Should Tiger and Phil be on the Ryder Cup team?
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.
Brandt Snedeker shot 59 in the first round of the Wyndham Championship, then went wire-to-wire for the victory. His 59 was duly celebrated but not with the same kind of fanfare a score like that used to generate. His was the 10th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history but there have also been others on various tours. Does 59 not hold the same significance it once did?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It is and always will be a remarkable score, but somewhat like the tenth guy in the neighbourhood to buy a Tesla, it just doesn’t carry the wow factor that it did when Al Geiberger did it first, a long time ago, and now eight other guys. Personally, I’ve shot 59 hundreds of times, and it does nothing for me. In fact, on or around the 12th hole, I barely even notice it.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Dah, 59, that’s old news. Impressive, yes, but not seen with the same light it has been. 57 is the new 59. Furyk shot 58 a few years ago, so 59, 58, pffff, we’re looking for 57 these days.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Of course, the magic barrier that once seemed so distant gets closer every time someone does it. The lowest 18-hole score ever shot is 55 and our good friend PGA of Canada member Bob Rose shot 57. Ben Hogan believed it was possible to shoot 54 and no doubt someone will.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tour (@GolfAwayTJ): It certainly doesn’t hold the same significance, and it shouldn’t. When there is only one person in a sport that has accomplished a feat, that should be celebrated. For example, if anyone ever scored 200 points in an NHL season again, it should be celebrated because only one other person has done it, but once a feat has been accomplished a number of times, and even bettered once by Furyk’s 58, it need not be celebrated with nearly as much fanfare. Still an impressive accomplishment, but not nearly as much as when Al Geiberger was the first to post the number in 1977.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): It’s certainly not as novel as the first time that we saw a 59, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. Even more impressively, Snedeker did so despite bogeying the first hole, which is insane! In case you are wondering, only two other players have gone on to post a sub-60 round that included a bogey: Jim Furyk and Justin Thomas. Posting a round of 59 or less is the stuff of video games and dreams. For the average hacker, it is completely unfathomable. So, I think that most golf fans can appreciate the impossibility of the achievement regardless of how many players have now pulled it off. Because, however, we live in an era of one-upmanship, there are always going to be critics who will counter the achievement by shrugging their shoulders and pointing to Furyk’s 58. Don’t listen to those people; they are way off and cannot see the forest for the trees!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The irritating thing is that the TV talking heads and what’s left of the golf media treat all 59’s as equal. They are not. They have been recorded on courses with pars of 72 (four, including Hadwin’s), 71 (Goydos), and 70 (three plus Furyk’s 58). How can 13 under be mentioned in the same breath as 11 under? And the first one by Geiberger was in lift, clean, and place conditions (so was Goydos’). Let’s wait for a very significant 58 on a par 72 layout.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I think it is still significant but like any record or performance standard, the more times it is equalled or surpassed, the less enthusiasm is generated. However, a 59 in golf is not like running a sub-four-minute mile or pole vaulting 18 feet. Improvements in technique and conditioning allow athletes the opportunity to constantly improve their results to the point where they can consistently achieve at that level. Golf is different. Just because a player can shoot 59 once doesn’t mean he can repeat the feat or even do it ever again. It’s still very special.
The PGA Tour goes to great lengths to make the FedEx Cup playoffs meaningful, including paying out $10 million in bonus money to the season long winner. This year marks the 12th time the playoffs have been held and there have been some exciting finishes. In your estimation, do the playoffs reach the same level of intensity and mean as much as they do in other sports?
Deeks: No, I don’t believe they do. At least not for me. The playoffs come at the end of a long season, in which I’ve lost interest by the time the PGA is played. The format still has me confused, after 12 years. Unless they shortened the field to just the winners of the year’s tournaments and shortened the process down to one or maybe two events, my interest just doesn’t sustain itself for several more weeks. Especially with a Ryder Cup coming up.
Loughry: This certainly brings some attention, but it isn’t, nor will it ever be, equal to the Majors. That will always be the pinnacle of Tour golf. The Tour has done a great job positioning the Fed-Ex Cup points race and all, but they don’t draw the same kind of audience a Major or Ryder Cup does. FYI – the Masters is KING with over double the audience of any golf event (including the Ryder Cup).
Schurman: IMO there is too much benefit given to the year-long performance. In all other sports, the regular season results only act as a ‘seed’ position and for home field advantage. The PGA TOUR Playoffs are close to having it right with the elimination of the highest players after each event. However, the FedEx Cup is basically won by one of the top 5 points earners. I’d like to see the weighting more like 50/50 for the final event and eliminate the final event as a stand-alone tournament.
Kaplan: Absolutely not, but that is because golf has four majors and a Ryder/Presidents Cup scattered throughout the year that are each of far more importance than the playoffs. Most professional sports use the regular season as a marathon weaning process to determine which teams will get into the playoffs. For these sports, the real meat and potatoes is the postseason, and fans will happily endure six months of nearly meaningless matches/games just to see if their teams even qualify for it. These sports are, if nothing else, slow burners that ultimately come to a head — with their respective seasons on the line — in the most dramatic and exciting manner possible. That is simply not the case in golf, where the three most important tournaments of the season are wrapped up each year by the middle of July.
