Olympic bail outs, spring break & Brooke Henderson
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.
Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen made headlines last week by announcing that they will not participate in the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio. Both cited busy personal and professional schedules as the reason. What’s your reaction to their withdrawals and do you think it will lead to more players staying home?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): As mentioned in this week’s column, I’m very critical of their decisions. Barring death in the family or illness of self or children, I think all eligible players owe it to the game, their countries, their fans, and to the Olympic movement which has been kind enough to bring golf back onto the roster. Pro golfers live just about the sweetest life of all athletes, and a little sacrifice of time and effort once in a while wouldn’t kill them.
Frank Mastroianni, Canadian Golf Magazine (@frank_mastro): I had little doubt a decent amount of top players would be withdrawing their names from Olympic selection, even more so after the Zika pandemic. They can cite whatever they want but going to Brazil and dealing with a WHO confirmed international pandemic is not something I would consider at all — I’m sure the truth is they think the same. I’m as patriotic as it gets and representing my country is pretty much the most important thing I could ever imagine doing in my life, but not at the cost of my health. Everyone likes to think they know everything about the virus, but they don’t. And I don’t judge anyone for putting their health first, even ahead of the Olympics.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): Well, I don’t think this is the end of the Olympic WD’s unfortunately. Olympic golf isn’t exactly a sought after commodity by all current Tour players, but being in the Olympics is still good for the game globally. You may have athletes bow out from South Africa, Fiji, and Australia, but in other countries for the simple fact it has coverage, the game has the opportunity to grow.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I definitely was not surprised about Scott. He was pretty vocal last year about his lack of passion for playing in the Olympics. In my opinion, the crammed schedule is a definite issue. But the Zika virus pandemic and the general sanitation problems in Brazil right now are a far bigger impediment. Playing in the Olympics would be super cool, but there is NO WAY that I would risk my livelihood and health for a chance to play in that tournament. I expect more players to follow Vijay Singh’s lead and pull their names from consideration in the coming weeks.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I expect a few more top players will bail and perhaps there’ll be a handful so far down the rankings they’ll barely register a blip. I can appreciate why they don’t want to play – everything from health concerns to scheduling to the incomparably stupid competitive format – four rounds of medal play, no team component, etc. But golf has given these elite athletes an opportunity to become rich and famous and it’s not too much to ask them for a once-every-four-years thank you by participating in the games to help expand golf world-wide. If invited, they should suck it up and go.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: My reaction was “Good on ya, mate” for Scott, and whatever the S.A. equivalent is for Oosty. I’ve been opposed to golf in the Olympics since the lame idea was first floated — as lame as the concept of the Games themselves. [Full disclosure — I’ve covered six of them.] Of all sports, aside from football (the real variety) golf does not need another event for its elite players. Compounding the lunacy of building the Rio course in the first place, the five-ring circus event is not limited to amateurs and its individual stroke play! No one, not Scott or Oosty or Vijay (who cares?) would have played for their country! Say wot? A lot of the folks involved in the IOC make Sepp Blatter look like a saint, and a smarter one at that.
Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman enjoyed a boys retreat in the Bahamas last week and didn’t hold back when it came to sharing messages and photos on social media. Unlike the ultra-secretive Tiger Woods who barely acknowledged where he was, let alone share anything with his fans, these young players have no qualms about giving us a peek at their lifestyle. Did they go too far or are you OK with them sharing their personal lives?
Loughry: It’s their call. If they want to share, then share but I bet they won’t be too risky giving us too much detail. These guys have grown up with social media, and have seen the likes and ruthlessness of TMZ. As a result, they’ll be smart with their releases to avoid being a feature story on TMZ. They don’t want to be “that guy”.
Mumford: There’s a reason parents should never go on their kid’s Facebook pages but these four amigos appear to know the limits of what they can share and what they have to hold back. I think it’s terrific and would welcome more of it.
Quinn: It is a generational thing, this self-absorption. It’s great that these very wealthy young guys can head to the Bahamas (probably at Albany) and party, but I don’t have to know about it let alone watch video proof. Given the revelations over the years, and the great compilation and reporting by Wright Thompson for ESPN — The Secret History of Tiger Woods — we should all be grateful that Eldrick didn’t share any details or images of his off-course behaviour.
