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.
Although it wasn’t a shot to win a major, Hideki Matsuyama’s 277-yard three wood to the 18th green to set up an eagle in the playoff at the Sony Open has to be considered one of the best shots of all time to win a golf tournament. Does it rank among the best all time shots that immediately come to mind?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): So, so many. But the question immediately made me think of Corey Pavin’s 4-wood to the 18th at Shinnecock in 1995, Sandy Lyle’s 7-iron from the left bunker on 18 at Augusta in 1988, Tiger’s jarred wedge on 16 at Augusta in 2005 (maybe the greatest shot of all time), and most satisfying of all, Brooke Henderson’s laser 6-iron to the 18th at the 2016 KPMG major, to beat Lydia Ko.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Matsy’s shot was impressive. It probably is in the top 10 all time? Tiger Glen Abbey bunker shot, 218, 6 iron was pretty damn impressive, so was Firestone in the dark (7 iron) to beat Furyk. Craig Perks chip in on the 18th to win was entertaining too (for par mind you), a lot of pressure there. Countless putts on the 18th hole at the Masters to win (technically putts are shots), Tiger, Mickelson, O’Meara, etc. But 277 yards to 3 feet was extremely impressive, it does make my top 10.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: It was a terrific shot but as it turned out, it wasn’t to win because Henley made a bogie 6. To qualify as the greatest shot of all time you must consider the number of shots taken on a hole, the distance and the circumstances. The longest shot to earn the lowest (under par) score is by Gene Sarazen when he scored a double eagle in the Masters. Next would be Johnathon Byrd who aced the 17th hole during a play-off in the 2010 Shriner’s. In a 3-way tie is Robert Gamez (eagle on the 72nd hole at Bay Hill), Craig Perry (Eagle on the 72nd hole at Doral) and Isao Aoki (eagle on the 72nd hole in Hawaii). My favourite is Hogan’s 1-iron at Merion.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I didn’t get a chance to see it live but caught the highlight the next morning after checking the PGA Tour app and seeing “2nd shot – 277 yards to 2ft 8in”. Huh? That was an incredible shot to win the tourney. Not the best of all time, but very clutch. When I think of shots on the 72nd hole to win a tourney, I think of Craig Parry at Doral and Shaun Micheel’s 7-iron at Oak Hill in the PGA. But the biggest one I ever saw in person was when I caddied for Eugene Wong at Scarboro G&CC in the Canadian Tour Championship in 2012. Trailing by one on the 72nd hole, Eugene holed out a 9-iron up the hill for eagle to win by one. Coolest thing I’ve seen on a golf course.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It’s almost a cliche, but Watson’s seemingly impossible chip in on the 17th at Pebble that essentially won the 1982 US Open over Nicklaus ranks first here. Watching it live on TV, the first reaction was luck (of course it was lucky) but then it was, ‘He’s going to beat Jack’ (never a favourite). Zinger’s bunker hole-out and Mize’s ridiculous dunk to beat Norman really rankled at the time. But the more Norman settles in to Saudi sportwashing, they don’t bother any more. But they were pure, and at the time, undeserved luck. Hideki’s three-wood was a beauty though, in a second-tier event.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The first one that comes to mind is the 218-yard 6-iron Tiger Woods hit from the bunker on the 18th at Glen Abbey to win the 2000 RBC Canadian Open. It didn’t go in the hole like some of the hole-outs that ended other tournaments, but the shot required an incredible amount of skill. Hideki’s shot too was a thing of beauty and skill. If it was a major, we’d be celebrating it as one of the great shots of all time.
Netflix is working on a new reality series about the PGA Tour and the majors that will feature a couple of dozen Tour players, both top stars and some lesser known. What are your expectations for the series and what “behind the scenes” things do you hope they might reveal?
Deeks: I’d love to know how players feel about playing on Sunday when they know they haven’t got a hope of winning. They’re already rich, so the motivation to play well and make a few extra thousand bucks or a few extra FedEx points can’t really be very strong. I’d also love to know what makes “has-been” players continue to think they can trap lightning in a bottle. I’m continually amazed to see names like Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby and Rich Beem and Scott Dunlap still trying to play professional golf for a living.
