Party in Phoenix, Charlie’s rant and driveable par 4’s

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 Greatest Show on Grass, also known as the WMPO, didn’t disappoint this year with a fantastic finish, a stellar leaderboard, first-time winner Scottie Scheffler, new fan favourite rookie Sahith Theegala and a mock striptease, thanks to Harry Higgs and Joel Dahmen. It was all-fueled by huge juiced-up crowds that erupted at every provocation, especially for the aces on #16 by Sam Ryder (Saturday) and Carlos Ortiz (Sunday). Each year it seems the grandstands on #16, 17 and 18 get larger and the fans get rowdier. No doubt the suits in Ponte Vedra are meeting this week asking if maybe it’s all gone too far. What do you think? Do they need to tone it down?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Unfortunately, I was busy playing golf down south on Saturday, and flying home on Sunday, so I didn’t get to see (or in my case, endure) the WMPO… but my older son was there, and he says it was absolutely wild and fun. I suppose, but the crazying- and dumbing-down of golf just isn’t my cup of tea, and I’m happy to admit I’m an old, stuffy traditionalist, and I’m in the minority. If you really must yell and get wasted, I say go to Daytona, or mud wrestling.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Leave this event alone. It’s good just the way it is. One or two weeks a year is totally fine by me, but I don’t think I could take a steady dose of this every Tour stop. I don’t have to have the Happy Gilmore version every week. The players don’t seem to mind, and they always have a choice to embrace it or skip that week if they don’t like it. But judging by the interviews with many players, they just embrace it.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The PGA TOUR is riding an all-time high right now. It’s time to start thinking about where they go from here. I have frequently suggested a mixed Ryder Cup format with teams in cities around the world in a super league. The two venues (Honda and Phoenix) that have the carnival atmosphere are great, but they are also enough. They are fun and the players seem to enjoy it but any more than two would ruin the uniqueness.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I say this every year, it’s fun to watch for one week, nothing wrong with a good party. I do think it got a bit crazy when Ryder got the ace on Saturday and the beer started raining down on everyone, and beer cups and cans ended up all over the golf course. But clearly, it’s a good party and I think most of the players enjoy the atmosphere.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: After his ace, Ortiz did take an aluminum recyclable beer can (it’s the WM after all) in the back but come on. It had been over 2,600 tee shots at the 16th between aces. Sure, it was a spontaneous outpouring (so to speak) Saturday, but Sunday’s ace made it look like a tradition. Relax, it will be about another two thousand 8-9 irons before the next cascade of $10 Lite Beers (how Americans get juiced on light beers remains a mystery). Let it rain again, about 5 years from now. This year the 4-day mob numbered over 600,000. First responders dealt with 25 drunks and 54 ‘others.’ Not bad numbers. The Thunderbirds and their Greatest Show raise an astounding amount for charity and the 16th is a big part of it.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): What they’ve done at the WMPO is brilliant. It draws the largest crowds of any event on the Tour including the majors. It gets people talking about golf. It draws more eyeballs on TV than most events. But here’s the thing: don’t try to copy it elsewhere. The WMPO is unique. And once a year is fine. As far as toning it down, I don’t think so, although they might want to substitute plastic cups for beer cans before someone gets hurt.

Veteran Charlie Hoffman shot his mouth off after getting what he thought was a lousy break when his ball rolled into the hazard, and he was docked another penalty stroke after getting one for the initial infraction. In his rant, Hoffman blamed the USGA for amateurs making up rules for the pro tour, the PGA Tour for not protecting its players and alleged all of that might justify why players would consider jumping to the proposed new Saudi League. Is there any merit to anything Hoffman says about the rule, the PGA Tour or the Saudi League? 

Deeks: My understanding is Hoffman was penalized a shot when his dropped ball rolled into the water. What kind of penalty is that??  What does that have to do with “making a mistake with your clubs,” which is primarily what penalties are for. As some readers may know, I hate 95% of The Rules, and this one may be the worst. So, I’m all-in with Charley on this, and I give him credit for calling out the rule, and the PGA Tour. I also note that Charley said he would never jump to the Saudi League, and I commend him for that, too. I may become his biggest fan.

Loughry: Oh, Chucky boy. Hoffman is out to lunch on this one. I’m not sure how you connect all those dots. He was just upset at the situation, but he only had himself to blame. Last I checked, he hit his ball there, and also elected to drop in that specific location (knowing it was sloped). He had other options, he just didn’t consider them, so it’s his fault, not the rules. Why on earth he took to social to voice his displeasure shows me all I need to know about him. I’m sure he’s fun to have a beer with, but if he’s just going to shoot his mouth off without thinking (without thinking first), then he’ll earn his way to where he should be. It’s definitely the wrong tournament to do that considering WM is his sponsor. It will be interesting to see if he sounds off on them if they drop his sponsorship. And he represents his fellow players on the Player Advisory Council. Couldn’t he just pickup the phone and make a couple of calls to get some answers? His thought process I imagine went something like this…” you know what would be better than calling Jay or Padzer or one of the Tour Officials…if I post my displeasure on social, yeah, yeah that’s way better than trying to talk directly to the people who could potentially help or explain it to me. And I should do this right now, while I’m still heated.” Yep, great idea, Charlie.

