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.
It appears that men’s pro golf will feature an elite group of players such as Spieth, McIlroy, Day and Fowler for many years to come. Is it better for fans to have one player dominating as when Tiger Woods was at his peak or a Fab 4 leading the charge?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I personally found the Tiger Era quite boring when it became obvious that he was clearly Number One, and all the others were either not good enough, or not courageous enough to challenge him. So a Fab 4, assuming they can all keep snapping at each others’ heels, would be much more interesting in the years ahead.
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: I like to see a few players in tip top shape fighting for that number one spot as they are now. Apart from that, the current crop includes four very different characters if we’re looking at Spieth, McIlroy, Fowler and Day. Really gives everyone someone to root for.
Jim Kenesky, Kenesky Murray Golf Services (@JimKeneskyGolf): Having four elite stars is great for golf. It means that nearly every European or PGA Tour event we’ll see the likes of these four. The secondary group from 5 to 10 in the World are not too shabby in their own right. I believe the impact will be that more events will feature a star player or two. The communities will be a buzz and spectators will arrive in bunches. It’s much better than the time of Tiger… If he didn’t play, your event was second class.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The casual golf fan probably relates better to one dominant player but I think most avid fans (and Fairways readers) prefer a group of contenders all trying to beat each other from week to week. There are so many more stories and rivalries that can develop out of a group of elite players. The fact that the current group is so young and there is another group of youngsters hot on their heels means this could be the pattern for the next fifteen years.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): I think of this like WWE, you pick one you most identify with and cheer for him with friendly rivals and you have some major golf markets represented globally, so I see this as a good thing. Spieth clean cut wholesome American kid, Fowler oozes new flashy cool, McIlroy the goofy fun loving player but Great Britain and Euro favourite, and Day representing more of a blue collar crowd and southern hemisphere. They all have good traits.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Watching Tiger dominate the field for the better part of a decade was incredible to watch, but unless it was a major it was not must see TV. Tiger would be leading by so much heading into Sundays that there was practically no compelling reason to watch, unless you enjoyed watching fields of players get creamed by the same person week in/week out. With the new ‘Fab 4’, (although I am not willing to stick Fowler in there just yet), it is a toss-up. Sure, Spieth is currently the favourite to win each week, but McIlroy, Day, and Fowler — hell, even Bubba and DJ to a somewhat lesser extent — are all good enough to be in contention every single week.
Rickie Fowler went head to head with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi and came out on top. Presumably he needs a major to be considered part of a Big 4. Would you pick Rickie to win one of them this year?
Kenesky: Yes. It’s going to be tough for him yet fun for us to watch. I like him at the Open Championship.
Loughry: Geesh, I’d like to pick him, but I don’t think his talent level is quite that of the other 3. His putter goes colder more frequently than the other 3. I wouldn’t pick him to win a Major this year, but I’d also like to see him prove me wrong.
Kaplan: I do not think he will win one this year just because the competition is so tight. I expect all four majors to be split between the Big 3. Here’s my prediction: Spieth will win the Masters and the PGA Championship, Day will be victorious at the US Open, and McIlroy will hoist the Claret Jug.
Deeks: Yes, any one of the majors would do, but I’d really love to see him win at Royal Troon.
Mumford: I’d say Fowler is ready to win a major but I’m hard-pressed to figure out when and where the Big 3 will falter. Also, you can’t forget about a resurgent Phil Mickelson. He looked awfully good on Sunday with his driver under control.
Mastroianni: I would have picked Rickie to win a major two years ago so no question now. I always felt Rickie lacks a certain focus to be really great. But maybe something has ignited the flame. I don’t thin he’s going to win The Masters, but I think he has a fair chance at the other three venues (Oakmont, Royal Troon and Baltusrol).
Jason Dufner made a spectacular escape on the 17th hole at PGA West on Sunday. Does his shot rank up there with some of the most amazing ever and what is the best you ever saw?
Loughry: That was pretty impressive. That shot hit too much flagstick not to drop into the hole. It certainly cracks my top 10. The best shot, and I know I’m not alone, is the 6 iron from Tiger out of the bunker on No 18 at Glen Abbey. That was simply RIDICULOUS! If you have never been there and you get the chance, step in that bunker and look at what he was facing (and do yourself a favour, don’t even try to hit the shot). A close second is another Tiger shot, the chip on 16 in the 2005 Masters that dripped into the hole – that was simply absurd.
Deeks: Two stick out in my mind… Tiger’s bunker shot on 18 at Glen Abbey, and Tiger’s 200-yard sand wedge (from out of a forest) at a tournament I’ve since forgotten. And an uphill shot from deep rough with a 4-wood to one foot, from 210 yards away, that I executed in a previous century. Thank you for asking!
Kenesky: Where do I start. First great shot I remember watching was Larry Mize at the 1987 Masters. Then there’s the Gamez hole out at Bay Hill. Craig Parry Hole out in playoff at Doral. How about the Jonathan Byrd ace in a playoff? I’m still amazed at Tiger’s bunker shot at Glen Abbey. The Bill Haas escape from the water was remarkable to win the FedEx Cup. So many more I can’t put them all in here. Dufner’s was cool, but hard to put in my top shots.
Mastroianni: I didn’t think there was anything spectacular about Jason Dufner’s chip at the 17th on Sunday. The fact that the ball stayed there and was playable was spectacular, that he hit the shot he did was just pretty good. I didn’t see it as much more than a regular chip shot that hit the flagstick and didn’t go in down the stretch. When it comes to the most spectacular shot I’ve ever seen, I can’t really think of any. I’m not really ever blown away by any shot in particular as much as the circumstances with which they are pulled off. And in that case, as much as it pains me, I’ll always remember Tiger’s chip shot on 16 at Augusta with the Nike logo dangling over the edge.
Kaplan: That shot was phenomenal, especially how he was able to get some check-up with that abbreviated back swing. I wouldn’t put it with the greatest shots of all time simply because it didn’t go in. The greatest shot I ever saw was Tiger’s flop-shot hole-out on the 14th at Memorial. Tiger was behind the green in the trampled down rough, short sided, and facing a green that rolled severely downhill away from him into water. With no room for error, Tiger hoisted the ball at least 30 feet into the air, landed it perfectly and watched it break right into the cup. My head exploded. I am still recovering from that to this day. (Click HERE if you want to see it again).
Mumford: Dufner’s shot was great TV but not quite Top 10 material. One of the best shots under pressure I ever saw was Y.E. Yang’s 3-hybrid to the 72nd hole in the 2009 PGA Championship to secure victory against Tiger Woods. But the all-time best has to be Tiger’s pitch on the 16th hole at Augusta in the 2005 Masters when the ball hung on the lip and showcased the Nike logo for a couple of seconds before dropping in and putting a dagger through Chris DiMarco’s heart. That alone was probably worth the $25 million a year that Nike reputedly paid to Woods.