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.
Lots of media chatter this week about Bubba’s 9th PGA Tour win over a strong field at Riviera elevating him to elite status alongside Rory, Jordan and company. With a couple more wins he’s also a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame. Do we tend to discount Bubba too much because of his quirky personality or does he get the credit he deserves?
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): Bubba deserves everything he gets. His poor attitude and dumb comments (plentiful) project his true persona. Look at all the incidents he’s been involved in (you only have to go back two weeks to find one and you don’t have to dig too far to find tons). Golf needs a villain and good news – there is no shortage right now with a few solid contenders. Let them jockey around for jerk of the week. Unfortunately, sometimes villains win.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Without a doubt Bubba’s personality makes it hard to warm to him, but his quirky game makes it doubly difficult. Not ever having been an ‘Ohh’ or ‘Ahh’ type of observer of the game just because it turns out alright, I’m more into watching the pro tracer of his wild approaches to greens and thinking: Say Wot? The TV guys keep saying he sees the shot. Sure enough – but it’s one that no one else sees. When it comes off, you think, OK he hit it 30 yards right and brought it back in, for no apparent reason. A five-yard right to left by say Hogan or Eldrick in his prime would suffice. And when it doesn’t come off, it makes even less sense. In sum, he’s not a pleasure to watch or listen to. The Hall? No matter what Mr. Player says, I definitely don’t have to go.
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: Everyone’s always looking to crown the next “elite” player; it’s like a disease. Bubba is talented and a dynamic player to watch, but I don’t think he’s an elite player — he lacks consistency and only tends to play well in the same places and on the same types of courses. But I don’t discount Bubba because of his quirky personality; I discount Bubba because he’s an ass. He said himself that he’s been fighting his character (flaws) for 11 years. When will everyone wake up to the fact that after all this time, maybe he’s fighting something that isn’t beatable? Maybe what he’s fighting is just…Bubba.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Yeah, ok, he’s a great player, he’s a lefty, he plays by feel, he holds the course record at Bushwood, but I still can’t like him. So it’s hard for me to admit that he’s in the elite field with Spieth or McIlroy, but it’s also hard to ignore his last few years, including two Masters titles. I wonder if he keeps the even year streak alive this year at Augusta. I wouldn’t bet against him. And if he wins a third green jacket, I suppose he’d have to be a Hall of Famer. Ugh!
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think there’s some truth in the question about discounting him because of his personality. He’s not particularly likeable, but of all the top players today, he may be the most exciting one to watch, and certainly the least predictable. He adds a lot to the game, but I’m not sure I’d put him in the same jar as Jordan, Jason, and Rory.
Jim Kenesky, Kenesky Murray Golf Services (@JimKeneskyGolf): I find Bubba very intriguing to watch. I also find him very tough to watch. His putting stroke seems so shaky and looks like he could miss a two-footer at any moment. However, that being said, he’s been one of the best at closing out a lead late on Sundays. He deserves a little more credit in my mind. No doubt he will be a Hall of Fame member in the future.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Bubba is his own travelling road show and whether it’s his creative shot-making, his astounding stumbles or his mouth, he commands a lot of attention – too much in my opinion. He’s in that category of players right behind the elite group – Big 3, Fab 4 or Gang of 8 – depending on how he’s playing. Bubba has shown he can perform on certain courses but fares poorly on others. He needs to play well everywhere before I’m ready to put him on the same pedestal as Spieth, McIlroy & Company.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think we do tend to discount him because of his personality, but in reality his stats are really quite good. In just over 10 seasons as a PGA Tour regular, Bubba has 9 wins and 13 second-place finishes. He has earned over $33 million and owns TWO green jackets. Also, many people seem to forget that he almost won the PGA Championship in 2010, when he got edged by the Germinator, Martin Kaymer, in a 3-hole playoff. But, I think one of the other reasons that precludes Bubba from the elite golfer discussion is his past poor performances at the US Open (with the exception of 2005) and the Open Championship. I always expect Spieth and McIlroy to contend in whatever major they are playing in, but with Watson I just don’t get that feeling unless he’s playing at Augusta National.
Adam Scott looked very good at Riviera although his second place finish could largely be blamed on a couple of three putts in the final round. Does Scott have enough confidence with the short putter to get back to the top of the world rankings and contend in majors this year?
Quinn: The replay of Scott’s opening seven holes at Riviera on Sunday were a highlight reel of short putter mastery. Then what happened? The Tour is better for having Scott rolling it well, and so I really hope he gets it going now that the Tour has left the poa annua behind for a while. I doubt the early Sunday burst — there were a couple of bombs that could have easily lipped out or missed — gave him enough confidence to override the three-jacks. It’s going to be tough.
Mastroianni: I’m not sure about Scott’s confidence with the short putter yet. If he keeps contending and wins one, I’d feel comfortable riding his odds in plenty of tournaments this year. If he keeps contending and is unable to pull out a win, I’m sure it will hurt his mindset substantially and I would find it hard for him not to blame it on the putter.
Rule: He’ll contend in some tournaments and maybe even majors this year, and all it will take is a hot week with the putter (anyone on tour is capable of that), and he’ll win something. But if it comes down to the wire and he’s in contention, it’s hard to think that his putting will win him a tourney, I’d be more inclined to think it will cost him a win or two down the stretch this year. He just doesn’t look comfortable enough yet, but hopefully that changes.
