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.
The golf world is waiting in anticipation for Tiger’s return this week at the Hero World Challenge but fans were teased over the weekend with reports of Tiger playing with Donald Trump and Dustin Johnson. And apparently Tiger was outdriving DJ. Do you believe the stories and if so, does that change your expectations about Tiger moving forward?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Gosh, I thought the “DJ” he was outdriving was Donald J. Trump… in which case, meh. Seriously, I’m delighted to hear that Tiger’s hitting it so well, and if it is indeed true, then I would say that he has every possibility of winning again on Tour, perhaps even a major. His skills were once beyond compare, and his mind was a steel trap. But dominate to the degree he did a decade ago? I don’t see that happening; there are just too many good young players who won’t be frightened by Tiger’s shadow. It’ll be good to see him compete with these kids, though.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I have seen the videos of his driver swing, and there is no way he’s hitting it past DJ. The swing looks pretty good, but not necessarily powerful. It looks in control and if he can hit it 300 with that swing and keep the ball in play, you never know. The biggest thing will be the head game as always, and although he used to be the most focused and head strong athlete in the world, that all changed in 2009 and he’s never been the same. Let’s hope he can string together some birdies, avoid the big numbers and give us something to get excited about! I’ll be watching.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I believe the hype, but it doesn’t change my expectations at all. I need to see Tiger put numerous successful rounds together before I can get my hopes up. However, I am really excited for his return and I plan on watching every second of the coverage.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Sounds like more fake news coming out of a Drumpf golf round. Nothing happening at Mar-a-Lago or the Hero made-for-TV session at Albany will change my expectations of the latest comeback. Don’t think it will change Chamblee’s mind either.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I believe he may have rolled one or two drives past DJ’s hybrid but nothing in the videos of Tiger’s swing would lead anyone to believe he’s carrying the ball 325 plus yards. I wrote a few weeks back that I think Tiger can win again if he plays a more controlled game, if he doesn’t try to be the longest driver on Tour. What worries me now is if he thinks he can keep pace with DJ and other bombers. To do that, he risks further injury and puts his focus on exactly the part of his game that has always given him trouble – controlling his driver. I don’t like his prognosis if he’s going down that road.
Jason Day had a good opportunity on Sunday to get back in the winner’s circle at the Australian Open but couldn’t close the deal. The former World #1 hasn’t won since the Players in 2016 when he was still part of the so-called Big 3 with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Do you see Day getting to that level again (dominant, multiple win season including majors) or is he more likely to settle into a top player role with occasional victories?
Deeks: I do see Jason Day returning to elite status. I think he has the talent and the desire. But golly, it’s tough to get there, stay there, and get there again.
Rule: I just think you can put that down to him having a bad day, and nothing more than that. He’s still a great player, and has been through a lot personally the past couple of years, so it’s not surprising that he hasn’t won. He’ll be back and win some more tournaments, but it’s hard to imagine anyone having a dominant run, and be at the top of the rankings for a numbers of years in a row. There are just too many great players out there, and it’s hard for one person to dominate. It’s hard to imagine anyone dominating like Tiger did in his prime. Although I think that’s what the sport needs right now.
Kaplan: I don’t see why Day can’t return to that elite level. He had an off year last season and I believe a lot of that is related to things that transpired off of the course. The Aussie is only 30 and is perennially one of the best putters and longest drivers in the world. If he can just get his ball striking back to the level that it was prior to last year, he will be very tough to beat.
Quinn: Day has gone through a lot physically and perhaps even more psychologically, since he was on top. The damage has been done, and it’s hard to imagine him recapturing that magic. Sadly, I think he’s had his moments in the sun.
Mumford: I don’t really expect anyone to dominate for a sustained period the way Tiger did but a few extremely talented players can likely stay at or near the top for several years. Day is one of those. However, it seems likely that the Tour will feature a larger rotating cast of elite players – not necessarily a Big 3 – that will be favourites for all the majors and most important championships.
Most avid golfers have a basement or garage full of old clubs, training devices and other gizmos and gadgets that they bought (or received as a gift) in hopes of finding a solution to something. What’s the worst (craziest, stupidest, oddest) golf gizmo you ever owned? Is there one training device you believe in that would make an ideal Christmas gift for someone this year?
Deeks: You’re right, Mr. Interlocutor, there IS a closet full of discarded gizmos in the Deeks basement! There’s the visor with the laser that would keep your head steady over a putt… the short, yellow-shafted weighted club that gave one of my sons a sore back for two years… the wooden-headed “ginty” for short chips skulls from the side of the green… but probably the dumbest “aid” of all is the diamond-faced PureSpin wedge, which (according to the video) would have you spinning the bejesus out of your approach shots, literally sucking them back into the hole. All the club did was score the bejesus out of the cover of your ball. Three rounds and 11 Pro V’s later, to the basement it went.
Rule: I’ve never really bought into the training gadgets to be honest. I’ve never been into lessons either, I just like going out to the course and knocking it around and seeing what I can do on that particular day. The one thing I did buy one year at the PGA Show was one of those copper bracelets, as the guy there convinced me it would cure my bad back. Well, surprise surprise, it did nothing at all! Works fairly well as a paper weight now though. As for training devices that I think may work, I would say the Medicus, because it just makes sense. Why not try to get your swing always on plane. Wait, maybe it’s still on sale for post-Black Friday!
Kaplan: I once bought one of those nylon training arm belts at the PGA Superstore in Georgia and only realized when I got back to Toronto that the damn thing wasn’t adjustable. Every time I tried to use it, my arms would just slip out of the holes. It was a training aid for giants! If you’re looking for a good training aid gift, consider buying some impact tape and an impact bag. Both of these things will help you become a better ball striker and combined will not cost you more than $50! And, as a bonus, an impact bag can be used to vent your frustration on when your favourite sports team inevitably blows it down the stretch this winter or spring.
Quinn: A few years back I asked my teaching pro pal and my avid golfer buddy to join me at the range to help me figure something out. After a half hour we three still couldn’t even guess how the Leadbetter Swing Setter Pro was supposed to work or how it could possibly deliver on these modest promises: More Power, Straighter Shots, Greater Consistency, Improved Swing, and of course Lower Scores (which I guess is the point after all). But we did figure out how to get it back in the box. It’s been in the office closet ever since. My favourite is the Medicus double hinged driver. When the range is crowded, I hand it to my neighbour and have him make a swing in his stall. Then I theatrically shout — You Broke My Brand New Driver!!!! Love the reactions. One contraption that tangles you up so the white coats can easily remove you to a quiet place is the Swing Jacket. It makes for tough practice sessions, but it works – tightening the swing and forever retiring the flying elbow. Whoever you give it to will curse you, come around to thinking ‘This can’t possibly be how I should swing,’ then thank you.
Mumford: After nearly 20 trips to the annual PGA Merchandise Show, I’ve seen more goofy inventions than I thought possible. I resisted owning most of them but occasionally some persistent PR guy would send something to the office hoping I’d write glowingly about it. One of the weirdest was a golf ball with a string through it that was attached to a spike you could stick in the ground. The string was about 20-30 yards long and when you hit a shot, the string would prevent the ball from getting away on you. The downside was you spent way too much time winding the string back in to take your next shot. The best training aid ever is the Tour Striker, which forces you to position the club face for proper impact. Everybody should have one.