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.
Spanish rookie Jon Rahm won for the first time on the PGA Tour last Sunday with a very impressive rally on the back nine capped off by a long snaking putt for eagle on 18. In Tiger’s era and before, rookies rarely won on Tour and required several seasons to mature. Now we’re inundated with 22 and 23 year olds winning on a weekly basis. What makes these kids different?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): This is a gross generalization, I think, but it seems to me they’re programmed from an early age… with better coaches employing better methods and more knowledge, better support from a wide range of sources, better health and physical training, and above all, more time to learn and play the game… in several countries. Even then, the cream has to rise to the top, so it’s no less competitive than it ever was.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Training. Kids today are being so well coached that they are prepared for the transition to the pros. Their maturity level is far above that of players just 20 years ago. I believe you can thank Tiger for this, his effect on the game and kids getting into it and their awareness of Tiger’s development path. I also think that most rookies have played most of the courses on the PGA Tour circuit as juniors (AJGA events and Invitationals) even from the same tees in some cases. This means they don’t have to do too much study/course homework to prepare for Tour events. This is also why I believe it is so difficult for a rookie to win at the Masters; most rookies have never had access to Augusta National. It takes a while to learn the course and greens there and where your misses need to be. It’s extremely difficult to digest all that in just a few days and win there – it may take a few years to understand all that.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): This kid’s got game! He dominated the college scene, being the only 2 time winner of the Ben Hogan award. The young guys compete so hard in college and high level amateur events that they come to the tour with confidence and experience in pressure situations, so they are ready now more than ever! And the playing field is so even that all it takes is a hot week for anyone to win. It’s nice to have so much talent playing each week, but I miss the Tiger days, or the Jack/Arnie days, when one or two players were dominant, I think that makes things more exciting. Here’s hoping somebody has a dominant year in 2017!
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): This is a new generation of players — one that has not only grown up with and benefited from technological innovations like V1 analysis, but has also been raised watching Tiger, Phil and, in more recent years, McIlroy, dominate the circuit. Moreover, this is a generation of kids that not only eats well, but also has rigorous training, strength building, and practice regimens. As a result, these kids are ready-to-win golf machines by the time that they arrive on tour.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Many, many year ago, I accidentally rattled off 17 pars after doubling the first on a Tour event course in North Carolina. The member hosting me told the pro, who confronted me with obvious intent and malice in his southern drawl: “Son, you got no respect for my golf course!” That was it. I’d played fearlessly, not once thinking of the consequences of a bad shot, how tough a shot or putt was, or what my scorecard might read. The next day, thinking of nothing else but consequences and how dang hard the layout was, barely scratched it around in 86. I think by the time the modern era 20-somethings make it to the Show, they have had years and years of the best coaching, the best equipment, the optimal physical and mental training, faced years of tough competition, and played so many of the world’s best courses that they are fearless. They don’t let respect for a layout like Torrey Pines, or respect for a famous playing partner, interfere with what they’ve been trained to do since grade school. It’s a brave new world on Tour and they are just going to keep arriving at the Show younger, stronger, better, and even more fearless.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): No fear. The previous generation of players, who are now in their mid to late 30’s, all came of age during Tiger’s reign and none of them ever believed they could beat him, at least not consistently. Today’s young guns aren’t afraid of anyone and despite the success of McIlroy and Day, neither are particularly intimidating. In fact, both are very nice guys.
The LPGA event in the Bahamas featured a playoff between Lexi Thompson and Brittany Lincicome while Stacy Lewis and Gerina Pillar finished 3rd and 4th respectively. Even though World No. 1 Lydia Ko skipped the event, many U.S. based pundits were excited to proclaim a resurgence of American women on the LPGA Tour. The Tour has been busy celebrating its international flavour and a return to American dominance would not be positive for fans and sponsors in much of the world. What do you think?
Deeks: One tournament does not make a season. Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Shanshan Feng, Ha-Na Jang, Sei Young Kim, So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park, AND Brooke Henderson are not suddenly going to fold their tents and disappear off the OWGR. The Americans have a HUGE amount of work and time ahead before they ever (if ever) return to dominance on the LPGA.
