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.
Jordan Spieth put on a textbook display of fairways and greens at Pebble Beach on Sunday after a stellar putting clinic on Saturday. He lacks the firepower of a Dustin Johnson, Jason Day or Rory McIlroy but still is almost unbeatable when he’s on his game. What do you like best about Spieth’s game and how would you rate his chances for the majors this year?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): The thing I like most about Spieth’s game is his head. He doesn’t get ruffled, or angry, takes it in his stride when he’s not on, and seems very cool and analytical when he IS on. These are qualities that most amateurs never learn, and many pro’s don’t until they’re past their prime (Sergio Garcia, come on down!) But of the three others you’ve mentioned, I’d say the same about Day, in particular. As for this year’s majors, I’d put money on Spieth for any of the American ones.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Two things I like about Spieth, his putting and his competitiveness. Both are what make him one of the best in the world. He doesn’t hit it long, and if he gets a handle on his driving accuracy, he’ll be deadly, because his iron play is in the upper tier on Tour too (his passion and putting are key). I like him at the Masters and possibly The Open, because a premium is put on putting at Augusta, and there is hardly any rough. And The Open isn’t generally played on overly long courses, including this year. The other Majors put stress on Jordan to bomb it, and keep it in play, which doesn’t suit him.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Normally I would say it’s his putting wizardry that sets him apart from the rest of the field, but this year it has been all about the Texan’s ball striking. Spieth is hitting greens in regulation at an 85% clip and getting birdie looks on just about every hole. If that look is between 20-25 feet, he drains it a whopping 36% of the time! Kind of reminiscent of a younger me out there …. If he keeps playing like this, I like his chances for every major this year — especially the Masters.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The best part of his game when he’s ‘on song,’ as the Aussies say, is his other-worldly putting. He said he was seeing the lines and putting the ball exactly where he wanted to and at the pace required for the break — even on poa annua. That is a recipe for winning a Major no matter how outrageously long the layout. But no one putts like that over a season, and not even Spieth can conjure the ‘zone’ on demand. My gut tells me he doesn’t win a Major this year.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Other than that odd moment at Augusta last year, when aliens temporarily occupied his head for a few minutes on the 12th hole on Sunday, I can’t recall Spieth ever making a huge mistake or hitting a really bad shot. He has a remarkable ability for one so young to stay within himself and manage his way around the course. He may not have the firepower of other top golfers but he’s long enough and his penchant for sinking long putts is an advantage none of the others possess. I like Spieth anytime he tees it up, especially under the added pressure of a Major.
When it was known as the Crosby Clambake, the annual Pebble Peach event featured lots of movie stars and real celebrities. Now the amateur partners are predominantly corporate chieftains and friends of the sponsors, most of whom are unknown to golf fans. Has the format run its course or are there enough country singers and sitcom actors to make it watchable?
Deeks: I pretty much stopped watching the AT&T about a decade ago, when they featured C-level CBS sitcom stars like George Lopez (who???), and Bill Murray was just starting his obnoxious, tiresome “I’m just a humble great comedian” act. Now, I turn it on and within three minutes I’m yawning… in part because CBS continues to put the same old, tired team on the air: Nantz, Faldo, the nauseating McCord. Even Kostis is grating on my nerves. Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but please, can we get some new blood in here??
Loughry: No doubt the Pebble event is losing its lustre from a celebrity and interest standpoint, times are a changing. Money talks as they say. The celebs have their own golf Tour, and a few other venues they can play throughout the year. Pebble’s only draw to me is the scenery – I love the jaw dropping views.
Kaplan: My girlfriend and her sister do not like watching golf, but they let me watch for two whole hours on Sunday because Justin Timberlake’s face kept showing up on the television. So that was good! Obviously, the Pro-Am doesn’t have the appeal that it once did, but we do get four straight days of Bill Murray entertaining the crowds and the viewers at home with his goofy antics and outfits. If we could somehow bring Murray into the broadcast booth for the week alongside Clint Eastwood, then I’d be fine with eliminating the pro-am format entirely.
