Did Brooks Koepka cost himself Golf’s largest pay-day by going Vegan? It’s the rumor that has the golf media world white-knuckled on a Monday morning. Continue reading “Brooks Koepka is Broken – The Players Recap”
Been a solid few days out there for viewers. Multiple aces, birdies everywhere, and some big names at the top of the leaderboard. Pundits are giving the TOUR some flack for the course setup and scoring conditions. I think the criticism is fair from a purist’s perspective – the wind hasn’t been as advertised and the result is a course with no great defense. I think what’s lost in the shuffle with that take is the audience for this weekend. More people are tuning in, people who may watch golf a few times a year, or never at all – those people want to see birdies.
On to the important stuff – Rory, Tommy, CAPTAIN. Let’s take some guesses at what the headlines will be Sunday night.
- Begins and ends with Rory. 67 – 65. One bogey in 36 holes. Striking the ball like a maniac. Rory has made 5 starts this season and hasn’t finished outside the top 6. He’s 1st SG off the tee, 1st SG tee to green, and 1st SG overall (FOR THE SEASON). No he doesn’t have a win – and that’s all that people seem to want to talk about lately – but that’s a lazy take. Consistency vs. wins is a common debate in golf, but Rory’s stats don’t lie. 1st SG overall means he’s played the best golf – and he’s been doing that since the turn of the year. If Rory wins this week a lot of people are going to jump back on the bandwagon, and green jacket hype will be at an all time high. This and Tiger talk would dominate the golf news circuit.
- Tommy Fairways. Tommy has yet to win on US Soil – but he’s been one of the best golfers on the planet for two seasons now. His 63 at Shinnecock last year was probably the best round of golf played in 2018. Follow that with a dominating Ryder Cup performance and a great start to the 2019 circuit and here we have it. This would be the biggest win of Tommy’s career and launch him into the conversation for best in the world. Might seem like a bit of a stretch – but he’s in the JT, DJ, Rory, Rose, Brooks category with a W.
- Poulter. Would the crowd at 17 turn on him on Sunday? I doubt it. Americans love to hate on Poults, I think that hate fuels him. Would be a feather in the cap of great villain.
- CAPTAIN JIM. This would be an unreal redemption story. After an embarrassing Ryder Cup performance and a captaincy that endured plenty of scrutiny, winning the PLAYERS would be an incredible accomplishment. Reed tossed him under the bus, crazy fallout stories ensued – the team really just came out looking like a mess. What’s happened since? Jim has sneaky been playing good golf! 32nd in SG total and 2 Top 10’s this season. He’s 48 and been put through the ringer – the media would eat this story up and rightfully so.
- Day’s back is back.
- Keith Mitchell continues a hot streak for the ages – becomes the king of the Florida Swing.
- None of the above – Lot of talent lurking in the 5-7 range. Those guys are going to have to go crazy low over the weekend to make a move but its definitely plausible. Of that group -DJ, Rahm, and Scott stick out. Stud City – all capable of 65 or below on a given day and going completely ballistic.
The past few years Sawgrass has had runaway winners. You have to go back to the Kis, Sergio, Rickie battle of 2015 to find a second place finisher within 3 shots. Let’s hope this field condenses or we get a Tommy/Rory duel for the ages.
Check back in with you all Sunday.
Welcome to PLAYERS week – a celebration of the TOUR as a whole and a melting pot of golf media controversy. There’s plenty of places to find sleeper picks or players in good form, we’ll be focusing on some deeper thoughts on golf’s “Gold Standard”.
The TOUR’s marketing machine has obviously been at full force for this tournament for months now. While some may say a massive rebrand is on the cusp of coming to fruition, I think the TOUR’s vision is just getting started. Let’s delve into why I believe that to be the case.
