This Week in Golf

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.

Sergio Garcia exhibited another crushing example of how not to close when leading a golf tournament. Will his legacy be “a major talent who couldn’t get it done when it mattered most”?

Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craiglougry): Poor Serg, he’ll be remembered for his lack of finish, and poor attitude, and the two are most likely related. A sure talent no doubt, fantastic ball striker and wedge player, but unfortunately it ends there.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours, (@GolfAwayTJ): It is a bit painful to watch him come so close time after time, and not be able to close the deal, save for that one Players Championship a few years back.  I think they said on the telecast that he had a share or sole possession of the 54 hole lead on 12 occasions, and only converted 3. That’s not very good.  I still hope that he wins a major so that people can stop talking about it, but it’s getting less likely.  Kind of reminds me of Colin Montgomerie or Lee Westwood, great European players that couldn’t grab the big one.  I can’t see him ever winning the Masters; if he’s going to win any of them, it’s the Open Championship, the one that relies least on great, consistent putting.

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Well, I guess there’s still time for Sergio to win an important tournament or two and get that “choker” rep off his back.  But we’ve been saying that very thing for at least a decade.  I’m not a big fan of Sergio’s, especially the cocky young man he was in his 20s, but I do believe he’s a better player than he’ll ever be remembered for being… much like Greg Norman, who could have and should have won at least 8 majors in his prime.  Bad karma?  Maybe.  But not lack of talent, in either case.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I can still see that 10-footer on the 18th at Carnoustie to win the Open Championship, and I don’t doubt Garcia sees it almost daily. I don’t think he’s recovered from missing that putt to fall into a playoff that he’d lose to Harrington, and don’t think he will. “It’s not news in my life,” he said fatalistically of that loss. His said that he was happy with the way he played at the Honda, to come within a stroke of winning. That’s not the attitude of a champion. The talking heads were tripping over their tongues yakking about his ball striking on Saturday. There was nothing left to talk about 24 hours later. I’d love to see him go deep in a final round and win a Major, but I don’t see it happening.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): You never like to hang the “choke” tag on any player because they all have immense talent and wouldn’t be on the PGA Tour if they couldn’t win at some level. However, some are able to perform at the highest levels when the pressure is the greatest and some just cash lots of cheques without ever being in contention. The frustrating ones are the players who can consistently put themselves in position to win at the top level but then come up short. Sergio is one of those. The leaderboard shows that Adam Scott won the Honda Classic but in Sergio’s mind he’s probably thinking he lost it Sunday on 16 and 17 when he couldn’t hit the required shot under pressure. Sad to say but that is his legacy.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Absolutely.  Or at the very least, he will be remembered as an underachiever.  How has he only won eight times on the PGA Tour since 1999? To make a COMPLETELY unfair comparison, Jordan Spieth already has seven.

Jim Kenesky, Kenesky Murray Golf Services (@JimKeneskyGolf): Tough to change mental tendencies. Sergio will definitely go down as an underachieving star.

Augusta National has acquired additional land from its neighbour Augusta Country Club and plans to lengthen the 13th hole. Good move or not?

Deeks: I suppose they feel it’s necessary, since an average drive today easily turns the corner on 13, and depending on the bounce, can allow many players to reach the green with a mid- or short-iron and have a putt for eagle.  I doubt that’s what Mr. Mackenzie and Mr. Jones ever envisioned when building the course in 1932.  I just hope that any lengthening will be at the tee, and not to the shape and design of the green.  One of the prettiest achievements in the game is watching a shot come in to the left side of the 13th green then curl and roll down to the front right side when the pin is there.

Rule: I don’t like it.  It’s such a great hole as it is, and if they lengthen it too much, it would take away from the great drama created on the hole, from Gene Sarazen to Freddie Couples to Phil the thrill, some amazing Masters memories come from that hole.  If they lengthen it a bunch and it becomes a 3 shot hole for more than half the field, or maybe even most of the field, that would be a shame.  I say adding 20 yards or so would be enough, let the big hitters try to cut the corner if they can!  Or maybe just change the golf ball…..

Loughry: Yes, it’s changed over the year for the right reasons and this is a good one. They are simply trying to maintain the integrity of the hole, how it was meant to be played (architecturally). When it comes to the golf course, they generally don’t get much wrong.

