King Henrik, Lefty and that angry Irish guy

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 duel between Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson made for riveting TV and might be one of the epic battles of all time in a Major Championship. Both played exceptional golf and Stenson’s 63 equalled Johnny Miller’s record for a final round by the champion. What was your take on the Open Championship final and where would you rank it in terms of all-time great final rounds?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): You could argue that Miller’s 63 on what is regarded as one of the toughest of American courses was a better round… having been achieved in an era of wooden clubs and deader balls.  But that 63 of Stenson’s had to have been the finest closing round in the more modern era, surpassing Mickelson’s at Muirfield three years ago, and Faldo’s 67 at Augusta in 1997 (a round that doesn’t get the credit it deserves, because it was the one where Greg Norman collapsed.)  I hope that Stenson can validate that round by winning two or three more majors before his day is done.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I thought it was easily one of the best final rounds that I have ever seen at a major.  Both Stenson and Phil were magnificent all week long, but on Sunday, they were just other-worldly.  The best part was that I didn’t know who to root for: Mickelson collecting his sixth major at 46 or Stenson collecting his first at 40. You couldn’t go wrong. I’m only 29, so I haven’t seen some of the classic duels that a lot of you guys have … but for me, this was right up there with the Tiger/Rocco Monday showdown at Torrey Pines.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): This was one of the greatest Match Play finals ever! Loved it, shot for shot, several lead changes, and epic drama. Was probably the greatest Major final I’ve ever seen.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It was the best I’ve seen in a long time. Mickelson played flawless golf and still lost – Stenson just played better. One of the intriguing things about a great match is that score doesn’t really matter, so the fact that records were broken was just a by-product of terrific play, not the story itself. So unlike a regular week on the PGA Tour. As far as ranking the Stenson – Mickelson duel, I’d say it’s third best ever behind #2 Nicklaus – Watson at Turnberry in 1977 and #1 Danny Noonan and Ty Webb vs Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper at Bushwood Country Club.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: NBC had five (5!) announcers yakking over one another as Stenson and Phil walked down the first fairway Sunday. From some distant towers of Babel, Jacobsen (another performance unblemished by one whit of insight) and the ever jabbering Koch, were having thoughts even though Maltby was in lock step with Phil and Feherty was shadowing Stenson ON THE GROUND! Without a PVR to pause for 20 minutes to allow fast forwarding through the four to five commercials (4 to 5!) after every four to five swings or putts (4 to 5!) and a mute button to escape the serial interrupters and over-talkers, the best Major final round — on a par with the Duel in the Sun that Dan Hicks had to reference every couple of minutes — was unwatchable. And what the hell was Mike Terico doing there? The golf by Phil and Henrik was absolutely stunning, as dramatic and inspiring as sport can possibly be. That unrivalled display of skill and heart and determination should have rendered a number of people who immediately come to mind, speechless.

Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: In my life I have not seen any player (let alone two) have a better final round, not only in a major, but any tournament, and that’s considering all the classic tournaments I’ve watched on Golf Channel. I don’t think it was the most exciting or dramatic finish by any means, but definitely the best display of golf in a final round. The reason for that is mostly because it was essentially match play between two golfers that were playing lights out. I’ve always held that match play is the most exciting form of golf and Sunday’s intense back and forth was simply inspiring.

In an interview last week, Rory McIlroy was aggressively questioned by the British press about his decision to withdraw from the Olympics. He made some disparaging remarks about Olympic golf, questioned the PGA Tour’s drug testing methods and ultimately said it wasn’t his responsibility to grow the game of golf. Is he correct or do elite players bear some responsibility for growing the game?

Kaplan: I think he’s correct.  McIlroy’s only responsibility with regards to growing the game is to play well on a weekly basis and win.  That was Tiger’s effect on the sport.  I picked up the sport because I kept watching a young kid with a backwards hat continually run roughshod on the rest of the field every damn week. Honestly, I don’t even understand the criticism towards McIlroy.  Am I really to believe that the future sustainability of golf in Brazil relies solely on the attendance of players like McIlroy, Spieth, and Johnson at the Olympics? That’s ridiculous. The calibre of play is still going to be excellent and I can guarantee you that golf will be one of the most exciting sports at the upcoming Games regardless of who plays. Just wait for two weeks of long-distance running, track and field, and kayaking … Olympic golf will be as thrilling as an episode of 24 by that point.

