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.
Justin Thomas suggested that the 59 he shot in the first round of the Sony Open was more important than the win. Does he have his priorities straight?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Never having won a PGA Tour event (I know, hard to believe), I really don’t know whether the win would be more important to me than shooting the once-elusive, now merely rare feat of 59. But considering that his win was his second in a row, and that winning two in a row is almost as rare as shooting 59, I would think he’d give both accomplishments equal rating. (How’s that for a wimpy, boring answer?)
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Well, Justin’s just a kid, I think he was trying to convey his feelings about how he was proud of himself for staying aggressive to break 60. He misspoke a little. Listen 57 is the new 59, as 58 has been reached, so let’s keep that in mind. 59 is so yesterday as a target of pure excellence for a round.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Not sure his priorities are straight when he suggests that, however, if you think about it, hundreds if not thousands of guys have won a PGA Tour tournament, but only a handful have broken 60 in a round, so as far as record books go, that would be more recognizable. I’m sure he’ll end up with double digit wins before his career ends (heck, maybe before 2017 ends the way he’s going!), so this win won’t stand out, but the 59 will always stand out.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I can understand how Thomas would be excited about joining the sub-60 club, but you’ve got to think that the win should be of more importance to the 23 year old at this point in his career. There are so many good young players these days and winning is the only metric that really matters at the end of the day. However, in JT’s defence, he’s probably not going to lose too many tournaments when he shoots in the 50s. Clearly, he’s doing something right the way he has dominated the last two events. I hope he can keep it up.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I hear him. Nobody can list the winners of the Sony Open (or as it used to be called The United Airlines Hawaiian Open, United Hawaiian Open, and Hawaiian Open), but they know the names of the guys who shot 59 (no matter the track.) He’s already made $3.8 million this season, so yah, he’s got everything straight.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Thomas is still pretty young and relatively new to winning. As he gets older, he’ll realize that 59 is only important as one of the four scores he made on his way to victory. Paul Goydos also shot 59 once but my hunch is that looking back he would happily trade the score for a few more trophies.
Jim Furyk has been appointed captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the 2018 matches in France. His personal Ryder Cup record is a dismal 10-20-4 and the records of teams he played on are 2-8. Was Furyk the right choice and if so what kind of a captain will he be?
Deeks: The players all seem to be thrilled with the choice, so I suppose that’s the only thing that matters. If Furyk can rally the troops successfully, his own personal record will be forgotten by all but him. But if he can’t, armchair critics will ask “how could they pick a captain with such a lousy personal record?” I’m confident he’ll be an excellent captain, but I’ll still be rooting for Europe.
Loughry: The fact that Furyk’s record is that long is impressive in itself – it shows how good a player he is/was to participate in that many matches. I think he’s a great choice, he completely understands the nature of the event, and its challenges. From experience he also knows which captains/assistants worked and which didn’t. He’ll use that to his advantage with the team. Whether he’s successful, well for his sake (because he’s such a good human and so well respected) let’s hope he gets a W.
Rule: I think he was the right choice given the respect he garners from his peers. He has the experience to guide the team to victory, regardless of his prior record. I just hope the team doesn’t follow his example on the speed of play.
Kaplan: Is there even criteria for being selected captain anymore? Furyk has one major to his name and has an abysmal Ryder Cup record. Why not name Tiger captain? He clearly knows how to push Reed’s buttons and Reed pretty much is the American team. I don’t like the selection.
Quinn: Thanks to the Phil Putsch (after the Watson fiasco), I don’t think it matters who has the final say on the shirts. The Yanks now have a system that encourages feedback from, and consultation with, the guys on the front lines, so the Captain’s role is even further diminished. The guys seem to like Furyk, so that’s all that matters.
Mumford: Absolutely. Furyk is one of the best prepared players on the PGA Tour. He believes wholeheartedly that he can win every tournament he enters. And he hates to lose. Absolutely hates it! If he can convey that sense of self belief to his players, perhaps that will give them an edge. About all a Ryder Captain can do is try to find a little something to give his players an advantage. Furyk will find it – whatever it is.
In addition to Justin Thomas’ 59, Kevin Kisner recorded a 60 and there were a bunch of sub-65 scores at Wailea Country Club. The course was relatively short (7,074 yards) for modern Tour players and there was no wind or rough to speak of. Are you OK with the birdie-fest that the conditions produced or would you prefer that they toughen the course up?
Deeks: When I was a kid, 7,000 yards was pretty much unheard of… and 68 was a darn good score. Today, just about every tournament course (except Merion) is WAY over 7,000, and four 68’s might get you T-12. The players are just too darn good, and long, and we have to accept that. If the wind had been up at Wailea, the scores wouldn’t have been so terrific, so let’s give them the benefit of ideal conditions and pat them on the back for a jolly good show!
Loughry: Birdie-fest events are fun once in a while, but I don’t want to see them every week. These types of weeks do a few things for me; 1. Let’s me know how good these guys are, 2. Help separate Majors, because I don’t believe -27 will ever be a winning score in any of those events (-20 being reached by only Day and Stenson in recent years – both records in the PGA Championship and Open Championships respectively). 3. I feel bombers have an advantage on any course, but with this setup, low rough, no wind, and perfect conditions, they rise to the top. I prefer to watch an event that rewards and tests all facets of the game: accuracy, patience, game and emotional management, and putting/short game.
Rule: I’m ok with it. I don’t think every course should play like a US Open layout, leave that for the big events. The guys are down there on a Hawaiian holiday, let them enjoy the golf and feel like they can all shoot 59 on a given day and not ruin their start of year holiday!
Kaplan: Well it is a par 70 so it’s not THAT short but it sure looked like the bombers were having a field day out there. They really should consider growing out their rough and narrowing up those impossible to miss fairways to at least make it a little bit challenging for these guys.
Quinn: The Hawaii Swing is as close as it gets to “hit & giggle” on the Tour, so it really doesn’t matter. I’ve played on the Islands quite a bit, and after the most recent jaunt —that included two of the Tour stops — declared that if I’m ever back it won’t be with my sticks. Some might get a thrill out of hitting 235 yard six irons, forgetting that their next drive into the Trade Wind might travel 150 yards if it gets a good kick. It’s beyond goofy. And even if the Trades aren’t howling and are subdued as they were the past couple of weeks, there is still the gnarly and impossible to predict Bermuda rough and greens with grain so primeval that putts break uphill. The pros, and the tourists with big bucks and bad swings, can have it. I’ll be at the beach.
Mumford: I suppose some golf fans like to see a birdie-fest and maybe the players like it occasionally too. I prefer to see the players challenged a lot more. Tougher conditions tend to create lots of drama and produce a more compelling storyline. With the Patriots-Texans and the Leafs-Senators on opposite golf on Saturday evening, I had the remote working overtime but the luau at Wailea was definitely third choice.