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 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale has the loudest, most boisterous crowd of any tournament on the PGA Tour. A number of players take a pass on the week solely because of that. Is it time to end the circus or should tournament organizers keep it going? Or maybe even use the same model at other venues?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): One freak show is enough, in my opinion. Not that I mind it, it’s kind of fun. But if other events were allowed to duplicate it, it would become almost expected at every event, and would destroy the gentility of the game that most of us dinosaurs revere it for.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The whole tournament is to be celebrated – 655K+ attended for the week. Name me another sport that draws those kinds of numbers. The 16th is magnificent. It’s one measly hole to deal with each day and if you can’t deal with that, and embrace it, and you skip this tournament because of it, then I don’t like your chances of winning any Tour event if you’re that mentally weak. Suck it up and enjoy it, because its here to stay – it’s a staple of that tournament.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Not only should they keep the circus going, the PGA Tour should be trying the same formula for other tournaments. This year’s attendance broke the 650,000 patron mark, surpassing last year’s record of 615,000 attendees by over 35,000. I don’t really care that some players don’t like playing in that atmosphere. They can just stay home because plenty of others seem to really like it — and some appear to even thrive in it! The PGA Tour should be offering severely discounted ticket prices to all universities and colleges within hailing distance of each venue every week in order to attract these types of youthful crowds. Moreover, fans should be encouraged to dress up in ridiculous costumes and players should be encouraged to interact with their fans. Maybe hold a weekly best costume or best sign contest and have the winners each week invited into the clubhouse to drink a couple beers with Beef Johnston, John Peterson or Rickie Fowler. I don’t know why the PGA Tour was trying to tone things down last week by barring the players from launching things into the crowd on #16. The kids all flock to that hole because it is a huge, fun party. Don’t piss in their punch!
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Absolutely not. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m normally pretty traditional when it comes to golf, preferring the links courses of Scotland and Ireland to the manufactured courses in North America, preferring the small simple clubhouses to the monstrosities that they have built over the past few decades, preferring to play with 7 clubs in my bag than 14, but at the same time, this tournament is good for the game. It’s not something I want to see every week, but once a year is just fine. It brings out fans – look at the numbers they get there – and attracts new people to the game. It is on the verge of getting a bit out of hand, and I can see why some players don’t attend the event, but all in all, it’s good for the game. But let’s keep it to once a year please.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: If we have to endure hours of Steve Sands and Rich Lerner straining and failing to relate to people having fun and exhausting their shallow trove of adjectives by Thursday morning, then yes, do away with it. Better, get the nattering nabobs of phoney jocularity the hell away from the 16th and let the party roll on. Saturday’s tournament crowd was 204,906; the week’s total 655,434 with about 30,000 every day at the 16th. So the Thunderbirds know what they are doing even if the talking heads don’t. Sunday’s crowd is always the lowest (this year 58,654) because it’s Super Bowl Sunday. So it’s not about the golf, it’s the party. I’ve only attended three, but the Phoenix Open is the best ever and will never be duplicated though many will try (and fail) to imitate it.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s quite a spectacle but like Bill Murray’s antics at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, once a year is enough, thank you.
Graham DeLaet got himself into contention on Sunday, then made a couple of crucial errors coming in. After a couple of back surgeries and long periods of time missed, are you encouraged by DeLaet’s play or do you think his best golf is behind him?
Deeks: I’m encouraged, happy to see it, but I have to admit I think his best days are in the rearview. Graham had/has game, no doubt about it, but like David Hearn, there just doesn’t seem to be the killer instinct that can prevent him from botching a hole or two, and finishing the race with the rest of the pack. I’d love to see him prove me wrong.
Loughry: He’s a force. GD can win on any given week, especially a venue that demands good ball striking, and is a healthy length. He still has some good golf ahead, he just might need to bring the beard back.
Kaplan: I’m encouraged by his play as of late. He doesn’t appear to be struggling with the yips anymore and he has improved to 54th overall in Strokes Gained: Putting compared to his rank of 139th last year. I’m not sure if a win is in the books this year — it may very well be! — but I am positive that we’re going to see a much more confident DeLaet in contention at many more events this season. This bodes well for Canadian golf!
Rule: I’m certainly encouraged, but at the risk of sounding pessimistic, it’s hard to be confident watching him in contention on Sunday, mostly because he just can’t putt well enough. You would think that once in a while he would have a hot putting day and be right there late Sunday afternoon, but it hasn’t happened yet. But it’s nice to see him healthy and at least on the leaderboard for the first time in a while. Great to see that with all Canadians really, almost every week there is someone in contention, it’s great!
Quinn: All the pain and suffering have taken its toll. He never did seem to have that extra gear in his prime, especially on the greens, so it would be surprising if he breaks through at this late stage.
Mumford: DeLaet lacks confidence under pressure and it shows most in his short game and putting when he’s in contention on Sunday. I think he’s the kind of player that could post multiple wins if he ever got the first one but whether that will happen now is debateable. There are way too many young guns with no fear who already know how to win.
Sergio Garcia went wire-to-wire at the Dubai Desert Classic and actually seemed happy. Many are predicting that this is finally Garcia’s year to win a major. Is that just sentimental thinking?
Deeks: We’ve been predicting “this may be Sergio’s year” for the last 17 seasons, so pardon me if I hail a cab on this one. The boy’s got talent, but “there just doesn’t seem to be the killer instinct that can prevent him from botching a hole or two, and finishing the race with the rest of the pack. I’d love to see him prove me wrong.” Is there an echo in here?
Loughry: I do like Sergio’s passion, but I don’t like his whining. Overall, I like him for the game, he’s definitely a top player. He has very good game, but no, the win this past weekend doesn’t necessarily mean it will lead to a Major. In fact, I doubt it. His weak spot has always been putting, and no matter how good his ball striking is, it can’t make up for that deficiency. Unless he catches fire in a bottle for one of the four weeks, he’ll remain Major-less unfortunately.
Kaplan: LOL. Not going to happen. I feel confident predicting that DeLaet gets a major before Sergio ever does. Garcia’s wire-to-wire victory last week was just the golf gods rewarding the 37-year-old for doing a nice deed earlier in the week and allowing that 40-year-old super fan to caddy for him in September.
Rule: I have thought that almost every year for the past decade. I have always liked Sergio, and want him to win, and I think he has as good a chance as anyone to capture their first major, so maybe this is the year. He’s been a great player for a long time, and it would be a shame if he never wins one, similar to Monty.
Quinn: Against a pretty decent field — Stenson was 3 back — Garcia led in GIR, was 2nd in driving accuracy and 3rd in driving distance. He’s now 9th in world rankings, and seems to have found some equilibrium off the course. If he’s ever going to win a Major, this definitely should be the year — but there are way too many guys who are younger and better.
Mumford: I don’t see Sergio ever winning a major. Apart from Sergio actually saying that about himself, I’d say he has too much accumulated baggage to get over the hurdle. Some players win a major later in their career but usually come out of the woodwork for a one and done performance (Jimmy Walker, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel) but those are instances of capitalizing on their first and only shot at a title. Garcia has had many shots at winning majors and failed every time. That has to weigh on a player and instil a belief that he can’t and won’t ever get it done. I think Sergio’s destined to join the “Close But No Cigar Club” that includes Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Doug Sanders.