Which course will you knock off your Bucket List this year?

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.

Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee has created another firestorm by suggesting that only Rory and DJ can compete with Tiger right now as the best in the world. Presumably this does a huge disservice to Koepka, Rose, Thomas, Molinari, Rahm etc. We have world rankings, FedEx Cup rankings, money lists and betting lines each week to tell us who’s on top at any given moment. When someone asks you who’s the best golfer in the world right now, how do you decide?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): If someone asks me, I usually refer to the Rolex Official World Golf Ranking, as flawed as I think that system is.  But if they ask my OPINION, right now I’d have to go with Dustin Johnson, who happens to BE Number One at the moment, and who — despite a lingering inability to close the deal on Sundays — always seems to be on or near the top of the leaderboard in each event he plays.  Was Tiger’s return at the Masters an anomaly?  Was Rory’s win at TPC an indication that he’s back where he belongs?  Who knows… the next two majors may sort that out. So, in essence, I’m agreeing with Chamblee’s comment.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: My rating system is to include a body of work over a time frame. IE. the number of weeks as #1, victories in a few months or even several high finishes including a win over a shorter period. Even though the easiest three rating methods are World Rankings, total money and FedEx points none appeals to me. I also think, being the best player more than likely only lasts for periods of one or two months and might have times when nobody stands out. Once a player elevates him/herself to the ‘best in the world’ for a prolonged period of time the discussion changes to ‘best of our time’ and on to ‘ best of all time’. Brandel Chamblee is ‘yanking your chain’. Nobody is silly enough to make a statement like that!

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I use the world rankings. That’s why there were created. Not that the rankings are perfect or couldn’t be improved, but they are the closest thing we have to identifying who the best player is over an extended period of time. I guess your questions hinges on how you interpret the words “right now”. If you take that phrase to mean at this very juncture in term, then the answer has to be whoever won the most recent tournament. If “right now” means over the last month, then the OWGR probably isn’t you best bet. But I think both of those interpretations take into account very limited sample sizes and really only demonstrate who the hottest players are at a certain moment in time and not who the best player is.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Man, this guy just keeps getting more annoying, but I guess that’s his shtick!  In this day and age, the best golfer in the world changes almost monthly, with someone catching a hot streak and dominating the game for a short time, but then falling off the face of the earth.  So, it’s hard to pick anyone you would consider the best in the world.  Funny how Chamblee once said Tiger would never win again, now he’s calling him the best golfer around.  If I had to pick the best player right now, I would have to go by the performance in their last 3 or 4 tournaments, because it’s become more of a “what have you done lately” scenario.  So maybe Kooch is best in the world right now??  Most consistent at least but needs to win a major to get in the conversation.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of columns, and sometimes I’d be halfway through and still be searching for the subject. Deadlines can do that to you. I got the feeling that ol’ Brandel was up against it and searching for a theme. I’ve been onside with Chamblee for years as he dissected Eldrick’s on and off-course life. But this time, the deadline might have gotten in the way of sober second thoughts. Rory and DJ are just the most publicized of the large crowd of great players who have no problem challenging Eldrick 3.0. Anyway, I think the best player in the world is the guy who’s played the best over the past couple of meaningful events.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I usually go with the hot hand. If you were picking a Ryder Cup team for example, I think you’d be inclined to go with players that had won and contended recently, rather than relying on players that were hot a year or more ago. The betting line each week is the most reasoned indicator of who’s the best right now. It’s the only ranking that backs up its picks with real cash.

Golf Canada and RBC are promoting the RBC Canadian Open with a combination of headliners from Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson to Florida Georgia Line to Hamilton G&CC. This follows the lead of other sports in creating huge events that are part music concert and part sporting competition in hopes of attracting new fans to the sport. Is this a feasible idea to grow the game?

Deeks: We talked about creating a big fan party with music when I ran the Canadian Open in 1982!  It didn’t happen for several years, but many tournaments have done it, so I guess it’s not a bad idea to build a golf tournament into somewhat of a festival.  Whether or not it “brings new fans to the game” is debatable.  I don’t see the hootin’ and hollerin’ crowd beating a path to GolfTown for clubs and shoes the next day.

