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[NOTES on a SCORECARD] PGA Tour Reaches a New Low with Threat to Japanese Players

At its core, the threat to the Japanese players is a ploy by the PGA to prevent LIV Golf from making inroads in Japan.

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Hideki Matsuyama chips onto the first green during the final round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta on August 28. (Adam Hagy/USA TODAY SPORTS)

The war between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour crossed a new plateau recently with the revelation that the PGA sent a threatening letter to the Japan Golf Tour Organization.

The letter said that Japanese players who participate in future LIV events would be banned from competing in both the ZOZO Championship (October 13-16 in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture) and the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament going forward.

Sports Illustrated broke the story of the threat with a post on September 1 that included a copy of a letter the JGTO sent to all of its members. It read in part, “PGA Tour will not allow JGTO players who participate in LIV Golf to participate in future PGA Tour tournaments in sponsored and co-sponsored tournaments.”

Japanese players had participated in every LIV event this season, but were noticeably absent from the event in Boston from September 2-4 following revelation of the threat.

This intimidating move by the PGA comes across as incredibly weak. 

Growing Stale is No Excuse for Bullying

The reality is that the PGA has grown stale over the years. And LIV has tried to infuse the sport with a different approach that includes shorter 54-hole events, team play, no cuts and huge paydays.

LIV has signed big names including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and several young players in its challenge to the PGA, which has responded by suddenly finding the money to exponentially increase its event purses to try and counter the departure of more players.

The most pathetic play of all has been the PGA players and their continual employment of the Saudi Investment Fund’s backing of LIV as a dog whistle to try and turn fans against the fledgling circuit. Media sycophants of the PGA have continually brought up the September 11 attacks in a bid to discredit LIV.

“We would have loved to have had these players join LIV, but we respect their decision given the unfortunate, anti-competitive threats imposed on them by the PGA Tour,” a LIV Golf spokesperson wrote in an email to Notes on a Scorecard. “The lengths the Tour is going to stop players from joining LIV is quite amazing.”

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The JGTO did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Notes On A Scorecard about the PGA’s threat.

Is Matsuyama Staying on the PGA Tour?

Rumors have circulated for weeks that 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama was going to sign with LIV for a mind-boggling offer in the neighborhood of ¥50 billion JPY ($352 million USD). 

After the PGA’s Tour Championship concluded last month, Matsuyama reportedly told an Associated Press writer he was staying with the PGA Tour.

It is worth noting, however, that neither Matsuyama nor his agent with IMG ever formally confirmed the decision. That has to be chilling for the PGA, as losing the 30-year-old Matsuyama would be a significant blow.

I have communicated with several veteran sports writers over the past few months about the LIV-PGA issue and nearly every one of them cited the hypocrisy of the PGA’s position. A new entity comes along with innovative ideas and an infusion of cash, so the old guard tries to do everything it can to devalue them.

At its core, the threat to the Japanese players is a ploy by the PGA to prevent LIV from making inroads in Japan. The US Justice Department is currently investigating the PGA Tour for potentially anti-competitive behavior in its conduct toward LIV Golf, while several players and LIV are also suing the PGA for antitrust violations.

The feeling here is that this is ultimately going to end badly for the PGA.

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Insight into Smile Japan’s Historic Finish at Worlds

Behind strong play from goalie Miyuu Masuhara, Japan notched its best-ever finish at the recent IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship with a fifth-place showing. The squad struggled through the preliminary round, losing its first four games to the United States, Canada, Switzerland and Finland by a combined score of 31-4, before turning it around in the placement round.

In a rematch with the Swiss in the quarterfinals, Japan suffered a tough 2-1 in a shootout. The defeat, however, signaled a new beginning for the team.

The Hinomaru beat Sweden 5-4 in their first placement-round game, then downed Finland 1-0 behind an epic 61-save performance by the 20-year-old Masuhara in the fifth-place game.

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Smile Japan Veteran’s Analysis

Defender Akane Hosoyamada, a member of Smile Japan at both the Pyeongchang and Beijing Olympics, revealed to Notes On A Scorecard the dynamic in the squad at the worlds.

“Going into the tournament, we knew the preliminary games were going to be difficult,” Hosoyamada stated. “So as a team we talked about whatever the outcome, we needed to stay positive and learn from every game.

“The last two games [of the placement round], I feel that we came together and we played simple, disciplined hockey. Miyuu Masuhara played incredible and was definitely the star of the game!”

The 30-year-old Hosoyamada, a native of Banff, Alberta, described how the team has undergone a change since the Beijing Games.

“After the Olympics, we lost about half of our roster, so we had to come together as a team really quick,” Hosoyamada noted. “To my surprise that wasn’t difficult at all, and I thought we had a great group of girls who came to play.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m really excited to see how much this team will grow,” Hosoyamada continued. “You can definitely count on a different Smile Japan at the next WWC [in 2023]!”

Japan’s showing in Denmark was especially noteworthy, as the squad was without the services of both veteran goalie Nana Fujimoto and forward Chiho Osawa. Fujimoto is taking a break following the Olympics, while Osawa retired from the national team in August.

Delay in Announcement of Host for 2030 Olympics

The IOC revealed on September 8 that it would postpone next year’s IOC Session in India over trouble within the Indian Olympic Committee. This means that the decision on the 2030 Olympics, in which Sapporo is seen as the frontrunner, will be delayed.

The IOC Session was originally planned to begin on May 30, 2023. The IOC said there was no connection between the postponement and the recent bribery allegations against former Tokyo 2020 executive committee member Haruyuki Takahashi.

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Ohtani Closing In on Second Straight AL MVP Honor

With three weeks left in the MLB season (as of September 12), superstar Shohei Ohtani has won 12 games and hit 34 home runs for the Los Angeles Angels. He’s also No. 1 among MLB pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings (12.0) with 188 in 141 innings. It would appear that he has locked up his second straight American League MVP award.

With all due respect to Aaron Judge, who has clouted 55 home runs for the New York Yankees this season and is challenging the franchise record 61 of Roger Maris, there is no comparison in the accomplishments.

Some 30 players have hit 50 or more home runs in an MLB season, but nobody has ever done what Ohtani has achieved as a dual threat the past two seasons. People can comment about the poor performance of the Angels this year compared to the Yankees, but that is not Ohtani’s fault.

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Prices for 2023 World Figure Skating Championships an Issue

Several skating fans have complained online about the steep cost of tickets for the 2023 World Figure Skating Championships in March at Saitama Super Arena. Five-day passes for the lower bowl are selling for ¥110,000 JPY ($773 USD), while seats in the next section back are going for ¥70,000 (nearly $492 USD).

Single-day tickets in the Premium category are being offered at a top price of ¥30,000, (about $200 USD) with prices in other categories at ¥22,000, ¥18,000, ¥14,000, ¥11,000 and ¥6,000, depending on the location.

Fans are facing an increasingly expensive proposition to support their favorite skaters in person, with the prices listed above not taking into account transportation to and from the venue.


Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world’s foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, here, and find him on Twitter @sportsjapan.

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