Big John, books and surprise winners
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.
John Daly won on the Champions Tour for the first time this past Sunday. Is that a good thing for that Tour? Does it make you want to watch?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Au contraire… I was and never will be a fan of John Daly, although I do concede that he can be a magical golfer when he puts his mind to it. And I also concede that his boorish, redneck behaviour, temper tantrums, alcoholism, wife-battering, club throwing, and childish giving up during bad rounds does appeal to a different element of the public. But is it a good thing for that Tour? Maybe, in that it provides a counterpoint to the lack of colour that has pervaded the Champions for several years.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): JD. Love that he won. The man is an absolute train wreck, but him winning isn’t going to have me watching the Champions Tour all of a sudden. It’s good for the Tour as they’ll get a little promotion and buzz around it.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): It’s a GREAT thing for the Champions Tour. Daly is a legend and draws a significantly larger audience than anyone else currently playing on that circuit but I’m not tuning in until the atmosphere on the Champions Tour goes full Happy Gilmore. Give me a call when Bernhard Langer can’t concentrate because too many bikers are having sex in the woods.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Absolutely it’s a great thing for the tour. Like him or not, he’s a draw, and brings all manner of golf fans out of the woodwork! He just seems to come out of nowhere every five to ten years to win a tournament and remind us all how talented he is, despite wasting that talent in most people’s minds by not taking the game too seriously. But he’s one of the most naturally gifted golfers of our generation, and one of a kind, and that’s why he’s good for the game.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Somewhere, sometime, I recall that some player poll determined that John Daly was the biggest underachiever in professional golf. It’s hard to be sympathetic because everything bad that has ever happened to him was self-inflicted, yet you can’t help watching and quietly rooting for him, even though you know with absolutely certainty that he’s going to go off the rails again and let everyone down. He’s a two-time Major winner with an oversized personality and a penchant for the outrageous – a giant contradiction in a clown costume. Not sure that’s the kind of attention the senior circuit wants but as they say on Madison Avenue, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”.
The USGA and R&A have targeted material that players and caddies are using to read greens as a cause of slow play. Is this a real concern? If not, what should they be looking at?
Deeks: Slow play is a real concern, and rules official should be clamping down on it, because the pros do set an example for amateur players. That said, however, I’m not sure that television viewers really notice how slow players can be, since the camera is constantly cutting to different groups. It’s only in a match or a playoff — like Cristie Kerr’s a couple of weeks ago — that you can determine when a player is taking WAY too long to study a shot or a putt. I’m not against green-reading aids, as long as players conform to pace-of-play guidelines. If they insist on using these aids, they should adapt them to their pace; otherwise, the over-riding time rule should apply and they should be penalized for exceeding it.
Loughry: I’m not so sold that this is entirely trying to resolve slow play, it’s also to return to the art of green reading. The books they refer to are incredibly detailed, you can stand on your spot locate your position in the book, and it will tell you which way the putt will break, you don’t even have to actually look up at the hole to read where it goes. Shot clocks should assist in helping speed play up.
Kaplan: What’s next? Banning yardage books? I don’t see the correlation between players having green-reading materials and slow play. Wouldn’t play, in fact, be slower if players and caddies were forced to study the lines of every putt they looked at instead of peering at a page for a quick answer? Just switch to ready golf. That’s got to shave at least a couple minutes off each round.
Rule: I guess it can have an impact on slow play, and any change that helps to speed up the game is a good change in my mind. But let’s be honest, the main issue with slow play is the pre-shot routines. Take 20 seconds out of every pre-shot routine (and some can remove a lot more than that, see: Crane, Ben), that would speed up each round by up to 45 minutes per group! I say let’s follow the lead of Keith Pelley and the Euro Tour and get some shot clocks out there. That was fun to watch.
Mumford: Reading greens and estimating yardages is a skill. I cringe every time I see players and caddies pull books out of their pockets and go into full-on conference mode. It’s like a committee doing paint by numbers. Ban all the books and make players figure it out as they go. Then we’ll see who has great instincts. Banning the books may also speed up play but the best solution for that, as we all know, would be to shorten the time allocations to make a shot and enforce the rule with penalty strokes. And repeat as necessary.
Dustin Johnson had a so-so start at the Wells Fargo Championship after a month on the sidelines but was within a stroke of a playoff at the end. Presumably he’s back on form and the clear favourite heading into the Players Championship this week. Who else do you expect to see in the final groups at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday?
Deeks: Even though he’s won it before, I’d like to see Jason Day rebound and play well. A win for McIlroy would be a happy occasion, too. But The Players has also had its share of out-of-the-blue winners (Craig Perks, come on down!), so I’m thinking someone like Seung Yul-Noh could be someone you’ll know by Sunday afternoon. Looking forward to another excellent tournament!
Loughry: DJ showed he’s money. And he’ll be solid at the Players. Others who will be there in the end, potentially final group: Fowler (past Champ), Rahm (just plain playing great), and I can’t leave out Spieth.
Kaplan: Jon Rahmbo is going to win. I’m calling it now! Dark horse pick: Tyrone van Aswegen,
Rule: I always find the Players impossible to predict. Often you get some great champions, guys near the top of the rankings and on form, but then you get Stephen Ames or Fred Funk or Tim Clark or Craig Perks. I think given DJ’s form last week, he’s got to be the favourite, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a long shot right there on Sunday. I’ll choose Russell Knox.
Mumford: Sergio often plays well at The Players so I expect to see him along with DJ and Jon Rahm among the leaders on Sunday. I’ll go along with Mr. Deeks assessment that we’ll see an out of the blue winner or at least a contender. My pick to fill that role would be Adam Hadwin – maybe not such a longshot since he’s currently 5th in FedEx Cup points but a Players Championship would be a huge step and one he’s ready for.
Editor’s Note: Hal Quinn is on assignment somewhere warm.