Deeks: All I can say is, I hope so. Adam is a cool guy, with a great swing, but he’s never achieved what seemed to be limitless potential a decade ago.
Kaplan: He did look very comfortable with it all week … and how about that downhill, speedy chip-in on 18! Yeah, why not?! Putting is all confidence. Aside from those few three-putts on Sunday, Scott had a very nice week with the short stick. If he can dwell on the good going forward, he has a good chance to contend, especially with that swing!
Mumford: Scott was a serviceable putter with the short stick before taking up the long one. If he’s at that level again, he’ll win tournaments but the record books don’t show a long list of major champions who were just so-so putters.
Loughry: Pretty solid showing for Adam. I heard at one point he made over 84 ft in putts in three holes. He’s pretty good with that thing, and I’m sure he’s gaining confidence. A Major win or even getting to #1 may be asking a little too much, but a Tour win is very possible. It’s the competition he has to face that’s the problem.
Kenesky: He is still one of the best ball strikers in the world. Though I have a feeling he won’t contend. It just seems that Rory, Spieth, Fowler, Bubba, Day, DJ and maybe even Mickelson will overtake him this year. Don’t get me wrong, Scott could have a great bounce back year. Not sure he’ll be in the mix come Sunday afternoon of a major though.
Tiger Woods’ camp made a little news this week by releasing a statement saying there was no timetable for his return. Most people wouldn’t have noticed. Has Tiger been eclipsed by the young stars or will his eventual return ignite another round of Tigermania?
Mumford: If Tiger can play at anything close to his former level, it will ignite a firestorm. His return alone will fuel a media circus but if he can’t contend that will quickly turn to obituaries for the man who used to be Tiger Woods. I don’t think the media or the fans can accept Tiger at anything but his best.
Rule: I can’t wait for Tigermania to return but it will certainly be muted, given the great stars the PGA Tour currently has dominating the headlines. Sadly, he is slowly becoming yesterday’s news. Say it ain’t so!
Loughry: When Tiger comes back, it will be Tigermania. He’s still the biggest draw in the game. People will want to see what happens – return to greatness or failure.
Mastroianni: Tiger who?
Kaplan: I prefer Tiger-hysteria because that’s really what it is! I promise you that he will be back and the world will once again go insane … far more insane than we already go for any of the new Big 3. I don’t care how good the rivalry between J-J-R is this year, Tiger’s return will overshadow it. All of his lunatic fans will come out of the brush and make absurd predictions about how well he is going to do wherever he plays. I expect Michael Wilbon to be driving that bus. The reality is that whether you love him or hate him (Frank, I’m looking your way), Tiger Woods moves the meter like no one else does in sports.
Kenny Perry complained that the Champions Tour, sorry, PGA Tour Champions, doesn’t get any respect, saying the media and fans treat it like a “freak show”. The next big name to join the Tour will be John Daly in May. Will Daly’s presence help the Tour or just add more weight to the freak show tag?
Kenesky: John Daly undoubtedly has the potential to draw viewers to the PGA Tour Champions. Will it give them respect? I don’t know. Quite frankly I enjoy watching the women’s golf with more interest than the PGA Tour Champions for the sole purpose of Brooke Henderson, Alena Sharp and the Olympic races going on. For me, when one of my childhood favourites is in contention, I will tune in. But the likes of Billy Andrade, Marco Dawson, Jeff Sluman, Lee Janzen, Scott Dunlap, Brandt Jobe, Jeff Maggert zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. So yes, I think John Daly will wake the viewers up.
Deeks: I don’t quite know what Kenny means by that statement, but adding John Daly to the mix will certainly conform to my definition of ‘freak show’. That said, he may well sell a few more tickets and bring a low-IQ demographic to that Tour, which I suppose is better than nothing.
Quinn: In all his years on the real Tour, I betcha’ not one solitary soul — besides his good ol’ buds from Kentucky — ever paid a dime to watch Kenny Perry’s two piece swing and one-dimensional game that made him millions. Now, as an ego-inflated, big gutted 55-year-old he’s griping like an octogenarian who needs a couple of bucks to make it through the weekend. Guys like Perry need a slap up the head to remind them that what they do is of absolutely no importance, that it is in no way worthy of respect, that the media and all others ignoring the seniors’ three-day outings are acting intelligently. If Daly, whose autobiography left not a scintilla of doubt that he deserves no one’s respect, were standing beside Perry as he delivered his whinge it would make no difference.
Loughry: Well Kenny, get over it, you old fart. I don’t see a Senior Circuit for tennis, or car racing, football, basketball, hockey, or baseball. Thank your lucky stars you’re even making a living in your senior days. The fact that 99% of the population doesn’t care about that Tour is understandable. Daly won’t really move the needle, that Tour is irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the guys I grew up with play but I just don’t find it entertaining enough to follow regularly. If it weren’t for the TV contract, this Tour would not be sustainable.
Mumford: The Senior Tour Champions Tour PGA TOUR Champions is a freak show. How else do you explain a 58-year old Bernhard Langer dominating the round bellies and still contending occasionally with the flat bellies? Really though, it’s just entertainment and any attempt to make it more serious than a stroll down memory lane is delusional. John Daly will fit right in. Every circus needs a clown.