Schurman: The keys words here are “attracting new fans” and “grow the game”. These are two entirely different objectives. The Canadian Open is a ‘show’ and part of the ‘big show’. It is entertainment and has to be as creative as they can to get the sponsor’s name in front of the public. Coincidentally, it is also a highly competitive event that determines the distribution of mega $$$$$ and points for more $$$$$. There’s a fine line between making money and respecting the appropriate atmosphere. Growing the Game has so much support monetarily, from volunteers, Golf Professionals, Associations etc. who are bringing reasonable ‘numbers’ of growth. What we need is programs to retain them and the other golfers as well both new and tenured. However, if Golf Canada wanted to do something unique, they would make the Pro-Am field consist of Juniors with the Professionals instead of amateurs. I know the Pro-am generates huge money required to conduct the tournament. But if they would host several methods of qualification for Juniors all across the country, they change that and really ‘grow the game’. Once a Junior qualifies it would be their own (the Junior’s) personal responsibility to contact corporations, individuals, members/players at their club and/or local businesses to raise the amount of money required to pay for their travel and entry fee. Let the kids play with the Pros!

Kaplan: I just had a colleague explain to me who Florida Georgia Line is; I thought it was a bus company. I think it’s a great idea. I hate the concert in the middle of the Superbowl and all the hoopla leading up to it, but I understand why they do it. The halftime show isn’t meant for football purists like me. It exists to bring in other viewers that couldn’t care less about what happens in the game. Likewise, Florida Georgia Line isn’t supposed to appeal to someone like me. The band has been hired to bring in the country music fans, and I’m totally fine with that.

Rule: I love what they are doing, let’s turn this into more of an entertaining event, drawing in crowds of all ages.  Golf has turned a very gradual corner in making the game a little more hip and popular with the younger generation, and what they are doing with the RBC Canadian Open is perfect for helping to grow the game.  I’m excited to attend the Open this year and be part of the celebration, especially with all the big names that are starting to confirm!

Quinn: This kind of thing is such a stretch that it’s embarrassing. Like the mouth breathers who populated Tigermania, those attracted by the sizzle aren’t golfers and never will be. This isn’t growing the game, it’s growing the crowd in a one-off event. Resources would be better directed to letting kids play for free when accompanied by a parent, or some other form of adult, in off-peak times. When a game is fun, all age groups want to play it again.

Mumford: Anybody who says the tournament should be enough on its own has their head in the sand. It may be enough for current golfers, but to survive and thrive, golf needs to expand beyond its core group. Growing the game should be like growing any business. It starts with creating awareness with new and different audiences. Some of those new eyeballs on the sport will find golf engaging and eventually convert to playing it. They will influence others too. If a couple of concerts deliver some additional eyeballs, that can’t hurt.

As golf season finally gets underway, which Canadian course would you most like to knock off your Bucket List this year?

Deeks: My two adult sons are taking their old man to Cabot for 2 days X 36 holes a day in September, so that’s Bucket List #1 covered.  I’m blessed to have such terrific boys, with or without the Cabot trip. The only other prominent Canadian courses that I’ve never played, and would really like to, are Banff, Jasper, and Highlands Links. One day…

Schurman: Arrogant as this might sound, I have played over 250 courses in Canada and I have made it a point to try to make sure I played everywhere I dreamt of. I guess the one that will probably get away because I’m losing interest and my contacts are all getting old is Goodwood.

Kaplan: I’d like to finally get out and play Bigwin Island this year. It’s been on my list forever and I just never get out there. I think this is the year it finally happens!

Rule:  Finally, golf season has arrived, it’s been a long time coming, so we deserve a long hot summer, right?  I have a few courses on my list, but the one that would top the list is Victoria GC.  Jeff Mingay has done some great work on the course and by all account it’s spectacular.  I have yet to even visit Vancouver Island, so that course among others are on my bucket list for this year.

Quinn: Two of the most enjoyable interviews/conversations I’ve had were with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. They happened separately and years apart, but it was easy to understand why these two golf minds work so well together. Have loved every course of theirs’s I’ve played, except for the awful Kapalua that they are now fixing. My bucket list is topped by their Cabot Cliffs in Cape Breton. From everything I’ve read, from the images I’ve marvelled at, Cabot Cliffs seems like a place where I could hunker down and play every day for quite a while.

Mumford: Personal commitments will curtail my travel this summer and keep me closer to home, so something on my Bucket List in Southern Ontario is my best bet. St. Thomas Golf & Country Club is right at the top of that list. It’s an exceptional Stanley Thompson design, almost 100 years old, and apparently as challenging today as ever. It seems everybody I know has played St. Thomas and raved about it, so I’m hoping to finally experience it for myself.

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

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