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.
With most of the top South Korean women taking a pass on the limited field Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, Danielle Kang and the Korda sisters put on quite a show. All three are young, combative, fearless and photogenic. We could be looking at the future of the LPGA (American style) for years to come. What say you?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I’ve been a much bigger fan of the LPGA Tour in recent years, than the men’s tour. I think the strides forward that the LPGA has made are remarkable, even in spite of the fact that women’s golf has come to be dominated by Asians — against whom I have no bias whatsoever, and FOR whom I have huge admiration for their perseverance and ability to achieve and succeed in a foreign country with a different language. Fortunately, now, for North American fans, we also have some very solid (and for men, very attractive) “western” women who are back in the mix… Brooke, to be sure, but also the Korda sisters, Danielle Kang, Cydney Clanton, Cheyenne Knight, Cheyenne Woods, Amy Olson, and some of the British and Euro players. These ladies are big hitters, superb tacticians, and they smile and have fun. What’s not to like? I’d say the LPGA has a very promising future.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): They are certainly some of the best American players on the LPGA right now (certainly need to add Lexi Thompson, although she’s not so “young” by that Tour’s standard). Worth mentioning that Jessica Korda shot 60 on Saturday, how good is that? I did see the conditions and setup were ripe, but you still have to get it in the hole. However, the rest of the world have the greater talent at the moment than these young Americans, and the International talent pool isn’t getting smaller, so I see them continuing their domination on the LPGA Tour for the foreseeable future.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: This event is great for the LPGA! Birdies, eagles, long putts, long drives and imagine shooting 28 for 9 holes and all it gets you is a play-off? I don’t know how the scheduled time on TV got botched but it did. Nothing in America supersedes NFL playoffs except maybe the announcement of the conviction of the “Ugly American”.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: If there is to be a future for the LPGA Tour in North America and Europe, it will have to look like that. As mentioned here before, unless you are South Korean or an Asian multi-national company, the Tour has held little interest over the past decade or so. To keep this Tour alive and well, the non-South Koreans will definitely have to be combative and fearless.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): For sure. I think all three, but especially the Korda sisters, have an intense thirst to win and don’t seem afraid to say so. They remind me of Nancy Lopez, Juli Inkster and Dottie Pepper. They’re leaders, while other American top players like Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis are more reserved, keep their emotions in check. It would be intriguing to see a four team round robin Solheim Cup competition that featured the best of Asia, Europe, the US and the rest of the world. The US might be an underdog but with Kang and two Kordas leading the charge, they would be fun to watch.
During the second round of the American Express, Matthew Wolff was assessed a one-stroke penalty for an infraction that had occurred in the first round. The new Rules of Golf were supposed to eliminate this kind of thing but apparently there still are a few exceptions that can be exposed by retroactive video review. Are you comfortable with this?
Deeks: Professional golf got along just fine before video replay rulings became possible and acceptable. I think they’re a stain on professional golf now, and I think they should be banished. I didn’t see Wolff’s “infraction”, but I understood it was one of those ridiculous cases where the ball moved a fraction of an inch, in the rough, as he was addressing it. I mean, come on! Aside from the bad luck (for Matthew) of slo-mo video catching it, the real problem is the rule itself. Can we not apply the concept of “intention” … did the guy REALLY intend to move the ball a fraction of a centimetre? Surely not. He didn’t deserve to be penalized, the whole process stinks.
Loughry: I’m totally comfortable with this Rules situation and getting it right (even after the fact). The points and money involved are too important at this level not to have it right. Anything less wouldn’t treat or serve the Tour, players or the game the way it deserves. I know this is not necessarily popular by public opinion. All Matt had to do was not put his club so close to the ball (which was in the rough) to cause it to move about an inch. I don’t understand why players want to take any sort of chance of having their ball move, whether they notice or not. Granted, Wolff didn’t do this on purpose, but his actions (by video) did show the ball to move as a result of his actions, so a penalty is appropriate. And I get the next thought: yeah well, his ball was in the rough, and moved an inch right and seemingly a bit down, maybe to a worse lie. What if it did? His actions made the ball move. I have a problem with that as one of the fundamental, no probably THE FUNDEMENTAL, principles of the game is that we play the ball down except in exceptional circumstances. (I’m especially talking Tour/Championship level golf). And if you’re ok with it moving to a worse lie, then are you OK if the ball moved into a better position? Think of the consequences, you’ll have guys noodling, wagging and waggling their club snug up behind and near their ball hoping for a small move if they don’t like its current position. The fact this was caught later and assessed, I can understand the confusion it may cause, but these folks are just trying to get it right. It’s better than a missed call in the NHL or NFL that aggravate just as many if not more people.
