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.
Saturday in Hawaii, Brooke Henderson cruised to her 8th LPGA victory tying Mike Weir, George Knudson and Sandra Post for most wins by a Canadian on a major professional Tour. She also moved into a spot where there are only 15 active players on the LPGA with more wins. Why isn’t Brooke a bigger story in women’s golf?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): For the life of me, I don’t get it, and I’ve been saying that for five years. This young lady is a bona fide superstar in every way… on the golf course: talent, determination, power, guts, courage, patience and cool… off the golf course: charm, class, kindness, articulation, complete lack of ego, cooperative, inspiring to young girls and boys. More than anyone on the LPGA Tour, Brooke has it all, and pardon the political incorrectness, but she’s clearly the Tour’s Great White Hope — along with the Korda sisters, who must be given their due. Why the LPGA, and the Golf Channel, don’t recognize this is just beyond me. Congratulations to Brooke on a great victory on Saturday!
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Brooke is a phenom, but the only reason I can think of that might explain why she isn’t a bigger story is that she hasn’t won more. That might not be fair but winning multiple/numerous times (at a greater clip than she is currently) seems to be the only way to capture attention. If Brooke had double the wins (or just more) she couldn’t be ignored. She’s an amazing talent, but to really capture attention something seemingly extra special needs to transpire. She certainly deserves more attention, hopefully that gets rectified, some additional “w’s” will do that.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Brooke Henderson IS a big story in women’s’ golf! The problem is that women’s golf isn’t a big news story which is too bad because ‘these girls can play’! I watched the entire LPGA broadcast due to Brooke’s performance and found the coverage to be extremely flattering to her. US TV loves her. She is photogenic with her ‘snow-white’ looks. The sister team story is a good one. She is a good interview. And, more than anything her game is reliable. She doesn’t beat herself. If she has a problem, it’s with her World Ranking, which was 12th going into last week. She is a better player than that, but she plays every event meaning you can’t play well every week. So, although she has plenty of high finishes they are offset by her average ones. If she played less and only on the courses she did well at, like several men have done, she be in the top 2 or 3 in the world and that would change her standing.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think Brooke is a huge story in women’s golf. The issue is that women’s golf is not a bigger deal, and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. If I did, I would be a marketing guru and a much wealthier person as a result.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think among the hard-core golf fans, she is a big story, and is known as one of the superstars of the game. She is also a nice small town girl with a strong faith who doesn’t feel the need to market herself on social media, and therefore will not be as well recognized by the casual golf fan as someone like Muni He, whose career LPGA earnings total $0, but she has more than 3x as many followers on Instagram as Brooke! I admire Brooke for sticking to golf, and not risking hurting her success on the course by concentrating on marketing herself off the course (hello Genie Bouchard and Anna Kournikova!). But perhaps that’s why not as many people will be talking about her as much as they should be.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It could be a weird perversion of political correctness. With the dominance on the LPGA Tour of the South Koreans and players from other Asian nations, celebrating a non-Asian seems a bit non-PC. The Golf Channel announcers can’t say enough great things about her, but like the men, it’s all about the Majors. BTW Henderson picked up $300,000 for her win. At Hilton Head, C.T. Pan got four times that, plus an ugly jacket. That’s the perspective now on the LPGA Tour and its stars’ status.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): She’s too nice. Too Canadian. Let’s face it, controversy attracts eyeballs. Brooke just rolls along quietly posting top 10’s and enough victories to move her into exalted territory in terms of career wins, but there’s no outside the ropes drama to turn into a headline, no inside the ropes bitter rivalry to put on promo posters. Much like Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, Brooke is a quiet talent that does most of her talking with her clubs. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sooner or later if she keeps on winning, she’ll be impossible to ignore.
World #1 Dustin Johnson held the lead at the start of the RBC Heritage Classic on Sunday morning, but it was 113th ranked C.T. Pan that claimed the trophy on Sunday evening, proving once again that rankings are not necessarily a good indicator of who might win in any given week. If you were betting on the outcome of a professional golf tournament, which factor is most important in making your decision: world ranking, past experience on a particular course, recent performance (past 3 months) on Tour or something else?
