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.
Dustin Johnson shot 66-66 on the weekend to overtake Jason Day and win at Firestone, just two weeks after his US Open victory. Has removing the monkey from his back (first major) finally freed up DJ to be the golfer everyone thought he could be?
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I think it has more to do with Gretzky’s (Wayne that is) influence, a new-found dedication to the gym, lifestyle changes, and a bit of maturity than any psychological monkey. He gives the impression that he realized that he could party hard and still make a ton of dough for a while just on his natural talents or he could find out how good he could be if he tried. We’re all finding out real quick, and he’s not done yet.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I wish I could say “I hope so”, but despite his talent, his unflappability, and his smokin’ hot spousal unit, Dustin doesn’t do much for me. There’s no denying his talent, however.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think it has definitely lifted the monkey off his back, whether he realizes it or not! It’s always tough to win the first big one, but he has to be thinking at this point of the year that he has already accomplished so much, so there’s no pressure for the rest of the year, which will make him even better. I can see him upstaging the big 3 and becoming #1 by the end of the year.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Skill has never been DJ’s issue. The career collection of bad shots and poor decisions is clearly a mental thing and it looks like the US Open win puts that stuff behind him. DJ also exhibits more maturity these days, both with the media and on the golf course. That could be attributed to having a family (fiancée Paulina and son Tatum) but, whatever the reason, he seems better equipped to handle the pressures that caused him to stumble in the past.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Without a doubt. DJ always had a lot of confidence, but his US Open win has his brimming with swag. He is definitely my pick to win the Open.
Brooke Henderson posted her third win in less than a year by defending her title at the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic. What do you like about her game and does it have any weaknesses?
Rule: What isn’t there to like about her game. She’s only going to improve once she gets more experience on the courses they play, and knows when to lay back instead of going all out all the time. But as well as she drives the ball, she shouldn’t hold back!
Deeks: I haven’t seen anything I’d call a weakness, but it seems her accuracy from about 170-200 sometimes lets her down… but then, it does everyone else, too. I love her short game, and her strong finishing putts, like the one she rammed in on 17 on Sunday, to slam the door shut on all contenders. But the best part of her game is her demeanour. So cool, so relaxed, having so much fun… just the way the game should be played by everyone.
Kaplan: I love Brooke’s distance off of the tee, but she might want to consider taking a little off in order to find the fairway more often. Right now, she is ranked 111th on the LPGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting the fairway at a 65% clip. If she found the short stuff more often, she would be nearly unbeatable.
Mumford: Brooke appears to have a complete game and that includes figuring out how to win when she’s not playing her best. She has a remarkable maturity for an 18 year old and an uncanny ability to figure things out and adjust on the fly that is similar to Jordan Spieth. If there’s a weakness, it’s her lag putting which tends to be aggressive and often leaves her long comeback putts. However, like Spieth, she tends to make more than most.
Quinn: The 9th hole Sunday sort of summed it up. Brooke nailed a fearless drive down the middle of a tight fairway, then hit a cut off 9 iron from 137 yards instead of pitching wedge like 90 per cent of players. Two classic golf shots. She missed the short putt, and struggled with the putter all weekend, but that too is part of her game that is so impressive — winning without her A game. It looks like she has all the shots.
The Barracuda Championship was also on the PGA Tour schedule this past weekend. With all the best players at Firestone and a few in Europe, these “opposite field events” definitely have a minor league feel to them. Does anybody watch or care?
Deeks: Other than the sponsors, volunteers, family and friends of the players… nope.
Quinn: I watched the Mayakoba Classic a few times because I’d played that Greg Norman design, loved it, and enjoyed watching how the B-listers played those holes. But that’s the extent of paying any attention to the back-up shameless pension fund money grab events. Can’t imagine anyone caring or watching on the weekend, outside of Gregg Chalmers’ family. But as he was 0 for 385 going in, most of them had probably stopped watching or caring years ago too.
Rule: I honestly had no idea there was a second event going on, until I heard this morning that Greg Chalmers won his first ever event! I like that Chalmers won – it gives the rest of us short hitting lefties some inspiration!
Kaplan: The players who are fighting to keep their PGA Tour cards rely on these opposite field events to make some money, but they are definitely not must watch television. If nothing else is on TV, I’ll flip to these secondary/tertiary tournaments for a minute or two to see who is leading. However, every time that I do, I find myself channel surfing once again after only a couple of shots.
Mumford: Commissioner Finchem has shown a propensity to expand the PGA Tour brand, given the slimmest opening and a willing sponsor. The opposite field events are purely about money – more for players, more for charity and more for the Tour. There isn’t any demand for these tournaments from fans or TV audiences. They’re slightly better than Web.com Tour events and only draw a smattering of people. I say kill them before the oversaturation hurts the main product.