Loughry: I hope this is a hit, but if people really want to know their favourite players behind the scenes off course activities, I think most just creep them online. For me, I generally want to know what other interests and people the player had or was around growing up that they think helped influence who and where they are today.
Schurman: I love logistics; organizing people, events, travel etc. My friend, Ken Tarling is a fine player who competes on the European Senior Tour and the Australian Senior Tour. He told me how he plans his itinerary, including travel plans, practice rounds, F&B, days off etc. He starts with a spreadsheet two months in advance to coordinate where he will compete through automatic entry, entry through qualification, exhibitions, paid performances etc. He uses the internet to make sure his hotels are comfortable, close to the course, priced affordably and traffic patterns that could cause delays like train crossings, bridges and access via highways. He sets out his plan for air travel to include stopovers, air mile payments and departure times to coordinate with arrival times to ensure decent car rentals. He has a detailed course map of every course he has ever played in his life and adds to them whenever he can. He uses Google Earth to lay-out courses he hasn’t played long before he gets on site. He plays practice rounds months in advance if he can work them into his travel plans. He writes to friends who offer billeting. All of this is done weeks before he leaves. I’d enjoy learning the details of how the players who own their own planes make their plans. How do they answer requests in the mail? (BTW Arnie answered his own mail and wrote his own letters)
Rule: I love that they are doing this, and I hope they are as open as the F1 series. I can see the Tour controlling the content but hopefully we get some good stories, because so many of us live vicariously through the players and want to see what their lives are really like on a day-to-day basis. I’m excited to see what they come up with.
Quinn: Well, Netflix production values — and scripts — are amazing… with real actors. The Euro Tour has created very funny videos for years, funny and entertaining because the players are exactly that. Right now, couldn’t come up with a cast of Tour characters (sic) that could make this funny, so guessing they’re hoping for natural drama. Don’t we already have enough access? Enough already.
Mumford: I expect nothing but hope they reveal where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. Come-on! We’re talking about some of the most self-absorbed, nerdy control freaks in all of sport. They have routines that would make drying paint look exciting. Excitement and drama are not allowed. Even in their personal lives. Anything remotely off-colour, off-brand or weird will be nuked by the Tour. A series on The Real Housewives of the PGA Tour might be fun but Camp Ponte Vedra would have the censors working overtime to sanitize that too.
Augusta National announced last week that two-time Masters winner Tom Watson will be a ceremonial starter for the tournament this year along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Do you like the selection or is there someone else that should have been accorded the honour ahead of Watson?
Deeks: I can’t think of a soul more deserving than Watson. Although I thought it seemed a bit early for Tom to be part of that group. He’s only 72.
Loughry: I like the addition of Tom; he fits in nicely with Jack and Gary. I do enjoy the connection with the past. I’m not sure the young bucks in the field may necessarily, but the connection with the past and tradition will never leave The Masters nor Augusta National; it’s what actually sets it apart from just another golf event, and Major Championship history. That’s not to say Augusta hasn’t embraced the future, look at all they’ve done to the course and coverage that week, their online presence is impressive too.
Schurman: The Masters doesn’t make many mistakes and haven’t here either. Tom Watson epitomizes everything good in American golf, he is dignified, a Masters Champion and extremely well respected by everyone including the players.
Rule: It seems like the obvious choice to me. As a previous champ and one of the Big 4 of his era, it makes sense. It’s a shame they waited so long to get Lee Elder involved, and he was only an honorary starter once. But Watson was the obvious next choice for me.
Quinn: The best-before date for this tradition is well and truly past. Watching Arnie knocking out a 150-yarder was sad enough. We don’t have to have an annual record of the decline. We all get it; we’re all getting older, even the best of us.
Mumford: I’m with Quinn on this one. Watching geriatrics hobble to the tee and hit a wobbler down the first is just not that entertaining. But it’s a Masters tradition so I guess each April they’ll keep dusting off Jack and Gary for one more kick at the can until they can’t. Watson is a fitting addition as will three-time winners Faldo and Mickelson eventually. Personally, I would rather have seen two-time winner Ben Crenshaw in the role. He drips Masters tradition.