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.
FOX Sports has reputedly turfed Greg Norman as their lead analyst for golf telecasts. What did you think of Norman’s performance so far and who would you like to see replace him?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I can’t imagine that Fox just all of a sudden dumped Greg without knowing definitively who his replacement will be. Everything points to Azinger, and that’s just fine by me. I thought Norman did a lousy job on the US Open… demonstrated by his statement “I don’t know what to say” when Dustin Johnson missed his three-footer to tie Jordan Spieth. You’re an analyst, Greg… you’re paid to say SOMTHING. Mind you, most of what he did say the rest of the time was either self-centred or pro-Aussie. Azinger is smart, occasionally witty, and not overly talkative, so he’ll be a great choice. Brandel Chamblee would be terrific, but there’s no way Fox would have the courage to hire him. Has anybody ever thought of Nick Price??
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: I was neither here nor there when it came to Norman. If the news is true, I’d be happy to see more Johnny Miller. I know NBC has him locked up, but a guy can dream. Everybody gets their hate on for the man, but I’m a fan and I’ll resent the day Johnny and all his Millerisms disappear.
Jim Kenesky, PGA (@JimKeneskyGolf): If you didn’t watch much golf last year, you probably wouldn’t even have known Greg Norman was an analyst. However, I thought he was OK. Nothing more, nothing less. I would love to see Curtis Strange or Paul Azinger. Two of my favourite players growing up and to this day I truly enjoy listening to what they have to say. Will be interesting to see who they bring in.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m sad to see Norman out at FOX but it’s understandable. He just didn’t fit the bill for a talking head. Usually, Norman is never at a loss for words and his opinions are insightful. Something in the FOX format didn’t work for him. Brandel Chamblee would be my preference for a replacement and while it might be tough to spring him from Golf Channel for a long run of telecasts, FOX only needs him a few weeks a year. Alternatively, I have a lot of time for Brad Faxon who is always prepared and not short on opinions. And third choice would be anybody but Paul Azinger. Zinger is just too American, too religious, too self righteous. Oh wait. He probably fits in perfectly at FOX.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Watching golf is excruciating when Koch and Miller and Rolfing attempt to have thoughts, but it was downright boring with Norman behind a mike. (At least he avoided mind-numbers like this one from Sunday’s round, not sure which announcer: “Snedeker hasn’t missed a fairway all day!” Sneds was playing the second hole.) But the Shark was toothless in not blasting the USGA for Chambers Bay, and his spouting of the party line while everything on the screen was high def evidence of the contrary, was embarrassing. He didn’t deserve a mulligan after that. Azinger is a lock to get the job, with Faxon mercifully a distant second.
Mathew MacKay, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTours): I’m not a big Norman fan to begin with but I was willing to give him a fair shake with respect to his debut with Fox at last year’s US Open, but he just wasn’t very good. He didn’t seem prepared and eager. I think he thought that just being Greg Norman was enough. I hope Fox taps Paul Azinger as his replacement.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): “I’m at a loss for words.” Just kidding. I wanted to give the Shark the benefit of the doubt and hoped he would improve after his dreadful debut at the US Open, but he did not get much better at the Franklin Templeton. I think that Norman thought he just needed to be himself for the broadcast and that would be enough so he skipped his homework and came off looking pretty amateurish in front of a gigantic audience. Suggestions: How about Bill Murray? He loves golf and he even showed a little bit of an affinity for the booth in that improvised garden scene in Caddyshack.
Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth go head to head this week in Abu Dhabi. Does McIlroy have to prove that he still belongs in the same class as Spieth?
MacKay: He does, and you can bet that he is fired up to prove that he is the best in world. I think Rory has more raw talent than Spieth and will be highly motivated this season. I cannot wait to see the inevitable final round pairing of these two at one or more of this season’s majors.
Mumford: McIlroy has nothing to prove but he likely feels he has a bit of catching up to do. Although he did win the Race to Dubai in November, that accomplishment slid under the radar in comparison to Spieth’s year. I suspect we may be looking at a Big 2 for some time to come if both Rory and Jordan can remain healthy.
Kaplan: I don’t think he does. Jordan, himself, has said in the recent past that he is not on Rory’s level just yet, but the Texan is super modest and is coming off the type of year that would make some Wall Street folks blush. To succeed at that level, you need to be uber confident. You don’t have to be a $!@# about it (ahem, Bubba), but you have to believe that you are right up there. Rory knows just how good he is. I don’t think he will struggle with any type of inferiority complex in the coming weeks.
