This Week in Golf

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

East Lake GC in Atlanta has been home to the Tour Championship for a number of years now. Do you like it as a permanent home or would you prefer to see the tournament move around the country?

Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): Nah, it can stay at East Lake. There’s no need to move it unless they want to introduce new spectators to the event. It’s a solid golf course that challenges the players and generally produces a world class Champion.

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I give East Lake full respect for its history, and the story of how it’s transformed the community while re-inventing and reinvigorating itself. But it really doesn’t do much for me as a golf course (not that I’ve played it). To be honest, if the Tour Championship needs a permanent home, I’d make it TPC at Ponte Vedra, and transform the TPC in May to the Tour Championship in September. Since that ain’t never gonna happen, it’d be fine to see it move around the country, although it gets a little weather-iffy to play in the north in September.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Things go better with ……corporate millions. There is so much ‘feel good’ tied up in the rehab of the East Lake neighbourhood and the Bobby Jones aura that the Coke dealers and the money dealers (PGA TOUR) can’t give up this site. Finchem has staked his ‘legacy’ on this fandango. But, pimping Coke and the Tour and the goofy Cup in a week that Atlanta is almost guaranteed to get massive rain is cynical even for these partners in self-serving enterprise. Fun course, but NBC has to invest in a couple more portable shot tracers (how much could that cost??) so viewers can see more of the shots into the rain and mist.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): East Lake has some historical perspectives that make it special but quite frankly, by the time the Tour Championship rolls around, I’m so ready to get it done, they could play at the local muni for all I care. If they ever did move it to an iconic course it might jack the interest level a bit but if $10 million can’t get your attention, nothing will. Leave it where it is or kill the event completely.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I love the course and I hope the Tour Championship remains there. Judging by the scores from this past weekend, it appears to be a good challenge for the players, and it is undoubtedly a phenomenal venue for the season’s finale. Besides, I think that moving it around the country would certainly be met with some opposition from the Tour Championship’s main sponsor, Coca-Cola. ITS (I don’t care what the court rulings have mandated; corporations are not people) entire evil enterprise is based out of Hot ‘Lanta and IT might not want to see the event pulled from ITS backyard.

Jordan Spieth crafted a season that would be a great career for most players – 5 wins, 2 majors, Player of the Year, Vardon Trophy and $22 million in prize money. That’s up there with some of Tiger Woods’ best seasons but some are making the case that Spieth’s accomplishment is greater since he regularly faces much stiffer competition than Tiger ever did. How do you see it?

Mumford: Tiger had a tendency to demolish fields by large margins, even in the majors. That often left people believing Woods didn’t have any real peers. In fact, if you look at the numbers, there were plenty of elite level players teeing it up against Tiger – Phil Mickelson (42 wins), Vijay Singh (34), Davis Love (21), Ernie Els (19), Jim Furyk (17), David Duval (13), David Toms (13) and Steve Stricker (11) – Hall of Famers and major winners. Spieth’s serious competition is just getting started like he is. None have fashioned Hall of Fame careers yet but there sure seems to be a lot who might, which makes you wonder if the talent pool is deeper now. We’ll know in fifteen years or so but I suspect it will be much like it was in Tiger’s era – 8-10 players that won a sizeable chunk of the events and most of the majors.

Quinn: I saw it as a victory for a couple of golf’s core values — integrity and humility. Spieth, and Day and McIlroy, Rose et al are the anti-Eldricks and that’s good not only for golf but for the youth of so many nations now who have instant 24-7 access to their potential heroes. Around the globe, it is no longer accepted golfer behaviour to expectorate, particularly on greens, hammer F-Bombs at full volume, or have your caddy rip cameras out of the hands of seniors. These guys, and their supporting cast, fill the bill so much better and with so much more subtlety and grace than the former big star that they have the potential to resurrect the game. In this new sensibility, one can only hope that the ‘Go in the Hole,’ ‘Mashpotatoes,’ jerks gradually leave the stage as well. The pretenders to Spieth’s new crown are lightyears more talented and numerous than Eldrick ever faced, and they shouldn’t have to listen to the shouts of the non-golfers, non-golf fans who strain for audio moments on the telecasts.

