Nick Taylor goes wire-to-wire for Pebble Beach victory

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.

By winning the AT&T Pebble Beach event, Nick Taylor puts himself in the discussion for selection to Canada’s Olympic team. What was your take on Taylor’s win and who do you think will be the two men on the Canadian team?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): In my opinion, it was one of the biggest all-time wins by a Canadian male, (with no disrespect) surpassing the victories of previous Tour winners like George Knudson, Al Balding, Dave Barr, Dan Halldorson, Dick Zokol, and more recently, Adam Hadwin, Corey Conners, and Mac Hughes.  Nick won under very challenging physical conditions, very challenging mental conditions (Phil Mickelson breathing down his neck), in a very prestigious and historic event, on one of the world’s greatest and most challenging golf courses.  And the fact that he overcome two bogies and a double from 10-14 and finished with two birdies in the last four holes to seal the deal… well, that’s an incredible, gutsy performance, and we should be bowing in deference and swelled with pride!  As for our Olympic men’s team, I’d pick Taylor and Adam Hadwin, with Corey Connors as alternate.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Love this WIN by Nick, he’s a professional, been so good for so long. I’d love to see him become the Conners and Taylor. You can’t go wrong with any of these players. Taylor would need to continue some very strong play the next two months to catch Haddy and Conners though. That’s why my picks are the Listowel native and Haddy just nudging out Taylor for the team.

Michael, Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Adam Hadwin, Mackenzie Hughes (who is a little cool right now) and Cory Connors are each contender to make the team as well. I’m glad I don’t have to do it because they are all good. I don’t think Canada has had a “real’ choice for a very long time. Balding and Knudson were probably the last time we could field a solid team even though Barr, Stewart and Halldorson won the Dunhill Cup. Hadwin, Connors, Taylor ‘odd man out” OK its ‘heads’ Hadwin, ‘tails Connors and ‘tails’ Taylor. Sorry, Adam!

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Strong wire-to-wire performance by the Abbotsford native. He bent on the back nine with Phil Mickelson breathing down his neck but never broke. Instead, Taylor seemed to get stronger with the tournament on the line—a quality we’ve been looking for in the former #1 ranked amateur for some time. This was a big win for Taylor and an even bigger win for Canada, as there will now be 4 Canucks in the limited field at the Masters in April! I think it’s still a little early be talking about who gets named to our Olympic team, but the win certainly puts Taylor in the discussion. He’ll need to continue to play well this spring to secure his spot.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): What a win!  That was a pretty impressive performance on a tough Sunday, playing with a crowd favourite.  Especially when he was leaking oil on the back nine.  That chip in on 15 was one of the biggest shots of his career!  He has certainly shown he can handle the pressure and is one of Canada’s top choices for the Olympics.  I think it will be a fight to the finish with him, Corey Connors and Adam Hadwin.  It’s nice that we have multiple great options for the team, an exciting time for Canada’s professional golfers.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: That win was absolutely fantastic. Incredible, but can’t watch the 18th at Pebble without seeing Hale Irwin’s drive miraculously hit the only rock that would send his ball back into the fairway instead of the Pacific and lead to him beating Jim Nelford in a playoff. So, Taylor’s win was thrilling enough. Nice, a little $1.4 M US check (US spelling), the Masters etc. What the heck does he need with the five-ring scam? In previous lives I covered a half dozen Games. Not a fan. In fact, a critic. Golf has no place in the Olympics. Politics, drugs, scams, payoffs, massively indebted host cities, etc, aside, golfers play on a world stage every freakin’ week. Let the other sports (many just on the edge of the definition of ’sport’) have their multi-billion-dollar couple of weeks. Golfers have it the rest of the year.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Winning a PGA Tour event is tough enough but with most people already conceding the tournament to five-time champion and Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, Taylor must have felt like the underdog of all time. That he kept it together against the odds and nasty weather and managed to regain his composure after a brief stumble on the back nine, is huge. We’ve all known how good Nick can be from his amateur days but to see it displayed on one of golf’s most glorious stages is phenomenal. Tough call on the Olympic team but sure is nice to have three choices. Right now, Hadwin and Conners are still the leading contenders but the win at Pebble Beach might give Taylor the boost he needs to put those two in his rear-view mirror.

