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.
Last week, Brooks Koepka tweeted a meme about a “juiced” athlete in what was perceived to be a jab at fellow PGA Tour player Bryson DeChambeau. Media reaction was pretty quick in condemning Koepka, but the incident raises questions about dramatic changes to body shape and performance and whether they should be investigated. The PGA Tour typically cloaks all player conduct issues and any subsequent penalties in a shroud of secrecy but perhaps this one demands more transparency, given that DeChambeau’s success might tempt other players to copy his methods. How do you see it?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I’ve been wondering what bulked up DeChambeau so dramatically and so quickly, but also assumed he wouldn’t dare use illegal substances for fear of getting caught and getting kicked off the Tour. I do agree that there needs to be some scrutiny of how he did it. And even if it was all “above board”, I sincerely hope no other players do the same, and further stretch the gap between professionals and the rest of us. I personally think BDC looks ridiculous, like he’s wearing a flesh-coloured Incredible Hulk costume; and I don’t think he’s helping the game.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): This was a bit offside by Brooks, but he certainly doesn’t care. No, I don’t think in this case any “juice” was used. Bryson DeChambeau (BDC) just put the work in. It’s not for everyone, and I do see there is an advantage. There is no doubt the farther you can hit it (with some control mind you) that it leads to lower scores. It helps your proximity to the hole, and even an average putter could use that to their advantage. Do I see this becoming the MOLD? Well, its already there, Tiger started it, this is simply the next iteration (Annika even did it to some degree on the LPGA and started cranking out drives on average 20+ yards longer. The game is now more than ever a power game at the professional level. The only thing I wonder is how long can the body/career last lashing at it that hard every swing until it breaks down (during official rounds and practice)? I don’t think many guys will be getting jacked to launch it like BDC, it will be his thing.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: A very long time ago I attended the Sports Celebrity Dinner and was fortunate enough to be seated beside Ben Johnson. He was back from the Olympics by about 5 days. I couldn’t believe the shape of his muscles. They were ‘blocks’. There was nothing smooth about them. The edges were straight and quite noticeable. I have never seen anything quite like that. A man who was a member of the Club where I worked was familiar with things of this nature said to me “Something’s wrong with this guy. He isn’t built right. I think there is a problem”. Sure enough, there was a problem. Once he told me more about muscle development and muscle structure, I began to notice different athletes and their physiques. I am not an expert by any means, but Tiger was a candidate for the unusual muscle structure, Koepka not at all and Bryson not at all. Back then, if you were Commissioner Tim Fincham looking at hundreds of millions of $$$$$$ and Tiger came along…. what would you do?
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think the tour should be testing for HGH and other steroids. Bryson claims he drinks like a half-dozen protein shakes a day, and the growth is all natural. Perhaps it is, but the fact that he gained that much mass in such a quick time certainly raises eyebrows and should warrant testing to make sure everything is on the level. The last thing the PGA Tour needs is a steroids scandal. They should nip this in the bud and be very transparent in the process.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’m in favour of testing athletes for illegal substances and I also think they shouldn’t be protected when they are found to be cheating. It’s not a good example to set for youngsters that look up to and idolize the golfers, and unless they are outed when caught, there won’t be enough of a detriment for the players to shy away from doping.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I was at the finish line in Seoul when Ben Johnson crossed it. My cover story in Maclean’s was the biggest seller other than a Royals cover in the mag’s history to that date. Time zones are a fun thing. By the time the mag hit the streets across Canada, I was in a press conference as the Canadian Olympic Committee explained to the world that, ahem, there may be a problem. Back in the 1980s, I recruited a former CFL defensive tackle to my fastball team — the Globe and Mail ran our scores and stats, so we were real, I played 3rd — and asked him if he’d done steroids. He reared up to his 6’ 5” fullness and bellowed: “How the (expletive deleted) do you think I got a scholarship at Ohio State? How the (expletive deleted) do you think I made All-American? How the (expletive deleted) do you think I made CFL all-star? Of course, I took steroids!” The NFL doesn’t check, much. MLB finally got around to it after cashing in on the Bonds-Canseco-McGwire home run ratings bonanza. Golf is still a secretive society where tests and suspension are cloaked in PR spin. There are no end of supplements (oh, they work) that are questionable even by Olympic standards, such as those standards are. It’s a slippery slope, and innuendo and social media ain’t going to help. It all comes down to the science. The Tour needs state-of the art and transparent testing — and timely public disclosure.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I expect Bryson has already been tested by the PGA Tour and if not, he should be at the top of the list to pee in a bottle as soon as one becomes available. Then announce the results of the test. This is not only to protect the Tour but also DeChambeau, as a clean test would quell any rumours of cheating. It’s long past time the Tour made drug testing ubiquitous and transparent. Shielding cheaters doesn’t do anyone any good. Best to expose them for what they are, eliminate them from the game and move on.
