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.
Once again the Open Championship final boiled down to a two man race. It sure seemed like Matt Kuchar had Jordan Spieth on the ropes but couldn’t deliver a knockout. What does this say about Kuchar and about Spieth’s ability to gut out the win?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I don’t think you can criticize Matt Kuchar for not delivering a knockout blow. He played very well, shot 69, and for a nanosecond, on the 14th tee, he was leading by a shot. I’m sure he and everyone else thought he might win at that point, as Spieth could’ve been shell-shocked by then. But we know what happened. Spieth turned on superhero after-burners, went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie, sealing his entry into the Great Players of All Time Club. Kuchar must’ve wondered what on earth do I have to do to beat this kid. Well, the answer clearly was: go birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie, and that’s a pretty tall order for any man.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Kuchar showed he has it in him to win a Major. He’s such a solid player year after year (much like a Furyk, nothing flashy, just delivers). Spieth, well he’s the ICEMAN. A little adversity and he prevails; who cares if he has to “rely” on his putter? He plays to his strengths. I laugh at people that say too much emphasis is put on putting in this game – they’re generally bad putters. It’s part of the game, embrace it.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I don’t blame Kuchar for not getting it done. He put forth a great effort and made a couple of birdies down the stretch, but a determined Spieth proved to be too much for the 39-year-old to handle. That comeback by the Texan was the stuff of legend and Kuchar should be proud of how he battled the future Hall of Famer for 72 holes.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): You can’t put any blame on Kooch for not finishing the job – that was just clutch playing by Spieth, plain and simple. Although Kooch didn’t go and get it, he certainly didn’t give it away. He played solidly all day, and I believe that if he makes that birdie putt on 13, it makes Jordan’s bogey putt that much tougher and perhaps it’s a different ball game. But hats off to Spieth, who showed again why he’s the most clutch player of this generation, and he’s on his way to some pretty special career numbers.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: That Spieth survived that horrendous start is incredible and so would have been his bogey on 13 if it had happened in real time and not in swing vision super slow mo. Had he not had the time (ahem) and favourable ruling, the 13th could have been the 12th at Augusta all over again. But that stunning break changed everything, especially his putter. The against-all-odds bombs then made all the difference. It says he can really cash in on the breaks, and when on, is one of the best green readers and putters ever. For Kooch, I think it says this is a close as he’ll get to a Major. To re-use Nance’s hackneyed line, “that was very probably glory’s last chance for the affable guy.”
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Matt Kuchar is what he is – a perennial cash machine who has made an unbelievably good living for 17 years on the PGA Tour. He doesn’t have a killer instinct and likely would be way out of his element if he had to try to be something he’s not. He has seven wins and may get a few more by default but will never win a major. On the other hand, Spieth has more heart than just about every other player on Tour and hates to lose so much that he can draw on something most players can’t find or don’t have. Plus he’s the best clutch putter in the world
After Spieth hit his tee shot on 13 way to the right, the rulings and unplayable lie took forever to sort out. What was your reaction to the decision and the way both players handled it?
Deeks: No issues from my standpoint. I felt sorry for Kuchar having to sit and wait, but at least Spieth had the good manners to apologize.
Loughry: I didn’t like how long that process took. But it was a fairly unique situation. It was not fair to Kuchar. Both players handled it well though. Their battle on course, that ruling and exchange, and comments after the round, the game should feel good about it all. Those guys showed the world you can battle but have the utmost respect for one another at the same time.
Kaplan: Normally, I would not have liked that 20-minute delay. However, that whole debacle was actually quite fascinating considering how much was at stake. Plus, all of the comments and memes that were popping up on Twitter during it were just hilarious. Kuchar was certainly a good sport about it. I hate waiting around for long periods of time between shots on the golf course because I tend to lose my rhythm … and I just play for fun. I can’t even imagine how irked I would be if that happened to me with the Claret Jug on the line.
Rule: It is frustrating that it takes so long to make that decision but in hindsight it was a bit complicated. I guess I was frustrated because Spieth is so damn slow all the time, and that situation just reinforced it. I think that Kuchar handled it very well, but it could have had an effect on how he finished his round, he was playing well, and perhaps that delay affected him.
