Picture this, former professional cyclist and current Sunday Independent columnist Paul Kimmage is handed a berth on Team Lotto Soudal to race in the Volta a Catalunya (Tour of Catalonia) more than 30 years since swapping the saddle for the pen.
I use Lotto Soudal and the Volta a Catalunya semi-randomly, but the race is considerably less prestigious than the Tour de France, for example, but a professional race, nonetheless. Of course, Kimmage would never accept the invite, nor would Lotto Soudal extend one, but that’s beside the point.
What would happen? Well, despite Kimmage’s pedigree as a cyclist, he would be humiliated against a field of current professionals and that would benefit who, exactly? Not the fans, not the media, not the other riders, and certainly not Kimmage himself.
But as I said, it would never happen, right?
Yet this past week, this is basically what we saw on the PGA Tour at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. While most Irish eyes were trained to the top of the leaderboard where Seamus Power was ever-present, I kept one eye on the DFL position – that’s “dead f**king last” for those unfamiliar – where Kim Swan’s name was an even more permanent fixture.
Now, I’m going to go ahead and assume that 99 percent of this column’s readers are unfamiliar with Kim Swan – just as I was prior to this week’s event – so allow me to bring you up to speed.
Swan is a Bermuda native, and 65 years old. He is a former professional golfer who spent two years on the European Tour in the early eighties, before turning his attention to politics where he had four unsuccessful attempts in general elections before finally winning a seat in 2007, going on to become leader of the opposition for several years.
Since 2012, he has been the teaching pro at Port Royal Golf Club, the course that hosted the Bermuda Championship last week, and his Wikipedia page paints him very much as a political figure, first and foremost.
So exactly what the hell was Swan doing teeing it up in a PGA Tour event? Well, struggling and struggling badly was what he was doing. An opening round of 18-over was followed by a 10-over second round, and before you start thinking that 10-over was impressive, only 22 out of the 131-man field shot over par, leaving Swan propping up the board at 28-over, 22 shots behind the second to DFL man.
He was last in driving distance averaging 224 yards, last in birdies, last in pars, last in greens in regulation, you name it. Not that I’d expect a 65-year-old politician to be bombing it 350 and sinking birdies for fun, but his closest competitor leaderboard-wise, Ryan Brehm, whose final round began with a quadruple bogey, averaged 304 off the tee.
So, again I ask, why was Swan in the field? Did he strongarm his way in as a public figure and teaching pro at the host course? Was it to fill local player quotas? If so, then surely one of the seven Bermuda natives ranked by the official world amateur golf rankings who weren’t in the field would’ve been far more deserving, as were fellow Bermudans Jarryd Dillas and Nick Jones who beat Swan by 25 and 23 strokes respectively.
The narrative surrounding the Tour, especially with the recent addition of LIV Golf as competition, is that the cream of the crop are on the PGA Tour. And while that may be true on certain weeks, that the likes of J.J. Henry, with 13 missed cuts in his last 18 PGA Tour starts and a best finish of T58, and D.J. Trahan, who can’t make a cut on the Korn Ferry Tour, regularly make PGA Tour fields due to outdated exemptions, really undermines the claim that this is the pinnacle of performance.
As evidenced by Trahan’s inability to see a weekend on the Korn Ferry Tour, there are any amount of KFT members whose current abilities make them far more worthy of a PGA Tour start than Trahan or Henry, and infinitely more worthy than Kim Swan.
There are reasons why the Saudi Public Investment Fund targeted golf as the sport most ripe for a shake-up and this is one of them. If you’re going to market yourself as the game’s premier tour, then surely a key objective should be to have the strongest possible fields week-in, week-out.
In the race to the mountaintop of professional golf tours, and with LIV coming hot on the wheel of the race leader, the PGA Tour have unnecessarily saddled themselves with dead weight.
And every second counts.