Loughry: I did see he mumbled something about him needing to stop trying to please others as it hasn’t worked out to date, so he might as well be himself. If he can’t see the logic in giving back to the game, and help grow it, then maybe he needs to look at it more selfishly, if he grows the game then he can make even more money. I mean what has the game of golf ever given Rory, some happiness while playing maybe? Traveling the world? Pffff, oh, and millions of dollars? Nah, why would you want to do anything for the game that has given you so little. Attitude through gratitude Rory. The sooner you get to that conclusion the better.

Quinn: Rory was right on but all the stenographers disguised as journalists took the one line and sent it around the world with no context or insight. Rory does a hell of a lot — more than a hell of a lot of Tour pros — in supporting junior golf with his time and money. He’s grown the game by inspiring youngsters to play like him. He’s doing his bit without being told to or hectored by fossils like Monty. The R&A and Nicklaus and the Tours made it clear they wanted golf in the Games to “grow the game.” The only way that makes an iota of sense is that “official” Olympic sports qualify for government funding, largely for propaganda purposes in places like China and Russia (that’s worked out nicely). Won’t it be great to have government funds redirected to golf in places like, say, Brazil. It would be a shame if those funds over the next four years were squandered on sewage treatment in Rio, or health care, or education, or helping in any way the 1.5 million Brazilians trapped in the crime-infested squalor of the nation’s favelas. He was also right on about the Tour’s drug testing after some in the “media” suggested he didn’t want to go to Rio and face Oly-level drug testing. Ya right, Rory’s the bad guy in all of this.

Deeks: I believe elite players have a huge responsibility to represent the game of golf in a positive light in everything they do, and that includes helping to promote the game and the high standards that it stands for.  That is surely one of the highest expectations of the public for all the money they make/take from the game.  I thought McIlroy’s remarks were astoundingly selfish and unprofessional, and he lost a lot of my respect, for what it’s worth to him (i.e., zero.)

Mastroianni: Players shouldn’t be taxed with the responsibility of growing the game and I don’t believe they should feel they are responsible for growing the game either. Despite the fact that they do so inherently by just being great players, Rory is right. Nobody grows up saying they want to be a great athlete so that they can grow their sport/game, they want to be the best and win, simple as that. And regarding golf in the Olympics, I support any player’s decision not to go. The IOC is a joke and lack even an ounce of appreciation for the games, its athletes and the host nations. If we want to talk about responsibility, the IOC regularly demonstrates none.

Mumford: I don’t believe Tour players have a specific responsibility to grow the game but they do have an obligation to give something back to the game that has afforded them a lifestyle few of us could ever have. Most Tour players have foundations – sure it’s for tax purposes too but they often help kids get started – and many help out at junior clinics and camps. Mostly, I think elite players have a responsibility to represent the highest ideals of golf and carry themselves in a professional manner. After all, they’re role models to millions.

During the third round on Saturday, McIlroy was disgusted with his second shot on the par-5 16th hole and threw his 3-wood to the ground where the head broke off. What was your reaction to McIlroy’s flash of anger?

Mastroianni: Doesn’t bother me. I don’t think he meant to break the head, but it was fun, funny and unexpected. I just don’t know who had the better throw, Rory or Rose.

Deeks: See above: “astoundingly unprofessional”.  What was once a refreshing new presence in the world of professional golf, the anti-Tiger, now seems to be channelling Tiger.  Certainly not his best weekend, on or off the course.

Kaplan: My initial thought was that if I did that, I would be playing without a 3-wood for a while until I could afford a new one.  That’s about the fifth time now that McIlroy has broken or tossed his club after an errant shot.  It’s not very classy and you wouldn’t see Matt Kuchar doing that out there, but I’ve got no problem with it.  At least, he’s not cursing like a sailor in front of the kids, like Tiger used to do.

Quinn: No biggie. Just a simple case of  ‘roid rage.

Loughry: My reaction to RM breaking his 3 wood was, this is a culmination of his poor and inconsistent play the last year or so. Yes, I know he won about a month ago against a semi-mediocre field. It’s clear he expects more of himself. Or, and this is really off the wall, maybe he’s taking a page out of WWE’s book, and wants to flip his image, turning a fan favourite into a villain, first by making some ignorant and asinine comments about the Olympics (pulling our shortly after stating how great it would be to be an Olympic Athlete) and growing the game, in addition to the 3-wood snap. I’ll add I’ve seen and probably done worse in my 20’s on the golf course though!

Mumford: Disgusting! The lad has no flair. Throwing a club is one of the worst things a golfer can do – unless he can be really creative about it and do it with some style and a sense of humour. That was just a temper tantrum. No style points. Minimal creative effort. I’d give it a 2 on a scale of 1 – 10.

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

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