The Round Table: Searching for the next Jon Rahm

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.

Just as Phil Mickelson was enjoying his new role as senior statesman, oldest major winner and toast of the town, Lefty shot his mouth off in a snarky tirade against an article in a Detroit paper about a gambling incident from 20 years ago, where Phil wasn’t even the bad guy. He later tried to make amends, but the sour taste remains. Did Mickelson over-react?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think he did.  He should’ve just ignored the article, and not incurred the wrath of Michigan by declaring he would never return.  The rest of the golf world has already forgotten the incident, but the people of Michigan won’t.  Not that Phil would care anyway. But the whole thing was kinda unnecessary, in my opinion.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Phil went a wee bit long on this one. What’s the point of having media if they need to be instructed on what to say or report on? Was it a lame story, yep, did I care, nope? You can’t have your cake and eat it too, or maybe that is how Phil lives? Chill Phil.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Will the real Phil Mickelson please stand up? Phil is one of the finest players of our generation. He does many great things on and off the course, but he doesn’t appeal to me. This a perfect example of the other side. How does he even know the names of big-time gamblers and why would they play any role in his life?

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Yeah, he over-reacted, and it makes you wonder how involved Phil was if he gets that sensitive over it.  It’s a shame given the reputation he has developed over the past few years, making him a lot more likeable.  Heck I was even starting to like him and cheer for him.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Speaking as a former sports editor of weekly and daily newspapers, and a national newsmagazine, I can see no justification for resurrecting that old story. The unpaid $500,000 was only mentioned at the long-dead mobster’s long-ago trial because one of the guys in the pooled bet was famous: i.e. Phil. I’m with him. He has every right to be irate, every right to question the motivation of the writer, editor, and newspaper.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Phil can be a little thin-skinned at times and his over-reaction just added fuel to a spark that might have gone out if left alone. That’s not Phil’s style though. His feeble attempt at redemption fell flat too and turned this into even more of a media spectacle. Ironically, this is what we love about Phil – he’s not a polished PR machine, just a regular multimillionaire superstar who says what’s on his mind and deals with the fallout.

Tour players and their caddies break up all the time for various reasons but the split last week between Bryson DeChambeau and long time looper Tim Tucker was especially noteworthy given their success over eight years. BDC’s intense research and practice regimen require a particular type of caddie. Can anyone else fill the bill or is Bryson likely to struggle for a while without Tucker?

Deeks: Good question, and who knows?  When a player fires his caddie, most people tend to feel sorry for the caddie and assume it wasn’t his fault.  I have no idea about the BDC-Tucker relationship, so I dunno what happened.  But inevitably in these cases, the player takes a while to adjust to a new looper, and vice versa, to the detriment of on-course results.  As you suggest, being BDC’s caddie would require a stalwart character, patience, and Quaaludes.

Loughry: It would take a special person to jump on BDC’s golf bag. There are some caddies still working for their player that I just can’t believe still work. BDC though, I don’t know who he’ll end up with. Maybe Koepka can set aside his differences for a week or two, or lend his brother? I’d pay to see that. I saw Bryson’s TEAM announced a caddie contest, and the ask was to state how far he hits his 8-iron (I assume carry and not total including run out, which would vary on firmness of the green). Let’s watch this unfold.

Schurman: This might be as simple as both needing a change. On the other hand, maybe Bryson is becoming a bit eccentric or even a little full of himself. Let’s face it, the amount of celebrity status that comes with success not to mention the monetary rewards would be difficult to deal with. Further, he is very different than any other player we’ve seen in a very long time and attracts far more attention because of it.

Rule: That was a surprise announcement, although I can imagine he’s one of the toughest bosses out there, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that he would go through a few caddies in his career.  You may wonder why anyone would want that job and pressure, but it’s a good paying gig, so he’ll find someone sooner than later.  As long as he gets someone to give him the correct numbers, he’ll be fine and shouldn’t miss a beat.

Quinn: Can’t imagine any of the veteran loopers wanting to take on that gig. Days with DeChambeau are way too complicated and entirely too long. It will take a math geek with a strong back, no personal life, and an infinite reservoir of patience. No one comes to mind.

Mumford: Some smart kid named Bryson DeChambeau has created this monster called Bryson DeChambeau. The monster is uber intense, creative, driven, demanding and virtually impossible to please. It grinds up everything in its vicinity. All credit to Tim Tucker for feeding and caring for the monster as long as he did. Not sure the monster is sustainable long term. Not sure anyone else can look after it either.

Now that Jon Rahm has the monkey off his back, there’s a long list of top players without a major including Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Tyrell Hatton, Victor Hovland, Tony Finau, Joaquinn Nieman and Abraham Ancer. Who’s most likely to get their first major and how do you like their odds at the upcoming Open Championship?

Deeks: Ah, the Open.  Always an interesting roller-coaster ride till Sunday evening.  It always seems to happen that some absolute unknown leads the tournament after the first day, shoots 82 the second day and either barely makes or misses the cut.  Then a bunch of international players (including Louis Oosthuizen, inevitably) jockey for the lead, until a well-known name (often a Yank) slides up the rail and wins by two shots on Sunday.  It could be any of the names you mention, or someone like a Zach Johnson or Sergio Garcia.  Of the names you mention, my hunch would be Joaquin Niemann.  But my pick, for many reasons (not all of them logical) would be Mr. Oosthuizen.  I hope I’m right.  In the meantime, don’t underestimate Royal St. George’s’ ability to rear up and bite you down the stretch, especially if it’s windy.

Loughry: I suppose we are dismissing Ricki Fowler of having any chance winning a major? Going into The Open, I like Hovland or Schauffele to win of the lot. They all have game, but I think these two players have the game to win on a links course. Schauffele’s putter could be the difference maker.

Schurman: I can’t help but pick Cantlay. Great swing, quietly unassuming and he is gradually winning. He has all the tools. It’s a question of time. Besides, I’m in so deep with him if I switch players now, he’s likely to win a bunch. PS Maybe he’d reimburse me if I did switch.

Rule: I like Tyrrell Hatton this year at Royal St George’s.  He’s won on an Open course before (twice at St Andrews), and he’s in relatively good form.  I think a number of guys have a good chance of winning their first major, but I can’t keep taking Schauffele at every major!  Give me the hoodied Hatton in England next week.

Quinn: They’re all good, but I think the monkey has taken up permanent residence at the Finau abode. With his recent win on the Euro Tour, and his solid play in America, Hovland is poised for a run at The Open. His game has all the necessary elements for Majors; his winning would not be a surprise.

Mumford: I rode the Rahm horse for four years, sometimes wondering if he’d ever get there. He was labeled a “can’t miss kid” while still in college but it still took a few knockdowns before he figured it all out. I think Schauffele and Cantlay are from the same mold, and both have been close in majors. Eventually, they’ll both win one or several. Hovland is on a steeper career trajectory and given his recent success, should be a betting favourite heading to Royal St. George’s next week.

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

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