Deeks: Haven’t seen the footage but by the sound of it, it was terrific, and I give them credit for sharing their exuberance and good fortune to be in the Bahamas. And to be honest, considering where Tiger was most of the time, I’m not sure I’d want to see those videos. (Makes me think of an old song by Gale Storm, from 1957… “Dark Moon”…)
Mastroianni: I can see this type of stuff coming from Rickie and some of the other guys. Fowler’s entire reputation as a player is a bold, outside the box, party kind of guy, and it’s well within the realm of the character he portrays to the world so I have no issue with it. When it comes to Spieth, it just added to my perception of him, which I wrote about after The Masters. Spieth was on a bender through and through. To me this was an extremely poor decision fuelled by incapability to handle his Masters collapse. I think this is a situation where he irresponsibly went against the better judgement of his “team” or made decisions without consulting them and showed many of his true colours. It was immature, self-indulgent and childish. And not because of the behaviours in and of themselves, but because it revealed to me, once again, that Spieth on the golf course is Spieth in Hollywood mode…an Act. And I don’t like posers in any walk of life.
Kaplan: I’m all for it! The newsfeed on my Facebook is already full of pictures of my friends’ boring vacations anyway. Remember, these guys grew up in the Twitter generation and legitimately enjoy posting pictures of their adventures and travels just like anyone else under the age of 30 does. Sure, they knocked back a few — probably way more than a few — but they are all legally old enough to drink and they are on vacation! What I took away from these pictures is the unique fraternity that exists amongst many of the younger tour pros on the circuit. This bodes well for the future of the sport.
Brooke Henderson recorded another top 10 at the LPGA Swinging Skirts over the weekend, her 8th consecutive top 10 finish on the LPGA Tour. Newspapers, websites and some golf magazines are starting to refer to Brooke as a “superstar”. Is it too early for that type of treatment and could it put too much pressure on the young player?
Deeks: Judging by the current criteria for “superstar”-dom, I’d say Brooke is qualifying for the label… as one of only two non-Asians in the Top-10 on the current money list. Too much pressure on her? I can’t imagine it would be – she’s been lauded as the Future of Womanhood for so many years now, and never buckled yet, that I’m sure she’s able to filter out all unnecessary and hyperbolic boosts to her confidence. If she does start to falter anytime soon, I suspect it’ll be because of a swing virus and not “too much, too soon”.
Mastroianni: The media always does everything too early and proclaiming Brooke Henderson a superstar is just that. I’m a big fan and think the world of her. Does she have great talent? Yes. Does she have great potential? Yes. But I’ve never looked at superstars as consistent top 10 finishers (are Jim Furyk or Matt Kuchar superstars then?).
Loughry: She is a superstar PERIOD. She’s leaping up the World Ranking chart, from no status less than a year ago to ironically inside the TOP 10 WGR. My opinion is she’ll be as high as #2 by the end of June if she can avoid injury. She’ll have a little trouble dethroning #1 (Ko) unless she can rattle off a bunch of wins this season. She’s fantastic and the real deal.
Quinn: Not sure which magazine (s) would label a rookie as a superstar, but I have my suspicions. Certainly what she has achieved, and how she approaches and plays the game, has already made her a star attraction on the Seoul Train. But until she wins big events she’s not a superstar and a few overzealous or jingoistic writers/editors won’t put any pressure on a player of her age. Doubt any of those outlets are on her reading list anyway.
Kaplan: Nonsense! It’s about time Canada had a golf superstar! Brooke is an old soul with electrifying talent. She may only be 18, but she is incredibly mature for her age and does not come off as the type that buckles under pressure. Get used to seeing ‘Brooke M. Henderson’ atop that leaderboard!
Mumford: Everybody seems to have a different definition of superstar. Brooke is just 18 and has barely more than a year on the LPGA Tour. One victory, a Top 10 World ranking and a bunch of top 10 finishes is a great start to a career – phenomenal in fact. But if superstar is the ultimate accolade in sport, how can you compare Brooke’s accomplishments with Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Cristie Kerr, even Lydia Ko, who have multiple wins, majors and potential Hall of Fame credentials? Brooke looks like she’s starting on a path to superstardom but she’s not there yet – not even close.