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.
This past weekend saw a number of players break through for much needed wins on various Tours. Keegan Bradley defeated Rickie Fowler at the Zozo Championship in Japan for his first victory since 2019. Fowler has also been winless since the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open (pictured above). Lexi Thompson, experiencing a similar winless drought, won the New York edition of the Aramco Team Series, and Fred Couples shot a final round 60 to take the SAS Championship on the Champions Tour, his first win since 2017. Over at LIV Golf, Brooks Koepka broke through for his first win on that Tour and while he did win the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open in February, the four-time major champion has been injured and otherwise winless for the past three years. Which player, including Fowler, needed this win more?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It was quite a weekend of redemption, wasn’t it? I was personally thrilled to see Fred win, and with such an incredible round of golf: twelve birdies, for heaven’s sake. Even though it was his first win in over five years, I don’t think Fred “needed” it. I think he thinks his career is just about done, and anything good that comes along now is just “gravy”. Lexi needed her victory, though, just to keep her in the conversation as one of the leading lights of the LPGA. Koepka, meh. But Keegan Bradley, wow, there’s a blast from the past. If he still has designs on a successful and lasting PGA Tour career, then this victory was surely a jolt in the right direction.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I actually watched the BK playoff and him win, he genuinely seemed a little emotional after and mentioned the rocky road he’s had the last couple of years with injuries. But I think Fowler needed the win more. He’s been horribly underachieving, and a win would have really helped him going forward. He’s lost that Ricki mojo, and I’m not sure he’s going to get it back. But I can see him as a long-standing Tour member like Lucas Glover or Charles Howell III, a way to make a living and long career, but not many wins or Major titles.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Any victory for Bradley, Fowler or Couples would be good because they are past their ‘best before date’. Lexi’s win was wonderful, but she is more in the category of needing a major. Koepka has won enough majors but is little sparse in regular wins. In this group, only Fowler is an under-performer so any win would be good for him. He’d be better to sign with LIV and get guaranteed money.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The world of golf its-own-self needed Freddie’s win, as a reaffirmation that sweet swinging still exists and that there is hope after the kids start calling you ‘sir’ or ‘mister.’ Keegan is must-not-see TV, Fowler is Fowler, Lexi’s follow through still is awful to watch, who cares about Koepka? And so it comes down to Fred. If I had half the money his divorce lawyers have made …. that’s another story.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): For Freddie, this was just icing on the cake. Nobody expects much of him anymore. Same for Bradley. A nice surprise. The other three all come with much higher expectations. Koepka’s struggles are injury related, Thompson fails a lot because she’s a terrible putter, but Fowler lost his entire game. Few players have had more media attention than Rickie, not many have as much raw talent, yet year after year he stumbles over his wallet and doesn’t quite cross the finish line. He’s fighting hard right now to prove that he’s not the biggest under-performer of all time. but he needs a win more than all the others combined.
Speaking of Bradley, he has an agonizingly long pre-shot routine on the green that includes an exaggerated AimPoint analysis, feeling the putt with his feet, a lengthy crouch and a stutter step or false start before getting into position. Is there another player whose pre-shot routine is more annoying?
Deeks: I always think of the boy-child Sergio Garcia from 20 years ago, who would get locked in a cock-and-release routine that would last for 30 seconds or more. Thankfully, he overcame that affliction (but picked up many more ugly traits along the way.) I would’ve picked Bradley for #2 most annoying pre-shot routine even if you hadn’t asked the question. At least he doesn’t spit regularly like he used to. Other than those two, I can’t think of anyone who’s egregiously irritating. Maybe Furyk and his putting routine.
Loughry: Kevin Na, although he’s tried to improve, is still pitiful. It might be why he went to LIV. Zach Johnston, who’s been known to stand way too close to the ball and accidentally knock it off the tee with practice swings. he annoys me too.