The USGA and R&A released their latest distance study last week, which concluded (finally) that increases in distance must be ended. However, the report did not offer any specific plan on how they will curb distance in the future. Is the report too late and just more pointless jabbering?

Deeks: Until they come up with a serious, concrete plan for how to achieve this admirable goal, yup… overdue, and pointless jabbering.  The answer is obvious: two balls.  One for amateurs (i.e., no change to current technology), one for pros (a ball with a 10-pound lead weight in the core, for maximum drives of 12 yards… just kidding!)

Loughry: I’m not exactly sure how to feel about this. I think there is solid evidence that the ball is going further on average, and no not for everyone, but elite amateurs and professionals, you can’t argue its not. And yes, I know if there were stiffer conditions provided for those elite in the game (Am or Pro) that scores and game strategy could be brought back into play. Quite frankly, the easiest way to bring the challenge of the game back without dramatically impacting the recreational player is to do a little of column A and a little of column B. Roll the ball back, make it softer so it doesn’t travel as far (and has less of an impact on the recreational players distance), AND make conditions a little tougher, bring those fairways in a little, grow the rough height more for all events at the elite level, put a premium on hitting the fairway. Manufacturers won’t care about making a softer ball, they’ll sell more balls in the transition, its simply a new ball, and they already pump in tons of investment in R&D each year on ball technology, they’ll simply push it towards this new ball specification. Players will get over it, and adjust, need proof: see new Rules, etc.  A softer ball let’s you slow the greens down too if you want, and that opens you up to tuck hole locations closer to an edge or tier. There’s more savings and opportunities too, around property (you don’t need as much) and it keeps some of those older traditional golf courses still in play. And you hear it echoed by players, ” it would be great to play an old traditional course on Tour or in an event)” but they can’t in most cases because they’re too short or don’t provide enough of a challenge too many driveable per 4’s by today’s standard. Well, there’s a way to have those course back in as part of a rotation for Opens, US Opens, and other PGA Tour events! That’s my take.

Schurman: BIFURCATION!!!!!!!!!! These organizations have missed the “boat’ on the ball, COR/MOI, the pace of play, cumbersome rules, maintenance equipment, irrigation and attracting new players other than Juniors, for close to 60 years, so why should we have faith now? They even allowed soft spikes to enter the market as an unsafe product regardless of the many positives of them.

Kaplan: It’s not too late if they plan to actually institute some changes at the pro level in the near future. It all depends on what comes of this 9-12-month feedback period they’re instituting. If it results in the bifurcation of balls at the pro level or some other drastic measure that transforms the drive, wedge n’ putt format we see on a weekly basis into a game that more resembles golf for the average Joe, it will all be worth it. If nothing substantial comes of it, then these organizations are wasting our time.

Rule: Let’s be honest, the distance issue is only an issue on the professional men’s tours.  So is it too late?  I don’t think so.  In my opinion, the average golfer wants, and needs to hit the ball further, so the more advancement, the better.  I do agree that the tour players hit it so far that some of the great classic courses are rendered useless in terms of hosting events, which is a shame.  So perhaps the old bifurcation solution is the best one.  Hard to say what the best option is, but if they go to a standardized golf ball that spins more and travels less, I like Tiger’s chances of winning more tournaments!

Quinn: May have mentioned this around the Table before, but it bears repeating (my strong suit, repeating repeatedly). Had breakfast with Jack (that one) circa 1986 and what he wanted to talk about was the ball going too far. Well, haven’t we come a long way, so to speak. Wilson has just come out with a 29-compression ball. Anyone remember when the 100 compression was for the players, and the 90 for the hacks? Then as now, it’s all about swing speed, and it follows naturally that the 115 – 128 mph swingers on the world’s top Tours are hitting it a long, long way. But, at least 90 per cent of golfers swing below 100 mph or far below that rate, and so any ball technology that will help them enjoy the game is a good thing. Back to repeating myself, because apparently no one else will, if the suits want to reign in the pros that’s fine but define it. Leave the other 99.9 per cent of golfers the heck alone.

Mumford: Anyone who has trouble sleeping should be encouraged to read this study. As for workable plans on how to limit distance, there are none. The whole premise is laughable. Except for an almost impossibly small percentage of golfers world-wide, nobody is hitting the ball too far. And for those that do, the best way to curb their excesses is longer rough, deeper bunkers, narrower fairways, and hard and fast greens. As for the rest of us, leave our balls alone.

