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.
Bubba Watson won the Travelers Championship on Sunday with a brilliant 63, overtaking leader Paul Casey, who started the day with a four-shot lead but stumbled home in 72. From your perspective, did Bubba win this or did Casey lose it?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I was too busy working on my own game on Sunday to have watched a minute of the Travelers, but anytime a guy shoots 63 on a final day, I’d say he deserves to be credited with having won a tournament, if that’s what he did. Yes, Casey stumbled, but I’d give Bubba praise for a fine clutch round.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Paul Casey is mystery to me! His swing is as good as there is on any tour! His iron play is outstanding! His length is incredible! I know his short game is a little suspect, as is his putting. However, sooner or later you would think the ‘stars would align’. On the other hand, Bubba is an enigma himself. He plays a style of game that hasn’t been seen for years and he does it with equipment that isn’t supposed to work that way. Did Bubba win or Casey lose? A bit of both.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): It’s a good thing that Casey ended his 9-year North American victory drought in March because the Englishman absolutely blew this tournament. The conditions were ripe for scoring on Sunday and Casey couldn’t get anything going other than a birdie on the first hole. In fact, he was one of only 12 players in the field that did not break par in their final rounds. However, that does not take away from Bubba’s impressive 63 or the fact that he is now the only player who has won three times on the PGA Tour this season. Didn’t see that coming…
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): A little bit of Column A, a little bit of Column B. It also takes both to happen when someone comes from that far behind, but ultimately Casey lost a tournament that was his to win. And he seems to be making a habit of not being able to close the deal. But credit must go to Bubba for putting together an impressive round when he needed it.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: This was a classic case of Peter Kostis conflict of interest and losing another client. That course was coughing up low numbers and all Casey had to do was not spit the bit. Sure Bubba (dad gum it, that is the perfect name for that sum gun) did his weird thing — not in the final group where the heat be — but Casey proved once again that he don’t got that Royal Jelly the Brits talk about.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): There were a lot of low scores on Sunday, so Casey’s 72 was a full-on retreat. He choked on the final few holes particularly, just when Bubba was applying pressure. Congratulations to Bubba for a fine round but this one should have been a done deal for the Englishman. Casey lost this in dreadful fashion.
The Phil Mickelson – U.S. Open debacle continued last week with players weighing in on both sides of the debate and Mickelson himself issuing something close to an apology. Does this permanently tarnish Mickelson’s reputation or do fans just brush it off as another bizarre episode in Lefty’s already colourful career?
Deeks: This will be a minor footnote in Mickelson’s colourful career and should be treated as such. I don’t think it tarnishes his reputation, although it was a dumb thing to do and he should have been disqualified by the USGA, in my opinion.
Schurman: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “I am not a Phil fan”! It would be easy for me to now say “I told you so,” but “I told you so”. Phil is a split personality. He walks both sides of the street. Only Arnie signed more autographs and Phil does use the Arnie ‘thumbs up’ wave to the gallery. He is generous beyond belief with charities and his interviews are excellent. However, he was a second away from an orange jumpsuit for insider trading. BTW His associate is in prison. At the same time, it was discovered that Phil is a huge sports bettor and had significant debts to some dubious people which is how he became involved in the insider trading deal. He constantly seeks ways to outsmart the game’s best thinkers. And, now he deliberately (yes, deliberately) caused his score to be adversely affected. By his own admission and concurred by Lee Westward, he and Phil discussed the outcome of interfering with a moving ball in play to lower their score by avoiding a more difficult shot. This was a premeditated action! It did not come out of frustration over poor play or poor course set-up. The poor course set-up only provided a venue, an opportunity for Phil’s devious plan. Phil Mickelson planned this whole scenario and waited for his chance. IMO he might have acted within the written rules, but he violated the spirit of the rules. In the same way the US Department of Justice saw fit to merely make him return his ill-gotten gains for insider trading, the USGA only assessed him a two-stroke penalty. However, both acts walk very close to the line of something far more serious. What it says to me is that Phil is not above reproach. He will take an avenue to bet on sports and when things went ‘south’ he allowed himself to become more deeply involved. When it comes to the rules of golf his mind isn’t above daring others to determine how serious his actions are. Involvement in this type of thinking is dangerous! How are we to know if Phil bets on PGA Tour scores? How are we to know if the gambling debts he accrued were enough for someone to threaten his or his family’s safety; look at the insider trading situation. Is it possible Phil can’t win the US Open as a heavy betting favorite for a reason? I wish he was only the good parts of Phil; the other parts make me sick!
