Despite WGHOF credentials, is Dustin Johnson an under-achiever?
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.
A few weeks ago, Sergio Garcia went berserk in Saudi Arabia and damaged a bunker and several greens. He was DQ’d from the tournament and perhaps disciplined by the European Tour. Last weekend in Mexico, Bryson DeChambeau exhibited similar childish antics and maybe was fined by the PGA Tour. Obviously, this type of behaviour is unacceptable to fans, sponsors and the host club and contrary to PGA Tour guidelines for players, but players continue to do it, accepting what is likely a slap on the wrist (monetary fines) with no resulting publicity. Are you OK with the system as it stands, or do you think more transparency about fines and suspensions would act as a deterrent?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): As I said regarding the Sergio incident, a 6-month suspension (plus hefty monetary fine) would have been appropriate, in my opinion. I wasn’t aware of DeChambeau’s behaviour until now, but if it was anywhere near Sergio’s, I’d recommend the same penalty. There’s no excuse for this behaviour, whether amateur or professional, and it needs to be stopped by taking away the perpetrators’ playing privileges. (And I should know… I was a dreadful little brat on the golf course as a kid, until I grew up in my late 20s. I should’ve been suspended by my club, and by my friends.)
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I do believe that suspensions would act as a deterrent, especially from WGC or high-profile PGA Tour sanctioned events. But the Tour definitely doesn’t want to go down that rabbit hole, because it means someone (or worse a Committee) has to make some tough decisions about certain players (essentially singling them out) for unbecoming acts. And by all accounts, the Tour’s “nothing to see hear” wall/attitude seems to be the corporate policy they’ll continue to adhere to. I don’t think fines, public or not, act as a deterrent, clearly proven as the behaviour still exists and is exhibited frequently enough to be noticed (Sergio spitting into the cup, bunker slaughter and green digs; DeChambeau green dig, profanity far too often caught on TV, etc.). I’d just like to see more good guy moves out there and I’m not talking about backstopping!
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: The PGA TOUR has always had a policy of non-disclosure of penalties and fines of their players. It was a compromise the players had with Deane Beman who brought big TV money, stadium courses and huge deals with charities and sponsors. He had to develop an image that was worthy of it. I agree with this policy. On the other hand, a player only needs one or two years near the top to be a multi-millionaire for life, so money very quickly loses its impact. However, the new currency on the TOUR is FedEx Cup points. They mean everything! If fines for poor behaviour including slow play were in points, they would have a far greater meaning.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): There need to be harsher penalties for acting like a jackass on the golf course. This stuff trickles down to the amateur levels. I’ve played with more obnoxious, tantruming men-children than I care to count and every time it has been thoroughly unenjoyable. Nothing can get you off your own game—or kill a pleasant and relaxing mood—quicker than an outburst on the course. And we will only see more of these incidents going forward at the amateur levels if the PGA Tour doesn’t put its foot down to root this type of behaviour out of the sport.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I understand that these guys are competitive and get frustrated at times, but the antics by Garcia and DeChambeau are unacceptable, and I think the fines and/or suspensions should be made public to hopefully deter similar behaviour by them or others in the future. It’s childish and sets a terrible example, especially for young fans who are being taught to respect the game, their fellow competitors and the golf courses. So yes, more transparency please.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The foundation of the Tour’s facade of honour and honesty is non-disclosure. If the unwashed hordes of hackers who sustain the Tour by attending tournaments, watching on TV, and buying sponsors’ clubs, balls, clothes, cars and booze were told the real reasons for the fines and suspensions (absences ‘for family reasons’, ‘lifting Seadoos’ or whatever) the cheering, ratings, and the cash register ringing just might die down. So, the system isn’t going to change. The only impact on behaviour will come from longer suspensions. Ponte Vedra won’t have to disclose the reason. Social media can now fill in the blanks.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The system of fines and suspensions established many years ago by Deane Beman, has always been handled discreetly behind closed doors and the public rarely knows what punishment may have been meted out. That doesn’t work any longer. The perception today is that the Tour isn’t punishing players at all or giving them a mere slap on the wrist that does nothing to deter future violations. Slow play may be the wedge that finally pushes the Tour towards full transparency when it comes to player discipline. Everybody wants to see something done and the Tour will presumably have to demonstrate that it is taking action. Fines are a pittance to these millionaires; maybe public shaming will work.
Dustin Johnson comfortably won the WGC Mexico Championship for his 20th PGA Tour win. Despite winning at least one title for 12 consecutive years, six WGC titles and a U.S. Open, some people continue to label him an under-performer and suggest he should have won even more. Twenty wins is one of those magical thresholds that virtually guarantees a Hall of Fame spot. Do you think DJ is an under-achiever?
Deeks: I may eat my words when Dustin notches his 40th win and 6th major, but yes, I’d say to date he has not achieved what he’s capable of. He’s tremendously talented, from tee to green, but he’s certainly let a few slip away in the past. Others have pointed out that he’s not the brightest light in the sky intellectually, and he’s certainly been distracted by women and other substances over the years, but if, as a married man now, he can keep his mind uncluttered and focused only on the small white ball at his feet, who knows what he can achieve?
Loughry: DJ is ironically the cause of this criticism. He comes off as nonchalant and not caring about anything really. He is extremely talented, and I’ve been critical of him over the past few years. I am definitely in the group believing he has under achieved, he should have won more. But alas, I realize that he has won exactly what he has earned. He may have tossed a few wins out the window, but he was learning, learning how to win. He’ll be a perennial winner on Tour over the next few years, and maybe he adds a Major title or two here or there to eventually win me over, but I doubt it. He’s a fine player, but well behind the greats of all time.
