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.
Brooke Henderson had the lead at the Women’s PGA Championship last week but faded on Sunday to tie for 6th. Do you see anything in Brooke’s game that is cause for concern or is this just one that got away?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Brooke is a pretty steady player on the LPGA over the course of a season, so I’m assuming this is one that just got away. But it got away because of a balky putter on the last five holes on Saturday… she missed at least three very makeable putts, and the momentum shift as So Yeon Ryu countered Brooke’s misses with makes, clearly shocked Brooke, and she just couldn’t get anything going on Sunday. Balky putter and inability to come back and play aggressively (and well) after a let-down are what’s keeping Brooke out of the top 5… which is a shame because she’s so likeable. But what the heck, she’s 20 years old!! Many more years and majors left.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Brooke Henderson is a very solid player with few if any weaknesses! She won’t win everything all the time. For example, who holds the record the most second place finishes in major championships? Answer: the same guy who holds the record for the most victories in major championships; Jack Nicklaus. If she had won, she would have become the first Canadian to win two majors and she’s only 20 years old.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): There is absolutely no cause for concern here. She let one tournament get away. No biggie; that’s golf. She already has a win this year and a major under her belt, and she’s only 20 to boot! I think her six wins over the last 3.5 seasons speaks much more about who she is as a golfer, and the type of player she’s on trajectory to become, than one less than ideal showing on a Sunday afternoon.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s just one that got away, and it happens to everyone. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out on the weekend and that was the case with Brooke. She hit the least fairways of the week on Sunday (4/14) and had her most putts with 33, so that’s a bad combo. But I would just write it off as a bad round when she least needed it and I’m sure next time she’s in that position in a major, she’ll post a low number.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: From the first time I watched her I have been concerned about her choking (down on all her clubs) and now I’m just irritated. If playing with clubs that didn’t fit was the way to go, maybe Annika and Nancy and Jack would have played that way.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Brooke seems to be two different people on the golf course: a confidant, quick, aggressive player from tee to green and a tentative, relentlessly analytical slowpoke on the putting surface. The sister act looks at every putt from every angle, compares notes and then has another look for good measure. Brooke hits a lot of putts 3-4 feet (and sometimes more) past the hole when she misses. The best putters leave themselves tap-ins; they don’t grind over long putts to save par. The fact that Brooke is 94th on Tour in putting should be all you need to know.
Tiger Woods went 65-68-66 in the last three rounds at the Quicken Loans National to finish T4. Despite the strong finish Woods still lost by 10 shots. Should Tiger fans be encouraged by his progress or concerned that he’s still a long way from winning?
Deeks: Yes. (That’s a deliberate non-answer, because I have no idea how Tiger fans are or should be feeling, as I’m not one of them. I do, however, give him lots of credit for his comeback so far.)
Schurman: Tiger woods is a marketer’s dream come true and at the same time great for the Tiger dis-likers! He’s playing great! Enjoying top finishes and yet he isn’t winning! Looks like something for every-one. He reminds me of a TOUR rookie who bursts onto the scene with all the promise of winning but can’t seem to find the combination to victory. I’ve said it before “He has a lot of baggage to overcome but don’t bet against him. He likes portraying himself as an under-dog”.
Kaplan: Fans shouldn’t just be encouraged, they should be ecstatic! At this time last year, Tiger was sheepishly talking about the possibility of never competing again. And yet, he just finished with his third Top 5 of the season and is seemingly on track to legitimately contend at the Open. And I mean truly contend, unlike at the Masters and the US Open where he was just merely in attendance. If you’re a Tiger fan and you’re not excited about that, I just don’t know what to tell you…
Rule: Let’s face it, losing by 10 wasn’t uncommon last weekend with the performance that Molinari put up, so that’s not a concern. Fact it he was 2 shots out of second and in contention other than the one guy. We should definitely be encouraged, he’s around on the weekends more and more often and if he can heat up that putter one of these weeks, he’ll win sooner than later.
Quinn: He still has fans? Wow. The T4 looks good until one looks at the real number. That reads 10 strokes behind the winner. On any Tour in any era, that’s a long way from winning. Shooting in the 60s in something sponsored by Quicken Loans ain’t exactly going to make it to Eldrick’s highlight reel.