What they had:
- Fantastic field with incredible depth (more on that later)
- Course with a recognizable/challenging home stretch, including arguably the most famous hole in golf
- Consistent venue that viewership will get to know better with each rendition – that also happens to provide spectator friendly views
- Massive purse (2.25 mill to the champ – think about that)
What they’ve changed:
- The course itself
- 12 was completely redone and is now the token short par 4
- The 4th and 7th greens were overhauled
- Strategic front nine redesigns
- New practice facility
- There are few things more awe inspiring than watching top pros mash golf balls at the range. It is wildly impressive to hear the contact they make with the ball, but also wildly depressing to see just how inadequate your own game is. The dichotomy of those emotions is the crux of why a PGA TOUR range is so awesome, and overall great for fans. The other top range on tour? TPC River Highlands. And think about just how strong their niche has become.
- Venue changes for better “on grounds experience”
- Check out the TOUR’s twitter – they’ll tell you everything you need to know
- Over-seeded with rye
- This new look will present well on TV. It will intrigue the larger “non golf enthusiast” audience that this tournament is supposed to gather. The fact that green = good for those folks is a massive issue in and of itself, the impetus for the name of this blog, and an ongoing dialogue that we will continue to push. I digress……
These updates and the entire rebrand are going to need some soak time. We’re now past the up front investments – the infrastructure is in place, the media blitz has done its job. These are all good things, just hoping that the TOUR exerts some patience. It’s going to take multiple iterations of this new presentation for them to achieve their ultimate goal. Good things take time – and that is perfectly okay.
That being said – the thing that will best expedite this process is a solid broadcast. That means show the best golf, but more importantly show more golf. Give this wider audience a view into the shots that’ll stick with them. Now that there is this incredible background/perfect setting, impress the hell out of viewership with how players navigate the track. With limited corporate sponsorships akin to The Masters, and an incredibly deep field, there’s simply no excuse to not be captivating this weekend.
Zinger has been good thus far and NBC does the best job presenting golf on a consistent basis – but I’d be interested to see how The TOUR approaches their main event behind closed doors. Do they make special requests, do they push for any changes at all?
Side note*** this is prime time for LIVE as a service – I hope they bring their A game and impress the true junkies out there.
STATE OF THE UNION:
I like Jay – he seems knowledgeable and obviously has the business acumen to elevate the TOUR’s status. I think the schedule changes (albeit years in the making) have been very solid all around.
It was a breadth of fresh air when he defended the governing bodies against the vendetta players pushed against the rules. Think of this in terms of Roger Goodell – Roger serves the owners, clear as day. Well the PGA TOUR is run by the players, Jay represents those guys. Him sending a clear message, and reaffirming it in his presser today was comparable to Goodell publicly railroading ownership complaints. Little perspective never hurt – Good for Jay.
The presser leads me to another thought: it really stood out to me that Augusta was involved in the 2 hour discussion this morning on rules changes. Subtle inclusion in Jay’s response to a question, but damn if that doesn’t show you Augusta’s power. Wild to think a single club, hosting a single tournament (2 now I know) has become the invisible hand pulling all the strings of the game. I have no issues with that, but with great power comes great responsibility. Augusta has done good things in recent years to “grow the game”, the mantra they peddle. The Women’s Am + Drive, chip, & putt finals are fantastic steps, but there is plenty more that can be done. Sponsor global golf academy’s, develop youth amateur circuits, or subsidize youth rounds in golf deprived communities. If they have earned the right to influence rules and have a seat at the table with the USGA, R&A, and TOUR – then let’s keep raising our expectations. Those other bodies need to step up their game no doubt, but none of those organizations have the capital or short term agility compared to ANGC.
“DEEPEST FIELD IN GOLF”:
Yes it is true that from a player quality perspective this is the best field all season. I 100% understand why the TOUR touts this, it is a great selling point and an easy mass market pitch. I just want give folks some perspective on exactly why that is.
- The Masters – The masters is an invitational tournament that annually provides the smallest major field. A relatively tiny number of exemptions exist – the best being past champions and the amateur qualifiers. These special exemptions dilute the quality of the field a touch – and with only the top 50 OWGR being invited automatically, pro depth is top heavy. At the end of the day this is simply a small field with small subset of unique exemptions.
