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.
Scotland is enjoying a run of hot weather and the fairways at Carnoustie are baked to near perfection. With the course playing very firm and very fast for the Open Championship, will that benefit any particular type of player?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think the player who shoots the lowest total over four days is most likely to win. Seriously, it could be anybody. I know that’s obvious, but every time I think Americans won’t be familiar with links golf, Americans win it. So, I’m going to think that Dustin Johnson and other big, straight hitters might do really well, because they can hit it long enough to probably drive some of the par 4s.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I can’t wait for The Open to start! Firm and fast is great. Let the wind blow hard too; that will make for some fun. It’s the wind I think that is the element I’d factor in more than firm baked out conditions. I believe the player that manages themselves and their game around Carnoustie the best will be the eventual winner. Downwind I’m hearing some players are hitting 400-yard drives, but there are some severe penal bunkers (and hazards) that players might think are out of play but just very may well be within their zone. The defending champ hasn’t played great as of late, but I wouldn’t rule him out, he manages his way around a golf course pretty proficiently.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: With hard fairways the European players and those who grew up in places like Texas will benefit. I attended the Senior Open at Carnoustie in 2016 and can tell you conditions like this don’t make it any easier. Yes, the ball can roll a long way, but it can get away into some awful stuff very quickly. One shot that few players use a lot is the ‘Texas Wedge’ which I watched being used from as far back as 30 to 40 yards. They also use a lot of ‘bump and run’ shots with 6 and 7 irons. The exceptionally hard fairways will help shorter hitters who will now hit more greens.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): It definitely favours the shorter hitters and the plotters. You’re going to see a lot of guys pulling irons and fairway woods off the tee to avoid hitting their balls through the fairways, so the longer hitters are not going to have any advantage out there. It’s going to be the guys who put themselves in the best position to approach the greens that are going to have the most success this week.
Hal Quinn, Starter/Player Assistant, Furry Creek GC: The conditions will benefit the player with the best caddy, that’s why I think Adam Scott made a brilliant move hiring Fanny Sunesson for The Open. I’ve had the privilege of playing a number of links under hard and dry conditions. Had a shot at Turnberry (pre-Trump) that was 225 yards uphill. My caddy handed me my six iron and pointed to a hillock 30 yards right of any reasonable line. I accidentally hit it well and right on his line (I trusted him implicitly as we had been a team for over an hour) and the ball caught the slope and ran at least 60 yards left to settle on the apron. I could have hit a large bucket on lines of my choosing and not got one close to that green. Carnoustie this week will favour players with faith in their caddy and commitment to the shots.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): When the fairways are running this fast, the course gets very narrow, so it’s a plus to the control players and shot-makers and a disadvantage for the bombers. This will primarily be a ground game so knowing the bounces and breaks will be crucial. If the wind blows, Carnoustie will be impossible, so again, advantage to players that can vary their trajectory and control their ball. I can’t wait!
Who is your pick to take home the Claret Jug on Sunday and do you have a long-shot choice or sentimental favourite?
Deeks: I’d like to see Jason Day win it, so he’s my pick. My long-shot: Danny Willett. I know he’s been MIA since his Masters win, but he’s been on a few leader boards lately, and I think he knows the course pretty well.
Loughry: Rickie played pretty good last week at the Scottish Open at Gullane, which had similar conditions. He’s used to the time zone too, so I kind of like his chances as he’s already adjusted and playing the bounces you get with links golf. Sentimental favourite: Darren Clarke. He’s just a man of the people and so easy to cheer for. I’d say Duval, but I like him in the booth too much for that to happen.
Schurman: My European Tour pick is Tommy Fleetwood and my USPGA TOUR pick is Patrick Reed. Fleetwood for obvious reasons and Reed because he is an excellent ‘chipper & pitcher’. As a long shot, I decided against Lehman, Duval or Calcavecchia and I’m going with Adam Hadwin at 250:1.
Kaplan: I like Brian Harman’s chances out there. The Georgian is leading the PGA Tour in Top 10’s, is 19th in driving accuracy, 26th in GIR %, and 15th in strokes gained with the putter. Add it all up and I think the southpaw has got a good chance to break through for his first major. Tiger is my dark horse, provided he plays that stinger of his all week long. In fact, I will be angry if he doesn’t. If he wants to, he can hit his irons so far and low, and this course is essentially demanding that type of shot. If I was Joe LaCava, I’d break every club in his bag lower than a 2-iron.
Quinn: The last go round was so painful that he told the world that he was not good enough to win a Major. Now he has one, and he’s returning to the scene of his angst. My pick is Sergio. Long shot is Fleetwood, and sentimental is Rose. It’s past time that an “International,” as the Americans call the rest of us, won The Open Championship, as it is known to all but the Yanks, who call it the British Open, which it is not.
Mumford: Carnoustie has not been kind to Sergio Garcia in his last two attempts (badly missed cut in 1999 and a heart-breaking playoff loss in 2007). He makes a tantalizing sentimental favourite. I’d like to pick Rory McIlroy to win but I’m not sure he has the discipline to dial back his legendary length and keep the ball in play. So, I’m going with Matt Kuchar, a control specialist who has added determination after last year.
