Phil, that shirt! What were you thinking?

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.

Webb Simpson hasn’t won a PGA Tour event in over four years but put on a dominant display at The Players Championship to record his fifth win. What was your take on Simpson’s victory and why was he able to prevail against the strongest field in golf?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): No idea why Webb suddenly came out of Never Never Land, but jolly good show, old boy!  It’s been many years since I’ve had a genuinely good round — much less 3 1/2 like Webb — but I do remember the good feeling when some days it just all seems to click, and you think, yes, I can do this.  I’m sure that’s how he felt all weekend, and confidence is everything in this game.  Webb always seemed like a decent fellow, if typical of the rather robotic young American college boys on Tour, so I’d say he’s welcome back.  Let’s see if he’s back for good.  Let’s hope Dowd is.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I’m not a huge Webb fan, but did he ever play fantastic. That course is so well designed any player striking the ball exceptionally will be towards the top, not just a long bomber. That’s really the allure of this tournament for me. Not only the deepest field in golf, one of the best leaderboards with a mix of players (bombers, putters, ball strikers). And that doesn’t happen most weeks; it’s all about pounding it 340, regardless of where the ball ends up rough or fairway. Which I DO NOT LIKE. Give me variety, choice and I’ll get my entertainment from there.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Talk about the stars lining up. Webb Simpson slipped ‘er into 2nd, laid rubber as he shifted into 3rd and pulled away. His swing isn’t exactly a classic but he does repeat it and he does return the clubface to the right place. The one feature of his game I like is that he drives the ball into the fairway which is a tremendous advantage at TPC. You also have give him a lot of credit for overcoming the change in putting styles. Once he had such a big lead it would have been easy for him to listen to the media hype and start taking chances to see if he could lower the tournament record but he didn’t. In the last round he simply plodded along and let the victory come to him. A job well done!

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): It was surprising to see Simpson run away with the tournament like that, given that he hasn’t won on the circuit in over 1000 days. But this is the PGA Tour, and all of these guys are so incredibly talented that even the lowest ranked player in any given field can get hot and blow out the competition.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Hitting fairways.  On a Pete Dye golf course, you not only have to hit fairways, but you have to hit the proper side of the fairway.  You don’t often see bombers winning on Dye courses, and the fact that Simpson led the field in driving accuracy, despite being last in driving distance, tells the whole story.  Despite his past putting woes, anyone on tour can catch lightning in a bottle with the flat stick, and that’s what happened with Webb last week.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: He pulled it off by playing the course and not the hype machine. He may have been last in driving distance but was first in driving accuracy (82.1%).  The conditions were ideal for a controlled game and his new-found putting stroke. The conditions will be very different when the event moves to March, so this was the last time a Simpson-type game will win it.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): TPC Sawgrass isn’t long and isn’t supposed to favour any particular style of play so the bombers hate it, as do the hookers and faders. However, if you look back at a selection of champions over the past 20 years, you see names like Fred Funk, Tim Clarke, Si-Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, and now Webb Simpson – none of them near the top in driving distance but always noted for being in the fairway and hitting a high percentage of greens in regulation. Sawgrass demands control and great putting. Simpson has always hit a straight ball and last week he finally figured out how to putt without a broomstick. Tough combination to beat.

The Fowler-Mickelson-Woods grouping on Thursday and Friday turned out to be a bit of a dud with both Rickie and Phil missing the cut but Phil did turn a few heads with a new wardrobe on Thursday. Apparently the long sleeve shirt was part of a promo Phil did for a sponsor. In your opinion, did it look ridiculous or could it be a future fashion trend?

Deeks: My idea of ridiculous and what sells like hotcakes are often the same thing.  I was away and didn’t see Phil’s latest fashion statement so I can’t comment.  But probably just as well, since I always had a problem with John Daly’s clothes, Rickie Fowler’s all-neon look, and most of the new golf shirt designs of the last decade.  That grey-and-white T-shirt thing that Tiger wore on Saturday nearly made me barf.  It looked like he just got up out of a makeup chair, still wearing the powder bib.  But because it was on Tiger, I’ll probably start seeing it all over the place by next week.  Oy!

Loughry: Phil looked ridiculous. It reminded me of the (puffy) pirate shirt episode from Seinfeld. And I think this is different than in years past when Ryan Moore put a collared shirt on with a tie for a throwback look. As well, Justin Thomas at the US Open last year. Those were done classy. This? This just looked off – a big “NO” in my book.

