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.
During the DP World Championship in Dubai, European Tour CEO Keith Pelley stated that in order to reach a wider audience, professional golf has to look beyond the traditional 72 hole stroke play format. While Pelley refused to speculate on what that might be, can you offer a format that might appeal to more than the hard core golf fan?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Sure… 18 holes of golf, followed by a 5-mile swim through shark-infested water, followed by an Ultimate Fighting round robin among the top 10 finishers. The top two then square off in a hairstyling contest, judged by Howie Mandel, JLo and JLa. I’m frankly surprised that no one’s proposed this before. It’s a no-brainer.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I’d say Pelley would be talking about more team events. Or if he’s really crazy (I hear he likes to test the limits, which I like about him) something really alternative that unfortunately has nothing to do with the talent on the European Tour…Speed Golf, Cross Country Golf, or even Urban Golf. But that’s just anarchy isn’t it? If Keith is looking for a quick win, a team event would be cool that had 6 holes Four-Ball, 6 holes Foursome, and 6 holes Scramble. All three of those formats are quite popular in the UK, so test the waters.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I’d like to see something like Monday Night Golf return, where some of golf’s biggest stars could duke it out on primetime television. Have an instalment once every two months during the course of the season and let the fans determine who plays. Spieth vs Thomas; McIlroy vs DJ; Tiger vs Mickelson … the possibilities are endless.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I like what Pelley is doing. The European Tour is trying different formats, which is great, and their social media is awesome. I laughed out loud watching Padraig Harrington give that fake lesson in one of their last videos. As for what format to try, that’s a great question, and I’m sure Pelley has much better ideas than I. I’ve always been a fan of match play events, but they are slow to watch, so if they can address that, and have the top players squaring off head to head, that would interest me.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Thought the Euro Tour did some tinkering this season like the GolfSixes – 2-man 6-hole matches – and the Match Play 9. Don’t know how they fared, but they sounded good. Maybe Thursday-Friday 6-hole matches to determine seeding for a stroke play weekend might be interesting and not risk the stars being knocked out early. But after handing out free passes to TopGolf to millennials and the yobs still shouting at Tour events to get them off the courses, I think hard core fans still do enjoy the standard stroke play format with the odd Ryder Cup mixed in. (No Presidents or FedEx Cups please!)
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Anything combining match play and teams seems to be pretty popular whenever the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are played. It would be pretty easy to create a bunch of 12-man teams at the beginning of each season and designate 4-6 tournaments as team events, leading to a showdown at the end of the season between the top two teams. Another format that might be popular is a variation of the old shoot-out format where a player or players get knocked out on each hole until there are just two left. It would have to be structured to accommodate 156 players but it could be done. Fans seem to love formats that deliver immediate results which add pressure and excitement more so than a long drawn out 72 hole event.
At the CME Globe Championship, Lexi Thompson missed a two foot par putt on the 72nd hole that would have tied her with Ariya Jutanugarn. The missed putt cost Lexi Player of the Year honours and a chance to win the tournament and has to rank right up there with other major miscues on the final hole. What’s the worst you ever saw?
Deeks: The name Van de Velde always comes to mind when questions of Big Blows come up. But that situation at Carnoustie was more a case of stupidity than choking. Lexi’s putt was so easy, and so taken for granted, that it might rank as the Worst Choke I’ve ever seen (not counting several of my own lobotomy moves), especially given everything that was at stake. My sympathy is with Lexi, but we can’t overlook the fact that Ariya very calmly sank two long putts for birdie on the final two holes to win. (And for what it’s worth, I’m sure that I heard a woman in the gallery let go a loud sneeze just as Lexi was drawing the putter back. That would’ve caused 8 out of 10 people to jack the putt. The announcers didn’t mention it, and to her great credit, neither did Lexi, but it may have been the Sneeze Heard Round the World.)
Loughry: Hoch, Masters 1989 to win in a playoff. His two footer barely touched the outside edge of the hole. Close second, even though I wasn’t born yet, has to be Doug Sanders 1970 Open Championship to win on the final hole. Instead he waived at it, didn’t hit the hole from two or so feet, eventually losing to Jack in a playoff. Both of these missed putts were excruciating to watch.
Kaplan: Well I know that Scott Hoch and Hale Irwin both had a couple of disasters on the final holes of majors back in the day but those both happened long before I started watching golf so I technically never saw them. The worst final hole putting gaffe that I’ve ever personally seen was I.K. Kim’s lip-out from one foot on the final hole of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship. It looked like Kim had the tournament all locked up. But that missed putt resulted in a sudden death playoff against Sun-Young Too that she ended up losing on the first extra hole.