- The US Open/Open Championship – OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS. Any player in the world is invited to qualify for these events. If you work hard enough as a pro or an am you have a shot, one of the most beautiful things in all of golf. Again these spots dilute the field.
- The PGA Championship – A portion of the field is dedicated to PGA Professionals. The pro down the street that teaches young players the game, gets a 25 handicap down to a 15, and represents their clubs with great pride has a shot at this tournament. They’re a driving force in the game, and they deserve a chance at the spotlight once a year.
Each of these tournaments has unique traditions – all of which I think should be respected, honored, and revered. Yes these traditions provide fields that aren’t as “deep” as THE PLAYERS, but in all honesty they’re amongst the reasons these tournaments are more special. Again this is not an indictment against Sawgrass or the TOUR – I would be hyping the same thing if I were in their shoes. Just wanted to add some context to it. (Side note – deepest field does not equate to most difficult to win – shoutout to the guys at DataGolf. Follow them @DataGolf on twitter).
Rhetoric around the 5th major is a common talking point. Golf media is pushing the narrative, and golf twitter is fighting back. I’m not here to sway the conversation one way or another – but I find it interesting to think that the majors have adjusted over time, and that people are so against them being adjusted now. Let me be clear in saying I don’t think THE PLAYERS is a major, I just don’t think either side of the argument should be so quickly dismissed. 4 seems like a magical number – but is really only compared to tennis from a slam perspective (please forgive me if I’m missing other individual sports with quad set ups).
My personal opinion? The real meat of this discussion that nobody seems to bring up is that subconsciously this boils down to Tiger & Jack and how to historically view PLAYER’s champions. If there weren’t two generations of thought consistently at each other’s throats about the major chase/GOAT, the public would be more willing to accept this discussion as valid. But we live in a world of comparison/ultimatums – and most people want all things equal when making those judgements. So what we end up with is not a debate on golfer’s merits, but rather the definition of golf merits themselves. We want simple answers to complex questions in regards to who is better than who (take Tiger and Jack out of it, apply this to anyone). Even ostensibly obvious arguments across different sports get dragged through the media cycle endlessly – I actually think that’s a good thing because debate drives discussion. Regardless, we need to come to terms with the fact that there is no right or wrong. I don’t think adding a fifth major changes a whole lot of the story surrounding Jack and Tiger’s career arcs, but nonetheless the indecision surrounding what to make of this event is fascinating.
I’ll say this – kudos to the TOUR’s PR team, the players for pumping both sides, and the media for not letting it die – it is driving clicks and hopefully it ups viewership.
My advice? Take a deep breath, don’t read too much into what this tournament is or isn’t. Enjoy what will be a great weekend of golf. For those of you in the Northeast – the season is close, consider this your kickoff.
Stay tuned – Friday night we’ll release some potential storylines after a few days of play.
Wild to think the story that left Orlando this week is Rory not being able to finish off the API as opposed to Francesco taking this thing by storm with a Sunday 64. That’s just what star power does – Rory will drive clicks and Francesco is sadly viewed as just another golfer by the general public.
Well that golfer put together the round of the week – and on Sunday no less. Unfortunate that it took away from some of the drama of
the telecast, NBC’s slot peaked about 2 hours before prime time but you simply can’t control that. Headed into Sunday I was fired up that so many guys were within 3 shots, but those waning groups just brought no juice to the table (RCB and Wallace gave us glimmers of hope towards the end but those pushes never felt realistic.)
Francesco putted like an absolute maniac on Sunday – that was the difference. All in all he ended up 1st SG off the tee at the API and 4th in SG putting. The driving stat lends credence to the difficult conditions at Bay Hill – longer rough placing a larger premium on finding the fairway. Pundits everywhere made the Le Golf National/Euro leap and I don’t think they were far off, but I think it needs to be said that SG off the tee is going to be a great indicator of success no matter what the venue.
You can find great recaps all over the internet – so let’s get into what caught my attention.