Quinn: The format will stay because of the monstrous money the CEOs and COOs pay to get their 15 seconds of pseudo celebrity. It’s all about the money and not the lack of entertainment or boredom factor for viewers. Back when it was watchable, the late great comedian Phil Harris came up with my favourite one liner about the game. Sitting in the TV booth behind 18 on a Sunday with Bing and Pat Summerall, after watching a perfect draw land in the heart of one of the most beautiful holes in the world, Harris said to Crosby: “You know der Bingle, you hit the ball in the fairway, you meet a different class of people.” That is golf its ownself.
Mumford: Stick a fork in it. It’s done. Older golf fans would get nostalgic about real movie stars like Jack Lemmon, Clint Eastwood et al but I’m told by younger golf fans that Ray Romano and his ilk don’t elicit the same feelings. Small wonder! The telecast definitely seems tired. Jim Nantz tries too hard to make some CEO with an 18 handicap seem like he’s worth our attention, while the current movie and TV actors try to ham it up without a script. Definitely time to try something new. Start with an overhaul of the broadcast crew and get some younger, hipper talking heads in there. This is supposed to be a fun event!
The Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club kicks off this week in Los Angeles. Riviera is noteworthy for having one of the toughest short par 4’s on the PGA Tour (#10). Two weeks ago, the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale also had a terrific risk reward short par 4 (#17). What’s the best short par 4 you’ve ever played?
Deeks: In 1972, I played a tournament at Walton Heath in Surrey. Backed by a huge wind and dry ground, I drove a 320-yard par 4… possibly the only time I’ve ever driven a par 4 in my life. Okay, I four-putted. From 20 feet. But it left me with a love of short par-4s, none of which I can reach today, but at least I have a birdie chance with a deft wedge or pitch-and-run. My favourite short par 4 is the 16th hole at Beaumaris in Muskoka – 265 yards, carved out of Canadian granite on the left and Canadian forest on the right, with a large pond below the elevated tee, to a green that’s about 9 feet wide. I’ve seen many birdies here, and many 7s and 8s… all played by me.
Loughry: Love #10 at Riviera, as well as #17 at TPC Scottsdale, I’ve been lucky enough to have played both. One of my local favourites is #2 at Wooden Sticks, elevated tee (some 100ft) overlooking a large piece of the property, including a whack of bunkers. It is driveable with a bit of wind for some big hitters, it’s a great hole. But #10 at Riviera is awesome, it drives those guys nuts. You HAVE to hit the perfect tee shot, left of the green, so you can pitch it straight right (lengthwise) into the green. If you are anywhere else, short, short right, right, long, long left, you have to hit a GREAT shot from 40 yards or less to even hit the green in regulation. Some might say it’s a quirky design, but I like it because it makes you think about strategy.
Kaplan: Here is a list of the ones that normally eat my lunch: King’s Riding #4, Weston #2, Caledon Woods #4, Grandview #8 and #11 at Wyndance.
Quinn: Don’t like the subject as I have the Dubious Distinction of three-putting for par four six times in an otherwise un-storied career. However, I fondly remember the 13th at Turnberry’s Ailsa Course pre-Trump. It was playing to 380 yards, but with a 100-yard trailing gale. Managed to catch the jet steam perfectly, and after a hard landing and lovely roll, was left with a 20 foot putt for a deuce. Had the line perfectly read but left it a bit short – about 10 feet. When my birdie try barely caught a bit of the left edge and tumbled in, my caddie ripped the putter from my hand, fixed me with a menacing stare, and growled: “If you’d missed that one, you could carry your own @#%ing bag in.” So that would be my favourite.
Mumford: The 17th at TPC Scottsdale is certainly one of my favourites. I’ve played it a few times and made par, including a penalty stroke, and also made a 7 when every shot stayed dry. Locally, the 4th at King’s Riding in Aurora is one of the most despised holes around but I love it. A line of trees prevents most golfers from going directly at the green, while laying up is no bargain either. Lay up too short and you still have to contend with the trees while a longer lay-up leaves a pitch to a wicked little contoured green with a deep fescue covered gully behind. I’ve made birdies and triples and everything in between.