Another first time major winner at The Open?
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.
The American golf media is in a bit of bother after South Korean women took 8 of the top 10 spots at the U.S. Women’s Open. Is this a problem or does the rest of the golfing world, especially the Americans, have to start paying more attention to the things that the South Koreans are doing to produce winners?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): No question the American women’s golf establishment needs to take a good hard look at where they are, and what they need to do to improve. If they don’t, American women will fall further behind, there will be fewer and fewer role models to encourage young girls, and it’ll be a slow downward spiral. Recreational golf will never die, but American women’s tournaments might, if things don’t turnaround pretty soon.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I don’t think it is a problem at all. The South Koreans are the top-dogs in women’s golf and the rest of the world should be studying and emulating the methods that the teachers over there are using to produce golfers of this calibre. On a side note, that performance by 17-year-old amateur Hye Jin Choi was just sensational and made for some very exciting television. It’s really a shame that she dunked her tee shot in the water on 16. Otherwise, I think she had it in the bag. Either way, I think that we’ll be seeing much more of her in the near future.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It is remarkable that the Korean women are dominating as much as they are. What is more astounding is that the men have barely made a dent in the PGA Tour. So I’m not sure what the women are doing differently, whether they have more funding from the government, or there is more opportunity for women to play, but whatever they are doing, other countries need to take notice and find a way to catch up!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It was mind numbing to watch the weekend rounds of shot after shot by South Korean twosomes after twosomes. The painfully voluble Azinger went early to his Thesaurus and came up with ‘stoic’ to describe totally lacking in personality and/or charm. He used it a lot. Who cares about the U.S. media. It’s the US TV audience that the LPGA Tour should be worried about. That wasn’t entertainment unless you’re a big fan of the SK Tour. FOX ratings must be record lows, and that’s not just because of Azinger and the stunningly un-insightful Inkster. All the top sponsorships will soon be Asian, and all the big money events will be played in SK and China. It would take a cultural tsunami to transform America junior golf into anything vaguely rivalling SK’s golfer factory, and that ain’t happening. Once the Seoul-centric transformation is complete, perhaps the US media will end its conceit and refer to the S. Koreans correctly — the surname comes first, as in Park Sung Hyun.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It may be a problem for the Americans but most of the rest of the world is already emulating what the South Koreans have been doing. It started with the Swedes and Australians in the 1990’s – that is take a comprehensive national training and coaching program and apply it to amateurs and professionals to give them consistent support. It helps them develop a team oriented philosophy. Even while they’re competing against each other, they’re also cheering for their team-mates. The Americans still rely on the individual survival of the fittest concept, which can breed great stars but not in great numbers. They need to wake up.
Bryson DeChambeau got his first PGA Tour win at the John Deere Classic on Sunday using his somewhat unusual swing and unorthodox set of clubs. The California native also has a distinctive style and bold personality to go with his golf game. It’s not universally appreciated. Are you a fan? And does the PGA Tour need a few more colourful characters that can also play at the elite level?
Deeks: Yes, golf needs more distinctive characters. If DeChambeau can be original, not obnoxious, and continue to speak with his clubs, he’ll be a welcome presence.
Kaplan: I love Bryson and I wish there were more guys like him on the circuit. He’s weird and quirky and gives great interviews. Sure, he’s a little over-confident, but how can you not be at that level? A constant knock on the kid is that he is overrated and unworthy of his own line of clubs with Cobra, despite the fact that he is only one of five guys in history to win both an NCAA Championship and a US Amateur. Hopefully, the haters cut him a little bit of slack now that he has finally won on the big boy tour.
Rule: The PGA Tour desperately needs colourful characters and perhaps DeChambeau can be that guy to add some interest into interviews and personal stories on tour. He is a different guy and is changing the way some people look at golf, both in terms of statistics and golf club design. I’m not sure you’ll see many guys switch to same length irons, but it certainly makes you think that there are other options.
Quinn: The PGA Tour has never been accused of having too many colourful characters, and not sure if DeChambeau qualifies. He’s different, wears a Hogan cap, and likes himself. Well, I guess that can pass for colourful on a Tour where winning a major barely got a grin out of Koepka and little wrist waves acknowledge applause for great shots. Not a big fan of his act. Would like to see a little Seve in Rahm, and maybe evidence of a pulse from DJ, and more than just orange shirts from Fowler. The youngest of the young guns haven’t shown any flair.
Mumford: I’m definitely a fan! DeChambeau was pretty outspoken and cocky for a rookie, even one with his pedigree but winning solves everything on the PGA Tour. I think we’d all like to see more players who are open and honest and not afraid to rock the boat. Agents and sponsors have made most players dull and predictable. Bryson is a welcome change.
First time winners have won the last seven majors. Does the trend continue this week at Royal Birkdale and if so, who’s your pick to win the Open Championship? If not, which former major winner will be hoisting the Claret Jug on Sunday?
Deeks: I was pretty impressed with Paddy Harrington’s play in Dundonald this past weekend. If not for a third round 79, he would’ve won. He’s always played well in the Open, so why not pull the genie out of the bottle this week? That said, I’d really like to see Jordan Spieth win the Open… which he might’ve done at St. Andrews two years if they hadn’t made him play 3 holes in a 50-mph gale, and record the score. Jordan’s a great player, but he needs majors to build a legacy.
Kaplan: As much as I want Andrew Beef Johnston to win this thing in front of his countrymen, I believe that the streak ends this Sunday with a Jordan Spieth victory.
Rule: I love the Open Championship, it’s my favourite major of the year, perhaps tied with the Masters, but I love watching golf on links courses, as much as I love playing them! But since the way the course plays is so dependant on weather, it’s not always a slam dunk that one of the favourites wins. It’s not unusual to see a Todd Hamilton or Ben Curtis win the Claret Jug. Birkdale is a tough track, especially if the wind is blowing. There is tons of trouble off the tee so I think the person that wins this week is the one that hits it best off the tee. But to answer the question, although The Open often generates out-of-nowhere winners, I think the trend of first time major winners ends, and I look for Justin Rose to re-create his magic from 1998 at Royal Birkdale, where he finished T-4 as a 17 year old.
Quinn: Although the Open Championship favours mature golfers more than the other three Majors, the line-up of potential first timers is impressive — Rahm, Leishman, Noren, Pieters, Casey — and Koepka, DJ, and Garcia haven’t played in a month. While it’s a safe bet that we won’t see anything to match the incredible Stenson — Phil duel of last July, I’d love to see a Rahm — Koepka showdown, with Rahm winning it very near the end. If it’s already a Major title holder who gets the jug, let it be Sergio’s wedding present.
Mumford: I do think the trend to first time winners will continue. Of the top 26 ranked players in the world (Mickelson is #26), 12 of them have won majors and 14 have not. The list of non-major winners is really impressive but two of them stand out for me: Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm. I believe the weather will be a huge factor and both of those guys are rocks. Not sure it will be a duel to rival Stenson / Mickelson but it should be entertaining. Edge to Rahm.