PGA TOUR LIVE THOUGHTS:
Leaving live coverage to show me a stream of Scott Langley walk to the range at TPC sawgrass is downright egregious. Phil I can live with. Even Nick Watney chipping I can tolerate. Scott Langley’s strut from the parking lot? Stop. Please Stop. (No offense given Scott – not one bit).
JT Poston was in the morning featured group along with Rickie Fowler. Getting paired up with Rickie attracts a lot of fan fair, bigger crowds. I think normally JT would have been juiced up to get some TV coverage, but yesterday was just a rough day for the man. He was getting crushed, mental errors and some bad luck – started putting up big numbers. What really impressed me was how JT handled himself out there. No he wasn’t smiling at every turn – and yes there were some looks of exasperation – but he never for a second lost control. He held his head high, and made some birdies on the back nine. A lot of players in that scenario can quickly lose their minds, they’ll start swearing off camera and go full dickhead. JT rose above that – all capsulated perfectly on the 15th tee when a fire truck and ambulance made the rounds right in front of the tee box. I wish LIVE caught exactly what he said to the crowd, but he had them chuckling. In what must have been one of the tougher rounds of his career, the kid showed his true character. Good luck at The Players this week JT, I hope this post makes it to your inbox.
Keith Mitchell played his ass off again. I know he probably wanted more down the stretch but based on what we’ve seen over the past two weeks this guy isn’t going anywhere. Funny what getting back to bermuda and having the length he has can do to a player. With minimal rough this week at TPC Sawgrass keep an eye out for the former bulldog.
Gmac had a rough Sunday. Like a really rough Sunday. The ejection on 4 was particularly rough to watch. A popular narrative headed into round 4 was Graeme’s ability to qualify for the Open at Portrush with a good round, but it simply wasn’t in the cards yesterday. I hope he continues to play good golf (he made the cut, posted some good numbers, has shown a touch of form lately) – and if you can’t rally around a guy like Gmac then you’ve got issues.
BEST SHOTS FROM SUNDAY (I WAS ABLE TO WATCH)**:
- Molinari’s chip in for birdie on 8 after relief
- Molinari’s putt on 18 to get to -12
- Sungjae’s approach from the bunker on 18
As I watched Hovland putt in with the flagstick on 18 yesterday I was wondering if any major college rules incidents had transpired thus far in the spring season? Don’t really have the means to investigate, but if anybody has any good stories please pass along. I imagine golf twitter would have brought any transgressions/issues to light – so that leaves me wondering if the amateurs/student athletes have their shit together more than the pro’s?
This isn’t anything new – but JaniKing absolutely owns the player towel market. I’ve noticed this for a while, and yesterday I finally did my first google search (in all honesty with intent to make a purchase), only to realize this is just a well orchestrated corporate marketing caddy strategy. Learn something new every day. JaniKing incepted me, I’ll admit it.
Streelman’s backwards/tilted adidas sunglass look is absolutely absurd – just crazy enough to work.
Mizuno is fully back. Between Kirk going low yesterday to Lucas Glover’s resurgence – I’m not sure any brand has had a better year than Mizuno. Lot of rumblings they designed Francesco’s blades that he just put in the bag this week (and won with) – check the twitter archives. Oh and lest we forget Abe being on the precipice of greatness. It’s obvious that Mizuno dumped more dollars into sponsorships, but just from my naked eye view I feel like they’ve gotten the best ROI.
Jeff Maggert losing by 1 shot this Hoag Classic might be the story of the weekend. I’m sure if you found your way to this site, and to the end of this review – you’ve seen his 5 putt on the 18th green Friday afternoon. We’ve all been there, just absolutely broken. Difference between us and Maggert is he goes out on the weekend and shoots 63 and 65 to earn a T3 finish.
In regards to Arnie it’s great to see this event get the credit it deserves. There were rumblings after the king passed that players would start to skip the API. With a strong corporate sponsorship, elevated status, and some scheduling favoritism – this event is set up for long term success. I’m glad NBC continues to make Arnold’s memory a focus of the telecast. His legacy is something I think we all understand from a high level – but something I as a golf fan need to learn more about and pay respect to.
We’ll fire up a Players preview this week – thanks for reading.