Schurman: Jason Day is a border line consideration. Today’s players spend far too much time standing over the ball in a ‘frozen’ position. The lost art in the swing is the ‘waggle’ which is the time to transmit the visual analysis into the physical motion.
Quinn: When Bradley used to be in contention, the event was unwatchable — like Buck Martinez doing a Jays game, or Chris Cuthbert doing anything near a mic. If he’s ever paired with Cantlay in the final group on a Sunday, suicide is too good for all us golf fans. There was once a guy on a SportsNet golf show who didn’t quite have a pre-shot routine, it was more like a pre-shot afternoon. He wouldn’t fidget — like Sergio or any of the others who look at the target 20 times before missing the green — but assume address and then ……. He was once contacted by the video editor of the show — I know, you along with millions of others never watched it — to point out, politely, that he had stood at address on a tee shot in Spain with the Med in the background, sun dappling the waves, for 19 F**KING SECONDS!!! What a jerk. Oh wait, that was me. D’oh!
Mumford: Patrick Cantlay takes a very long time reading putts from every angle. Of course, he makes most of them too so it’s somewhat justified. Adam Scott is another AimPoint devotee who takes far too much time on the green, but I can’t think of anyone whose pre-shot routine is more annoying than Bradley’s. Hope he doesn’t add plumb bobbing to the routine to get a second opinion.
LIV Golf has now hosted seven events from all over the world and paid out a staggering amount of money to top performers and teams, including over $30 million to Dustin Johnson as the 2022 Tour Champion. The Tour includes 12 of the Top 50 players in the world and features a non-traditional 54-hole, no cut, shotgun start format for its tournaments, plus a team component. Trying to leave aside the political aspects of LIV Golf, has it surpassed your expectations from an entertainment point of view?
Deeks: It hasn’t acquired one single moment of my attention, other than as a continuing subject for discussion here at the Round Table. I’ve made my feelings known about LIV Golf repeatedly: I don’t like it, I don’t respect the initiative, I think the competitive format is non-competitive, I abhor the players who have defected, and I wish the whole enterprise nothing but failure. Unfortunately, unlimited financial resources, human nature, and greed are not working in my favour on this one.
Loughry: It has surpassed my expectation (I didn’t expect much), the coverage isn’t half bad. They actually show more golf than other golf coverages. I’m not sure that is sustainable long term as a broadcaster is secured, and they would need to see and have a commercial return through ads. But I wouldn’t call me a hard-core watcher, if I see it on, I might tune in here and there, but I don’t park time like I would for PGA Tour events that are regularly scheduled and regimented.
Schurman: LIV should be the breath of fresh air into the world of golf. They have the opportunity to address many of the controversial issues nobody has ventured into. They could reign in the ball; they could address CoR, the number of clubs in a set, speed of play, the high cost of maintenance, GUR for divots, dress codes, boring TV coverage, mixed fields and many other subjects. I enjoy the coverage from an entertainment point of view more because it is a break from the traditional coverage we have seen for close to 60 years, but they could do a lot more particularly because they ‘own’ the players instead of the players being independent contractors
Quinn: Having expected it to be a phoney charade, have not noticed anything entertaining about it. Well, did get a bit of a smirk from the Great White Prostitute having to back track on the massive offer to Eldrick — wrong — that he used to try to pimp the nascent boondoggle. Other than that, nada.
Mumford: I’ve watched parts of three events and found them confusing. I don’t like the shotgun start, which makes the leaderboard hard to decipher and often means a player in contention is on a different part of the course from the leaders. The natural ebb and flow you see in traditional tournaments where players start on #1 and progress through to 18 is missing. Consequently, there’s no storyline, no continuity, no anticipation of what’s to come – just a series of shots. So far, the courses are unfamiliar – that will change over the years – but knowing the course, anticipating different shots, seeing how a player strategizes his play is a big part of why I watch golf on TV. There are a lot of players on LIV Golf that I enjoy watching but I think I’ll wait to see them in the majors where the courses are familiar and the leaderboards make sense.