Close, not so close and a ball too far
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.
Danielle Kang edged Brooke Henderson at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to claim her first LPGA win and first major. Henderson gave it everything she had and left her eagle putt on the 72nd hole hanging on the lip. Does she walk away feeling good about her effort or is this a tournament she should have won?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I don’t think it’s fair to suggest Brooke “should have won”. No one should hang their head when their putt to tie hangs on the lip, and they shoot 5-under in the final round! Brooke didn’t quite have her very best on the back nine, when she needed it, but even her B+ game was nearly good enough. Plus, you have to give Danielle Kang full credit for reeling off four birdies in a row, in the heat of major competition, and never having won before. Sad as I was with Brooke’s near miss, I’d certainly say Kang deserved to win.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): She should definitely feel good about her week. It’s impossibly difficult to defend a major championship and Brooke did an excellent job. Plus, Kang made four consecutive birdies on the back nine to go up by three shots. The tournament really should have been over at that point. It’s really a testament to how great a player Henderson truly is that she was able to tie and almost overtake Kang on her final hole. Brooke hit only six fairways on the day and still shot a 66! That’s insane! We all know this is not going to be her last chance at a major title — far from it! She’s had four Top 10 finishes in her last seven major starts … and she’s not even 20 yet! I think she comes away from this runner up with only positive thoughts.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): She should absolutely be proud and happy with her performance last weekend. It’s so tough to win tournaments, let alone majors, and she played well on Sunday, so she certainly didn’t throw the tournament away. All credit to Kang for birdieing the 72nd hole to win. Would have been nice to see Brooke in another playoff! She’ll win her fair share of majors, but she should be very proud of this 2nd place finish.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It’s fair to say that she ‘could’ have won the alphabet soup trophy — KPMG LPGA PGA — but it’s not fair for anyone but her to say that she ‘should’ have won it. She played solid, at times brilliantly, didn’t blow a lead and had that eagle putt attempt had a tiny bit more energy, I would have bet on her in a playoff. She said all the right things after the round, but this will always hurt.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I think Brooke was really pumped to defend her title. She was well rested after taking a week off and was riding the momentum from her recent victory in Michigan. Then to be in the lead on the back nine on Sunday had to get her really believing the tournament was hers. It’s not like Brooke lost it – Danielle Kang made the birdies she needed to win. But for Brooke to come so close with her eagle putt on the 72nd hole – that’s a Greg Norman style ending. I believe she’s tough and will bounce back from it but she’s beyond being satisfied with a moral victory. I think this one stings for a while.
Kenny Perry recorded his 4th Senior Major by winning the U. S. Senior Open on the weekend. When combined with 14 PGA Tour victories (no majors), does that put him in the conversation for a World Golf Hall of Fame nomination?
Deeks: I suppose you could make the argument that it does, but to be honest, I wouldn’t really notice or care if Kenny was inducted. And years from, I’ll go to the WGHoF, wander through and see his name, and wonder “how the hell did Kenny Perry get in here?”
Kaplan: I think he falls just short of the nod. The criteria, based on the Fred Couples standard, is 15 total wins on the PGA Tour including a major victory (not Champions Tour majors) and, as mentioned, Perry only has 14 wins and zero majors. Don’t get me wrong — his four Champions Tour major wins are certainly impressive, as are his 11 PGA Tour wins after turning 40 years of age. However, I just don’t view him as an all-time great.
Rule: It’s so tough to consider someone a Hall of Famer because they dominated the Champions Tour. Is Bruce Fleisher a Hall of Famer? OK, maybe that’s a bit unfair. Perry’s numbers are actually pretty solid, and do certainly put him in the conversation, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test for me. No major championships on the main tour will hold him back from entering the hall in my opinion.
Quinn: The best thing KP has done in his golfing life, in my opinion, is build a very nice public course in his hometown of Franklin, Kentucky. Modestly called Kenny Perry’s Country Creek Golf Course, it is a little beaut. Perry’s main objective was to create something for his town that was top notch but affordable. And he did just that. Weekday fees are $32, $27 for juniors and seniors; weekends $37 and $32. Or you can pay annual dues of $1,175. Don’t care about the Senior Tour medals, or much about his Tour career, but he might get a nod in the HoF ‘Grow the Game’ category for his service to his community and the game.
Mumford: No, no and no! Nice career, especially all the PGA Tour wins after the age of 40, but Halls of Fame are for the best of their generation and Kenny is a rung or two below that group. As for the Champions Tour victories: also nice to have and a credit to his longevity but too many of the best in his peer group didn’t think enough of the senior circuit to get out of bed. No additional points for beating the likes of Duffy Waldorf and Kirk Triplett.
After the pros decimated Erin Hills in the U.S. Open, Golf.com editor Michael Bamberger suggested that the four majors implement a “Major” ball that would reduce max distance on drives to 300 yards in order to preserve the integrity of major championship courses and make par more meaningful. Good idea or is there a better way to halt the bomb-and-gouge barrage?
Deeks: No, I think it’s a dumb suggestion. It’s like suggesting they should put slow gas in the cars in the Indie 500 or F-1 because they go too fast. That said, they could dial back the ball for ALL PGA Tour tournaments, and that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. But that would be extremely controversial, and frankly, not worth considering. Like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.
Kaplan: I’ve got to admit, the idea of ball bifurcation intrigues me …but I think it needs to be tested at a regular season event first. If it ends up being a success, I am all for giving it a try.
Rule: I’m in favour of a max distance ball for all tour play in order to bring some of the classic courses back in the rotation, or at least not lose any more classic courses. Not sure restricting it to major championships makes sense though. They have been able to lengthen Augusta National enough to keep it relevant and a good championship test, and the British Open courses are protected by the elements, so the ball distance doesn’t really matter there. Really it’s just the other two majors, so I don’t see the point in changing the ball for those tournaments alone.
Quinn: I may have mentioned this before but it bears repeating. I asked Richard Helmstetter, the designer of the banned Callaway ERC driver among other formidable weapons, how the game’s classic courses could be defended against his type of technology? “Simple,” he replied. “Grow the rough.” That would be a lot simpler than facing off in court against all the ball manufacturers who are only in business because their ball is longer/straighter/softer than all the others, or so they say. Bifurcation, remember when that was golf’s buzz word? One coefficient of restitution (another term that lost its daily usage a while back) for amateurs, one for the pros? I liked that a lot, but it didn’t fly. One ball for the majors, one for the weekly sponsored events? Don’t like it. Never gonna happen.
Mumford: I’ve never been a fan of bifurcation when it comes to any piece of golf equipment. I think Bamberger has a point about the majors, however, it’s not about the ball – it’s about the courses. For too long, the PGA Tour and some of the majors have allowed players to bomb away with impunity. Accuracy off the tee has been sacrificed to let players make lots of birdies. The Erin Hills experiment was a nice try that went horribly wrong when the weather didn’t cooperate. They don’t need a new ball – they just need some really penal rough – not enough to make the course one-dimensional – but enough really bad stuff in strategic spots that it gets inside the players’ heads and puts more strategy back in the game.