Deeks: Maybe he does for those golf fans that have the patience and IQ of house flies. Not for me. I’ll be interested any time McIlroy and Spieth are in the same event, but I’m not going to assume that every time that happens, they’ll finish 1-2. Maybe people always expected or wanted Jack and Arnie to finish 1-2 in the early 60s, but it didn’t happen very often. I think Rory, Jordan, Jason and maybe Rickie are in their own class at the moment, and let’s hope it stays that way for a long time.
Mastroianni: If McIlroy has to prove he’s on the same level as Spieth, then I’m a sitting duck and you’re a fish in a barrel. If you don’t think that makes any sense, neither does McIlroy having anything to prove. I started to dislike McIlroy the instant he broke up with Caroline Wozniacki. Some said it was jealousy; I said they’re 100% right. But ever since Spieth’s come around, McIlroy has become my knight in shining armour. The only person who irks me more than Spieth on a golf course is Tiger Woods…so go McIlroy!
Quinn: It only takes one slow motion replay of Rory’s swing with a driver to prove that he belongs at the top of the game. It’s going to be a great duel — not necessarily just in the desert — for a long time, with a wonderful group of seconds standing at the ready should one of the lead duellists falter.
Kenesky: McIlroy got a little comfortable last year which resulted in him enjoying life a little and enjoying a mangled ankle. Spieth saw the door open and evidently slammed it in Rory’s face. I don’t think Rory has to prove he belongs. I sense Spieth has rattled his cage a little and now it’s lining up to be the next great rivalry in golf. I am going to say Spieth and Rory will separate themselves from the pack this year. With Tiger out of the mix, it’s great to see such a hungry young group of players making their mark. Chalk one up for Golf.
Zac Blair has a pre-shot routine that includes happy feet, twitchy shoulders and something weird he does with his middle that’s hard to describe. Given that he has some pretty stiff competition from the likes of Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia and others, whose twitchiness is hardest for you to watch?
Kaplan: Keegan drives me nuts. That hesitation is awful, but Sergio Garcia’s pre shot routine has made its way into the routines of amateur golfers. Playing with one of those guys that spends a full minute over the ball (every single shot!) re-gripping before finally hitting it is torture … and I blame Sergio.
Quinn: Blair earned a few OMGs from the non-golfing casual observers Sunday, followed by laughs. But Na’s challenge was really no laughing matter. Sports Illustrated’s Al Shipnuck has a brilliant profile in the Jan 18th issue that gets to the heart of Na’s inner demons. Watching his 16 on the par 4 in San Antonio was agony. The story behind it and how he survived it is inspiring.
Deeks: All of the above. They should all be forced to watch Brandt Snedeker who just gets up to address, looks to the target and back to the ball, and hits it. Four seconds. Awesome.
MacKay: Gotta be Keegan. The sheer intensity of his spasms and repeated attempts to address the ball one final time are just too much to handle. I gotta hand it to Mr. Blair, he may be the first to have a full on waggle routine over the putter!
Kenesky: OMG Bradley and Na are painstaking. Can’t stand it when they’re in contention. Nice thing is Bradley hasn’t been a factor for a while. Na is dreadful. Period. Nothing against their talents, I just find them unwatchable. Bubba and Sergio are fine from my point of view. Ben Crane was nasty a few years ago and I have a hard time watching Jim Furyk’s putting routine. The broadcasters have learned his ways and we don’t see much of his putting routine anymore. But the last time I saw him at the RBC Canadian Open, it was awful to watch.
Mastroianni: Blair’s two-step pales in comparison to what’s regularly going on in my mind even though I try to keep it bottled inside. I think if I could show it the way Blair, Bradley, Watson, etc. do, I might actually be able to play some decent golf. I’d rather people express their intricate intricacies outwardly than bottle them up and become half the players they used to be. I’ll gladly watch Sergio Garcia strangle his 9-iron 15 times if it means getting back to the player he once was and potentially could be. Heck, Na’s ability to stop his swing as if he’s having a seizure without throwing out a hip might be the most entertaining thing to happen on Tour all year. And speaking of Keegan Bradley, I’d love to see old man Miguel take him out with one hand while bouncing ping pong balls off his caddie’s forehead with the other.
Mumford: Annika Sorenstam used to talk about drawing an imaginary line behind the ball. It represented the divide between THINK and PLAY. Once she stepped over the line to address the ball, all she was focused on was executing the shot. It’s unfathomable to me what goes through the minds of these twitchy players at address. Must be as excruciating for them to endure as it is for us to watch. I think Garcia is the worst because he comes up with new stall tactics all the time which catches you off guard. At least with the others you know what to expect and you can go for a beer while they twitch.