The USGA staged the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open last week with Laura Davies capturing the inaugural event by a whopping 10 shots. Most people feel the event is long overdue. What was your take on the championship and do you think it will have an impact on women’s golf?
Deeks: When I interviewed Laura Davies last year, she said her main motivation for still grinding out on the LPGA Tour was to get the requisite 30 victories needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame. I think this Senior Open victory (which I assume counts, for the LPGA) brings her to 29. Amazing when you think she’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and was chosen as the first honorary female member of the R&A. So, I was delighted for her victory, and I’m equally delighted that the USGA has recognized that former great lady players can still play respectable golf. Maybe this event will give a big boost to the Senior Ladies Tour… believe it or not, there is one. Most people aren’t aware.
Loughry: I agree, this was long overdue, so kudos to the USGA for recognizing this gap. The game is a game for life, and that very much includes woman. There are some legends in woman’s golf and it was great to see them this past week. This event gives woman something to play for well beyond their younger Amateur or Professional career.
Schurman: I like the tournament! It has been a missing piece of championship golf. It amazes me how the players have maintained such a high standard when they have so little opportunity to compete. I doubt it will have any impact on women’s golf but sometimes we do things because they are the right thing to do.
Kaplan: As a 31-year-old, I barely knew anyone in the field other than Laura Davies and a couple of other names, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the (extremely limited) coverage. It was awesome seeing Laura Davies clumping up some dirt on the tee blocks and then crushing her drives. And even though I unfortunately didn’t see any of Big Mama’s shots live, I certainly enjoyed reading about how well she played in that opening round. This event is only going to get better in the coming years with more household names coming of age. I am genuinely looking forward to next year’s tournament.
Quinn: I always wanted to have the chance to watch grandmothers play golf, and now I finally can. This is great. No wonder the galleries almost topped the 3,000 mark. Talk about exciting. And talk about overdue! Big Momma Carner will be 80 at next year’s second coming. Can’t wait.
Mumford: What a fantastic championship! Long overdue, which unfortunately meant that some former LPGA stars were no longer competitive. Also, a breath of fresh air compared to the Grumpy Old Men’s Tour, also known as the PGA Tour Champions. I don’t expect this event will do anything more than be a fun way to celebrate some of the past great champions but there’s nothing wrong with that.
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up on the PGA Tour this week on a sponsor’s exemption at the Barbasol Championship. She’ll be the 5th women to play a PGA Tour event. Are you a fan of this sort of thing or is time to end such stunts?
Deeks: I’m not NOT a fan of women playing in men’s events, but I just wish people would stop making such a big deal of it. Every time a woman plays a men’s event, and fails to make the cut, people seem to think it’s a big failure on the woman’s part, and I don’t think that’s fair to the player or to women’s golf.
Loughry: Well, there’s a reason this doesn’t happen very often, it’s because it’s not entertaining. I think it’s great for exhibition, but not for actual Tour events. It’s not good for the woman’s game either, what good comes of this? Lincicome fresh of a playoff loss, and a fine player (but not the best on the LPGA Tour), may not finish last, but I hope she’s not disappointed come Friday. Having men and woman play in a Skins game or Mixed event, sure, but anything else, I don’t really care for personally. And I do watch and follow LPGA golf and it is exciting and entertaining, so I don’t need to see cross pollination of woman on the PGA Tour.
Schurman: I don’t like this at all! Not because any person should be denied the opportunity to showcase their skills at the highest level but from a point of fairness. If Brittany Lincicome had qualified through the ‘school’ onto minor tours, advanced by winning to the next level etc, etc, more power to her. But to by-pass the procedure required for men I don’t like it! In fact, if the golf tours are looking for publicity why not have Tiger woods play in an LPGA event as a special invitee and let him play from the same tees? Of the five who have played: Babe was good enough and actually made the cut; IMO Annika earned a chance at a ‘one-and-done’ through a lifetime of achievement; Suzy Whaley didn’t play from the proper tees and should have W/D’d; Michelle Wie, that was farce, she hadn’t even won on the LPGA Tour; and Brittany? There others who deserve it more.
Kaplan: I’m a huge fan of these opportunities and I think these invites should happen with more regularity. For the first time that I can remember, there is a legitimate reason to tune in and watch the Barbasol. This tournament usually (and for good reason) gets buried in the ratings due to general indifference. Not this year! I suspect that there will be quite a few television sets tuned in to the Barbasol to see how Brittany does. I’m definitely going to watch because I’m starting to get a little too old to get away with staying up all night watching the Open overseas.
Quinn: Brittany was one of the first to sign up with the silky ladies’ leg shave foam. So Barbasol is either paying her a bonus to submit to this charade, or it was part of the deal. Doesn’t matter. Even in a non-event, the women’s movement is so long past this kind of misogynist stunt that it’s a shame Lincicome couldn’t afford to politely decline.
Mumford: When a PGA Tour event becomes a freak show to sell tickets, it’s dead and just doesn’t know it yet. Do they bring in dancing bears next year? Brittany Lincicome may make the cut or not. It proves nothing and either way someone will be embarrassed. Time to end this charade. In fact, let’s end all the “opposite field” events. Why should any player get FedEx Cup points when the best players are elsewhere?