Baltusrol, P.O.Y. and events that matter

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.

Jimmy Walker’s win at the PGA Championship makes it four first time Major winners this year. While the so-called Big 3 (Day, Spieth, McIlroy) didn’t collect any major trophies, several players elevated themselves into that elite group with statement type wins (Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson). Who would be your pick for Player of the Year?

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Tough one this year, since nobody dominated like Spieth did last year.  So we have to dig into the stats.  Upon first look, it seems like Jason Day should win.  He led the tour in wins, money, FedEx points (does anyone care about this stat other than FedEx?), strokes gained total, had 3 top 10s in majors, won the 5th major (Players), and other than one MC, his worst finish was T27.  Pretty solid year.  But somehow I think DJ will win it this year, simply because he won a major.  And his stats weren’t bad either, just behind Day in many.  It will be a close vote, but I would have to lead towards DJ at this time.

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Henrik Stenson would be my choice, with DJ a very close second.  That single final round performance at Royal Troon has to be considered one of the great championship-winning rounds of all time, in any tournament.  DJ’s ability to tune out the rules distraction was admirable, but not as electrifying as Stenson’s 18-hole tour de force.  And in overall, 7-month performance (to date), I don’t think anyone else has stood out above Stenson.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): There should be only two players in the POY conversation: Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. Both have had tremendous seasons with multiple wins and many more Top 10’s. Normally I’d say a Major trumps everything else but Day leads in almost every statistical category including money and FedEx Cup points, has one more win than DJ and has maintained the World No 1 ranking all year. The playoffs could still tip the balance either way but if I had to vote today, I’d choose Jason Day.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The early money was on Smylie Kaufman, but I’m now betting on Jason Day. Stenson and Phil should be co-winners for their other-worldly final round for the ages at The Open. But at this stage of the truncated Tour, Day has three serious wins — Bay Hill, WGC Match Play, and The Players Championship — should have won the PGA Championship, and leads both the money list and that goofy FedEx points thingy. Baltusrol should put a plaque in the 18th fairway where Day creased that 252-yard uphill 2 iron to 12 feet to set up that amazing eagle finish. After the Rio Circus, it will be fun to watch Day and DJ the rest of the way.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I still think Jason Day leads the way for Player of the Year even without a Major. He has 3 wins so far, that’s significant in my mind, and we’re not quite done yet.  A very close 2nd would be DJ.

Frank Mastroianni, Canadian Golf Magazine (@frank_mastro): Whoa, we’ve just stumbled into August and we’re talking player of the year? I think Dustin Johnson has a pretty good stranglehold on POY. With a major, a WGC, 12 top 10’s and 15 top 25’s in 18 events played, that’s going to be hard to beat.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap):  I think it’s a little early still to be making this call with the FedEx and Ryder Cups yet to be played, but as of right now DJ is my pick for player of the year. He broke through for his first major, won a WGC event, ascended to 2nd in the world and did not miss a cut all season until last week at Baltusrol. Plus, he has brought over $7 million in earnings home to Paulina with a good chance of bringing home $10 million more in September

What was your take on the PGA Championship? 

Loughry: PGA Championship rapid fire: we got the right champion, Walker is a VERY talented underrated player, I did NOT like the lift, clean and place in a MAJOR Championship, the first time in history, ball in hand is/was not necessary, you can always find a spot without casual water to play from. I felt like this Major was the least entertaining of the 4, but they followed a very tough act with The Open.

Deeks: When all is said and done, all that will be remembered is that Jimmy Walker won.  He’s certainly a cut or two above Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem, but to me, he’s a typical 2nd-tier player who wins the PGA for his only career major.  He played a great tournament, but I think he’ll only be an obscure footnote in golf history, 50 years from now.

Mastroianni: I couldn’t get myself to care for the PGA Championship outside of the back 9 Sunday just to see who wins. It was way too close to The Open Championship with our own Canadian Open sandwiched between. The course (on television) has always been uninspiring, rain caused havoc with the scheduling and the whole thing turned into a mud fest. I think the PGA Championship needs a date change and I think it needs to go somewhere between The Masters and U.S. Open. It’s an anti-climatic way to end golf’s major season to me.

