The world waits while Sergio gets a ruling
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 Evian Championship, which is billed as the fifth major on the LPGA Tour, was shortened to 54 holes last week due to inclement weather. If it’s a major, shouldn’t tournament organizers do everything possible to play all 72 holes? And while we’re discussing majors, do the LPGA Tour and the PGA Champions Tour need 5 majors each?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think anybody (including me) really cares if any tournament, including a major, is shortened by one round. Is anybody other than Anna Nordqvist gonna remember this two years from now? That said, there were a bunch of commentators on the Golf Channel the other night that were almost violent in their objection that the LPGA wasn’t insisting on 72 holes. C’mon, guys, it’s a GOLF TOURNAMENT, for heaven’s sake… not the Paris Peace Talks. As for five majors, again, I don’t really care but for the sake of convention and history and easy categorization, four seems like a better and more consistent number for all Tours.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I did find it interesting that they didn’t even attempt to get 72 holes in, despite the one round being affected by weather was the first round! That gives them three days to make up one round, surely that could have been accommodated. And if not, maybe it stretches into Monday. It definitely takes something away from the tournament that is already a bit of an after-thought to North Americans when you think of LPGA Majors. And no, they don’t need five majors. If they need to give more importance to another tourney, maybe they need to experiment with a WGC style rota of tournaments like the PGA Tour.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): The LPGA Tour really screwed this one up, in my opinion. There was no need to cancel the first round and restart the tournament the following day. It certainly rained hard there on Thursday and I can understand the circuit’s apprehension about finishing the tournament by Monday. However, the forecast showed pretty good weather for the rest of the week and it seemed like the ladies could have easily been fully caught up by the end of Saturday if they had played as much golf as possible over the next two days. As for five majors in a season … I’m all for it! These circuits are not the PGA Tour and need all the publicity that they can possibly get. So, I’ve got no issue with them having an additional major each year.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Well, it’s not really a ‘Major’ – just an event with a sponsor willing to pay for a ‘major’ designation. It was hailing during the playoff, so no players, or spectators, wanted to be out there for another day. September in the Alps is not exactly prime time for golf but that’s where the Evian money flows. (At least it sounds better than the old Wheatabix British Open.) Yes, those Tours need the fivesomes because they need every penny, or franc, they can get to stay alive.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I think all majors should be played out as intended, even if it takes until Tuesday. Majors are supposed to have increased importance both currently and historically. That said, there seems to be a penchant by Tour organizers to add more majors to attract sponsors, fans and media attention. To me, a major becomes a major based on the history of the event, not on the whims of the current Commissioner. Four should be enough. Any more starts to dilute their significance.
Fresh on the heels of Jordan Spieth’s epic delay of game incident at this year’s Open Championship, Sergio Garcia shut down Conway Farms for nearly 30 minutes to get a ruling and play his third shot to the 18th hole during the final round of the BMW Championship. Are you OK with this or should there be a time limit?
Deeks: I didn’t see this and I’m sure I would’ve been yelling at the TV to speed it up if I had been watching, but I’m not sure you can fault the player, or impose a time limit — especially if the rules official isn’t nearby or needs to check with his colleagues. Broadcasters may not care, because it gives them more commercial time… mind you, it may also mean viewers changing channels because nothing is happening on the golf course.
Rule: I hate slow play, which is why I struggle watching Ben Crane, Jim Furyk or Kevin Na play, and why Danny Lee became my new favourite player when I saw him at the Canadian Open, so any ruling that takes more than five minutes is a bit frustrating to me. I get that it meant a lot to him in terms of getting into East Lake, but there needs to be some sort of time constraint for situations like that in my mind. Problem is that I don’t have the solution because rules are rules, and in every instance, they need to get it right.
Kaplan: I actually kind of like these bizarre lengthy delays. Not only are they fascinating, but they also seem to go viral immediately. I can’t even tell you how many text messages I got on Sunday from non-golfer friends who were watching the broadcast at the time. Some of them had no idea who Sergio Garcia was, most of them had never heard of the FedEx Cup … but the important thing is that they were watching golf on a Sunday afternoon with so many other options, including the NFL, on television. Don’t get me wrong … I despise slow play. DESPISE IT! If you are in the group in front of me and you take a half hour to drop your ball, you can bet that you are going to hear about it from me! However, if a rare incident like this at the pro level causes non-golfers to tune in, then I have no problem with it.
