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.
Last week everything was all-Tiger all-the-time as he planned to return to golf at the Safeway Open. Then came the last minute withdrawal. What do you make of Tiger checking out of Safeway and competitive golf in general for the foreseeable future?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It was quite weird in my view. I can’t imagine Tiger would make a rash or premature decision about coming back, so the last-minute withdrawal and “gee, I just discovered my short game still sucks” excuse seemed kinda fishy. I’m guessing it’s something worse than that, and I really wonder whether he’s done for good.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): It’s his mentality. I have no doubt he can come back and make the cut, but he’s not built like that. He has always thought that when he tees it up he’s ONLY thinking of winning, he needs to believe nothing less…PERIOD. I think he’s thinking that he needs to come back and win, and imagine the chaos if he does it in his first start. I know that’s unlikely, but anything less is a loss in his opinion. Nobody in the history of the game has a win rate per start even close to Tiger’s, so who’s to criticize him for that mentality? I just want him to come back and hopefully at 80% of his prime, because that’s good enough to win.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The Brits have a great term — bollocks — and that applies most of the published thumb suckers on why Eldrick pulled out. Love the ‘Ryder Cup took so much time’ jag. What, he didn’t notice until the last minute that he hadn’t practiced 8 hours a day during his onerous Cup duties? It’s as good as he was shocked Sunday to discover his game wasn’t as perfect as it was Friday? This, of course, from a guy who has been taking his game from the range to the tourney since he was two! The track was going to be wet? Poor man. My favourite, and I think the most credible, was my gut reaction — he didn’t want the very public embarrassment of being dusted for two days by a very hot Phil. He’s a long way from back, and for now, the Tour’s fine with that.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I was pretty furious. He ruined my column and my week in one fell swoop. If your game isn’t where you want it to be, simply don’t commit to the event just days before it starts and then back out like a coward at the 11th hour. Plus, the competition is not going to get much easier than the field of rookies and sophomores that was at the Safeway Open last week. A Tiger return in 2016 was looking really good a couple of weeks ago; now, it is looking as likely as a Jays World Series appearance.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Tiger has always had an exceptionally high standard for himself and I suspect his recovery hasn’t got him to a level that he finds acceptable. Maybe he hoped he could play but upon further inspection realized he was going to embarrass himself. Nicklaus always said he didn’t want to play the Senior Tour because he’d already beaten all those guys but the flip side of that argument was that as his skills deteriorated with advancing age he wouldn’t be able to dominate as he once did. Tiger likely feels the same. If he can’t win, he doesn’t want to play.
There’s a whole new crop of rookies on the PGA Tour including Bryson DeChambeau, Spaniard Jon Rahm (NCAA champ), former world No. 1 amateur Ollie Schniederjans, trick shot artist and three-time Web.com winner Wesley Bryan, Englishman Andrew (Beef) Johnston and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes. Which rookie do you think will make the biggest impact on Tour?
Quinn: They sure have a tough act to follow in Emiliano Grillo. That was some debut season. Love that Hughes cashed a cheque in his first event and hope he’s the guy. If not, Beef — just based on his entertaining Q&A in Golf Digest — will have the biggest impact with the galleries and the TV talking heads.
Kaplan: I think that Beef will be the most popular rookie on tour, but Jon Rahm is most likely to win early and often. The Spaniard earned his PGA Tour card with special temporary status in just his first four events as a pro, nearly winning two of them. He is going to be special!
Deeks: More often than not, the surprise newcomer doesn’t come from the list of “Most Promising Rookies”, it seems to me. So the rookie of the year may not be named above. Nonetheless, if I had to pick from that group, then naturally I’m going with the maple leaf… Mackenzie Hughes, COME ON DOWN!
Loughry: Certainly a good crop this year. “Biggest Impact”….well, I can tell you the most marketable will be BEEF. He just has this connection with the fans that’s not manufactured, they all genuinely cheer for him, as he’s more of an average Joe they can identify with. And he has game to boot. If it’s wins you want, Rahm will likely lead that category. Mack is getting an honourable mention. He’s an incredibly talented player and will be the most consistent of the bunch. Watch out for him in year 2+ once he learns more of the tracks on the circuit and has a few rounds on them.
Mumford: Beef will probably have the biggest impact on ratings, much as John Daly once did. However, Jon Rahm has all the tools to become an elite player and major winner. He’s a Spanish version of Dustin Johnson.
Se Ri Pak retired at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in her native South Korea last week after a Hall of Fame career that included 25 victories and five majors. How would you characterize her influence on women’s golf?
Deeks: Considering that women’s professional golf is now dominated by Asian players, mostly Korean, who almost universally say they picked up their first golf club because they were inspired by Se Ri’s success in 1998 — the year she won two majors in her rookie season, when she was (I’m guessing) the only Korean on the LPGA Tour. So I’d say she had more influence on the game in the last 20 years than anyone else. From what I’ve read, she was also a lovely person, who enjoyed the role of mentor to many of these younger women. You can’t deny the effect that Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa also had, but in sure number of followers, Se Ri was the Queen.
Loughry: Si Ri Pak was a pioneer for woman’s golf in Asia. Just consider the impact she had on South Korean’s in the game – do a count on the LPGA and by World Ranking. They all virtually credit her for inspiring them to play. She is considered to be the Queen of South Korean woman’s golf, and rightfully so. Like Annika, I have no doubt she has plans to stay in the game post Tour career.
Quinn: Se Ri Pak had more impact on the game than Annika, Nancy Lopez, even Babe Zaharias. Since she became the first Republic of Korea [ROK] Rookie of the Year and Major winner on the LPGA Tour, there have been 9 ROY awards and 19 Majors won by ROK women she inspired. Because of Pak, the Tour is dominated by ROK players. Her influence is unprecedented, and it will expand as she now dedicates her life to teaching young ROK players about golf and developing a rounded life beyond the game.
Kaplan: She is pretty much the godmother of South Korean golf. Pak’s 1998 US Open win inspired an entire generation of South Korean golfers, who now pretty much own the circuit and the Rolex Rankings. Five of the Top 10 female players in the world are South Korean and that percentage seems to be climbing every year. That is the Pak effect!
Mumford: If you put together a group of modern players that inspired growth of the women’s game anywhere in the world it would have to include Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Nancy Lopez and Se Ri Pak. Hard to say who had the biggest impact but Pak certainly is directly responsible for the huge contingent of South Korean women that now dominate the LPGA and the thousands (millions?) more young girls who want to follow in their foot steps.