, I am speechless.” — Jasper Stubbs on the Masters. He earned an invitation by winning the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship.
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