On Sunday, Collin Morikawa defeated Justin Thomas to nab his second PGA Tour victory in just 25 starts on Tour. Along with other recent college grads Matthew Wolff and Victor Hovland, who have also won on Tour, the threesome are igniting a similar kind of interest to that which Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger and the Class of 2011 stirred. Of the three, which one do you predict will have the greatest success on the PGA Tour?
Deeks: I was very impressed with what I saw of Morikawa on the weekend. I can’t say I’ve seen as much of Wolff or Hovland, so I really can’t make a prediction. It’s certainly very interesting to see the groups of newcomers that arrive and succeed so quickly, over the last few years. Five years ago, as you say, it was Spieth, Thomas and Berger; five years before that McIlroy, Fowler, Day. Getting there doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue nowadays. But staying there will always be a challenge.
Loughry: Out of the trio Morikawa, Wolff and Hovland, I think Morikawa will have the better career when all is said and done. He has some very good fundamentals that I think will outlast the other two, and strong mind with a great attitude. They’re all impressive, don’t get me wrong, I just think Collin has better overall game because of those fundamentals. They’re all “bad” putters statistically speaking, if any of them figure that out, lookout!
Kaplan: It’s Morikawa, in my opinion. He’s one of the best ball strikers I’ve ever seen. That’s why he’s always in the mix and likely going to win dozens of tournaments over the course of his career.
Rule: I have to say, that was pretty impressive, especially coming off a short miss in a playoff to Berger and then his first ever missed cut. That bounce back performance tells me a lot about Morikawa’s character and toughness. I think he has the best all around game of the three and will have the most prolific career long term. He doesn’t have any weaknesses, and his head game may be the best of the three. At that level, that’s what matters most.
Quinn: That was so much fun to watch — at midnight (PDT), fast forwarding. I really like Hovland and think he’s going to do years of fun-to-watch things. Wolff is going to tame some courses, if not his entire game. But for the package, Morikawa is so impressive. Watching him is like attending a clinic. He just might be really good.
Mumford: Five years ago in this space, several of us picked McIlroy, Day and Spieth to be the next Big 3 after they racked up a lot of victories and seven majors combined. Since then they have just one major between them. Morikawa, Wolff and Hovland are babies in comparison. I think Morikawa may eventually leave the other two in his dust. He’s got a flawless swing and a deft touch around the greens and to bounce back so quickly after the missed cut shows he’s got some steely resolve too. But way too early to tell.
This week would normally be Open Championship week. Over the years, there have been many exciting battles and finishes. Which one’s best? And which is your favourite Open?
Deeks: SO MANY great Opens to remember! For mano-à-mano battles, Nicklaus and Watson at Turnberry in ’77, and Stenson-Mickelson at Royal Troon in 2016. Last year’s emotional win by Shane Lowry on home soil at Royal Portrush. Nick Faldo’s final round masterpiece of 18 straight pars at Muirfield in ’87. Tom Watson nearly pulling off a sixth title at age 59 in 2009. The Van de Velde collapse. It’s always such a great tournament, and to have played all but one (Lytham) of the Open courses makes it that much more special for me each year. But for me, the most exciting was Nick Price’s win at Turnberry in ’94, with an incredible 50-foot putt on the 71st hole. I literally leapt out of my chair! Two days later Nick was in Montreal for our Export ‘A’ Skins Game, still on a stratospheric high from the experience. Unfortunately, he didn’t win a dollar in the Skins Game, but as always, he won the support and respect of every single viewer and spectator because of the quality of his character.
