Wolff, Hovland, Morikawa: which player has the most long-term upside?

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.

The PGA Tour has indicated it will ban green reading books effective Jan 1, 2022, and any yardage books must be Tour approved. While it’s frustrating to watch the more technically inclined constantly refer to their reference material, is it necessary to ban it?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jumdeeks): Call me a tyrannosaurus if you like, but I’m all in favour of banning ALL printed and electronic aids (like rangefinders) in tournaments, at ALL pro and am levels unless the notes the players are using have been self-generated.  Part of the nature of competition should be the competitors’ own preparation, in my view.  Let them do their own green-reading and distance measuring (or pay their caddie to do it for them).  Giving them all contour books and yardage books makes it too easy, and levels the playing field, which is surely not the point of competition.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Probably needed a ban here. It slows play but more importantly it gets away from the skill of green reading IMO. I’m all for tech but let’s draw the line now before we unintentionally leave it open for other information getting into these books. What will be weird is players having to transfer their old notes to new books or trying to erase now illegal references in their old/original books. But if the Tour is up for it, have at it.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: It has to be one or the other. Banned for all or banned for none. The PGA TOUR and the USGA are so far behind in updating the rules most of the action they do take seems punitive. When you think every invention in equipment, every creative attempt to enhance a player’s chances of winning and every way to outmaneuver mainstream thinkers is available to the administrators on a first -to-see it basis their reaction time is pathetic. In fact, I can’t think of one time the rules makers acted in anticipation. The yardage book ban is about 50 years behind the time it should have been.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ):  I don’t really have much of an opinion on this one to be honest, the greens books don’t really bother me.  If we’re going to ban them, do we ban yardage books too and make the players play a feel game again?  I don’t like how long it takes to play rounds and I guess this helps pace of play a bit, but it’s a slippery slope I think, where do you draw the line?

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The ban should go into effect only for the turtles, and the Tour and all the players know who they are. It is still so freakin’ aggravating to watch one guy take forever to pull a club, then talk it over with his ‘man’, then finally pull the trigger only to have the camera pan across the fairway and see his playing partner and caddy just starting their own slo-mo routine. If we all played like that in our Saturday morning foursomes, we’d have all quit the game long ago. Like most rule changes, the innocent are punished along with the dullards.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m ok with a complete ban of all material except a pin sheet and whatever hand-written notes players and caddies want to make. No graphs, designs, contours or other paint-by-numbers how-to material. Let them figure it out. It’s a skill and should be rewarded when they get it right.

Victor Hovland won the World Wide Technology Open at Mayakoba on Sunday for his third career victory, joining an elite group to garner three PGA Tour titles by the age of 25. Hovland, Matthew Wolff and Colin Morikawa all joined the Tour straight out of college and won almost immediately. Morikawa already has two majors, and a giant head start but which of the three do you think has the most long-term upside?

Deeks: Based on early returns, I’d say Morikawa.  I’m really impressed with his game, but equally impressed with his attitude and unflappability.  I hope I’m around in 15 years to see if I’m right or wrong.

Loughry: For me, of the three young guns, Morikawa has all the tools. No quirks in his swing, no obvious weakness, he’s been a model of consistency. Hovland a close second for me though. Apparently, all he needed was a shorter driver!

Schurman: I’m already keeping an eye on Wolfe as an under-achiever. Recently, he took some time off because he isn’t keen on the amount of travel required. There’s nothing wrong with managing his schedule to allow for other things in life but complaining sends a message. I like all three, but Morikawa has already accomplished a lot and if my theory regarding a player attaining lofty goals early encourages a weakening of ambition, he might be the next to prove it. I don’t think so and I hope not … BUT. That leaves Hovland. He has a so, so start and has yet to ‘break out’ which will cause him to continue working hard to improve. As for a look into a crystal ball, and from a selfish point of view, I wish them all a healthy, lengthy highly motivated career.