Mumford: Tiger proved early in the season that his back is good to go. Six months later the rust is gone and someone with Tiger’s talent and experience should be winning. T4 sounds good but 10 strokes back isn’t contending. He seems to relish the idea that he can still hit his drives as far as the longest hitters on Tour but until he recognizes that his ego is keeping him out of the winner’s circle, he won’t be a consistent threat. The game is good, but the head needs work. Who knows how long that will take?
Is there anything compelling about the PGA Tour Champions? Most of the marquee players are no longer competitive. With the exception of Bernhard Langer, who shows no signs of slowing down, Davis Love III and Vijay Singh are what account for the Tour’s star power. Most of the rest of the players are either looking for one last shot at immortality or a chance to pad their retirement accounts. Are you a fan?
Deeks: Good question. I used to be a fan, but honestly, three minutes of watching this week’s Lumber World Classic or Mattress Town Rotary Shootout, and my wife is yelling at me to stop snoring. Much of that narcolepsy could be the fault of Lanny Wadkins, who must be the least effective television analyst in any sport. He never gives any insight, and simply describes the replay of the shot we’ve just seen. “You can see here that Billy Bob glides the club through the grass, lands it about five feet on the green, and lets it roll down to within two feet. A pretty nice shot.” Well, duh. Most players are just padding their retirement accounts, yes, but what a wonderful, lucrative, and relaxing way to do it. And there seems to be no shortage of white-haired, overweight fans to cheer them on, and wealthy companies willing to pay them to show up. But for me, it’s a cure for insomnia.
Schurman: Yes, there’s a place for this Tour. This year Richard Zokol, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Hal Sutton all turn 50 showing there is constant supply of new ‘blood’. In fact, Phil is only a few years away and Tiger is only 8 away. The biggest problem is ‘ identity’. We’ve gone from the Senior PGA Tour, to the Champions’ Tour, to the PGA TOUR Champions. Everyone knew what the Senior PGA Tour meant and who could play. When it became the Champions Tour a lot of golf observers knew what it meant but the general public didn’t and continued to use the original name. Now, as the PGA Tour Champions, it sounds like only those players who have won on the PGA TOUR can play and there is no indication of age or being a Senior. I wouldn’t be surprised if some viewers watch the Tournament of Champions in January and wonder where every-one went for the rest of the year.
Kaplan: At the moment, there is nothing compelling about the PGA Tour Champions aside from Mr. Langer. But I don’t expect that to last for very long. There are several household names in the twilight of their 40s right now who are going to be making the transition to the senior circuit quite soon, and I think their presence is going to perk things quite a bit on that tour. Here are but a few: Phil Mickelson, 48; Ernie Els, 48; Retief Goosen, 49; Mike Weir, 48; KJ Choi, 48; Angel Cabrera, 48; and Jim Furyk, 48. Throw in John Daly and Steve Stricker, who are both north of 50, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good field. I’d watch those guys take a run at Bernhard’s throne.
Rule: I can’t get excited about the Champions Tour, and never could. It’s a great way to keep the great champs of yesteryear in the game and making money, and it keeps the sponsors happy, but the competition doesn’t get my juices flowing. Not sure the last time I tuned in to watch an old guys event. I may get excited in the next couple of years if Mike Weir is competing for a major, but otherwise I’ll just check the results at the end of the weekend and be happy with that extent of senior golf knowledge.
Quinn: From the outset, this fandango was a way to get some old guys who built the Tour some money as the young guys got rich on their trail blazing. Now its a cluster of guys who never sold a ticket making nice money playing in front of relatives and friends. Look at last week. Name one person you have ever met — however briefly — who would pay after tax dollars to watch any of these guys play golf: Toms, Triplett. Sutherland, Petrovic, Kelly, Jobe, Broadhurst, even in their prime? They were in the top 8 finishers. These guys are barnstorming with sponsors you’ve never heard of to smaller and smaller towns and smaller and smaller galleries and asking for lots of after-tax bucks to watch this charade. Never cared, never watch it.
Mumford: A couple of weeks back I was waiting for the PGA Tour broadcast to start and debated whether to watch the Seniors or a Seinfeld re-run. It turned out Kramer was hilarious – far more entertaining than the two leaders who never received a minute of TV coverage when they were playing the PGA Tour. There’s no argument with their ability to play and compete against one another but the broadcast is dull, the players are unknown and unmarketable, and it’s much like the PGA Tour between majors – another town, another event and a bunch of guys treading water until one of the superstars shows up. I’m definitely not a fan.