This Week in Golf: DeChambeau rising, Weir succumbs to ‘flu’

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.

Tour rookie Dawie van der Walt called out Mike Weir for using a sponsor’s invitation at the RBC Heritage, then withdrawing after a first-round 78. Weir has either withdrawn or missed the cut in each of his last 24 starts. Is van der Walt right in suggesting that Weir should “hang it up,” or out of line for tweaking the 2003 Masters champion?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): As per my column this week, I think van der Walt had every right to call out Weir (as Weir would have done 20 years ago when he was a struggling newbie on the Tour).  The golf world, and all Mike’s fans, have been very patient and supportive of all his attempts to overcome his injuries and re-discover his game, but it’s time to come to grips with the fact that it ain’t likely to happen, ever. And Mike should stop taking tournament spots from people who do have a legitimate shot at making a career, or at least, some money.

Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): Well, this problem has existed as far as I can remember, rookies chomping at the bit for starts and veterans “seemingly” taking them away from them. Well, TOO BAD JUNIOR. Mike Weir’s name resonates much more than yours. Mike earned his stripes, probably went through the same kind of challenges when he was starting out, so you don’t “deserve” the start more than he does. Get over it, play well in every event you tee it up in, let your clubs do the talking. And if Dawie actually used his head, he’d realize RBC stands for ROYAL BANK OF CANADA, and yes Mike Weir is an RBC sponsored player. He’s on their Tour staff for good reasons: RBC is a Canadian company that enjoys being affiliated with Weir, who last I checked is a Canadian golf ICON. That’s not hard to figure out Dawie – guess you missed that connection in your emotional eruption. Ah, rookies, they need to learn. I did see Dawie’s apology, maybe somebody pointed out the logic to him…DOH.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Yes to both questions! Not only should Weir most definitely hang it up, he should have done so a long time ago. I can’t remember the last time that I tuned in to watch the 2003 Masters Champion and he wasn’t playing terribly.  However, Van der Walt was way out of line to go after Weir on Twitter like that. I can appreciate how frustrating it must be to have earned your PGA Tour card and still not get a chance to play regularly, but keep it in the locker room.  You don’t need to go airing your grievances on the most public of forums.  That is stupid!

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Kind of cheeky for a Tour rookie to call out a former major champion and 8-time winner but it highlights the frustration faced by players that earn a PGA Tour card and then can’t get enough starts to earn a living. However, the fault isn’t Mike Weir’s. Every full field Tour stop has a couple of spots for sponsor invitations. These are usually given to local pros, favourite veterans that have supported the event or budding amateur stars. RBC chose to give one to Weir, although only they would know why. He wasn’t likely to draw flies at Hilton Head. Sponsor invites are almost never given to the second alternate on the exempt list so Van der Walt wasn’t getting that one under any circumstances. The other aspect of this scenario is watching Weir still trying to make cuts, frustrating no doubt for him and us. The world is full of golfers who ALWAYS believe “they’re close” even when the facts say otherwise.

Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: Whether or not a player should “hang it up” is up to the individual player, but I give full credit to Van der Walt for calling out Mike for playing. Mike said himself he was recovering from the flu, which begs the question, why play then? We can argue all we want about him taking any chance at keeping his card, but again, I need to ask why? What’s he hanging on to other than refraining from admitting he’s at the end of his career? I’m a big fan of Weir and have a photo of him hanging over my desk as I type, but it doesn’t change that it was a pointless sponsor’s exemption (except for the fact that he’s an RBC guy) and the result wasn’t the least bit surprising. And I think the fact that no one is surprised at his 78 and subsequent WD is more telling than anything else through this whole fiasco. I think it’s time Mike set his sights on the Champions Tour.

Jim Kenesky, Kenesky Murray Golf Services (@JimKeneskyGolf): Van Der Walt has some merit to his frustration.  I know Weir cited the flu as being his reason to withdraw, however, it’s getting to be a sour feeling among most players fighting for status.  Always has and always will.  One thing Dawie has to understand is that Mike Weir has every right to tee it up each week.  His spot as a Major Champion and ranking on the All Time Money List give Weir all the power in the world to gain access to events.  The decision to “hang ’em up” shouldn’t come from fellow players.  Retiring is a personal decision and if Mike Weir believes he still has fight in him to be competitive, then there should be a spot waiting for him on any Tour.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Weir is in danger of becoming the Charles Coody of the Tour, not just The Masters. Good on Van der Walt for, however clumsily, putting out there what many are thinking. Going O-fer 24 has given Mikey all the feedback he needs. Damn straight he should hang ‘em up, or stay away until he’s ready to play on a Saturday.

Bryson DeChambeau made his debut as a professional last week at the RBC Heritage and finished T4. The rookie has become something of a media darling for his colourful attire, outspoken opinions and unorthodox clubs. If he continues to play well, do you think golfers will demand irons all cut to the same length with reverse grips like DeChambeau’s?

Kaplan: I could see it becoming a trend, much in the same way that there were a million idiots reading greens in the Spiderman position during Camilo Villegas’ 15 minutes of fame.  However, DeChambeau has a very unique 1-plane swing that he has honed and tweaked and perfected throughout his lifetime to get to this point.  If you have a normal swing, cutting your clubs down to a uniform length is not likely to improve your game … it is almost guaranteed to have the opposite effect.

Mastroianni: Golfers, and people in general, will demand anything and everything without any sort of understanding of the consequence…it has unfortunately become second nature. So will they demand it? Yes. Will they get it? Probably. Should they? Definitely not. It’s not for everyone. Just like a standard set isn’t for Bryson DeChambeau. If there’s a reason you think a single length set would work for you, if you are a feel player with a decent command of your golf swing or if you are a new player still developing a swing, then maybe it’s the way to go. For all the golfers shooting 95 after 20 years of golf, I say stay away.