Schurman: Even Tiger was glad to see the back end of Ricky and Phil. Look at what he did on Saturday and Sunday. Phil’s shirt suited him…….frumpy. The only things it lacked are cuff links and a bowler hat.

Kaplan: There is no way that shirt style catches on. Phil looked ridiculous, and just about everyone let him know about it on social media. In fact, I can’t remember seeing a single positive comment about the shirt anywhere on Twitter. It was that hideous and I don’t think Phil really thought too long about what effect this disastrous shirt might have on his legacy. Phil and the shirt are now a meme. And regardless of his 5 majors and 49 PGA Tour wins, this meme will be trotted out on social media whenever he is playing well or in the news for the rest of his career!

Rule: I’ve become a bit numb to new golf fashion trends, because every time I see something that I think is ridiculous, it ends up being the next trend.  Clearly I’m not going to be hired as a fashion consultant by any golf apparel company any time soon!  When Tiger and Duval first started wearing the collarless Nike shirts, I thought it was ridiculous (actually, maybe it was), and then Rickie’s high-tops and jogging pants?  So I don’t think Phil’s shirt was any worse than any of those, but then again, what do I know?

Quinn: The guys now have a NASCAR decals look to everything they wear, so Phil pimping a shirt (guess he rinsed it in the hotel room sink to wear again Friday, we’ve all been there) wasn’t out of place. He has a piece of the company — doubt that he wrote any cheques — and Faldo obviously doesn’t as he did everything he could to tank the stock. Probably more effective than sun block, but Phil’s pitch was that it’s comfortable to play in so just imagine how good it would feel in the office. That’s probably where it’s going to stay as the two-day shirt commercial sure didn’t help his game.

Mumford: When I saw the first shots of Phil in that get-up I thought he looked like one of those guys that comes to your house to spray for pest control, right down to the logo on his pocket. There is no way this look catches on. Wearing a golf shirt on and off the course is one thing but the same doesn’t hold for a business shirt, regardless of how much money the sponsor is paying. Ridiculous doesn’t even begin to describe it.

It’s impossible to think about TPC Sawgrass and not consider  the 17th hole. Over the years it has been the location of lots of drama but so too have many other holes at this iconic course. Does the island hole get too much hype or is it well deserved?

Deeks: I think it’s very well deserved.  It does provide great drama every year, and is probably the most bucket-listed hole for average golfers worldwide… that, and 12 at Augusta.  I may be the only person who ever rinsed a Tamblyn golf ball on the 17th at TPC.

Loughry: It’s well deserved. For such a short hole and these professional players, it amazes me how much havoc the 17th hole causes. And at various points in the Tournament too. It’s funny, because if you took the water away, it would be a very boring hole, at which I’d expect 99% of the field would hit the green.

Schurman: I played TPC over a dozen times with several different groups. On one occasion, my good friend, Peter Morgan (a 15 handicapper) knocked it on that green a sunk the putt for a birdie. Until the day he passed away he always wondered out loud “what’s the big deal: I didn’t think it was that difficult”! IMO any time a hole is recognized by people who haven’t played it something special has taken place in the design.

Kaplan: It’s both a stunning golf hole and a round ruiner, and I think all the hype it gets is not only well deserved but also good for the sport. I truly believe that without its whacky and iconic island green, the Players Championship would be nowhere close to as popular as it is today.

Rule: I think it’s well deserved, it is an iconic hole.  I typically don’t like all or nothing holes in golf design, but that one works for tournament play, it definitely adds to the excitement.  It often makes the end of the Players Championship better than most, better than most.

Quinn: Ignoring the water and just looking at all the contours and slopes on that green, most golfers would call the hole pretty goofy. Put back the water and all the railroad ties and ‘real goofy’ would be the unanimous assessment. Throw in the Phoenix Open wannabe grandstands and the over-the-top commentators and it’s a ‘major’ irritant.

Mumford: A few years back one of the players was being interviewed about TPC Sawgrass and said he starts thinking about the 17th hole before his round even starts. By the time he gets to the island hole, he’s a mess. There aren’t many golf holes anywhere on the PGA Tour schedule that inspire as much dread and anxiety at this one. It’s been the ruin of many fine rounds and often changes the outcome of the tournament. In one sense it’s a shame it gets so much attention because TPC Sawgrass is a collection of awesome golf holes. However, none loom larger that the 17th.

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

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