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.
Billy Payne is retiring as Chairman of Augusta National this fall after an 11 year span that saw several significant changes made to both the golf club and the Masters. If you could step into successor Fred Ridley’s shoes for a moment, what is one change you’d like to make to the course or the tournament?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): This isn’t necessarily JUST for the Masters, but the Masters could set a precedent that all others would surely follow: let the players wear short pants, for heaven’s sake! They were all seen recently in shorts at the Wednesday practice round at the PGA Championship… and no one fainted, or had cardiac arrest, at the sight of Spieth’s knees, or Dustin’s calves. The rest of the world wears shorts, why can’t PGA Tour players have the option? Surely not one single spectator would object.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): This one is easy for me. NOTHING. I love it just the way it is.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I’d like to see more television coverage of the Masters. I hate this whole ‘less is more’ concept. Give us Thursday and Friday morning coverage, especially if guys like Spieth and McIlroy are out there playing!
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): They have made so many changes to the course over the years, I’m not sure it there is much else to do right now, expect maybe play with a standard ball that doesn’t go as far, and bring back some of the old yardages. But it’s a captivating golf course and always provides drama, so the course is good as is. As for the tournament, I would say that most fans can’t get enough of it, and although it has come a long way in the past ten years, I think there could be more coverage. Why can’t I just follow a player around the entire round if I want? We should be able to watch whatever hole we want to watch at the click of a button.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The first thing I’d do is stop Jim Nance (the worst offender) and all the yakking heads from being so pandering and to drop the phony reverence. This is a club that reluctantly allowed token black members, then even more reluctantly token female members. I’d get some decent furniture for the Butler Cabin and then put McCord back in a tower and tell him to let it rip.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’d like to see them restore Augusta to the way it was designed. That means cutting down a lot of trees, eliminating the so-called “second cut” and giving the players more options. Too many holes have narrow corridors that eliminate decision making. The 7th is a perfect example. It used to be much shorter, had a wide landing area and birdies were plentiful. Depending on the pin position, eagles were also possible. Now it’s so penal that the average score is over par, it’s the 5th hardest hole on the course, and most importantly, not much fun to watch.
Phil Mickelson has played in a record 22 straight Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups but his streak is in jeopardy for this year. Currently, Phil sits outside the top 10 automatic US team selections and would have to be a Captain’s pick. Should Steve Stricker extend an invitation to Lefty or go with a younger player?
Deeks: To everything there is a season, and all that. If Phil can’t make the team on his own steam, he shouldn’t be given preference over someone who’s been trying his damnedest to make it, and has come THIS close. If I were Phil, and Strick extended the invitation, I would gracefully decline.
Loughry: Stricker needs to go with another player. Phil’s play has been sloppy, and he’s shown that consistently all year. It would be risky selecting him, regardless of his experience. Time for some new blood in the mix.
Kaplan: He should most certainly go with a younger player. Phil hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2013 and has been a shell of his former self this year. Plus, he has had plenty of opportunities to represent the U.S. in the past, having played on 11 Presidents and Ryder Cup teams over the course of his career. He should sit this one out and give someone else, like Brian Harman or Kevin Kisner, an opportunity.
Rule: I don’t think he’s playing well enough to get a selection. The US team is stacked already and playing against an International team that only has one great player right now, so it shouldn’t even be a contest. So I think this is the opportunity to let someone else be a leader and gain the experience in that role. Leave Lefty on the sidelines for this one.
Quinn: He’s still got a lot of game, but hasn’t been consistent for quite a while. It is definitely time for Phil to put on a headset and become an assistant coach. Tom Watson may not think so, but the majority of the players think Phil is a great guy in the room and his experience and mentoring ability should be tapped.
Mumford: Phil’s time as a team player is over. In the last couple of matches he wasn’t able to play two rounds in a day and he’s so erratic that it’s a toss-up whether he’ll be of any help to his partners. Apparently, he’s a great team-mate and brings lots of motivational support but he could do that as a captain or assistant too. Better yield the spot to a younger guy who could become a mainstay of the team for, let’s see, another 22 years.
The playoff between Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at The Northern Trust took place on the 18th hole, which a lot of players criticized as unfairly favouring long hitters. Johnson bombed a 341 drive across the lake leaving him with a lob wedge to the green while Spieth could only muster a measly 309 yard shot and had a mid-iron approach. Should a playoff to win such an important event come down to a long drive contest?
Deeks: The reason playoffs are held on the 18th hole, instead of the first, is because television is already set up there. If that hole happens to favour a bomber like Dustin, well, c’est la vie. He still had to hit the shots required. I don’t think it came down to a “long drive contest” that was tipped in Dustin’s favour. If some pros were critical, what do they expect… giving shorter tees to shorter hitters?
Loughry: Well, from a crowd pleasing and logistics point of view, the 18th hole was chosen because all the fans are already there. In that respect, you’re limited to the nature/design of that hole. They could have chosen another hole that was maybe more difficult, but DJ still had to hit a fairly brave shot on that line. So, in one way it was a risk reward hole. He still had to hit a brilliant second shot and make the putt. But was it a strong hole, a great hole to decide the tournament? No not really.
Kaplan: Well, it was pretty obvious that that hole catered to long-bombers all week long. They probably should have set up the playoff so that Spieth and DJ weren’t competing on a hole that dog-legs around a large body of water. However, it’s not like Spieth was too far away from the green to get home in two shots. He gave himself a birdie look and he almost made it. Plus, DJ could have over cut his drive and lost the tournament right there with that tee shot. That’s why they call it a risk/reward!
Rule: I don’t get the controversy. DJ is an incredible driver of the golf ball, that’s his advantage in any tournament. Is it unfair that Spieth keeps making putts all over the place? Sure he had an advantage because he could cut the corner, but he still had to carry it 320 yards, and if he can do that, he deserves an advantage.
Quinn: Spieth admitted that he should have taken on the water in the playoff, adding that a 182-yard shot into that pin position was almost impossible to get close. Sure the wind shift tipped the scale in the bomber’s favour, but Spieth sinks more bombs than any one else, so there’s some balance. Still, a bad playoff hole, more suited to a frys.com than a FedEx playoff.
Mumford: Nice finishing hole for bunters and chops but stupid for a PGA Tour event. It’s supposed to be a risk/reward hole but if it only rewards long hitters then it doesn’t offer the choices intended. That’s not the way you want to see an important event end. It’s like the shootout in hockey, another stupid way to decide a game.