Schurman: Tour events are played in quarters just like Basketball, Football, etc. The first round is part of the entire 72-hole tournament. In the words of Yogi Berra, “she ain’t over until it’s over”. The part I don’t like is that Wolff did ask for and received a ruling which BTW was from the Grand Poobah of Tour Rules, Slugger White. Once his card was accepted and signed that should be the end of it. Maybe a solution is to have the Rules Official sign-off on the card when they issue a ruling. Once in place, that signature would signify an end to the situation and could not be overturned; just like in other sports.
Quinn: Have always hated the thought police, and now I just hate the ‘penalty area’ (it’s a #$%&ing pond!) and leaving the flag in and dropping from the knee, and Azinger and…. Anyway, if a player didn’t call it on himself/herself, a playing partner did not point it out, the officials walking with the group didn’t have an issue, then turn off the damn social media feed.
Mumford: Video review in any sport is likely to produce evidence that calls were missed, many that could have changed the outcome. However, in all other sports, when the game is over, the outcome is final. In professional golf, there is this desire to make sure it was perfect, so as not to hurt a player or the integrity of the game. This isn’t politics. There are no recounts. When the scorecard is signed, that’s the end of it. The game can survive a few missed calls. If a player is found out to be cheating, public sentiment and his fellow players will take care of that too. In this case, if Wolff or his playing partners or the Rules Official didn’t see it at the time, then it didn’t happen.
Only a few golfers per generation have the talent and the swagger to be world beaters. Hogan had it, Nicklaus had it, Tiger Woods too. Hogan once reputedly said he could look into another player’s eyes and if he saw fear, the match was as good as over. With Tiger’s career all but over, there will be a handful of players that can win bunches of tournaments but is there a single player that can assume his mantle of domination with a force of personality to match?
Deeks: I don’t see a single player today with the power of intimidation that Tiger, Jack, Ben, Bobby, and Vardon had. Ray Floyd had it too, but he was never the dominant player that those guys were. If DeChambeau or Koepka can separate themselves from the rabble in the next year, they might acquire that power, but it’s still too early to tell. On the LPGA, Laura Davies might have inspired dread a generation ago, and I think Annika did, too, but I don’t see anyone standing out and generating fear and loathing at this point. Brooke could, but she’s just too nice.
Loughry: I think Brooks Koepka is trying to be a Champion who can stare down and intimidate his competition. But I think his attitude comes from a place of arrogance rather than true confidence. Either way, if he believes it and in himself, that’s really all that matters to him. Do I think he can be mentioned in the same breath as Hogan, Jack or Tiger? Not a chance, nor do I think any current player will ever be mentioned in that company.
Schurman: The question would lead one to think if Tiger didn’t do it, it wasn’t best. You ask will there be a dominant champion who is the media ‘darling’ after Tiger? Of course, we already had Tom Morris Jr, Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. That makes a total of 10 over approximately 150 years or one every 15 years. Each one the media ‘darling’ of their time and each one a candidate for the GOAT. Given Nelson, Snead and Hogan were at the same time we might have to wait a bit for the next one. But there will always be a next one or we did a lousy job of promoting and developing the game!
Quinn: Without question it’s Tony Finau, not even close. Or sorry, what was the question? Oh, okay. Until he hurt himself in the gym, I’d say Jon Rahm. He has it all, and a great personality that endears him to rivals rather than intimidates them, but hey this ain’t 1950 when you toss your Marlboro before putting. When he’s marching up a leaderboard he’s focussed and can intimidate with his length and ball striking. Just hope he didn’t hurt his back.
Mumford: The revolving door at the top of the World Rankings would suggest that there isn’t a single dominant player. But Brooks Koepka has won multiple majors and has plenty of “attitude”. He sounds like a guy that would beat you with his clubs or his fists, that kind of “step on your neck while he sinks the winning putt” mentality that served Tiger so well. If he can get healthy, he’s the man. Everyone else seems too nice or too laid back. Watch out for Tyrrell Hatton though. He’s the hottest player on the planet right now and looks like he has a mean streak. According to this video from the European Tour, he’s in Anger Management Group Therapy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksDrIsiqZaA