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.
Phil Mickelson has put himself into serious contention a couple of times already this year. He says his swing is more consistent and his misses aren’t so wild. Despite letting the title slip at Pebble Beach, has Phil’s game evolved to where he’s a serious threat to win a major this season?
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I hope I’m proven wrong because I’d really like to see him win a U.S. Open but I just don’t think he can hold it together for four rounds anymore, especially in a major. There’s always a stumble somewhere these days which is crucial. I think 99% of the fans watching Pebble Beach would have written down birdie before he hit his pitch shot on the 72nd hole. Probably half of them expected him to chip in for the win. Nobody expected him to miss that six-footer. But 45-year old eyes and nerves aren’t what they used to be.
Jim Kenesky, Kenesky Murray Golf Services (@JimKeneskyGolf): Phil will win this year but not sure it will be a major. He’ll be close to winning one and he will definitely be on the Ryder Cup team. Olympics may be a stretch but I’m sure he’s playing as much as he can to contend in everything and collect as many points as possible.
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: Phil is only as good as his drive and I don’t mean his tee shot. It’s always hard to tell whether he’ll show up, but I think Phil’s always a threat at majors regardless of the state of his game heading into the week. They are the handful of tournaments each year where I can see he actually cares and we all know how badly he wants that U.S. Open. Having missed the cut the last time the U.S. Open was at Oakmont (2007), I think he’ll want retribution this year.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): A serious threat? I wouldn’t think so, but it would be nice to see. I’m not saying Phil’s day is done, but I just don’t see the laser focus that’s critical right down to the final putt. But even if it doesn’t happen, Phil’s had a phenomenal career. And for all the Duvals, Els, and Garcias that came and went, Phil was the most prominent and consistent rival to Tiger for those 18 years, and he should always be acknowledged in that regard.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Phil is still so much fun to watch — no one is more entertaining out there for shot variety and drama — that I hope he gets a lot of prime-time TV time in this year’s (note: Majors don’t do that stupid wrap-around) Majors. With his new Callaway technology every couple of months, he can still launch it plenty long enough. And when hitting fairways, he still shows flashes of magic around the greens. I think his best shot this year, and over the next couple, will be at the Masters. I think he’s got at least one photo-worthy vertical leap left.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping, (@craigloughry): Phil is a threat and I absolutely think he can contend for a Major this year – probably his best chance is Augusta. He looks like he’s on and it looks sustainable – not just a one off thing. That to me means his game is in shape.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer, (@davykap): Certainly not the US Open. However, I could see Phil making another run at a green jacket in April. He will always be a threat when he is hitting fairways because his short game is so phenomenal, but I wouldn’t bank on Lefty adding to his major tally in 2016. The Rory-Justin-Jason troika will crush everything in its path.
Matthew MacKay, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTours): Sure, shy not? He’s one of the best ever, and he ain’t quite over the hill yet! I expect that Phil and other accomplished veteran players will continue to win big tournaments well into their 40’s, although none will dominate consistently the way that the best young players will. My goodness, the way Bernhard Langer plays I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contend in a major this year.
Lydia Ko has suggested she’d like to play a Women’s major at Augusta National. Would you like to see that or is one glimpse of Augusta per year enough?
Quinn: The USGA tried the duelling sexes thing at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014 and that sure isn’t worth repeating. Paula Creamer carried this Augusta National baton for a while before realizing it makes no sense. The LPGA Tour brass too has realized that it ain’t great TV watching women play classic venues from the forward tees and, as importantly, the women’s game suffers terribly from the inevitable comparisons. With a couple of minutes to think, Ko will get it too.
Deeks: I’d love to see the women play Augusta, but maybe once a decade. More than that would be an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction to The Masters.
Loughry: Part of the allure of Augusta is its exclusiveness and being put on the world map just once per year. Adding a second event would erode some of that allure. Although this sounds like a nice idea, woman’s golf should create their own Augusta-like Major. I know the Evian Championship (formerly Evian Masters) is supposed to be that event, so that should be the focus.
Kaplan: More Augusta on television would be fantastic. Personally, I would love to see the ladies play there, but I highly doubt that members of Augusta would feel the same way. The powers that be at Augusta believe firmly in the whole ‘less is more’ axiom, which is why Masters coverage each April is already so restricted to begin with. Also, you can count Augusta’s female members on one hand and still have a couple digits leftover. They are not a progressive bunch.
Kenesky: I love where the LPGA Tour is right now, but Augusta should only have The Masters. Sorry ladies but I think it would take away from the build up of such an anticipated event. Four days of Augusta is perfect and should not be showcased anymore than that.