Loughry: There are so many OPEN Championships to pick from (Norman, WATSON the ageless wonders). Watson in 2009 at Turnberry would have been the all-time greatest feat in SPORT. Stenson vs Mickelson was pretty epic at Royal Troon. It was essentially Match Play those two had in that final round as they were 10+ shots ahead of the rest of the field, which was insane in itself. Amazing shot making by both. I think this is where I lay my hat as a favourite, I can almost remember every shot on the back nine by both players battling down the stretch in adverse conditions too. I’m certain there are classic Opens from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s I’m leaving out. One worth mentioning, Nicklaus/Watson at Turnberry in 1977. Nicklaus charging, Watson fending off, came down to the last hole and Watson having to make that last 3 footer for birdie to win by 1 (over Nicklaus who hit a miraculous shot it to some 50 feet and canned it!), that was pretty epic too (both players were 10 strokes ahead of the rest of the field). I love the Open Championship; it may not be for everyone, but I love its unique conditions (turf and weather) compared to every other week we watch golf.
Schurman: Not even close! The duel in the Sun: Watson and Nicklaus. My most memorable came in 2016 at Royal Troon when Stenson battled Phil. My wife and I travelled to Scotland for our 25th anniversary. I had planned to try to qualify for the Senior Open at Carnoustie but because of an accident to my hand, I was unable to play. So, we went to the Open and the Senior Open as spectators. Our travel schedule required us to change hotels on Saturday and upon checking-in I discovered a unique provision was lacking in the room – a gorgeous B&B – namely a TV. Sunday came and went without me witnessing one shot of the 2nd greatest match ever played. People in the restaurant were talking about it. People in the bar were talking about it. People in the street were talking about it. I saw it on TV around December or so. Please don’t tell my wife, she doesn’t know any of this.
Kaplan: 2006. Tiger dissecting Royal Liverpool with iron-stingers like a surgeon. Using the driver only once. That still sticks out as one of the most dominant major performances I’ve ever seen. My favourite, however, was the 2009 Open, when a 59-year-old Tom Watson surprised the golf world by nearly winning the event in regulation, before ultimately losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
Rule: This week’s tourney cancellation hurts the most for me. I love waking up at 4:00 Thursday morning to watch some of the early action of the Open, there’s something special about that tournament. There have been so many memorable Opens, from the duel in the Sun (which I’m a bit too young to remember) to John Daly at St Andrews, Watson’s near miss at Turnberry at age 60, Van de Velde’s collapse, so many great finishes! The best battle for me was the Open at Royal Troon in 2016. Stenson’s final round 63 beating an impressive 65 by Mickelson in a battle for the ages. Third place was 11 shots behind Mickelson. It was an amazing performance by both, sad that one had to lose.
Quinn: Was a fan from his debut, mainly because of the way he drove the ball, and so Norman’s win in 1986 was a real kick. His win in 1993 came close, but the first was so much fun to watch. Over the years, had the pleasure of a few pints and conversations about a lot of things, none of them golf. He always seemed on the edge of disaster, no matter how big the lead, and that human frailty endeared him to hackers and flawed folks around the world. The ’86 win made an awful lot of entirely too human beings feel really good.
Mumford: Two of my favourites are the 1979 Open at Royal Lytham when Seve Ballesteros won his first major. That tilt included a miraculous birdie from a carpark on the 71st hole, but more importantly the victory started the European invasion of the PGA Tour. The other would be the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale, when Jordan Spieth reeled off a string of birdies and one eagle to snatch victory from Matt Kuchar. Picking the “best Open” is harder because there are so many good ones. The Stenson-Mickelson duel in 2016 was awesome and Padraig Harrington’s win over Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie in 2007 was gripping. However, Tom Watson’s heartbreaking loss to Stewart Cink in 2009 was perhaps the best theatre ever for an Open Championship. The scriptwriters surely had the 59-year-old Watson claiming his sixth Claret Jug, but it was sadly, not to be.