Schurman: Charlie Hoffman is on the Players’ Advisory Board. That’s where he should be voicing his concerns. This rule should have been resolved when it happened to Rickie Fowler. Hoffman should have led the charge for change in the rule if he wanted one. There’s nothing wrong with the rule. The problem is with the course set-up which dictated the short grass on the bank.

Rule: I think there’s some merit to what he said, it is a ridiculous rule, but to bring up the threat of the Saudi league was just an attention grabber, and hey, it worked! There are some silly rules in the game of golf, but would that be any different in another golf tour? I’m not so sure. It’s not like the Saudi league is offering him nine figures, so I don’t think he’s going anywhere.

Quinn: Have never liked Hoffman. He’s one of many I fast forward past when he pops up. Have never liked or trusted guys who wear coloured gloves. That might be part of it. Only thing that twigs with him is that he said he cut off his awful mullet (is there another kind?) because his young daughter told him it was ugly. So, a non-factor like him rants and the twitter/online/pseudo media notices? Who the F cares? This guy bitching about the PGA Tour (that has created 526 millionaires), who has earned over $32 million (US) as a vaguely good player (4 wins) making cuts. Then he says he only hinted about the Saudi option to get the media’s attention. Spare us. One positive is that next week, and for innumerable weeks going forward, we won’t hear from the Hoff.

Mumford: As I understand Hoffman’s position, next time someone gets an unfavourable ruling from a Rules Official, they’re going to jump to the Saudi League. Ya, right! Give your head a shake Charlie. Your ignorance about the Rules, your lack of self control and your revenge fantasies don’t reflect well on a Tour veteran and a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board. The Rule does suck but unless Greg Norman intends to invent his own Rules, it will also apply in the Saudi League. Best if you keep your head down and stay off Twitter for a while Charlie.

The driveable 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale has been pivotal in determining the outcome of more than a few WMPOs over the years and was the undoing of Sahith Theegala last week. The PGA Tour heads to Riviera this week, where the short par-4 10th hole also provides an opportunity for a wide range of scores – everything from eagle to double bogey. While bomb and gouge is predominant on Tour, it seems that the high risk – high reward short holes offer the most excitement. Should the PGA Tour be looking at more of this type of hole in their course set up?

Deeks: Yes, I would totally support that. And it would be so easy to do. Just take a par-4 hole with many tee boxes, and many bunkers or water, and let it play 495 on Thursday, 455 on Friday, 400 on Saturday, and 325 on Sunday. Who said the pros ALWAYS have to play from the tips? Give them a challenge that doesn’t just test their gorilla length, make them think, and make them execute with finesse.

Loughry: I’d like to see more risk reward driveable par 4’s, especially late in the round where you can have a big lead change/swing. But that’s hard to “manufacture” with current host courses.

Schurman: Too many on one course is more than one. They’re extremely difficult to design but worth the effort. The secret to success is having it situated near the end of the round but not #17 or 18 as we see at Austin C.C. and the design doesn’t always have to involve water as a penalty area.

Rule: Absolutely. I have always said that any good course should have a short par 3 and a short par 4. Short 4’s in particular are some of the most exciting and fascinating holes on a course. It’s fun to watch the pros try to attack a hole and get in trouble or play them strategically depending on pin location. Thirteen long par 4’s on a course are plenty, let’s sprinkle in more shorties.

Quinn: It has become almost a cliche among modern designers. But are these holes for the ‘once-a-year Tour guys’ or for the year-round players. I put it pin high on #17 at TPC Scottsdale from the tournament tee (without the new grandstands it’s a great hole and visually from the tee, the left water is really in play) but with a driver. Now, with the left grandstand, most guys hit fairway metal to front right making it a boring hole (unless you’re Theegala and adrenalin rip a 2-hybrid). Love the risk-reward, especially guys trying to make the cut or chasing on Sunday, but every other weekend of the year it’s a members’ layup.

Mumford: Players often refer to them as tricked up but that may be because the hole takes them out of their comfort zone. I’m ok with that and especially late in the round when the outcome could hinge on a pivotal hole. As Jim says, a short hole need not be specifically designed, it could be handled in the course set-up by moving tees up and bringing water, sand, tulies and other assorted gunch into play if a player elects to go for the green with his tee shot. One short par-4 per side would be more than fair. Just enough to get players off kilter and scrambling a bit.

Peter Mumford
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. He's played over 500 different courses in 21 countries and met some fascinating people along the way. He's also a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

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