Loughry: I don’t think I’d connect these results and project them the rest of the year. Although I’m hopeful that more American woman step up and play well this year, the international players are so good, I think we’ll only see a couple of flashes of Americans on leaderboards.
Rule: Whoa now, hold off on the “Americans are dominant” talk for the time being, this is only one tournament after all! Let’s see if the trend continues before jumping the gun! Let’s be honest, the best players in the game are still non-American, with Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke, and a bevy of Korean players. In fact there are seven Koreans ahead of the second ranked American in the world, so they can be excited about one tournament if they’d like, but let’s look at the numbers to see how far behind the US women still remain.
Kaplan: Let’s not get carried away now! It was one tournament and Lydia Ko wasn’t here so I’m not declaring an American resurgence just yet, but those were some low scores, weren’t they!? Anyway, if this trend continues, I’m all for it. The American ladies are coming off of a pretty dreadful 2016 and a handful of extra wins this year could really help to boost the popularity of women’s golf in the US. Besides, it’s not like it’s just going to be a USA-fest atop the leaderboard every week. There are PLENTY of excellent international players that are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Quinn: Bad weekend for pundits to be pimping US jingoism given that at the same time the Commander in Tweets was offending and embarrassing every American capable of thought. There may be room for a bit of an American resurgence but there is no fear of the American ladies dominating in the foreseeable future. Anyway, it must have felt better and pressure-free in the Bahamas as they attracted galleries barely larger than the ones Mumford and I get, although there was less snickering.
Mumford: There is no American resurgence. The LPGA is about as international as it can be and any bias it may have tips towards South Korea. While American sponsors would like to see more American stars, the truth is that the LPGA will always play second or third fiddle to the PGA Tour and its subsidiaries in the U.S. But in other parts of the world, the lady golfers get more respect and international sponsorship is stronger and delivers more to the LPGA and individual players. The Tour will flourish more as an international circuit than one dominated by Americans.
Speaking of American dominance, many people are suggesting that the LPGA should pull this year’s U.S. Women’s Open out of Trump Bedminster in New Jersey or the players should boycott the event as a protest against President Trump’s actions against women. Should the LPGA Tour make such a move?
Deeks: Yes, absolutely they should. This man is rapidly turning into a REAL maniac and dictator, and supporting him and his policies in any way is wrong and will eventually come back to hurt those who do, once he’s impeached. (I’m not showing a Liberal bias there, am I?)
Loughry: Quite simply, NO. I don’t believe any organization should play politics. LPGA has little to do with the US Open, the USGA owns this property and runs it, and players independently choose to play or qualify for it. It is not a great situation, but the event will run and players will play in it, and 3 years from now, we won’t even be talking about it (pending any major catastrophe happening in or around it: rules or otherwise).
Rule: I’m fully in favour of taking any event away from Trump properties, but that’s my opinion, and I know others would disagree with me, and agree with Trump’s position on certain policies, I learned that while in Orlando last week. Hard for me to believe, but it’s the truth. But given his position on women, it’s all the more reason to pull an LPGA event away from his property, so I hope they do.
Kaplan: I think the LPGA Tour should take a stand. These athletes are role models to many young, aspiring golfers and I think it would send a rather mixed message to just ignore the fact that they are playing one of the most important tournaments of their season at a venue owned by a misogynist, xenophobic demagogue. There are plenty of outstanding courses across the United States that don’t get any love from the PGA or LPGA Tours. Give any one of those courses a shot!
Quinn: Millions of women around the world have marched in protest over Drumpf’s Neanderthal thinking and his policies aimed at turning the clock back to the 1850s. Every member of the LPGA Tour should wake up to what is happening outside the ropes and use their platform to express the outrage felt by women and men in every corner of the globe who don’t have the clout that the Tour’s celebrity and profile affords. If the Tour and its members do nothing, they risk alienating and losing what’s left of their fan base.
Mumford: On January 21st, over a million women marched in cities around the world to protest the outrageous and ignorant behaviour of President Trump towards women and women’s issues. The LPGA Tour should stage their own symbolic march towards any other course not owned or managed by the Tangerine Fascist or his witless spawn.