Quinn: The PGA Championship is unfailingly entertaining, and thanks to Day, this was another fine one. Unlike the penal USGA that has embarrassed itself the past two Opens and many before, the PGA sets up courses for our viewing pleasure. The back-to-back finishing par 5’s at Baltusrol were the perfect stage for final round drama. Had Day’s birdie putt dropped on 17, it would have been a PGA Championship classic despite the weather.

Mumford: Baltusrol is an abysmal championship course. It’s totally one dimensional, is so long and punishing that the players have to play defensively all day long and the only reasonable chance to be aggressive is two par 5’s at the very end when any lead might be too large to overcome. This year’s version of the final major came so hard on the heels of the Open (and the RBC Canadian Open) that there was no time to build any anticipation. Combine that with the soggy conditions, the rain delays and the fact that it is the 4th Major by a wide margin and this tournament had about as much appeal as one of those Sunday afternoons long ago, when your parents would say, “C’mon kids, we’re going for a drive.” So many better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, both then and now.

Rule: The PGA kind of snuck up given the condensed schedule, so I wasn’t really ready for another major, and I barely think of that tournament as a major anyway. So I wasn’t too excited about it, although I did watch more than most years. The course was made less interesting with all the rain, guys being able to throw darts all over the place.  Really I can take or leave the PGA Championship. If they moved it to earlier in the season, that  would make me care a bit more. Hard to get excited about this tournament after the Open Championship. Great to see Jimmy Walker win though; he’s an easy guy to like and cheer for.

Kaplan: I have no qualms with Walker winning the PGA Championship but I was shocked that he hit a three wood on that final fairway. What was he thinking!? All he had to do was hit an easy lay up and a wedge to a couple feet, but, for whatever reason, Walker decided to go for the green and had to make a 30-foot two-putt for the win.  It worked, so I guess it doesn’t matter now … but at the time, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

Now that the Olympics are nearly upon us and with nothing much else to watch for the next three weeks, are you eagerly anticipating the golf events in Rio?

Deeks: Not anticipating, and certainly not eagerly.  The missing players have put a damper on my excitement.  That said, I’ll definitely be watching and cheering as Brooke Henderson wins the women’s gold medal!

Rule: I have hardly thought about the actual golf tournament in Rio although I’m sure I’ll tune in.  I’m excited to see the golf course, given all the challenges Gil Hanse and his team had to endure to get it built.  It looks like a neat design on a boring property, and I hope it plays well.  Of course with Brooke standing a very good chance of medalling, I’ll be following the women’s competition closer than the men’s!

Loughry: I think the Olympics will be well watched globally. I’m pretty pumped to see what Canada can do (both men and woman). And to see the golf course and how it plays, I’ve only seen a few pictures. Rumour has it Mr. Ian Andrews buried a loonie under the 18th green. I hope it brings us some luck.

Mastroianni: I’m probably going to pull a McIlroy and only watch the sports that matter…golf is not one of them. Before it was in the Olympics, I thought it should be, but now that it is, I realize it shouldn’t, and it has nothing to do with the fact that most top names have pulled out. Sure, if Canada is up there with a chance to win a medal I’m always cheering on our athletes, but let’s be real, golf has no business in the games. Then again, I think the IOC has no business in them either.

Kaplan: With so little good golf on television this month, I am going to take the time to address the many aspects of my golf game that I have neglected to this point in the season.  However, I am excited to see golf’s return to the Olympics.  I don’t care that some of the big names aren’t going to be there.  They are playing for the first gold medal in the sport in over a hundred years! It’s going to be intense!

Mumford: I’m on record as not being in favour of golf in the Olympics. The revised PGA Tour schedule to accommodate the Olympics has been and will continue to be a mess; too many elite male players have bailed on Rio; the tournament format is all wrong and doesn’t even contain a team component; Brazil is economically in shambles; the Olympic venue is fraught with all kinds of real and perceived dangers; and ultimately, Rio is a disaster waiting to happen. That said, I love the Olympics and will watch some events that matter and some that don’t, including both the men’s and women’s golf.

Quinn: I’m with Rory. I’ll watch the events that matter.

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