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.
It looks like Rory McIlroy has stepped in it again by making comments that European Tour courses are set up too easy after some ridiculously low scoring at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Is McIlroy correct, and does the same apply to PGA Tour set-ups?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Yes, I agree with Rory. Unfortunately, and ironically, the pros are just damn good and they’re murdering the courses they play. The Tour seems to believe that spectators want to see nothing but birdies, but I’d rather see the players challenged much more than they are. Otherwise, I’m just too bored to watch.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Rory is always refreshing to hear from. There are playing fields in other sports that are built exclusively for top-level competition i.e. skiing, luge and ski jumping. Why not build tournament courses to accommodate the TOUR and encourage normal standards to apply for courses played by normal players? If you want to ski a double black diamond run, go ahead but the Racecourse is closed until the next Olympics. BTW, for your daily pleasure, there are plenty of very good ‘black’ runs and lots of ‘blues’ as well.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: He is absolutely correct, and I’ve expressed this opinion many times before in the Round Table. There is no reason to make these courses play so easy. These guys are incredible golfers and do not need the equivalent of training wheels or gutter guards to help them play. Nor is the viewing experience (television or in person) enhanced in any way by these easy set ups. I don’t know how the rest of the Round Table feels, but I am always far more captivated when players have to grind their way through difficult, penal tracks than when they are gouging courses with driver-wedge/short iron combos on every hole. You don’t learn anything from watching the pros do that.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tour (@GolfAwayTJ): I like that Rory speaks his mind and he is intelligent in his comments generally. He did apologize for this comment, but not sure he had to. He has his opinion and it’s valid. Does that mean everyone feels the same way? Not at all. When courses are set up tough, others complain about that. The tougher courses generally bring the cream of the field to the top, so it’s not surprising that Rory prefers harder courses. The scoring was low and the Dunhill mostly because the weather conditions were pretty benign for that part of the world. Hope they are the same when I’m there in a few weeks!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The scores make the case for Rory (admire the way he’s using his bully pulpit to make the blazers wake up) and his point that young players are just bombing and gouging instead of developing skilled nuances in their games is well taken too. As he said, his critique applies to the global game.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): McIlroy isn’t the only one. A few weeks ago, Adam Scott commented on the lack of skill in the driving game and others have timidly suggested that shot making is no longer a skill required on the PGA Tour. A lack of penal rough and greens that are too receptive turns every event into a putting contest. Both Tours know how to toughen up a course as witnessed during majors and select invitational events. They just don’t have the balls to do it on a regular basis. Consequently, the best players are unmotivated and avid golf fans are bored.
Hadwin finished a close second at the Safeway Open on Sunday, leading a Canadian contingent of six that made the cut. If you were a betting person, on which Canadian (or Canadians) would you wager a few toonies to win this season?
Deeks: Not just because of his second-place finish at Safeway, but I’ve been thinking Adam Hadwin is overdue for a breakout. And I would LOVE to see Brooke Henderson win a third event before the LPGA season ends… and hopefully move up ahead of Lexi Thompson, who STILL remains in third place on the Rolex Rankings, despite doing absolutely nothing of value since the Spring.
Schurman: It’s difficult to bet against Corey Conners. However, the support of the Canadian Long-term Development Program is generating many, many good, new players. Adam Hadwin is entering into his mid to mature years on TOUR and will benefit from his gritty personality re golf.
Kaplan: Lol. I’d save those toonies and buy myself a few double-doubles, eh, because I don’t really have much faith in the Canadian contingent on the men’s side of the game. But if you put a hockey stick to my neck and demanded an answer, I’d go with Corey Conners, who has already had a taste of the highlife (with his win at the Valero in April) yet experienced the least amount of on-course heartbreak of the lot.
Rule: Well, is Brooke too obvious of an answer? Pretty safe bet that she’ll win something this year. Other than her, I would put my money on Corey Conners. He’s the real deal and should break through with another victory this year. My sentimental pick is David Hearn. He deserves a victory to cap off an impressive career.
Quinn: I really like the way Corey Conners handled himself on the bigger stages last season and think he has the game to be a breakout Canuck star. Of course, Brooke should win a few again.
Mumford: Hadwin and Conners look like the obvious choices but you might get better odds on Nick Taylor. Many weeks he gets himself in the mix but then has one bad round or a string of bad holes to knock himself out of contention. He obviously has the game to compete at the highest level – he just needs a bit more consistency. I think 2020 might be the year he finds the secret sauce.
With the golf season in Canada winding down, what tops your list for warm weather golf in the coming months? And if you don’t have specific plans to go somewhere, where would you most like to go?
Deeks: The whole fam damily is going to Sandestin, FL in April, but with three little grandchildren in tow, golf will not be high on the agenda for Grandad or his two sons. So, in my dreams, the Sandman would whisk me off to the Sandbelt of Melbourne, Australia, where I would spend two weeks playing 36 holes a day over eight great golf courses.
Schurman: If I could go anywhere with no drawbacks or limits, I’d love to go to Australia for two or three months and tour all over playing everywhere. My second choice would be either Ireland or Scotland to do the same thing. Travel. Play. Travel. Play. Travel. Play. Unfortunately, the best time for the UK is during our own summer. However, recently I bumped into a fellow PGA of Canada member who just returned home from a ten-year tenure in Taiwan. He said he loved it and more importantly, his wife loved it more.
Kaplan: I’d love to play the RTJ trail in Alabama or really anywhere in Arizona. Those have both been on my bucket lists for some time now. Unfortunately, I used up all of my vacation days at work, so instead of enjoying brief respites from our frigid winter temperatures in either of those destinations, I’ll likely spend most of my free time bundled up in my home, watching my favourite sports teams whiff on the playoffs of their respective leagues. Sigh.
Rule: I don’t actually have much travel planned for this coming winter…yet. At least nothing too sexy. I’m hoping to return to Bermuda, which I always enjoy. Beyond that, my bucket list for a winter golf destination is topped by Argentina at the moment!
Quinn: The next time I win the lottery I’m heading back to Pelican Hill Resort, Newport Beach, on the southern California coast. The resort is ne plus ultra, the setting for the two courses along the ocean rivals any coastal cliff-top location and, did I mention that Tom Fazio designed both courses? Enough said.
Mumford: Pinehurst always tops my list of favourite places to go, any time of the year, so another trip to the North Carolina Sandhills region is in the works and I plan to knock Streamsong in central Florida off my Bucket List in 2020 too. Beyond that, anywhere the weather is hot, the beer is cold, and clocks don’t matter is fine with me.