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.
The Memorial featured starkly different storylines for the Top 6 players in the world: Day was hit-and-miss at Muirfield Village; Spieth struggled with his driver; McIlroy changed his putting grip; Bubba was a non-factor; Fowler missed another cut; and DJ failed to close the deal when he was in contention. Should they be cause for concern heading into next week’s U.S. Open?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I don’t think there’s any cause for alarm. Only one guy can win in any given week, and there’s so much talent on the Tour now that ANY guy can win in any given week. That said, the six guys you mention have to be among the top 8 favourites, even if they don’t win every week and even if they had little issues with their games in Columbus. I’d still give my pick to Spieth for next week.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I’m only concerned about the top 3, the second tier mentioned (Fowler, DJ, and Bubba) will not factor in at Oakmont in the end. Spieth better get that driver figured out quickly or he’ll be a non-factor at Oakmont. I think Day has the best shot.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Not at all. This is golf, one of the hardest sports to be consistently great, and consistently contend. Suck a fickle sport, and this just goes to prove how amazing guys are when they get into a run like Spieth did last year and Day has done recently. I would expect a couple of them to contend at Oakmont in a couple of weeks, and look forward to watching it. Jordan better get his driver sorted out though, or he stands no chance, won’t matter how well he putts!
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Of the Big 3, the only one I’d be concerned about would be Jordan Spieth. The inconsistency with the driver has plagued him all year and that kind of thing can get into his head, especially under the pressure of a major. I can’t see Bubba and Rickie being factors at Oakmont but DJ could be. His penchant for blowing up at the worst time is always possible and I don’t believe there’s a remedy. But sooner or later he’ll just get past it and win a big one. And then a bunch more too.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I don’t think there is any cause for concern as it was just one tournament. Spieth, McIlroy and Day all have had a win within the last calendar month. Plus, Day and McIlroy didn’t finish that far off out of first. DJ blowing another tournament is a bit of a story, but the guy always seems to show up for the US Open.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It was odd that no one at the top was able to get it together, kept waiting for one of them to find that other gear. The only concern if a ‘star’ or a few ’stars’ aren’t in contention over the weekend is TV ratings if we have a bunch of McGirt wannabes at the top. But I suspect the Top Three at least will figure it all out by Oakmont.
Last week the USGA and R&A released a long term study based on seven professional tours that showed that overall distance had grown at a paltry rate of 1% since 2003. Meanwhile the manufacturers are making claims of much bigger distance gains. On the 17th hole at Muirfield Village on Sunday, both McIlroy and DJ hit drives of 382 yards. Can the manufacturers and the governing bodies both be right?
Loughry: The truth is in the data. Average length means just that: average. Don’t look at an individual hole that may have played downwind, downhill on firm fast fairways. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to hit a 382 yard shot with any club. But Rory and Dustin are two of the longest hitters on Tour, there are also very normal ball strikers that would hit it much shorter than those distances on that very same hole. That said, what about prior to 2003, I’d like to see the data from when the “new” balls were introduced: from Titleist Professional to the Prestige and then Pro-V. I’ll bet those numbers went NORTH quickly over that period.
Quinn: About 15 years ago I had a great long talk with Dick Helmstetter, then Callaway’s resident club guru, who brought us the Big Bertha among others. The occasion was the launch of the ERCII, which I was flying 30 yards past my ‘conforming’ Callaway driver. I asked him if he and Ely weren’t making golf’s classic courses obsolete with ball and club technology. “Not at all,” said the former billiard cue designer. “All they have to do is grow the rough.” He was right. He added that “we ain’t seen nothing yet.” He predicted that the big TV contracts would push Tour purses up enough to attract bigger, stronger athletes who would see golf as an option to the big money in other pro sports and then we’d see 400 yard drives and longer. He was right. DJ and Rory are prime examples — incredibly fit and strong with training regimens focussed on their swings. They may be 1 per centers in income, but they and athletes like them are combining fitness and technique with the new equipment putting a lie to that 1% yardage gain. It’s no doubt true for mere mortals too.