Kenesky: I think it’s a good move as most guys are cutting the corner and hitting mid to short irons into the green. I think putting an extra 50 yards or so would make Amen Corner much more dramatic on Sunday. Good move in my opinion.

Kaplan: Terrible move.  Why would you change one of the best holes in the sport? Why not just make it a long par 4? I think Augusta should use the land to build a prison for any spectators who have the gall to run on the premises! Scoundrels!

Mumford: I think we’re long past the point where we can pretend that courses can stay the same in the face of advancing technology – especially when under siege by today’s pros. No. 13 at Augusta is one of the most exciting holes in golf where everything from an eagle to a double bogey is possible. It’s a true second shot hole and that risk/reward decision needs to be preserved. Last year Bubba was able to hit his drive over the trees so that his second was not much more than a wedge. If the tee can be moved back so that the second shot requires a fairway metal or long iron, then go for it. Otherwise, leave it alone.

Quinn: Stats don’t lie: 2015 stroke average 4.55, 20 eagles, 141 birdies. Don’t think that’s how McKenzie and Jones wanted the hole to play. Guys like Bubba clearing the trees on the left have spoiled it for everyone by hitting in wedges instead of long irons. The club has done a good job with what was called “Tiger-proofing.”  If they can again force the guys to think about going for it Sunday afternoon, then buy the land and push the tee back and leave everything else the same.

This week the PGA Tour moves to Doral, which is owned by Donald Trump, who is making his own headlines as a racist loudmouth running to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Various golf associations have distanced themselves from Trump courses, citing the owner’s bigoted views and exclusive rhetoric. Should the PGA Tour do the same and ditch Doral from the schedule or should it stay out of politics?

Deeks: I don’t know the corporate ownership of all the golf courses on the PGA Tour, but I’m sure there are some less than savoury people behind some of them, whose names are not Trump; and I don’t see the PGA Tour ever previously being selective on the basis of course ownership.  So to be consistent, they shouldn’t make any rash or precedent-setting moves simply because it’s Trump’s name on the front gate (and on the toilet paper) at Doral. Besides, no matter how much people may loathe and fear the man, he has made some improvements at Doral (and even Turnberry in Scotland).  And God forbid, if he is elected in November, how do you justify cancelling a tournament at a course with the President’s name on it?

Quinn: With each passing day, Drumpf — his ancestral surname —  and the state of U.S. politics becomes more gut turning. He has given the Tour sufficient reason, on the racism file alone, to jettison any association with him once this weekend’s event wraps up. His act transcends politics and golf should have nothing more to do with it.

Loughry: I’d encourage the PGA Tour to stay neutral at this point, no need to make a statement, business as usual as they say.

Rule: I found it interesting that NBC promoted next week’s event on the weekend as “The WGC Cadillac Championship in Miami”, with no mention of Trump or Doral.  That told me something, and if I were them I’d steer as far away from him as possible.  The challenge I have is that one of the most popular resorts that we use for our clients, Doonbeg in Ireland, is now owned by Trump.  It’s an amazing 5 star resort, and I can’t stop sending people there, but it just pains me to give that guy any money.

Kaplan: Well, this is a sticky situation because there is a realistic possibility here that that straw-haired, mouldy sweet potato actually becomes POTUS.  That would be a pretty powerful enemy for the PGA Tour to be making for itself.  But, then again, an ongoing beef between Finchem and Trump would be as entertaining as that duo is repugnant.  I’m torn on this one.

Kenesky: Stay out of politics please. Doral is such a great course to host this event. It shouldn’t matter that Trump is involved. The product is the golf course and the PGA Tour. That’s why we watch – or at least that’s my reason for tuning in.

Mumford: The Tour has to choose the best venues for players, sponsors and fans and can’t let politics dictate that decision. Most golf courses are owned by rich people who tend to be Republican and usually espouse conservative values, which aren’t always progressive or inclusive, but that’s their right.  As long as the course is complying with American law, it should be OK to do business there. I can think of other reasons not to play a tournament at Doral, which is overly penal and not terribly exciting to watch but Donald’s disgusting political views aren’t at issue. He’s just the awkward sideshow.


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

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