Quinn: I think I started yelling at the TV about the five minute mark. My wife came in and said, rather calmly I thought: “I can hear you’re not enjoying the golf.” All the rules officials involved, and there were far too many, should be ordered to turn in their earplugs and walkie talkies, and never step foot on a golf course again. Is the USGA’s rules bungling contagious? That was embarrassing — a 23 year old wandering around aimlessly with the R&A rules guys in tow and not exercising any control — and should never have happened. It should have been resolved within minutes of finding the ball. Sure it affected Kuchar! And before the half hour promenade to the driving range, they were already at least a hole behind. Just wonder what Miller and Co. would have been saying if it was an “international” (as the Americans call non-Yankees) that pulled that stunt?
Mumford: Spieth is slow. Period! He’s also one of the best at managing his game and weighing all his options carefully. I wasn’t surprised by the time he took but it had to be excruciating for Kuchar. Both players dealt with it well but what else could either of them have done?
NBC analyst Johnny Miller said on Saturday that Royal Birkdale was set up too easy as evidenced by the record low scores. Do you think the R&A goofed on the set-up?
Deeks: No, I don’t. I’ve played Royal Birkdale and I found it very hard, playing much easier tees and pins. I think the low scores were simply evidence of outstanding golf, period. And besides, a winning score of 12-under seems quite reasonable.
Loughry: There may have been a few great rounds shot by one player, BUT 12 under won, I don’t consider that a push over setup. And only two players really separated themselves from the field. The R&A expected a little more wind, but all in all I think it was set up well. It’s Miller crying over his record getting crushed, get over it, it was bound to happen Johnny.
Kaplan: No, I thought the course looked great and played fair. Johnny Miller was just being cranky about Branden Grace breaking his major championship scoring record.
Rule: It was only set up easy because there was no wind! It’s a fact, links courses are pretty darn easy when there is no wind blowing, the weather is always the defence to the course. Could they have made it longer and tucked some pins? Sure, they could have, but what’s the problem with guys making birdies and eagles, and having a chance to go low to get themselves into contention? There were only 2 players better than 6 under for the week, it’s not like they tore the place up!
Quinn: I usually disagree with everything Miller proclaims (he doesn’t say anything, he proclaims drivel as fact) and can’t stand the way he blurts it (like Trump, he can’t stay on a subject and interrupts himself), but there were far too many 64s for an Open, never mind the freaky 62. The greens were perfect (kudos grounds crew and R&A) but they got rained on (not the R&A’s fault). With no rain for a couple of weeks, it would have been different story, but the biggest factor was not the set up but the ball and the equipment.
Mumford: The set-up was fine but tournament officials got side-swiped by the benign weather. If the wind had howled like it did on Friday, nobody would have shot low scores and nobody would be talking about the course set-up being too easy. I like Johnny Miller but he is pretty sensitive about his records and twice this year has had to watch his sacred 8-under 63 in a major get beaten, first by Justin Thomas (9-under) at the US Open and now by Branden Grace with his 62. Get over it Johnny.
Who’s your pick to win the RBC Canadian Open?
Deeks: Somebody really good and famous, like Chez Reavie, Scott Piercy, or Forrest Gump.
Loughry: My horse is David Hearn, showing fine form of late. I bleed red and white, but this is his 15th Canadian Open and he knows the course as well as anyone else in the field. Otherwise DJ, same reason, he’s rounding back into form and there’s a Canadian connection with his father in law and all.
Kaplan: I’m going with a long shot this week. Brandon Hagy will win his first PGA Tour event at Glen Abbey.
Rule: Always tough to predict because the top players are coming back from the Open Championship and that obviously is a slight disadvantage. But it’s hard to ignore the success that both Kuchar and DJ have had at Glen Abbey. They are clearly the two favourites and I’m sure Kuchar will be a crowd favourite this week after narrowly missing out on his first major. Furyk is another who will undoubtedly be there come Sunday.
Quinn: Adam Hadwin, because he’s still pissed that a kid from Irving, Texas, got to wave the Maple Leaf at Southport.
Mumford: In a Canadian Open preview I wrote for another publication, I mentioned that there were several players that had the “bounce back factor” working for them: Kuchar for almost winning the Open Championship; Dustin Johnson for putting himself in contention at Royal Birkdale and then blowing up to a 77 on Sunday; and Adam Hadwin who shot almost the highest score in the field to miss the cut. All of them have added incentive to prove something at Glen Abbey but my money is on DJ. It’s almost a home game for the Gretzky-Johnsons and a Canadian Open victory would be like a major.