Deeks: Of all those criteria you mention, I’d say recent performance is the best indicator (just like handicapping horses), but on those three items alone, you would never have put down a dime on C.T. Pan’s chances last Thursday morning. I WOULD bet on Dustin Johnson at the beginning of most weeks. For raw talent, there’s no better player in golf right now, and his #1 Rolex ranking is justified. But boy, that head of his just seems to be so bereft of focused thinking that it’s a wonder he’s managed to pull off ANY wins. That’s the “something else” that keeps DJ from being the golf equivalent of Secretariat.
Loughry: I’m more of a play the hot hand type of guy. Multiple good recent results is where I’d lay my bet combined with world ranking. Those are the two indicators for me that usually puts that player in a good place after the final round in any tournament. So many players can win in any given week though, if the average Tour player was just one or two strokes better per round than normal, they can easily win, that’s all it takes, the margin is so thin in any given week.
Schurman: That’s a tough one because the best players seem to rise to the top in majors where the courses are different every year except the Masters (for men). But you have to go with ‘courses for horses’. Over and over someone who likes the course finishes high. It is said that Snead never won the US Open because he was uncomfortable in the atmosphere surrounding the course. There might be a lot to that. Trevino said Augusta National didn’t fit his game but maybe he was uncomfortable on the grounds. Tiger has never done well at Riviera. Players say the course fits their ‘eye’. Even at the crumby level I play, I find there are courses I tend to do well on and others I simply don’t.
Kaplan: It’s never as black and white as just examining a few statistical categories. Of the ones you’ve listed, I think recent performance over the last few months combined with past experience on that course are pretty important. But that doesn’t take into account players’ mindsets going into the tournament (including all golf and non-golf related issues going on in their lives), their physical welfares, whether their specific games suit the venue, etc. I’m just listing a few factors here; there are countless others. And even then, none of that stuff will guarantee that you will be right. Someone can still come out of the blue to win a tournament. That’s the beauty of competition: You just never know!
Rule: I was actually surprised when I saw that DJ was leading the tournament at Harbour Town, a course that doesn’t exactly fit his game. It’s a shot makers course where ball placement off the tee is paramount, and a course that can’t be overpowered by the bombers. I think experience on a course is huge and there are certainly “horses for courses”! Guys get to certain tournaments and have a comfort with the course layout, grass types, weather, wind, home cooking, etc. So that’s something I would look at if I were to bet on golf tournaments. World ranking doesn’t always matter, especially in this day and age with so much parody in the game.
Quinn: The old adage ‘Horses for courses’ rings true in this crazy game. Short and narrow, twisting and turning Hilton Head ain’t exactly a course for DJ’s game. How the layout suits a player’s game and how it fits their eye has more impact than those ephemeral rankings and even recent form. I’d bet on the gal (like Brooke at Ko Olina GC) or the guy who loves the track.
Mumford: World rankings are almost as flawed an indicator as career wins or money. They cover too long a period. The only thing that really counts is momentum. Who’s playing great right now? And if you can add a course that plays to a player’s strengths and knowledge of the course that gives the hot players an edge, even better. C.T. Pan wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar before the RBC Heritage, but it also wasn’t a course that set up well for DJ. Kuchar would have been a good pick, based on both his recent play and his skill on tight courses, and he finished second.
Since his latest Masters win, Tigermania has taken hold once again. For those golf fans who root for other players, what’s the best way to survive the “all-Tiger-all-the-time” coverage? And if you’re a Tiger fan, is it possible to convert the non-believers?
Deeks: The best way for us non-fans of Tiger to avoid the wall-to-wall idolatry is to follow another sport… like women’s judo. Now THERE’S non-stop action for ya! Seriously, I’m happy for Tiger’s Masters win, it HAS fired up golf interest, but I’m amazed at how many people (including the media) seem to be happy to overlook the fact that Tiger isn’t a very nice guy, and his past behaviour ranked pretty far down on the morality scale (somewhere around the Donald Trump level.) I’m willing to concede that Tiger is the GOAT, but he’ll never be Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer in my book.