Schurman: DJ has taken a long time to develop given his talent but that can be said of a lot of players i.e. Tom Watson. His climb has been steadily upward, just a bit slow. However, he has been peaking for a long time and will continue at the top for a long time. When he’s done, he will have an incredible record.
Kaplan: An under-performer? No way. He’s 34 and already has won a major, 20 events as a professional, 6 WGC events (2nd all time to Tiger) and is one of three players ever to win at least once in each of his first 12 seasons on the PGA Tour. That’s not the track record of an underperformer. Winning week in and week out like Tiger in his prime is not realistic, especially with the level of competition that exists today at the professional level. I’ll listen to arguments about Rickie Fowler when it comes to underperforming, but certainly not Dustin Johnson.
Rule: So, DJ becomes only the 5th player in the last 50 years to win 20 titles before the age of 35, joining Tiger, Phil, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller, pretty elite company. To say he has underachieved is relatively harsh. He just seems to fly under the radar a bit with his accomplishments, and perhaps that’s because he hasn’t won enough majors. But he will. In fact, I’d be surprised if he didn’t contend at the Masters this year and win at least one major. His skill is undeniable, and perhaps he could and should win more, but I find it hard to classify him an underachiever.
Quinn: I think it’s his laid-back vibe, good ol’boy drawl, and laconic moseying that creates the impression that he’s just sort of into it, like you know, not totally. Then you hear about how hard he works at it on the course and in the gym, how much quality time he spends with golf’s real guru Butch Harmon, and how much it means to him. He was stiffed by some rulings, slowed by some injuries (sic), and he’s still joined that rarified group with 20 wins. I think he has performed like a bona fide Hall of Famer who is far from done.
Mumford: DJ is like that kid you played hockey with that never had to practice, never had to work out, yet always led the team in scoring, and barley broke a sweat doing it. The kind of kid that has more talent in their little finger than you or I ever will. You always think that if he worked just a little bit harder or had just a little bit more drive, he could be a superstar. DJ has all the talent, but early in his career, his ambition and work ethic didn’t match his ability. Despite having WGHOF numbers now, he should be in the stratosphere with Woods and Mickelson. For that reason, I think he’s under-performed so far. That may be changing though. The next ten years will be fun to watch.
The PGA of America has named Steve Stricker as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain for the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits. He’s the first American captain without a major on his resume and likely not destined for the World Golf Hall of Fame either. Is he the right guy for the job?
Deeks: There surely would have been a great hue and cry if he HADN’T been named Captain, what with the Ryder Cup coming to his home state, and he being the greatest player ever to come out of Wisconsin. He’s also highly respected and well-liked by the players and fans and has been a Ryder Assistant Captain in the past. So why wouldn’t he be the right guy? And if the US team wins, will one single person claim that he wasn’t? I think people take the Ryder Cup FAR too seriously.
Loughry: I think he’ll be a good captain. He’s very well liked by players and the public, that in itself is a start. He’s not controversial, so don’t expect anything but straight forward no-nonsense leadership. Yeah, ok it might be a bit boring, but I’d rather focus on the play of teams rather than the off-course antics. How will Stricker tame Reed is a real question? Reed is currently the 9th ranked US player, so maybe when the time comes, Stricker’s most controversial leadership decision may be to not pick him. We’ll see but wouldn’t that be fun, especially Reed’s wife chirping.
Schurman: The one qualification that is rarely considered for the position of Ryder Cup Captain is ‘nice guy ism’. Stricker might not have a major or enough for the WGHOF but right now America needs a lot of people like him to display the kind of image he brings to the ‘table’.
Kaplan: Stricker can’t do much worse of a job than Furyk did at last year’s Ryder Cup . . . so it stands to reason that things can only get better from this point for the Americans.
Rule: This pick was a no-brainer. Why does a captain have to be a major winner or Hall of Famer? The best coaches in other sports weren’t hall of fame players, not sure why that becomes the norm for picking captains in the Ryder Cup. The last I looked, of the past five Euro Team captains, only two had won Majors, and only a total of three Majors were won between them, and those captains won four or five Ryder Cups. So maybe getting a captain that isn’t just a great player, but is a great person, leader, and is respected by everyone in golf, maybe that will work for the USA. And given the matches are in his home state, again, no-brainer.
Quinn: With a full staff of ‘Captains in Waiting’, Striker’s role is now more like a chairman of a board. The so-called ‘Captain’s Picks’ will be by consensus; the pairings will rely heavily on input from the players, and so too the order of play for the singles. Now more ceremonial than anything else, the Captaincy is an honorarium for services rendered rather than for results expected. But, in the Cup’s time-honoured tradition, the Captain will get too much credit or too much blame. In the end, Stricker is the right guy for the job if he can get Patrick Reed to shut up, hurry up, and just play.
Mumford: A number of European Ryder Cup captains never won a major yet commanded the respect of their team and managed to post victories. Stricker will be fine. He’s another in a long line of low-key plodders, whose main job is to pull names out of a hat for three days. Expecting to manage, motivate, discipline or corral a group of amped up, self-loving multi-millionaires is a fool’s errand. The best he can do is colour co-ordinate the team apparel and hope the kids play nice together.