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.
Sergio Garcia’s victory in the AT&T Byron Nelson was his first in four years and tied him with Seve Ballesteros for most PGA Tour wins by a Spaniard (9). That said, at one time Sergio was touted as a foil for Tiger Woods, the next Seve and a potential multiple major winner. Is there a bigger under-achiever on Tour than Sergio?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Well, if we’re taking Sergio’s career back to its beginning, then that takes us back to the late 90s, when the challenger-du-jour to the Tiger Throne was David Duval. Duval was almost Zen-like in his game, and when he was on — like when she shot his 59 at the Bob Hope Classic — he was truly robotic. But then, after winning The Open in 2001, he could barely break 75, and then basically retired to a ski hill. I was always disappointed that he just collapsed and disappeared… and therefore, under-achieved. There are others I’d put in that category… Keegan Bradley, Charles Howell III, Bill Haas, Charl Schwartzel… but none as big as Duval, in my view.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Geesh, the guy has won nine times and we’re picking apart his career mid-stream. OK, I’ll bite. Charlie Howell comes to mind. He was can’t miss, supposed to rattle off a whack of wins. He’s a solid Tour player but probably fell short of many golf fortune tellers visions.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): There is not. It is Sergio by a landslide. With all of that talent, it boggles the mind that he only just earned his ninth career PGA Tour victory — at the age of 36! My runner up is Ian Poulter, who only has two PGA Tour titles to his name. Special mentions also go out to Hunter Mahan and Camilo Villegas, who have both seemingly vanished into thin air.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Hard to call him an under-achiever when he has won almost 30 times worldwide, has the 2nd most wins of any European on the PGA Tour (ever!) and has a career Ryder Cup record of 18-9-5. But I guess it comes down to the majors, with the 2007 Open Championship being the prime example. And he seems to disappear from the winner’s circle for long stretches of time. I didn’t realise he hadn’t won in four years! I just hope he wins a major soon so that he can be given the credit for being the great player that he is.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m always surprised when people are offended if you call someone an under-achiever. It doesn’t mean they haven’t achieved anything – in fact quite the opposite. Early on Sergio demonstrated that he had the talent and the cockiness to contend at the highest level. He came close to winning the PGA Championship at Medinah in 1999. Remember his shot from behind a tree on #16, followed by a run up the fairway, topped off with a scissor kick leap to watch his ball? He nearly stole the show from Tiger that day and announced to the world he was ready. That was followed by more close calls, then finally the admission that he didn’t believe he’d ever win a major. Nine wins on the PGA Tour and 11 more in Europe plus a terrific Ryder Cup record is a nice career but it should have been so much more. Sergio can join Fred Couples in that special room for players who achieved significantly less than their immense talent suggested they should.
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: My favourite player growing up was Davis Love III until Sergio (The Serge) jumped on to the scene, literally. For me this win was pure awesomeness and watching Spieth continue on the path I predicted for him after The Masters was just icing on the cake. I’ve always held that The Serge is the most skilled player on Tour. I think he has every shot in the bag very much like his idol Seve. Of course, his problem is he’s his own worst enemy and in a complete opposite way (at least now) from Spieth. Where as Spieth thinks he deserves everything and whines like a baby when he doesn’t get it, Garcia seems to think he doesn’t deserve anything and is sort of manic depressive. It’s unfortunate. But I won’t label The Serge and refuse to consider him an under-achiever. Expectations of you aren’t necessarily your expectations and I don’t define success by meeting another persons expectations.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: When Morgan Norman (Greg’s daughter) said to Sergio, in the current American vernacular: ’You’re fired!” he went into a funk from which he hasn’t recovered. Koepka coughing up the Nelson doesn’t change that. Had Sergio blazed to the win — like Rory nailing a 235-yd 3-wood on the 72nd at The Irish Open while the national TV network went to commercial — that would be different. Given his old man, the Seve legacy, for Sergio it all comes down to that unfathomable region between the ears. Koepka rinsing one doesn’t change that.
Phil Mickelson was tagged as part of an SEC insider trading lawsuit and agreed to “repay” $931,000 in profits he made. While no charges were levied against Lefty, there were allegations of serious gambling debts and association with people that the PGA Tour finds unsuitable. The Tour is now conducting its own investigation. Will this harm Mickelson’s legacy?
Rule: Somehow I doubt the PGA Tour will want to harm the reputation of one their biggest ambassadors and fan favourites. No matter what comes of it, I think it will be swept under the rug as quickly as possible. And in the long run, people will remember him for his great career and number of wins on the course, not losses off of it.
Mastroianni: I’m a Phil fan. If people want to say it hurts his legacy I can’t wait to start harping on all the Tiger slurps out there who have told me incessantly ‘they don’t care about his personal life because they respect him as a golfer.’ Ditto, that.