MacKay: I can understand her desire to have a women’s major at Augusta, but the magic of Augusta should be a once a year thing. I’d rather they play at the hundreds of interesting, old courses that technology has reduced to pitch and putts for the men.
Mastroianni: It’s amazing how Lydia Ko suggests it and it’s all over the news while I’ve been suggesting it for years and no one says a thing (I hope my sarcasm came through there). I 100% agree and have been a big proponent of this for quite some time. It would be so great for the LPGA as well as women’s golf in general and another welcomed week for us to hear our “friend” Jim Nantz and that revered Masters theme song. In addition to this, I’ve pushed for Augusta to give the kids winning the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship a mini green jacket. I caught some flack for this on the social webs but don’t care. I stand by my initiative and want to see them get their own green jackets.
Mumford: I’m not going all Martha Burke here but keep the women out of Augusta. I think we see just enough of the hallowed grounds each year at the Masters and anymore would lessen the mystique.
A California judge dismissed the PGA Tour caddy’s $50 million lawsuit that alleged they were uncompensated billboards. Do you think the caddies got a raw deal?
Deeks: Yes, I do. Whether or not the caddies played their cards the right way in court, who knows? If caddies are expected or compelled to wear logos, then they should be paid for providing their bodies as a “medium”. If the logo is charity-related, however, I would hope they would neither expect nor accept remuneration.
Kenesky: It seems money ruins a lot of relationships. At the end of the day many of these guys should be thrilled where they are and what they’re doing. Many people would love to travel and work in an atmosphere such as a PGA Tour event. They certainly have a good gig if they have a good pro.
Kaplan: I think they got screwed. Caddies are independently contracted by the players and subsequently are not employees of the PGA Tour. Therefore, the PGA Tour should not require caddies to advertise tournament sponsors without any compensation. The Tour can mandate a dress code for caddies, including a blank bib. But once that bib bears the emblem of a sponsor, it becomes a completely different matter.
Mumford: I rarely agree with the PGA Tour but in this instance I think the caddies got exactly what they deserve – which is nothing. The sponsors write huge checks and players and caddies benefit accordingly. To ask caddies to wear a bib with a sponsor logo is small potatoes.
Quinn: As we know, the title sponsors are virtually blackmailed by the Tour in guaranteed up front fees to the tune of about a minimum US $5 million for a minimum of 4-5 years. It is doubtful that in those convoluted contracts there is a codicil on “fee per bib.” I’m not a lawyer, though I am related to one, but I would counsel the caddies to go after something a little more substantive, like fees for pimping their player’s sponsors on their caps.
MacKay: No, as I understand it, the caddie bib is a uniform that is provided by each tournament, and the tournament should determine what goes on the bibs. Without tournament sponsors, there are no bags for caddies to make their 10% on.
Mastroianni: I’m probably in the minority on this but I really don’t care for the argument (and it seems the courts agree with me). Nobody is forcing them to be caddies, they have a right to refuse, and according to our laws, as long as they are making minimum wage (which I am sure they do) and are treated decently, which I also haven’t seen any signs to the contrary in my many experiences, I don’t see the problem. If the caddies want to be paid for wearing the tournaments required bib, then the caddies should also pay the TOUR when and if they receive any sort of endorsements that they proudly trot around the golf course. Listen, I’m not saying caddies have an easy life, but they also don’t have a horrible one, and their jobs are just as difficult as any other. In the end, if it weren’t for the sponsor on their bibs they wouldn’t be working at all; I’d say there’s a give and take. Next time the title sponsor’s competitor is on your hat and you are forced to where their name/logo on your bib, consider it even.
Loughry: Where to start here? Are they employed by the player and therefore everything on them belongs to that player because players make up the PGA Tour, so by extension they are in fact compensated billboards? Hmmm. Caddies do have some poor working conditions (no Steve Williams, you’re not treated like “slaves”, some of you are millionaires, be thankful not ungrateful). Caddies rarely get to park on site or even close to a venue, they’re fed less than stellar meals (if any at all), rarely permitted in the clubhouse (yes I understand capacity/security issues), sometimes they are provided tents (if they’re lucky) at the back or side of the course (rarely convenient to get to and from), of course no air conditioning even on the hottest days. Sometimes those tents are made of very thick metal and caddies are told by Tour officials during a lightning storm to wait in that tent until it passes. REALLY! That did in fact happen. They are hired to be fired and only a handful of them who work for elite players actually have a mainstay on the Tour and make a really good wage. If out of this lawsuit comes a much improved working condition for caddies, then it served its purpose. But I only think that happens if players step up and say this needs to be done. Otherwise the Tour will bury this issue in deep legalise and nothing will actually change.