Rule: Absolutely not, but it’s not for their lack of effort. Golf just isn’t a sport that lends itself to playoffs. It’s more centred around individual events such as the four majors, and that will never change. In other sports, it’s all about the playoffs, because that’s the only championship you can win. In golf, there are several championships up for grabs throughout the year. Nobody cares if the Leafs beat the Canadiens on a Saturday night in October (ok, bad example!), but it’s all about whether then can make it to late May in the playoffs.
Quinn: It will never be meaningful and throwing more money at it simply magnifies the disconnect between the already extremely wealthy players and what remains of the Tour’s fan base. The climaxes of the major sports’ seasons are their playoffs. The high points of wanna-be major league golf are the Majors. Despite Nance & Co. lamely hyping it from week one, the FedEx by any other name will never rise above a garish distraction during the NFL pre-season.
Mumford: The playoffs are meaningless to me and have even less excitement than a regular Tour event. Despite the TV guys trying to inject drama into the proceedings, professional golf is all about the majors and a handful of other key events (Ryder Cup, The Players, Match Play, etc). Other sports end their season with real eliminations and crown a champion. Golf, like tennis, is based on key events throughout the season and the rest, including the contrived playoffs, is just filler.
In a couple of weeks, American Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk will add four additional players to his team. Possibilities include aging veterans such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who are supposedly great “leadership” guys, but neither has a stellar Ryder Cup record. Should Furyk add either player or both to the team?
Deeks: He should add Tiger for sure. Tiger deserves to be picked after the remarkable and totally unexpected year he’s had. I don’t think Phil’s done anything remarkable. If Furyk wants his leadership, make him an Asst. Capt.
Loughry: He should definitely add Tiger, even though he’s already been appointed a Vice-Captain. Tiger is trending nicely, and he may even be playing the best golf of any American with the exception of DJ and Koepka. Phil, well he’s erratic and inconsistent. But I think Furyk should still take him, he’ll be fine in team play and “in the room”. Plus, the alternatives aren’t exactly exciting nor carry the weight of Mickelson and TW.
Schurman: Furyk is in a ‘catch 22’. Some think Tiger is the greatest player of all-time and has just resurrected his fans by calling on the Golf Gods. His record isn’t very good in the Ryder Cup but there would be big trouble for Captain Jim to by-pass Tiger. I wouldn’t pick Phil because of his poor play and his poor Ryder Cup record but apparently, he is a valuable asset in the locker-room. I’d make Phil a Vice captain to gain Phil’s rah-rah attitude around the ping pong table and allow me to pick another player. I’d also invite Matt Kuchar as a motivational specialist to face Phil on the table. FYI There is a precedent for motivational specialists…Michael Jordan.
Kaplan: They’re both going to get selected, who are we kidding here!? Furyk would have to be insane not to put Woods on the roster, considering not only how well the 42-year-old played in the last two majors of the season but also the amount of pressure he will be under from golf fans and Tiger-maniacs alike to do so. As Nick Faldo put it after the PGA Championship, Tiger is a “mortal lock” to make the team. And Phil will be selected both because he is Phil Mickelson and because he has earned it. Mickelson and Woods currently sit ranked 10th and 11th in Ryder Cup qualification points, respectively, and Furyk still has 4 captain’s picks to make. Who is going to get the nod over these two legends? Kevin Na and Gary Woodland? No chance!
Rule: OK, there’s absolutely no chance he doesn’t take Tiger on the team given his recent form and the fact that his spot in the Ryder Cup standings isn’t far off from automatically qualifying anyway. So, let’s get that out of the way. And he absolutely should take Tiger, especially with his change in attitude, it’s not just all about him anymore and I think he’s regarded as a great role model. And I’d personally be shocked if he didn’t take Phil, especially now that he and Tiger seem to have a bromance going on, which can only help team dynamics. So, I think there is very little to no chance that both of those guys aren’t on the team come September.
Quinn: Phil can’t make the team with his sticks this time around, and not sure that he has the make-up to be a supportive rather than a disruptive and meddling assistant. Eldrick is a tough one. If he plays as well in the next couple of weeks as he has in the last couple, Furyk will have to pick him for political and ratings reasons. If he doesn’t play well, can’t see him as a non-playing consultant if he’s not suffering another injury. The captain is in a tough spot either way. Go Euros.
Mumford: Provided Woods is still going strong when the selections are made, it would be crazy not to pick him. He embodies the work ethic and strength of purpose needed in a short series like the Ryder Cup and just having him in the room as a player has to be a huge inspiration to the rest of the team. His overall record in team play isn’t great but in singles, he’s only lost once in seven starts (4-1-2). Phil is another story. His play of late has been lacklustre and he’s shown himself to be an idiot on a couple of occasions when he absolutely knew better. Mickelson’s career record is on the negative side (18-20-7), although he is 8-5-1 in singles. I’d opt for a younger player to give him experience and forego Phil’s supposed leadership in the team room. Matt Kuchar can provide leadership too and he’s a better ping-pong player.
Note to Round Table readers from Jim Deeks: Last week, in a hasty and lame attempt to be amusing here at the Round Table, I made some sarcastic and rather silly comments (subsequently deleted) about Brooks Koepka’s surname. A reader very wisely pointed out that my remarks were dumb and unprofessional, for which I thank him. And I apologize both to Brooks Koepka and to all Round Table readers for my momentary lapse of reason. JD