Rule: It seems like Hovland and Morikawa have distanced themselves from Wolff a bit with their success to date. Perhaps Wolff’s unorthodox swing doesn’t hold up as much under pressure, but who knows.  They are all so young and will go through ups and downs in their careers, and all should win multiple events moving forward.  But I do think that Morikawa has that “je ne sais quoi” that could be the difference maker.  He’s the best iron player in the world and if he gets the putter rolling, he can really get on a roll (pun intended).

Quinn: What a great threesome to have coming of age at the same time. Morikawa seems to have it figured out emotionally and intellectually; not a bad add to amazing talent. Wolff seems to be figuring out his own mental game, but Hovland has something extra. He has a swashbuckling edge (making him such a pleasure to watch) that gives him the upside in my book. He might not win as many Majors, but he will have more fans.

Mumford: Coming out of college, I would have picked Wolff based on his length and ability to go real low. Morikawa has achieved early success and doesn’t appear to have any weaknesses. However, I think Hovland is just getting going and likely to gain momentum. He has overcome his self-described shakiness around the green and now is brimming with confidence. He should be a mainstay of Europe’s Ryder Cup team for years to come and one of those generational players that could really impact the game.

The U.S. government opened its borders to fully vaccinated land travellers as of Monday November 8th and by various reports there were long lines of Canadians waiting to get across as soon as they opened the gates. For many snowbirds it’s been almost 20 months since they last visited winter homes and vacation spots. While Covid is not over, many seem not to be concerned. Are you likely to travel to the U.S. this winter and if so, which destination tops your list?

Deeks: I’m booked to fly to Naples FL late next week.  Friends already there tell me that masks are almost non-existent, and to most people, “social distancing” means you don’t go to as many parties (because Canadians aren’t there yet?).   I dunno, that’s not making me feel overly confident, but I’m sure I’ll get into the swing of it after a day or two.  Fortunately, I’m booked to get my booster shot here this week, so I’ll step on the plane with some confidence. Hopefully this will extend to my short game while I’m there.

Loughry: I’m still not in a hurry to rush to travel to the US. If I do go (quite likely) it will be Florida in the Spring to visit friends, play a little golf, check out Mets Spring training (long story) and potentially to watch the Players Championship!

Schurman: USA terrifies me. I used to travel back and forth to Florida 3 or 4 times a winter for a week or 10 days, driving each time. I love to drive long distances. I find great places to eat. I play the best courses (if they are open) and I enjoy the time to think. However, in today’s political climate I’d be afraid to stop for gas. It seems the places I like (Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and California) are also on my list of places I fear the most. My wife and I have no plans and probably won’t for quite a while. I wish Europe didn’t include a 5-hour flight.

Rule: I’m still undecided if I’m comfortable travelling to the US with the number of cases down there.  Perhaps if I get a booster shot, I’ll feel more comfortable.  There is a chance I’ll visit my folks in February for a couple of weeks because we can just stay at their house and not inter-mingle with the locals.  That would just be to escape the Canadian winter.  I’m still considering the PGA Show in Orlando, but I’m likely not attending unless they mandate vaccinations, so I’m not holding my breath.

Quinn: Early this week, a relative prepping for a flight out of the States got a positive result on the PCR test. Asymptomatic, she got another test two days later: negative. So, double-vaxxed and cleared for takeoff, all’s good except she’s out $400 for tests that proved…. nothing. Protocols are all over the place in the dis-United States (surprise) — a pal in California has 2X vax plus Booster already and is freaking out about lax local restrictions — and so qualifies as the bottom of my imagined list of destinations. In a different time, in an imaginary clear and crisp late-September, ten days at Bandon Dunes with seven golf-loving extended family members would be a wonderful post-plague celebration. Until then, home is where the health is.

Mumford: I’m agonizing over my annual trip to the PGA Show in Orlando in January. Missed last year for only the second time in 22 years due to the pandemic. No other plans to travel to the U.S. right now. I’m ok to see how all this shakes out for another six months or so.

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

One thought on “Wolff, Hovland, Morikawa: which player has the most long-term upside?

  1. Ban everything except event issued pin sheets. Ban travel to Florida and Texas and Wisconsin. MoriKawa and Holland will still be playing when Wolff is a coach at the DeChamBeau Hack and Hunt course in New Orleans.

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