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.
Brooke Henderson finished T5 at the U.S. Women’s Open this past weekend, her second top 5 in an LPGA major this year. The money she won moves her beyond the threshold likely required to gain LPGA Tour status for next season. Should Commissioner Mike Whan throw in the towel now and just grant her full status for the balance of the season or stick to his “18 years of age or a win” criteria?
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Brooke’s play – though FOX couldn’t find her on the course – certainly knocked the John Deere off my watch list. She has accomplished a seemingly impossible mission, within the rules, and that should be celebrated (along with getting her father off the bag and passing on a couple of rounds with Lorie). She’s in the rest of the Majors plus the railroad open so that’s one heck of year for any 17-year old. Done and done. Here’s to a year to remember and to her 2016 pro debut.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think he should stick to his guns. To give in now would seem very weak and inconsistent, in fact even punitive, to have given Brooke the stiff arm for so long, then to give in with a shrug. However, with more and more young players like Brooke coming along, who are capable of playing the professional game at 15, 16, 17 years of age, I think the LPGA Board should reconsider this policy at its next Annual Meeting.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): If I were Mike Whan I would grant her full status now because she has clearly shown she belongs as evidenced by her results and position on the money list. I’d also want to take advantage of her marketability. Treat her like a star – the LPGA Tour needs this kind of marketability. And I’d do it now because I wouldn’t want the risk of her potentially holding a grudge against the Tour in future years. Here is some proof: one event (that gave her a sponsor exemption) went so far as to print Brooke on their posters/tickets and other promotional materials earlier this year. She wasn’t even a Tour member but they rolled out the red carpet. Isn’t that how you treat someone if you want them to come back to your event, or in this case reciprocate the love back to the Tour?
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It probably doesn’t matter now. She’ll be 18 in a couple of months and still has two exemptions left (British Open, CP Canadian Women’s Open). Granting her immediate full LPGA Tour status would ease the schedule a bit so she can stop Monday qualifying and bouncing down to the Symetra Tour. Either way it’s been a remarkable season.
Dave Kaplan, Fairways Magazine (@davykap): Whan’s 18 and over rule is stupid. It’s not like it’s the NBA. Brooke deserved to be on the LPGA tour when the season began and keeps proving it. Let her play already!
Jordan Spieth won the John Deere Classic, silencing some of the critics who felt he should have been in Scotland getting acclimatized to links golf and the time difference. Rickie Fowler won the Scottish Open, while still other favourites took the week off. The Old Course is expected to play a bit softer than usual due to recent wet weather. Is there an odds-on favourite to win or is this a wide open Open?
Loughry: It’s a crime that it’s a bit soft because there’s nothing like a firm and fast Open Championship with sprinkles of rain just to annoy some of the players. I do believe this one is OPEN. The only sure thing is Rory will not defend the title, poor lad.
Mumford: Even the years when Tiger Woods was a prohibitive favourite, all Open Championships seem to bring a horde of unknowns to the fore and some even win – Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis to name a couple. However, this year, I think the winner will emerge from the group of front-runners – at least a dozen players with solid credentials who are playing well: Spieth, Fowler, Johnson and Johnson, Kuchar, Oosthuizen, Rose, Walker, Stenson and Watson. That’s Bubba, not Tom, although nobody should be surprised if the five-time winner doesn’t have a few good shots left in his swan-song appearance. And then there are the forgotten: Woods and Mickelson. Either would be a good bet.
Kaplan: I think Spieth is still the odds on favourite to take it all, despite winning this past weekend in a playoff. Augusta was playing wet and he went wire to wire there. He should still have plenty in the tank. Grand Salami time!
Deeks: I’m in the middle of playing in Scotland right now, and while the courses aren’t exactly parkland, there’s no question they’re not running as hard as they usually do. So one might think that might give American players more of a leg-up than usual. But what I love about the Open is that it always seems to be more wide open than the US Majors… anyone can have a chance, and often does, although the winner at the end of the weekend usually is one of the game’s bona fide stars.
Quinn: The punters help make the odds by making strange wagers — i.e. Eldrick is 20-1. But as we’ve all said around this table, there are so many great players in this mini-era that all the tourneys — especially the Majors, despite Spieth’s phenomenal play — are wider open than ever. How can anyone not think that alongside Spieth (the 9 to 2 favourite) that Dustin, Rickie, Rose, Oosty, Stenson, Walker, a guy like Koepka, and a dozen others all have a great chance. I think there’s a good possibility that the champion golfer of the year will be someone not among the Top 10 so-called favourites.
Who’s your pick to win the Open Championship?
Quinn: My 1a and 1b entry is Sir Nick and Sandy Lyle at 2,500 to 1 (will Sandy wave from the bridge and stop cluttering up the field in our lifetime?). It would be wonderful to witness history with a Spieth win, but the odds are so long against it. Based on his recent play, well-rounded game, approach and good health, I like the line on Paul Casey at 33-1.
Loughry: This one is a bit of a stretch but I’m going with Louis Oosthuizen. He killed it in 2010, and he’s playing well right now. And, lastly I’m a believer in courses for horses, and this horse likes this track.
Deeks: I hate to be pedestrian and predictable, but I’m going with Spieth, and I think it would be a great story. His game, maturity, and confidence level seem to be as high as Tiger’s was 15 years ago, and he’s so much more likeable. Next pick… Justin Rose. Dark horse… Hideki Matsuyama.
Kaplan: If not Jordan, I like Louis Oosthuizen. He won last time the Open was at St. Andrews and he showed up at Chambers Bay. When he’s on, he is as good as Rory and Spieth.
Mumford: Tough to bet against Spieth when he’s playing so well but, as much as I’d like to see him grab the next leg of the Grand Slam, I don’t think it will happen. My pick is Matt Kuchar. He almost got it done last week in Gullane and is way overdue for a big win. He’s been a human ATM for ten years but it’s time to kick it up a notch and win a major. (Long shot: Tiger Woods. He doesn’t even need a driver and the rest of his game is solid. Plus he has a couple of good experiences on the Old Course to draw on).