Rule: Hard not to feel bad for Lexi after missing that putt, especially with everything she went through this year with respect to rules violations. She has handled herself very well in the aftermath of all of these events, which makes me respect her as an athlete and role model. Her miss immediately made me think of IK Kim a few years ago in the Kraft Nabisco, but one of the worst I ever saw was Scott Choke at the Masters. That may be the biggest putt ever missed given the tournament and circumstances, but it actually wasn’t the worst stroke, he looked like he hit it where he was aimed! The worst putt has to be Doug Sanders at St Andrews in 1970 – that was one ugly stroke!
Quinn: Didn’t see it first hand but on an 18-inch black and white TV. The thought of Doug Sanders missing that two-footer on the 18th at St. Andrews that would have given him the 1970 Open Championship (and changed his life, of course) still makes me twinge. I’ve seen the photos and the BBC replay that shows the flamboyant Sanders was wearing a purple turtleneck. The announcer said this is what you dream of, a two-footer to win The Open ‘with just a little left borrow.’ He didn’t borrow enough. Dang.
Mumford: The ones that come immediately to mind are Doug Sanders in the 1970 Open Championship at St. Andrews and I.K. Kim’s miss at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco. I don’t think Kim’s putt was even two feet. I was in the stands beside the 18th hole for the 1995 Sea Pines Heritage Classic when Mark McCumber came to the final hole needing a par to tie. McCumber rolled his birdie putt about 18 inches past the cup and nonchalantly walked over to tap in for par. Unfortunately, he didn’t take enough time and the putt didn’t even come close. He turned and looked right at the stands and although I’m not a seasoned lip reader, it was pretty clear he said, “#$@! I missed it!”
Tiger Woods makes his return to play next week at the Hero World Challenge. Brandel Chamblee was quite vocal over the weekend telling anybody who would listen that athletes don’t recover from back problems and Tiger is essentially done. What’s your take on Chamblee’s comments and what do you expect from Tiger next week?
Deeks: I’m beginning to get quite tired of Bramble’s pronouncements, which seem to be somewhat forced — as if he’s expected to say something controversial each week. Neither he nor you nor I know what’s ahead for Tiger. I hope Bramble at least added that he wishes Tiger well and that a successful return would be really good for the sport. I’m not Tiger’s biggest fan by any means, but I sincerely hope he comes back with a new attitude and less arrogance, and that he accredits himself well.
Loughry: Chamblee is an attention craved idiot. Tiger will NOT embarrass himself. He wouldn’t come back if he didn’t feel he could play. He will not be the Tiger in his prime, but he’ll compete and show glimpses of greatness, of that I have no doubt. And who doesn’t want to see him play some good golf?
Kaplan: I don’t necessarily disagree with Chamblee. I can only really think of three instances off the top of my head where athletes have returned after having spinal surgeries and one of them is Tiger! The other two were Peyton Manning and Rob Gronkowski. As we all know, Manning had numerous neck and spine surgeries in 2010, including a cervical fusion, and went on to recover and eventually win a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2014. But, it was not the Peyton Manning that we were accustomed to. He looked like a shell of himself out there and promptly retired after locking down his second ring. Gronkowski had back surgery in 2013 to repair a herniated disc, and he has arguably gotten even better since then. However, Gronkowski is a physical specimen and he was only 23 at the time. Woods, on the other hand, has now had four back surgeries since 2014 and is 41 years old! And, he’ll be 42 when the season restarts for the Hawaii/West Coast Swing in January. I think it is encouraging how Rickie Fowler was talking about how far Woods is currently hitting the ball. But, until I see him put four rounds together MORE THAN ONCE, I’m not getting my hopes up.
Rule: Sadly I think Chamblee may be right; it’s tough to come back from a back injury, especially in golf. I hope he just completes four rounds and is healthy next week so that he can continue the comeback and hopefully improve in the next few months leading up to Augusta. That’s all I’m expecting!
Quinn: Despite Billy (isn’t he old enough to now be called William or Bill?) Horschel’s Trump-like Twitter barrage, Chamblee’s latest anti-Eldrick volley makes sense, as they all have. I’ve had 24-7 back pain since an ill-fated football play in my senior high school year (chipped vertebrae). After every conceivable treatment short of fusion surgery, full recovery is a long abandoned dream. Full recovery and return to excellence from a series of back surgeries by a 40-something in a back-unfriendly sport is inconceivable. Dr. Chamblee makes a good point; everyone else is dreaming.
Mumford: Chamblee may be right but about athletes in general but Tiger has shown over the years that he may be the most determined golfer ever. He doesn’t let anybody or anything get in his way. As I said in my blog (HERE) a couple of weeks back, if Tiger can be healthy enough to play, I think he can win again. He’ll have to overcome his need to be the alpha male on the course, outhitting all comers and stomping on the necks of the timid, but if he can find a more controlled game that relies on his unparalleled iron game and clutch putting, he can contend. I don’t expect him to dominate entire seasons or even win majors but if his back can last 72 holes on courses he knows well, watch out.