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.
Dustin Johnson won the Travelers Championship on Sunday to make it 13 consecutive seasons in which he has a victory. He still trails Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus (17 seasons), Billy Casper (16), Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods (14), but there isn’t another player with an active streak longer than five. How impressive is DJ’s streak?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): That’s pretty impressive alright, all the more so because I’ve always considered DJ a bit of an underachiever given his immense talent. Ditto Freddie Couples, who coulda and shoulda won more. But then, Freddie spent nearly 30 years in the top 35 money winners on the Tour (give or take a year or two when his back kept him home, in traction). These two guys seem very similar to me, in that I suspect there’s not a lot of distracting thoughts or issues going on in their heads, which makes them able to focus on one thing: the golf ball, and where to put it.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Uh, DJ’s streak is very good, I’ll be more impressed if he hits 14 straight seasons with a W. He’s a top 5 player, and I thought he was going to be super stardom bound until that staircase in Augusta set him back. Since then, he’s just been a top player, not a dominant player.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: DJ is one of those guys who looks like he should be good at sports. People watch him and say “Well he should be good, look at the size of him. He’s big, powerful, athletic but not flashy. They ignore the daily effort required, the work ethic, the dedication, the sacrifice. They underestimate the quality of his opposition. Johnson has basically gone through his career without due accolades. On the other hand, there can be quite a case supporting him as an underachiever. Regardless, he sure is fun to watch.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): In this era of parity, it’s pretty incredible! Yes, the man has some natural gifts that give him a huge edge on the field, but his putter has always held him back. The fact that he has been able to put it all together successfully 21 times now and in each of the last 13 seasons, in my opinion, elevates him into the discussion of the game’s greats.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’ve always been biased towards wins as the most meaningful stat in pro golf versus earnings or points or Top 10’s, so DJ’s streak says a lot, both about his ability to get the job done and his consistency. Everyone says it’s hard to win on the PGA Tour because the competition is so good. Combine that with the fact that most players have an off year because of injury, tinkering with their swing, equipment changes, whatever, and DJ’s streak looks even more impressive.
In the absence of an “open” qualifying process for the US Open due to COVID-19, the USGA expanded the number of player exemptions through the World Golf Rankings to 70, added spots for players from the Korn Ferry Tour and other professional tours worldwide, as well as 13 amateurs. This will fill the field, but if travel restrictions coming to the US and returning home still require 14-day quarantines for foreign domiciled players, it may mean the absence of many top ranked players. Would the USGA be better to cancel the US Open for this year as the Open Championship did or move ahead with what will presumably be a diluted field?
Deeks: For the “purity” and consistency of record-keeping, it would probably be better for the USGA to NOT hold a US Open this year and keep it in lockstep with the R&A’s decision. But for the sake of the fans, and the players, I think they’ve made a good decision. As for the different exemptions and possibility that foreign players won’t show up, I’m not sure many fans will care, in the end.
Loughry: Cancel? Give me a break, no chance should they cancel. Great move by the USGA here, they are still filling the field with top notch players from areas of the game (Professional and Amateur) that have always had the opportunity to play/qualify for the Open. I like the accommodation and what they’ve done, it will be a great Championship.
Schurman: It doesn’t matter what choice the USGA makes they are going to face criticism. What is sad is that based on the fact USA has 4% of the world population and 30% of the virus cases and 25% of the deaths the USA is going to have a ‘wall’ just like they voted for but it won’t surround America. It will surround every other country in the world. It won’t be designed to keep immigrants out of America, it will be to keep Americans in. One possible result might be those top players who are non-Americans might elect not to play in the USA for a long time. If 25 or 30 of them joined the European Tour the opportunity to increase prize money through market appeal to sponsors might change a lot of things. What a perfect time for a new tour! I wonder if anybody has thought of that.
Kaplan: If I’m not mistaken, the Open Championship had an insurance safety net to fall back on that the US Open does not have. I think it goes without saying that the US Open should be canceled considering the rate at which COVID-19 is currently surging in the U.S. However, I suspect they’ll go ahead with it anyway as long as the number of infections on the PGA Tour doesn’t spike in the next two months.
Mumford: I look forward to the majors more than most tournaments because of the unique attributes of each. If the travel restrictions hold and some foreign domiciled players don’t or can’t make the trip, that makes this US Open less than it should be. Sure, someone will collect a trophy and add a major to their resume, but the event will look a lot like any weekly tournament on the PGA Tour and should therefore have an asterisk beside it. Better if the USGA cancelled it for this year or do what was done after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941. The following year it was deemed inappropriate to hold the US Open, so they staged a tournament called the Hale America National Open, which was won by Ben Hogan. And it wasn’t a major.
Bubba Watson got himself in the news by stating that his playing partners could influence his scoring by a couple of strokes. If all the PGA Tour players were polled and answered honestly, do you think that’s something most would admit to or is this just Bubba being over-sensitive?
Deeks: I think we all play with people whose behaviour/habits bug us and irk us and may cost us a shot or two. Conversely there are others whose company we enjoy so much that we’re more relaxed and may play better. But in the final analysis, the only person responsible for the quality of your game, and the tally of your score, is you. So quit your whining and get on with it. I think 90% of Tour players get it, and the other 10% are quietly snickered at.
Loughry: Wasn’t Bubba voted as one of the most detested on Tour just a few years back? If players are influenced by others, that’s their decision. I’m certain Tiger influences many players he is paired with. Players have a choice to either embrace it, deal with it or shrug it off. If you get a good pairing (guys you like), there’s no doubt it leads to a good mind set, whether that translates to strokes, I’m not sure, it depends on the player and their mind set/preparation.
Schurman: I can see this being a problem. Only 125 players make-up the USPGA TOUR. Within that group, the draw on Thursday and Friday is constructed by pairing winners with winners, major champions with major champions, top FedEx point earns with top earners, etc., etc. My point is that when one divides a group as small as 125 into 5 or 6 other groups there aren’t many ways to avoid playing with a limited number of players on a regular basis. Given the confidence required to perform at this level, it is inevitable for egos to not clash or one personality not to appeal to another.
Kaplan: I think it depends on the player. I know my level of play certainly gets affected by whom I play with and how long it takes to play. Tiger always seemed to be indifferent to who he was playing with; in many instances, he even thrived on being paired with people he didn’t like (see Sabbatini), but he also has ice water in his veins. That’s certainly not the case for every player on the circuit.
Mumford: Often opponents play at different speeds, some chat, some don’t, and some have irritating habits. I suspect Bubba is just being honest but to suggest the choice of a playing partner can result in a couple of strokes is pretty amazing. These guys work hard at blocking things out and never giving an inch. I doubt too many others would admit that their opponents get to them.