Brooks Koepka, who did not play at Pebble Beach, says he’s opposed to mid-round interviews. However, many players don’t mind being mic’d up and often chat to on course reporters. Would you like to see fans get more “inside the ropes” access during a tournament?

Deeks: To a degree, yes.  But if the interviews are just, uh, pointless jabbering, like those inane between-period interviews with players on hockey broadcasts… (“yeah, like… sniff… we just gotta tighten up in our own end, sniff… move the puck forward, and sniff … capitalize on our chances more better…”. “Uh, thanks, Biff.”) …. then no, they can skip the on-course chats.  Golf audiences are somewhat intelligent… they can handle intelligent questions and, hopefully, intelligent answers.  Although I often find him self-promoting and over-the-top, David Feherty would be super at asking good questions in the heat of the action.

Loughry: If the number one concern is slow play, interviewing players mid round can’t help combat slow play, so I think it’s a bad idea. Would this be great for fans? Sure, who wouldn’t want insight to why you just hooked it OB. But there’s no chance this helps speed up play, so I don’t think it will ever happen unless everyone is willing to compromise on pace for an entertainment value.

Schurman: In 1968, I wrote to Commissioner Joe Dye suggesting the PGA TOUR players be divided into 3 groups with each group being assigned every third event on a mandatory basis to guarantee the appearance of every player every third year. I also suggested ‘on course’ interviews with two or three pre-arranged questions an interviewer would ask a player with the option to wave the interviewer off at the player’s discretion. His answer was “the players are independent contractors and will not be told when and where they must play. As far as “on course’ interviews NEVER; the players are working”. Yet, I’ve been to an NBA game and seen kids taking part in the pre-game warm-up. Imagine the thrill you or I would get to have Michael Jordan bounce you a pass for a lay-up on the same court? Sure, the players are working. I get that. But why not have a section on the driving range cordoned off on Tuesday to Friday where everybody (Juniors included) can stop by using the major equipment manufacturer’s demo clubs to get a FREE lesson from the pro’s.? BTW, EVERY, yes, EVERY Pro in the field MUST give a minimum of 10 minutes of lessons during that particular tournament that equals over 25 hours of FREE lessons. Who knows you might get a FREE lesson from Tiger?

Kaplan: Of course. The XFL proved over the weekend that more access is always a good thing. I don’t care if Brooks Koepka doesn’t like it. If it provides a new, insightful way of looking at the action and the strategy behind it, and that translates to more viewership and a more entertaining broadcast, I’m all for it!

Rule: Can you imagine the fans at Waste Management getting inside the ropes access?  That’s a recipe for disaster! I do think there needs to be a clear divide, leaving the players to their own playing field with no interference.  A mid-round interview occasionally?  That’s fine, but not the final group on a Sunday afternoon.  I personally don’t care to hear from the players while they are playing, I just want to see them concentrating on their game.

Quinn: The wonderful thing about those personal space-invading parabolic mics the networks already use is that they pick up conversations between the player and his or her caddy. The terrible thing about those self-same high-tech privacy destructors is that the talking heads talk over the wild sound, so we never get a real feel for the player-caddy strategy discussion. Viewers/amateur hacks want the byplay not the yak over. And they don’t want any player saying, to a walking “reporter,” that they’re taking it one shot at a time, or Eldrick (it will always be Eldrick) saying “The conditions are really tough out here.” Enough already! Tell the guys and gals not to cuss because they might be going live, and let them tell us what they are thinking, not what Gary Koch thinks they’re thinking.

Mumford: Mid round interviews are pointless. Players are trying hard to avoid distractions, so their answers will be canned spam, “Excited to be here. Just takin’ it one shot at a time. Trying hard not to get ahead of myself.” Even pre and post game interviews rarely yield much, so to expect anything worthwhile in a 15-30 second clip is a stretch. The reason we’re even asking this question is because fans want to know more, and golf analysts aren’t doing their job. The true role of golf analysts is to put themselves in a player’s mind and explain thought processes and feelings. Unfortunately, all we get today is a description of what we can already plainly see on TV.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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