Deeks: I think a seamier side to Mickelson has been fairly well-known for years (i.e., gambling and big debts), but it doesn’t seem to have hurt his personality or image… in part because he’s so good at personal PR, the “aw shucks” grin, the all-too-human screw-ups on the golf course, etc. So I suspect the golf media will give him a wide berth on this SEC matter, and the larger public won’t know, won’t listen, or won’t care. Sad, really, because a $931,000 repayment says that you made a lot of money by being crooked.
Quinn: Phil is the Thrill and he didn’t get there by backing off on a $100 Nassau. My only concern is the association with Bill Walters. When the SEC and the US media ID Phil’s contact on the stock tip as a ‘professional gambler’ that sets off alarms in any professional sport. Is it easier to shoot wide in a football game (soccer in the USA) than missing a 2-footer in a big tourney? It’s the thin edge of the wedge, so to speak, when your off-Tour income is 25 times (approx) on-course earnings. Legacy? Americans like Trump.
Loughry: Well, it sure did Pete Rose in didn’t it? If there is any sniff of him laying bets on golf with any bookie inside or outside of Vegas, he’ll be ruled with an iron fist. Listen, that’s not to say betting in golf doesn’t happen. I’d guess enough money exchanges hands in a year of golf wagers to buy a small country but most are friendly bets.
Mumford: Mickelson is already a larger than life celebrity thanks to his go-for-broke style, the everyman persona and the way the TV announcers pander to everything Phil. Unless it turns out he’s missing tap-ins to win big side-bets, a little insider trading / gambling fiasco just adds another chapter to the legend.
Kaplan: Yes, this will hurt his image long term. Mickelson, whose net worth exceeds $180 million, did not need to get himself involved in this scheme. Lefty comes out of this one looking both greedy and guilty without a proper punishment and that is going to result in a lot of anti-Phil sentiment going forwards. Hopefully, he can play well enough this season to make people forget, like Kobe did back in 2004.
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, more commonly referred to as Muirfield Golf Club, recently conducted a vote to allow women to become members. The vote failed to carry the required 2/3 majority and the Club will remain male only for the foreseeable future. Subsequently the R&A removed Muirfield from the Open Championship rota. Good move by the R&A or is there room for a male only club in the Open rota?
Rule: I think the R&A had to make this decision after they decided to go the route of accepting female members in 2014, which of course was the right decision as well. They represent all golfers worldwide, they must show gender equality. That doesn’t mean that Muirfield did anything wrong in voting no in allowing women in their club. They are a private club and can do whatever they want. They knew that the repercussion would be losing the Open, but they still voted no. Their choice. Will be interesting to see what Troon does after hosting this year!
Deeks: Shoot me for saying this, but I believe a club has a right to set whatever rules it wishes. I think the Honourable Gentlemen are wrong, but it’s their right to be wrong. That said, now that the R&A has recently seen the light to allow women members itself, I believe it should be consistent in making all “Open rota” clubs conform to its principles IF they wish to continue to be part of the rota. So, yes, it was a good decision; to have not done so would have been indefensible.
Mastroianni: The R&A can and will do as it pleases and I rarely agree, or care, about what any of golf’s governing bodies decide to do.
Loughry: There is nothing wrong with all the events that happened. Muirfield showed their conservative nature – after all, it is their club, and they’re entitled to set their own policies. The R&A responded in kind. You’d think this wouldn’t be an issue in this day and age but it is and it’s being handled appropriately.
Kaplan: Great move by the R&A to ban Muirfield from Open consideration. It’s 2016 for Pete’s sake! Muirfield is a private institution and they can do whatever they want, but there are consequences for being discriminatory nowadays — especially when you are in the public spotlight. Honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous that gender discrimination is still an issue in golf when we have players like Brooke Henderson and Lydia Ko. Haven’t we, as a society, moved on to more important issues these days anyways, like how to fix slow play on long weekends?
Quinn: Had the great pleasure to play Muirfield on my birthday — topped off by watching from the historic lounge, single malt and cigarette at hand, a vulgar and loud US group play 18 in a snow shower. It was late August. It had taken my pal — very talented photographer Doug Ball — months to convince the club secretary to allow us on the course. Done and done, we were but one of three of four groups that day. But that is not the point. The women married, happily or otherwise, to The Honourable (sic) Company members, don’t want to join. Lost in the ill-informed media claptrap is that if forced to join, the women who now enjoy almost unimpeded access to Muirfield — not exactly an afternoon preamble — would have to pay for that “privilege “ if they have to become members. The vast majority don’t want to pay for what they now enjoy gratis. Just like Augusta National. Absolute rubbish. When was the last time anyone asked Condoleezza Rice what her handicap is?
Mumford: The R&A was absolutely right to take the club out of the Open rota. Evidently, there are some men who prefer not to have women around, although I can’t imagine why. If the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Dinosaurs choose to operate that way, that’s their right in all its Jurassic ignorance but the course and club are internationally renowned and should be using that celebrity to lead, not stand up and say, “Hey look at how stupid we are!”