Honestly, I hated The Masters. We absolutely got cheated. On Sunday Tiger was off the course before the CBS coverage kicked off. Then Rory shanked his first shot of the day – straight into the trees, so much for that Ryder Cup rematch. Nike wouldn’t let Patrick Reed show up in red, Jordan Spieth blew it on 18, and Rickie ran out of time. This. Masters. Sucked.
All right, fine, for the sake of transparency, I lost money this weekend. Your boy got in over his head, and tried to bail out by picking Rory as the winner, and JT to best Spieth. I swear his putter looked shaky on Saturday. That was dumb, really dumb.
Welcome to the most anticipated week of the golf year – crowds have flocked to the outskirts of eastern Georgia, home to the most famous and revered course in all the world – Augusta National (sorry St. Andrew’s – please note I didn’t say the most historic or influential – and please not that I’m American and biased).
While The Masters is typically hyped, the 2018 rendition is on an entirely different level. In my lifetime I’ve never felt this much buzz, and never have so many top caliber players been at the top of their game. I tweeted a thread to highlight just how insanely well this field is playing heading into the tournament – I’m going to rehash that below. Simply put, you could name 15-20 winners and I’d have zero counter arguments against any of them. Let’s dive into why golf has never been in a better place player by player:
Let’s start with world #1 Dustin Johnson. DJ already won the Tournament of champions to kick off the season in Hawaii and followed that up with a T2 at Pebble. His stats this season are insane: 1st SG off the tee, 3rd SG tee to green, 1st SG total. That not impressive enough for you?…..
The lead up to last year’s Masters was all about DJ. Betting favorite, fan favorite, DJ’s stock was at an all-time high. He won his 3 starts prior to Augusta – The Genesis, WGC Mexico, and WGC Match Play. Then, he infamously fell down stairs at his rental property prior to the tournament and withdrew before ever teeing off. In retrospect it was one of the most bizarre things to ever happen in golf (considering player stature, tournament stature, buildup, etc…) Fans have concocted some crazy conspiracy theories about what happened that night, I for one, don’t buy any of them. It was a freak accident, the question is will this week be a story of redemption? In 2015 the OWGR #1 finished 6th at Augusta, in 2016 he finished 4th – odds are in his favor.
From there we move on to Justin Thomas – probably the most complete player in the game right now and future #1 player in the world. JT won 5 times in 2017, got his first major, won the FedEx Cup, and was PGA Tour player of the year. He’s finished in the top 10 in his past 4 events and really has been dominating professional golf since last summer. Toss in a little fan controversy during the Florida swing and all of a sudden JT is one of the most fascinating stories coming into the week. In regards to fan response/retribution…. Augusta National is not where JT is going to feel any wrath. No cell phones, fans that respect the grounds, their tickets, and the game above all else – JT won’t be phased. This is only his third Masters start and his numbers here compared to other majors aren’t strong, but eye test tells me he’ll be in the mix. For pool’s and fantasy players I have a sneaky suspicion JT won’t have as high of an ownership percentage than previously expected – might just be the key to taking home some cash.
On to the next one (literally – the next Justin). Justin Rose rolls down Magnolia lane in great form. He won the HSBC this season and has finished in the top 25 in every start at Augusta since 2009 – and that includes T2 finishes in 2015 and 2017. He lost last year in the playoff to Sergio (and if you re-watch the final round last year you’d never guess the green jacket was going home with anybody else until 17. Seriously – follow this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfMSpgr1L3Q and start it at the 3:27 mark – the way #13 shook out that day is the epitome of golf – good breaks, bad breaks, and it all comes down to putting). I do expect Rose to respond well and contend this year in spite of bad memories. He’s too consistent of a ball striker and his track record speaks for itself. He’s my odds on favorite.