Quinn: The problem with the Spieth and now the Sergio rules telethons were the officials. They were right there both times, and dithered rather than decided. They were even in radio contact with other, supposedly more senior and knowledgeable, officials and neither cabal could make a call. The players tried to get every advantage — and they clearly did — and the officials should have granted those advantages in minutes not in a half hour. Any time limit would be on the officials, and that would be a good thing.
Mumford: This must have been excruciating for everyone on the course – players, fans and officials – as everything ground to a halt while Sergio tried to cut himself a break. Give him credit for being creative but the Rules official probably should have said, “Nobody in their right mind would ever hit the shot you want to try so you’re not getting any relief. Period! Play on.” On the other hand, as a fan watching at home, I found it extremely entertaining and a welcome break to the relentless mathematical calculations that NBC produced after every shot.
The FedEx Cup final is shaping up exactly as the Tour would like to see it, with the best players in the world all with a chance to win both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup outright with a victory at East Lake on Sunday. Who’s your pick to win it all? And if your pick isn’t from amongst the Top 5, who can beat all of the math and steal the Cup from the leaders? In other words, who’s your long shot pick?
Deeks: I know it may be boring of me, but I’d like to see Jordan Spieth win it, more so than Justin, Dustin, or Jon Rahm. I could live with Marc Leishman as the winner, because he’s a nice guy, and he will have peaked at just the right time. My long shot pick would be Jason Dufner, because he’s last on the list, and would probably have to shoot four consecutive 60s to win it all.
Rule: It has certainly been the best playoffs to date and I’m looking forward to trying to catch some of the Tour Championship this weekend. It’s hard not to pick Spieth to win as he has the best mathematical chance, and he’s playing well, and he plays well in high stress scenarios. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win, but it’s nice that four other guys just have to win the tourney to win the $10 million prize! My long shot is Charley Hoffman, and it’s a really long shot since he’s 13th in the standings, so he needs a win and a lot of help! But he’s been a hard luck loser so many times this year, he’s due to win one, and it would be nice if this was the one.
Kaplan: I think wunderkind Jon Rahm is going to win it all because he is extremely overdue for another win at this point. Since his first career victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, the Spaniard has accrued eight Top 5 finishes including three straight over his last three starts. Plus, think of how amazing a story it would be if Rahm won the FedEx Cup in his rookie season. As for dark horses this week, I’m going with Pat Perez. The 41-year-old finally made the Tour Championship this year after 11 seasons of failed attempts and I just have a feeling that he’s going to play extremely well this week. However, even if Perez wins the Tour Championship outright, it still doesn’t necessarily guarantee him the FedEx Cup. He will also need a lot of luck to fall his way, including Spieth finishing in 6th place or worse, Thomas finishing in 4th or worse, and DJ finishing in 3rd or worse. Crazier things have happened in the past at East Lake, but I’m still not going to hold my breath!
Quinn: I still don’t like all the convoluted math that dictates – before the first ball is struck between the Coca-Cola tee markers – if a top five guy wins, he’s the overall champ. Sure, the run of the so-called ‘playoffs’ has to count for something, but Rory won it last year from ‘way back in 6th’ only because DJ screwed up. Only redeeming factors of the whole FedEx fandango are that we get to look at some very good courses and some excellent golf. The points system is ill-conceived and unfathomable, and the prize money obscene. That said, it would be nice to see Leishman win it, as he’s playing the best in the world right now. Though I wouldn’t mind seeing long shot Rose win from way, way back in 8th either.
Mumford: I’m with the majority here and will pick Spieth to win. He has the edge in points for sure but more importantly, he seems to rise to the occasion more than any other player on Tour. Lee Trevino always said he could find something extra when he was up against Jack Nicklaus and proved it with five wins in majors where Jack came second. Spieth seems to have that extra gear too and whether it’s Justin Thomas or Dustin Johnson, he plays best when he has a head to head match against an imagined foe. For a long shot I’ll go with Matt Kuchar. The math is against him to win the FedEx Cup but he could upset the process with a Tour Championship victory.