Hole outs, stand-outs and impending suspensions
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’s fortuitous hole out from the bunker on the first play-off hole was an amazing way to win the Traveler’s Championship. Almost like a walk-off home run. What’s the best (or worst) hole-out you’ve ever seen in a professional tournament?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I’d have to say Larry Mize’s chip-in on 11 at Augusta, to defeat Greg Norman in a playoff for the ’87 Masters has to be the most dramatic of all time… truly the equivalent of hitting a grand slam in extra innings to win the World Series by one run, which hasn’t happened yet! Tiger’s chip-in on 16 at Augusta in 2005 ranks right up there, too. And if Jack Nicklaus had sunk his 1-iron on the 17th at Pebble Beach in the ’72 US Open, instead of just hitting the pin and stopping two inches away, THAT would have been the best.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): WORST, Spieth holing out a bunker shot at the 2013 John Deere to get into a playoff and then winning over David Hearn (and some other short guy and multiple Major winner). BEST: Eugene Wong, holing out on 18 (last hole of the tournament) at Scarboro Golf & Country Club in a PGA Tour Canada event…TO WIN (2 on a par 4). A pure walk off. Pretty sure TJ Rule has that as his best, considering he was Wong’s caddie that week. Must have been the number you gave him eh TJ?
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (davykap): The most impressive hole-out I’ve ever seen had to be when Sei Young Kim holed out twice in a span of 20 minutes to win the Lotte Championship back in 2015. The South Korean chipped in first on the 72nd hole of the tournament to force a playoff with Inbee Park and then sent her competitor packing on the first playoff hole with this incredible eagle from the fairway:
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The only shot more egregious than Larry Mize’s hole out on Greg Norman in the ’87 Masters playoff, was Bob Tway holing his bunker shot on Norman at the 72nd hole of the ’86 PGA Championship. For both guys it was their only Major. Geez. For more perspective, there was Arnie’s Army. Then there were Tway’s Twoops. That says it all. Nurse!
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): My favourites are shots that change the outcome when everything else points to a different result – like a walk-off grand slam or a Hail Mary touchdown with no time left. Before Spieth holed his bunker shot, the playoff was still up for grabs. Maybe Berger had a slight edge but chances are both players make par and go on to another hole. So when Spieth holed out, it wasn’t like Berger had already been counting his winnings. In 1987, when Larry Mize holed that improbable chip shot on the 11th hole to beat Greg Norman at the Masters, it was a dagger to the heart but Norman still had a chance to make his 30 foot putt to tie. However, in 1983, Australian Jack Renner was sitting in the scoring tent with a 1-shot lead over Isao Aoki at the Sony Open in Hawaii when Aoki holed his approach shot for eagle to steal the tournament. The look on Renner’s face said it all.
Spieth’s victory was the 10th of his career and he joins Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to reach ten wins before the age of 24. Have we underestimated Spieth by consistently grouping him as part of a Big 3 or 4 when his record shows he may be on a different career path than some of his contemporaries?
Deeks: That’s a valid question. But until he wins more majors, I wouldn’t say he’s separated himself from the Top 3 or 4 or 5. Then again, Rory, Jason, and Dustin (or Justin, Rickie, Bubba, Henrik or the other Justin) haven’t separated THEMselves either.
Loughry: He’s certainly a damn fine player. A notch above the others, I think so. I’m not sure what is wrong with Jason Day, but I believe Day and Spieth are a little better than the others, the complete package (better than Fowler/DJ, Rory). BUT they can all win if “on” in any given week, I just find Day/Spieth to be a little more consistent.
Kaplan: Is it even possible to underestimate a guy who won two majors before his 22nd birthday? Spieth is definitely on a different career arc than those guys and it will be interesting to see how many more titles the Texan will amass over his career. What made this past week’s victory so impressive was that he did it all without the help of his putter. Spieth’s iron striking is simply otherworldly right now and when his putting returns to form, he is going to be impossible to beat.
Quinn: There’s just something about him that is irritating and makes him hard to like. He’s got a lot of the Eldrick ‘how could that happen to my ball?’ syndrome that grates, particularly when he complains loudly and implies that it was somehow his caddy’s fault. He’s also not intimidating, except when he’s canning every 20-footer. His play, including this past weekend, just doesn’t imply a lot of Major victories so he’s rated about right.
Mumford: A few years ago in this space, we had a question about Day, McIlroy and Spieth and which player would have the best career resume when all was said and done. I think most of the panel picked Spieth and I’d continue to pick him. Tiger was so dominant during his run at the top that today’s elite players pale in comparison and none of them has distanced themselves from the pack the way Tiger did. I don’t think we underestimate Spieth. It’s more that we get too focused on the present and who’s “hot” at the moment. When you step back and look at career accomplishments, even a short one like Spieth’s so far, you realize how consistently good he has been.
Last week the PGA Tour announced changes to its drug policies. From now on, blood testing will be used in addition to urine testing to detect for HGH; and fines and suspensions will be made public, including those for recreational drugs. We’ve all been wanting this for some time. Do you expect to see a spate of fines and suspensions or do you think golfers are generally pretty clean when it comes to drug use?
Deeks: I hope and believe that golfers are generally pretty clean, and those who aren’t are going to clean themselves up PDQ after this policy announcement. Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to me, and I can continue to snort, shoot, swallow, toke and pop before I tee it up anywhere or anytime.
Loughry: In general, I think golfers are pretty clean overall. I don’t expect a long list of abusers to be posted in the short or long term. I’m certain some of this is related to golf being included in the Olympics in addition to the optics of being one of the only MAJOR sports to not go public with findings.
Kaplan: I really don’t expect to see much in the way of fines and suspensions here, at least on the recreational drugs front. This just seems like an easy way for the tour to create an illusion of transparency without actually making any significant changes. Remember that Monahan still reserves the right to not disclose any failed recreational drug tests that he believes to be of a less severe nature — whatever that means! I’m more curious about how effective (or ineffective) the blood testing will actually be.
Quinn: With most of the guys now spending as much time in the gym as on the practice tee, as in every sport, there is a heightened demand to shorten recovery time from workouts and injuries. And, as with all other sports, testing is most effective when there is no warning (Hello Tour!). In comparison to athletics and North American football, golfers are relatively clean. The incentive to cheat, especially with HGH, is the size of the weekly purses so it’s very real. A few will be caught — and having that info public will alert the high school and college players — and that will increase the incentives to mask and beat the test. This never ending battle is now part of all sport, even golf.
Mumford. Great move by the PGA Tour. I believe if this had been the policy 20 years ago, we might think differently about some players. As former WADA chief Dick Pound once said, there’s too much money in professional sports for players not to look for every advantage. I expect we’ll see a trickle of fines and suspensions but not a deluge. Injured golfers may look to speed recovery so they can get back to competition faster and a few may partake of some recreational pleasures but golf is unlike most sports that depend on pure speed or brute strength. Until someone invents a performance enhancer that guarantees a 10-footer under pressure, most professional golfers will choose practice over medicine.