Rory f%$@#n McIlroy. Rors won a few weeks back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Winning is a binary term – you win or you lose – but that doesn’t do his final round and W at the API justice. He looked absolutely unstoppable – driving the ball like a monster and finally finding his putting stroke. It felt like a defining moment for Rory – which is incredible considering his success and what will inevitably be the scope of his career. After not having a win on Tour since East Lake of 2016, and a lot of unknowns plaguing him last season, this dude is officially back. When on point – his game and swing are the most beautiful in the world, the only things comparable in terms of talent are DJ and Tiger of old (and hopefully future). Oh and a W would mean the career Grand Slam for Rory – he would be only the 6th player all time to accomplish that feat.
Rickie Fowler – the peoples champ. Rickie is destine for a major breakthrough (not quite Phil level – but inching there), and it feels only right that his crowning moment would come at Augusta. He won the HERO in December and although he didn’t show it this past weekend he is still one of the preeminent putters in the world. Rickie’s stats this season don’t jump off the page (although 12th in birdie average bodes well) but if he were to dawn the green jacket Sunday night he would instantly become one of the most popular Masters champions ever.
Sergio Garcia – defending champion. Sergio has been, how do you say it? Playing well. His stats this season: 1st in SG approach to green, 1st in SG tee to green, 4th in SG total, 1st in scoring average. I think Sergio has the most impressive swing in the game, just check out his move….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6ttW3ptVzc . Coming off his win last year, marriage last July, and the birth of his first child (shoutout Azalea) Sergio has some serious juju flowing. That level of success on and off the course seems to have brought a level of comfort never felt before in his life – and his golf game reflects that. Possible low ownership levels this week considering the tournament hype/newborn, but recent play more than suggests the Spaniard will be in the mix.
Jason Day – how can he be under the radar? He’s been great in 2018 despite taking a step back in the headline department. JD won the Farmers in February and was T2 at Pebble – combine that with his track record at Augusta and being 1st in SG putting on tour and you may have your champion. With a history of ailments, any other tournament would scare me away from Day, but not Augusta National, not The Masters.
Tommy Fleetwood – may not be a household name in the states yet but he should and will be soon. He was the Race to Dubai Champion in 2017 (EuroTour equivalent of the FedEx Cup) and won in Abu Dhabi to start his season. One of the best iron games to come out of Europe, he may be the hottest player in the world over the past year (scratch that, still JT, but it’s closer than people give it credence). Plus look at that flow…..
Bubba Watson – 2 time Masters champion. Already won twice on tour this year after a serious drought. Bubba is the most creative player of his generation (probably ever?) and his game is purpose built for Augusta. They say take advantage of the par 5’s at this track and you have a chance to win – nobody ends up in better spots to make eagles and birdies off the tee on those holes than Bubba. Not to mention he is one of the most polarizing figures in golf….
Phil Mickelson – LEFTYYYYYYY. Phil is pushing the senior tour and yet is playing some of his best golf ever. He was trending in the right direction for what felt like years and finally broke through (if that is the right term for a player with 43 wins) at the WGC Mexico. He also has 3 green jackets in the closet so Phil knows a thing or two about the golf course. As I write this it would be very Phil to miss the cut but that would not feed into the hype train. A win here would leave him in only Tiger, Jack, and Arnie’s company as 4 time Masters Champions.
Ian Poulter – Thought he was in the field after Match Play (PSYCHE!!). Then forces a playoff on 18 last week in Houston and beats out Beau to get his “back against the wall” invite. Whatever you think of the guy – that was flat out impressive.
Jordan Spieth – Most popular player in the world not named Tiger? Debatable. What’s not is his knack for Augusta (T2, 1, T2, T11 in four starts). His putting has been maligned and this season hasn’t been up to snuff by his standards in terms of wins, but check out the SG stats: 20th off the tee, 9th approach to green, 17th around the green, 3rd tee to green, 17th total). SG putting is 185th (like I said, maligned) – but putting is overrated at Augusta historically.
Jon Rahm – 3rd ranked player in the world. Set the tour on fire last year. Ascension up the World Rankings is historic level stuff.
Hideki Matsuyama – Since his WD at Phoenix he’s been very quiet. So that being said I’ll just leave these SG stats here: 20th approach to green, 3rd around the green, 13th tee to green, 12th total.