Loughry: Just embrace it, it’s Tiger, arguably the greatest to ever tee it up. You don’t take Buckley’s because it tastes great, but you still take it, so for those Tiger haters, try and enjoy the medicinal benefits of ‘Tigerol’.
Schurman: I am in the NOT category. I don’t like him as a player. I don’t think he drove the ball very well for someone who is referred to as the GOAT. I think the GOAT should be able to knock your hat off if you stood in the center of the fairway. Every other top player except Walter Hagen and Phil Mickelson were magnificent drivers of the ball. However, that seems to be changing. Tiger is beginning to drive the ball in the fairway, and he has always been one of the finest iron players of all time. He shapes the ball better than anyone and his course strategy is changing to a more controlled, position first mentality. On the back 9 at the Masters, the only way he wouldn’t win is if someone went ‘nuts’ and beat him. But he did not beat himself. A perfect example is on #12 where he played one of best irons of the week. After witnessing a four-car pile-up right in front of him, he casually slowed down, pulled over onto the shoulder, took control and hit a beautiful safety 50 feet left of the hole into the center of the green and quietly passed every other contender except DJ. That allowed him time to re-evaluate the situation and decide what changes were required if any. Right when the average blood pressure was 300/150, Tiger was taking long slow deep breaths and enjoying his heart rate going down. He knew all he had to do was execute his game plan properly and he could win. That’s what champions do and if he continues, I’ll reconsider my opinion.
Kaplan: Oh, you’re sick of it already? Better buckle in there, buckaroos because the Tiger train ain’t slowing down anytime soon. The best way to survive the Tiger 24/7 coverage is to visit a number of different golf sites and choose the articles you want to read. They’re not all going to be about Tiger Woods. If you get your golf news solely from television, however, you’re going to get non-stop Tiger coverage. That’s what the majority of casual fans are tuning in for. As for converting non-believers, people are pretty set on their feelings toward Tiger at this point. If you still don’t like Tiger, it’s probably because of all the extra-curricular stuff that transpired off the course, and more major championship victories are not going to change your impression of him.
Rule: If you aren’t a Tiger fan, you just have to put up with it, because as long as he’s in contention or playing well, he’ll be the talk of the town, and for good reason. People who complained about how much Tiger talk there was around the Masters this year don’t understand how good he is for the game. I spoke with so many people who don’t give a you-know-what about golf, and they were even talking about Tiger last week. Face it, love him or not, he’s great for the game, and as long as he is part of the story, there are more eyes and ears on the game, which is a great thing!
Quinn: Eldrick is entirely too much with us, again. Impossible to convince the unwashed that this is not the second coming because The Masters is the weakest and smallest field of the so-called Majors and based on strength of field alone wouldn’t rank as a Major, miles behind The Players’ Championship. But the Tiger worshipers aren’t golfers and so wouldn’t understand. The only way to survive the nattering nabobs is to record the broadcast, or pause it every once in a while, to be able to fast forward past the Tigerathon. Unwatchable otherwise.
Mumford: Although I have tremendous respect for Tiger’s skill and ability to win, I’m not a fan. There isn’t sufficient space here to explain why, nor perhaps is it even necessary, but let me say I prefer to root for others whose character and sense of sportsmanship is more aligned with the kind of person I’d want my kids to follow as a role model. That’s what makes the overwhelming coverage of Tiger even harder to take. For me, it’s like everybody is cheering for the bad guy. Sorry, I don’t buy this latest version of a kinder, gentler, smiley, huggy Tiger. My friend and colleague Tim O’Connor has an excellent blog about how Tiger’s win at Augusta represents personal redemption. You can read it HERE. Tim is quite persuasive but I’m still not convinced. I’ll just suffer in relative silence until it’s over.