The Round Table: Rickie and Bernhard celebrate as the women head to Pebble Beach

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.

Many golf fans were delighted to see Rickie Fowler back in the winner’s circle at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday. Fowler’s consistent play of late (13 top 20’s in his last 15 events) puts him in the conversation each week as a contender. One thing missing from Rickie’s record – 6 wins including a Players Championship – is a major. Does his solid play of late and this victory put him among the favourites for the Open Championship at Hoylake in a couple of weeks?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Rickie’s play has been fabulous over the last couple of months, and very popular, as you say.  I’d be happy to see him contend at Hoylake, but I tend to think of Rickie as being a very American golfer, dependent on bomb-and-gouge, not on the much more subtle links game that is played along the ground, contending with the harder terrain (and much iffier weather). So, I wouldn’t be betting on him, no.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I liked watching Ricki win this week. Can it translate to an Open Championship? Eeek, it will be a much deeper field, but he contended at the US Open and he does have a track record of playing descent links golf (a Scottish Open to his belt and some good Open finishes). I won’t be rooting against him if he’s in the hunt (as long as a Canadian isn’t in the mix).

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Rickie has two things going for him as he enters The Open; a hot hand and good memories of Hoylake. In 2014, he finished 2nd to Rory there. I always thought he didn’t grind hard enough but the “new’ Rickie seems more understanding of the requirements to win a major. I hope he does. He is a great role model for kids.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): You’d have to put him in the conversation given he led the last major heading into Sunday.  And he did finish T-2 the last time it was held at Hoylake.  So, I guess you’d have to make him a betting favourite, it would be quite the return to glory after a couple of terrible years for Rickie.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I always believe that a hot hand gives a player an edge, so maybe Rickie can be in the mix. There’s a large group of proven major winners ahead of him, many of whom are also playing well. Rahm, Scheffler and Koepka lead that pack. I put Rickie in the longshot category, but it would be a very popular win if he could break through.

At the age of 65, Bernhard Langer won the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday for his 46th Champions Tour victory. He becomes the oldest by eight years to win the Senior Open and his 46 victories surpasses the record of 45 held by Hale Irwin. Every time Langer wins, we marvel at his longevity and consistency but we’re running out of superlatives. What can you add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said?

Deeks: Amazing, and I’ve been saying this about Langer for many years.  If he weren’t so bland and colourless (and didn’t invoke Jesus all the time), I think he’d be given far more credit as one of the great players of all time.  But he isn’t.  It’s always, “oh yeah, don’t forget about Bernhard Langer” when people discuss the top 15.  Which means, he’s almost always overlooked.  But he shouldn’t be.

Loughry: This Langer is some kind of athlete. I’m not sure this is getting the attention it deserves outside of golf circles. It seems like Rookies seem to dominate the Champions Tour when they first get out there, but some wait before making the jump full time. I do wonder if Mickelson played out there full time, would he have 25 wins already? I think so, he would absolutely dominate IMO. But that doesn’t take away what Langer has done over his 15 years out there. Averaging 3 wins per year is impressive, and several of them Senior Majors.

Schurman:  Not much is left unsaid. However, more should be made of his style of play. He plays the ‘old’ way, along the ground. He controls the flight of his shots by his finish. He finishes low and around for a draw and uses his helicopter finish for a fade. Media should make more of this to help the average player. He seldom flies a shot into the green and ‘brings it back’. And he plays like Hogan did. He plays his ball to the line on the green that runs perpendicular to the flight of the ball. In other words, he plays to ‘hole high’ and to the center of the green. He rarely ‘short sides’ himself. My friend John Henrick played like this. I love watching it because of the artistic creativity it requires. Cory Pavin is another example.

Rule: What I find amazing is he keeps winning despite hitting it nowhere off the tee.  He was 62nd out of 66 that made the cut in driving distance.  So, I guess the game isn’t all about length after all.  Somehow despite hitting it that short, he led the field in greens in regulation, which is an incredible stat.  He is a marvel and he’s not done yet.

Mumford: It’s ironic that most adjectives you can apply to Rickie Fowler (exciting, colourful, charismatic) are the exact opposite of those you would attribute to Bernhard Langer (dull, slow, methodical). Both are multimillionaires, Rickie largely as a marketing phenom, Langer as a long-term consistent winner. At the end of the day, whose career would you want?

The U.S. Women’s Open tees off for the first time ever at Pebble Beach this week. What will you be looking for as the women play this iconic golf course and do you expect it will deliver as much drama as when the men play it?

Deeks: No reason why it shouldn’t.  But whether it does or not, I think it’s great that the women are playing Pebble… and Baltusrol and Pinehurst recently.  It’d be a crowning touch if they were invited to hold one of their majors at Augusta, or Pine Valley, or Seminole, or Olympic… or some of the newer classics like Sandhills or Kohler or Bandon. All they have to do is move up the tees.  Unfortunately, the inability of American players to dominate (or even compete) on the LPGA Tour is generating less fan interest just at a time when women are being recognized for the quality of their play.

Loughry: A historic venue, and iconic place, I have no doubt it will provide some entertainment. There are many good storylines right now in Woman’s Professional golf, and I have no doubt the USGA will find a worthy Champion. Maybe even a rookie, first time Major winner. I’ll be tuning in.

Schurman: The ladies’ style of play is similar to the one I described in #2. Pebble Beach was designed to be played along the ground. We will see many creative shots, delicate little chips, bump and run pitches and 2nd shots played short and to the center of the green. It will be a test of patience.

Rule: I’m excited to see the ladies playing such an iconic golf course.  It will be interesting to see how tough they set it up.  The weather looks cool but nothing crazy when it comes to the wind or rain, so they will likely set it up pretty tough.  I can’t imagine it won’t provide some great drama, I’m certainly looking forward to watching it, and cheering on Brooke and the Canadian Amateurs in the field.

Mumford: The women tend to be more conservative than the men and can play a course in tick-tack-toe style so well that sometimes you wouldn’t know if they were at Pebble Beach or some corn field in Iowa. Pebble can be more demanding than that if they allow it. Hopefully, the USGA won’t alter the course so much that some of the great risk-reward holes are neutered and the big hitters still have an advantage if they want to risk it. The weather in July won’t be as much of a factor as it is for the men in February. All in all, it should be a great test and lead to more majors at iconic courses.

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

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