Alex Noren – Um this dude is a beast. 6th in SG total and 11th in SG approach to green. He’s 4th in scoring average and already has 3 top 10’s to his credit this season. Also his pre shot routine is something we as amateurs should take note of.
Paul Casey – Last 3 years at the Masters? 6th, 4th, 6th. Those in golf media have pointed out Casey’s inability to close the deal, something he started to put to rest with his victory amongst the chaos that was The Valspar this year. I don’t want SG stat lines to get redundant but damn Casey’s is on another level: 26th off tee, 8th approach to green, 11th around the green, 2nd tee to green, 5th total. All the makings of a green jacket here for Paul – would be cool for him to silence the pundits once and for all.
TIGER WOODS!!!!! – Do I need to hype this up? Realistically Tiger deserves his own blog here but let’s keep it simple. His SG stat line: 14th approach to green, 6th around the green, 11th putting, 7th total. Off the tee he is 153 – but that is and will always be the biggest question mark in Tiger’s game. Numbers are one thing but his current form is just as solid with two top 5 finishes in his last two starts. The man has also won 4 green jackets. You want to see something ridiculous? Check out his Masters finishes all time…
I like this, I like this a lot. While the majority of this post highlights just how good the rest of the Tour is playing heading into the week – don’t get it twisted, Tiger Woods is the epicenter of this tournaments anticipation. WE ARE OFFICIALLY BACK. Have a hell of a week people – it doesn’t get much better than this.
Okay so this happened Sunday ……
And immediately the sports world lost their collective shit. Tiger then proceeded to par the final hole at Copperhead, leaving some fans to wonder why he didn’t take out the big stick in pursuit of a do or die birdie.
I understand that some people don’t like that Tiger hit iron of the tee on 18 this past Sunday. Some people are saying that only “Casual fans” think the play was passive, while other people are clamoring all “golf fans” understand the lack of driver. I’d say there is some healthy overlap there – I feel very confident that even some passionate followers of the game were disappointed that Tiger didn’t take out at least 3 wood and have a go.
My personal opinion? I empathise with every fan that wanted Tiger to bomb one down the 72nd hole, but I tend to lean towards agreeing with the move by the GOAT. Here is why:
- Consistency – He made the same exact decision the prior 3 days. Same club, same distance, same approach shot.
- Pin location – the back right pin on 18 at Copperhead is a tough birdie pin. It’s deep enough in the green to make a lofted high iron/wedge difficult, considering that the slope would take any ball with spin away from the cup in a hurry. Tiger probably thought hitting a low 7 iron short of the pin and letting the ball release up the slope is the best play to get it in reasonable birdie range.
- He’s the greatest long iron player the game has ever seen. That means if your Tiger you do what you do best: go long iron off the tee, hit the fairway, hit another long iron into the green. If you miss the fairway off the tee you have no hope of putting yourself in position to make birdie. Every great golfer plays the hole backwards: where can I miss to keep myself in contention? On the 18th at Innisbrook, the only answer is the fairway.
There are counterpoints to the above:
- He didn’t make birdie rounds 1-3. Do something different! You need a three!
- IT’s TIGER WOODS – he could threaten that pin with 150 left and is talented enough to not spin it out of range
For most, even after having some time to decompress, it still sounds a little too rational – a little too calculated. People want great athletes to be ultra instinctive and give into the moment from an emotional perspective. While some purists argue that succumbing to emotion is always the wrong thing to do in golf, I’d disagree with that. I think some players in that exact scenario Sunday need to pull out driver and incur the associated risk. Others need to value the fairway and trust their long irons. Tiger has earned the right to decide between those two choices, and I for one trust that man’s decision.
All arguments aside – Tiger ended up 5-6 yards from where he wanted to be after the second shot. It wasn’t his best, he’d be the first one to tell you that. That being said he made his call, and he was right there.
The beauty in Tiger Woods is that he doesn’t cares about what spectactors/pundits think- and that may just be the foundation to his greatness. Regardless, this resurgence is going to be fun.