Kaplan: I don’t remember Tiger having to deal with Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and ball-crushers like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson on a weekly basis when he was at the top. Tiger had himself some amazing years and a consecutive made cut streak that WILL NEVER BE TOUCHED! But you said it! The field just was not as tough as it is now. Spieth’s achievements from this year alone are mind boggling. He is balding pretty well now … are we certain that he is really only 22?!

Deeks: Not taking one iota of credit away from Spieth, but this “the competition was stiffer” argument always make me wince. Tiger had very strong competition… he was just simply better than everybody else… ditto Jack… ditto Arnold (until Jack came along)… ditto Hogan… ditto Jones. Don’t, for instance, tell me Jack didn’t have stellar competition with Arnold, Gary Player, Billy Casper… and later with Miller, Trevino, Watson. Tiger had Phil, Vijay, Ernie and a host of other fine players knocking at his door. Some guys are just better, that’s all.

Loughry: Excuse me….2000, the greatest season ever put together by any player EVER. Tiger had 20 starts, 9 wins, including 3 Majors, and for icing on the cake: four 2nds and one 3rd. Let’s also keep in mind TW was lapping fields and changed the game forever. Woods certainly did have competition with guys like VJ, Mickelson, Els, Love, Couples, etc. Spieth had an excellent season, but not like the year of the Tiger in 2000.

Spieth, McIlroy and Day are being billed as the new Big 3. Nicklaus, Palmer and Player amassed 34 majors during their careers; Hogan, Nelson and Snead managed 21; while Woods, Mickelson and Els totalled 23. The new kids now have 7. Are they likely to surpass any of the previous threesomes?

Deeks: I’m with Jason Day, who rightly declared that Fowler should be in the group, even if he hasn’t quite acquired the numbers of the other three. But if it has to be three, I’d say they will indeed match or exceed at least the Hogan and Tiger groups. 34 or more? Doubtful.

Quinn: Back in the day, the media used tabloid techniques to capture attention in a 4-per-city newspaper world. Sport section writers and headline crafters were over the top and often leaned on the classics. The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, etc. That was a media hangover in the ‘60s with the Big Three in Golf ( the Mormon best putter in the world with a belly didn’t qualify on TV, just on the course). Don’t think that there is a dominating threesome, even after this year (cross-over-freakin’-season) that isn’t just a couple of ‘rubs of the green’ away from a terrific twelvesome (dang, doesn’t fit on a tabloid headline). So much off the course pressure, including unimaginable wealth, is now on the top guys — the so-called Big Three couldn’t imagine it ever coming to this — that ebbs and flows will be natural. Can’t see Spieth, McIlroy and Day at $20 million a year (not counting Tour winnings) worrying much about topping the Big Three’s 34.

Loughry: I do think (what I called the Millennial big 3 last week) will fall just short of the BIG 3 (Nicklaus, Palmer, and Player). I just think these players (modern) swing so hard that it will be at the detriment of health and longevity. Injuries will slow their process, just look at Tiger and others before him (Couples, Love, Norman).

Kaplan: It is not only possible … it’s probable! Day and Spieth, alone, collected three of four majors this year and both players had completely legitimate shots at winning the Open! I think the real question here is will anyone aside from the Big 3.0 win a major over the next decade? I wouldn’t bet on DJ to play spoiler.

Mumford: Every indication is that this new Big 3 will prevail for some time. Other players have shown flashes of brilliance but apart from Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson, both of whom are in their late 30’s, and Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, both in their mid 40’s, no other player on Tour has multiple majors. And many of the current so-called elite players have none. It’s not hard to imagine this threesome taking half the majors each year for the next dozen years. That would put them over 30 in total – certainly in reach of the original Big 3 and well beyond the Medium 3’s.

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