Kaplan: I mentioned last week that I believe this will indeed tarnish his reputation for younger fans and for subsequent generations. For Phil’s pre-existing fans, nothing changes. They see him as a can-do-no-wrong folk hero, and his most recent antics only serve to strengthen that persona. But those fans who only started watching golf in recent years and never got a chance to experience his glory days first-hand will associate him with that incident for the rest of their lives. Not to mention that when the USGA inevitably modifies that rule, it will forever be entwined with Phil’s name. Just ask T.C. Chen.
Rule: At the end of the day, it will be a very small blip on the radar and few will remember it as part of his amazing career. Things always seem bigger right after they occur and that’s the case here. He will be remembered more for not winning a US Open to complete the Grand Slam, but also for the great champion he was and how he endeared himself to the fans throughout his career.
Quinn: So-called golf fans forgot all Eldrick’s transgressions on and off the course, so why the heck would they even vaguely recall Phil’s running putt? From top to bottom in the US of A there has been a dumbing down over the past few decades that is beyond troubling. That extends obviously to the ‘Go in The Hole” buffoons now thought of as fans of the game. Only the media will bring it up each time Phil tees it up. The “fans” have been on to their next ‘Dilly Dilly’ for weeks, and anyway, 99% of them could never spell Mickelson, even if they were spotted a couple of vowels.
Mumford: Mickelson’s career isn’t already without some tarnish, but it seems to be overlooked by his legion of fans. In the old days, a player with any integrity would have withdrawn following such an egregious act, even if the gutless USGA didn’t disqualify him. Unfortunately, in today’s world, led by the daily example perpetrated by the orange bi-ped in the White House, the idea of “doing the right thing” has been replaced with the notion that you can do whatever you want, spin it and suffer little to no consequences. Honesty, integrity and proper etiquette used to mean something in golf. I’m afraid Mr. Mickelson has lowered that bar.
Golf lost two Hall of Famers last week with the passing of Hubert Green and Peter Thomson. What are your recollections of the two men and how would you describe their legacy to someone who didn’t know about them?
Deeks: Both men never received the respect they were due, in my view. Hubert Green was somewhat quirky as a person, and his two majors were viewed at the time as flukish… somewhat like Bubba and his two Masters today. Peter Thomson was a God, revered by the Aussies and the Brits for his record, his strong personality, and to a degree, the golf courses he designed in the Southern Hemisphere. But he was largely unknown and certainly underappreciated in North America, because he peaked just before the explosion in interest in golf generated by Arnold Palmer post-1960, and because he chose not to compete in the US during the golden years of the 60s and 70s. He did play a couple of seasons on the Senior Tour in the mid-80s, won 9 events in one year, then called it a day… having proven that he was truly a great player. And above all that, he LOOKED British. One of the most impressive people I’ve ever had the privilege to spend time with. RIP, Peter Thomson!
Schurman: Hubert Green can only be described as unorthodox. He had an unusual ‘pick-up’ type of back swing, he putted with a hockey stick grip and he looked like he was enjoying everyday of his life (something most people don’t do). But, he could sure play winning two majors and 19 PGA Tour victories. Peter Thomson had one of the finest golf swings of all-time and won the Open five times. He was an accomplished golf writer with over 50 years of articles, he designed over 100 courses, helped found the Australian Tour and served as the Australian PGA President for 32 years. He also ran for Parliament, graduated as a chemist and founded the Melbourne Odyssey House to treat drug addicts. He was a great golfer but also a great man!
Kaplan: I think it would be best to defer to my Round Table colleagues for this question considering that these two icons played the bulk of their careers significantly before I was born, and I am still just learning about many of their accomplishments.
Rule: I’ll be honest I don’t know much about the career of Hubert Green, other than the fact that he won a US Open and almost won a Masters. He was clearly a great champion as he won 19 times on the PGA Tour apparently (yes, I had to look that up!), but I wouldn’t have much to add to that when describing his legacy. As for Peter Thomson, he was a 5-time Open Champion and one of the best Australian golfers of all time. Remarkably he didn’t win any other majors, or even finish Top 3. Of course, he didn’t play the others nearly as often. His Open Championship record is maybe the best of all time though. In addition to the five victories, he finished Top 10 in 18 of 20 years – that’s amazing. He’ll also be remembered as a great golf course architect, designing courses all over the world. All in all, a golf legend, and he’ll be missed!
Mumford: The thing I remember most about Hubert Green was his unusual swing. Even in an era where a lot of players had home-made swings, his stood out much like Jim Furyk’s swing stands out today. I doubt any teacher ever uses it as a model, but the swing worked for Green and got him into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Peter Thomson would have been held in the same regard as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had he played in front of US TV audiences and his contributions to golf continued long after his playing career was over. He was a terrific player, brilliant course architect, fine writer, exceptional coach and mentor and above all a class act.