Deeks: Whether the study is just professionals or all golfers, it has to be flawed. Until three years ago, I’d never seen anyone hit a drive across the river on the 7th or 10th holes at my club… about a 260 carry. Now, big hitters do it regularly. Before Tiger, 282 yards was considered a big drive on the Tour. Now, only Mike Weir hits it that short. I think the only person I know who doesn’t hit it further, is me.
Mumford: Everybody hits it further. The USGA and R&A have to come clean on this and acknowledge they have lost control on the distance issue, especially with the ball. Last year alone the PGA Tour recorded over 1,000 drives in excess of 350 yards. Five years ago, people were excited when someone bombed it more than 325 and ten years ago, 300 yards was still special.
Rule: There are a lot of variables in how they determine driving distance. Firstly, the players aren’t having to hit drivers as often because they hit 3 woods over 300 yards, and Day even hits the occasional 2 iron that far! And guys are just working out more than they used to. But the same report says that the shortest hitters on tour are actually shorter than they were in 2003. So it’s tough to make sense of it all. But let’s be honest, the past decade or two they haven’t been able to improve the driver technology as much as the golf ball. That’s the reason driving distance has increased so much, the invention of the Pro V1 almost 20 years ago. Let’s go back to balatas to control the distance issue.
Kaplan: I haven’t read the studies, but I still bomb it with my decade-old Ping Rapture. I have tried many new drivers since, including the M2, and the results with my Rapture outshine them all. In the case of Day and Johnson, it would be important to note just how fast those guys swing their clubs. They could use a croquet mallet and still probably hit the ball over 300 yards.
The PGA Tour announced that it was moving a WGC event from Trump Doral to Mexico City. Commissioner Tim Finchem stated that the decision was driven by sponsors and not by any desire to distance the Tour from Donald Trump. Are we buying that?
Quinn: Doris and Al’s joint (DOR AL) has been a Tour stop since 1962 and it took Drumpf just a couple of years to end it. The WGC events should be played around the world, as the name implies, but this timing is just too good even for the Republican-infested Tour. The Donald’s son said Cadillac wanted to extend; the Tour says they didn’t and couldn’t find anyone else? Hmmm, that was a quick search. As with everything else Stateside right now, you can’t believe anyone.
Deeks: Nope. And I just wish that the Commissioner had had the courage to state that Trump’s remarks were outrageous. But of course, probably half the players on the Tour support Trump so discretion/valour, etc.
Loughry: NO CHANCE am I buying the reason Finchem supplied on the movement of this event. This was a clear cut move to distance themselves from Trump.
Kaplan: I’m not buying it. It was a boss move taking the event away from him and moving it to a country that Trump has been slandering throughout his entire campaign — a figurative slap in the face to that awful butternut squash of a man. I only wish that Finchem would have owned up to it instead of using the sponsors as an excuse. It wasn’t a coincidence that Trump lost his tournament. It is because he has been an unconscionable bigot/misogynist and he needs to know that his actions (and speeches) have consequences.
Rule: Of course it has to do with the sponsors ultimately, but the Tour doesn’t want anything to do with that imbecile either, so it’s a handy excuse for them to use. He’ll likely never have another Open at Turnberry either. He already lost the Grand Slam of Golf. I love the irony of it all in that this event is jumping his “wall” and heading to Mexico! It’s great for the country; hope it’s a huge success down there. Plus I’m bored of watching that tournament at Doral anyway – it does nothing for me.
Mumford: This one came as a surprise to me because I suspect most of the suits in Ponte Vedra vote the straight Republican ticket. Shows how much even the staunchest GOP supporters are turned off by Trump’s asinine racist behaviour. There’s no coincidence to this at all. Cadillac didn’t want anything to do with Trump; now the Tour is happy to distance themselves too. Going to Mexico City is a delicious irony. Too bad the new sponsor isn’t a Muslim-owned company run by a woman.