Quinn: He’ll have to win a couple of Majors before there’s any line ups at the clubmakers’ doors. Just like Moe Norman’s unnatural Natural Swing was just for him, DeChambeau’s choice of weapons and stance are for this one former-SMU physics major. Had he calibrated the Harbour Town greens a little more precisely, he could have won it.

Deeks: I bet that’s already happening.  In fact, if I had a hack-saw (hold on — there’s a folk song in there somewhere)…

Kenesky: It would take a lot for me to change all my clubs to the same length.  DeChambeau is a unique figure and one that will most likely go on to do great things.  Before we change our club lengths, let’s wait and see what happens to the start of his career. I once swung Moe Norman’s Driver.  We all know how strange he was and what he accomplished.  There’s no way in heck that I would rush out to get a Moe Norman driver.

Mumford: Greg Norman used reverse grips so there’s something to be said for that style. As for the uniform length of DeChambeau’s irons, if he has some success, he’ll have disciples. However, it would be very difficult for any golfer to unlearn one thing, then start over. Not to mention the time it would take and the risk that after all is said and done, you’re no better off than before you started.

Loughry: He’s not my cup of tea, but yes, if he manages a good career, and even sneaks a Major in (unlikely in my opinion), then I can see a small percentage of golfers trying his formula.

American players have won just once in full field PGA Tour events in the past two months and are 11 for 22 since the start of the wrap-around season. On the LPGA side, only Lexi Thompson has a victory this year. Perhaps American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love should be worried but is it a concern for the Tours and their business model?

Deeks: Because of Brooke Henderson, I’ve been regularly watching LPGA Tour events, and I’m dumb-struck at the lack of spectators.  Seriously, there’s NO gallery visible at all on many holes, and maybe 200 around the 18th green as the winner putts out.  We all know the reason why.  I’m sure the LPGA is praying that Brooke and Lexi can keep themselves in the hunt each week, because they’re the only two non-Asians who are playing top ten golf.  The Champions Tour doesn’t seem to be drawing much better, because, I assume, nobody wants to watch Wes Short battle Woody Austin and Paul Goydos down the stretch… at least not in person.  The main Tour is in a fairly good position because Jordan, Jason, Rory and Rickie appear to be the second coming of The Beatles… but if they don’t maintain their little stratosphere in non-majors, I worry for those events.  I hate to say it, but recognizable star power attracts sponsors, advertisers, viewers, and spectators… not just good golf.  And Americans just aren’t dominating like they used to.

Kaplan: I don’t think that the PGA Tour has anything to worry about.  There is one American in the Big Three already and several more that are knocking on the door in the Top 20 of the OWGR.  The LPGA, on the other hand, should be very concerned with its limited amount of recent American winners.  With the exception of Brooke M. Henderson, the ladies circuit simply does not garner enough North American interest when a Yankee is not atop the leaderboard … and that is unfortunate because it is a pleasure to watch Lydia Ko assassinate her competition on a weekly basis.

Kenesky: Golf at the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour level is definitely an International game.  I don’t see anything wrong with the consistent growth and strength of the game across the globe.  I think it’s wonderful and Davis Love III should just grin and accept the challenge as being the underdog.  I hope nothing changes as it’s every aspiring golfer’s dream to play on the PGA Tour and you just can’t take those dreams away.

Quinn: Under Finchem, the PGA Tour has been steered away from America towards becoming a world tour. That model is solid as great players are stepping up from around the globe, and the young Americans are fine. The LPGA Tour is on shaky ground as its world is concentrated in one place, S. Korea soon to be eclipsed by China. That model doesn’t work for a US-based Tour. The next move may well be moving the ‘home’ office closer to the action.

Mastroianni: I wouldn’t be concerned with the fact that non-American golfers are winning whatsoever. There are over 6.5 billion people outside of the United States of America with many other countries that are just as if not more golf hungry. Americans won’t stop watching the PGA TOUR and international players will sustain it all the same because the money is there and they will show for the money. That said, I think this question is focused on the wrong thing. What is concerning is the amount of people leaving or taking up the game; that’s what threatens the business model. When millennial Paul and his kids don’t take up the game of golf, they don’t watch golf. When they don’t watch golf, they don’t attend events. When they don’t attend events, they don’t buy from the concessions. When they don’t…well you get the point. All these things hurt the TOUR not to mention what it does to the industry as a whole.

Loughry: Golf is such a global game, I don’t think the Tours should be worried as long as they can capitalize on it. I’m certain events could be created much like the Ryder Cup/President’s Cup and WGC’s to capture more dollars and exposure for any Tour. Golf in the US is a juggernaut, I actually don’t think Davis should be worried, they have a good crop of players, the fact they haven’t won doesn’t point to a skills GAP. A good chunk of the World Rankings belong to players outside Europe and the US. But let’s not forget some of the US team’s firepower: Spieth, Fowler, Reid, Bubba, DJ, etc. I’ll call it now, it will be a good Ryder Cup this year.

Mumford: The PGA Tour is in great shape because American audiences and golf fans have embraced international stars like Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. And let’s face it, U.S. sponsors and advertisers drive the money on the PGA Tour when they have eager audiences to watch the product. The same scenario isn’t playing out on the LPGA. While the women’s game has never been as popular as the men’s, the ladies also lack North American star power, especially now. Apart from a handful of American women who can keep pace, the LPGA is dominated week in and week out by Asian golfers. More and more, sponsors are Asian based companies and each year more events are being played overseas. The LPGA is healthier now than it’s ever been. It’s just not the same business model envisioned by the founders 66 years ago.

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

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