After saying farewell to a truly terrible 2016 (a year that can be summed up as “well, that’s over”), 2017 is in its infancy which means that the PGA Tour is starting up this week (NBC running promos for the Hawaii swing is equal parts brilliant and torture). Which means new seasons for the PGA, LPGA and European Tours. The PGA Tour’s promo video has plenty of visuals to torture you as we endure a cold snap here in the DMV and a couple light snows.
With Nike out of the hard-goods equipment business (that’s clubs, balls, bags), it’s been interesting to see how the former Nike players shake out. Rory McIlroy has gone to a multi-brand approach (notably back to a Titleist ball); and a fist bump to the fine fellows at No Laying Up for breaking the story (I’d call them competition but they’re 1000 miles ahead of your humble scribe). Tiger Woods is doing something similar, but honestly for him it’s about being physically able to complete 72-hole stroke play tournaments. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that, if healthy, McIlroy will have a very good year.
I’ve played Ko’olau on Oahu. This sort of captures why this is remains one of my two favorite places I’ve played. The video is a pretty good indicator why.
The other big player has been PXG. Only in their second year of existence, they continue to add players to their stable; focusing on the LPGA at the moment (Lydia Ko and Christina Kim are solid names to get under their umbrella). I’ll admit I was skeptical of their approach last year, and it’s curious that they’re staying out of the big-box/online retailers to this point. With that being said, their clubs are striking in appearance. The question that others have asked is reasonable- is a $5,000 set of clubs worth it (and is there really a market for this)? I don’t know, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it shakes out (full disclosure: my website is hosted by GoDaddy which was Bob Parsons’ company- I pay for the hosting and have not accepted any compensation from PXG or GoDaddy).
Former #1 Jason Day made news this week by saying he’s going to play even slower than he has been because he felt he was rushing things. I will start a GoFundMe for the first official who hits him with a stroke penalty for slow play. If it’s taking him more than 35 seconds to hit a shot, then he’s clueless about what he’s doing. My fear is how many people are going to watch him go from glacial to stationary and think “that’s what I should do!” and then wonder why 6 hour rounds are commonplace at public courses.
In terms of majors, the men visit an unknown entity in Erin Hills for the US Open (so having Fox on the broadcast makes me fear the worst since they have nothing to go off of), go back to Royal Birkdale for the Open Championship, and to Quail Hallow in Charlotte for the USPGA Championship (the Wells Fargo championship skips Quail Hallow for Eagle Point GC in Wilmington).
I’m still not a Joe Buck fan and I still think that Fox does more wrong than right, but there are a couple things I do like about their telecasts. For starters, they use a ProTracer or something similar on most shots (this should be the standard by now), and Paul Azinger is a competent 18th hole tower analyst. They still get way too much wrong, but Azinger and Brad Faxon are good at what they do. For Fox’s other three high-profile events (US Amateur, US Women’s Open, US Senior Open), it’s to Riviera (fantastic call) for the US Amateur, Trump National in New Jersey for the US Women’s Open (so the best women in the world will be upstaged by the venue’s name when it should be all about the players), and to Salem Country Club in Massachusetts for the Senior Open).
NBC/Golf Channel will cover the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. They did everything you could have asked for at the 2016 Open Championship (and the Olympic tournaments). Wall-to-wall coverage, and on Sunday got out of the way and let that memorable Mickelson-Stenson duel play out (which can be the hardest thing to do). Nothing against Dan Hicks but if Hicks were to move on, Mike Tirico is tailor-made for the 18th tower and probably becomes the best in the business (better than Buck and yes- even better than Jim Nantz). If they can figure out what to do with David Feherty (seriously), they’d be near perfect. I still don’t know what the best use of him is. Is he a tower analyst? Raconteur? Replacement for Roger Maltbie? One suggestion for David- when you ask guests on your show a question, don’t frame it to give them an easy answer. Frame it to make them think about an answer. And then follow up. Saying you’re something and actually walking the walk are two different things.
CBS will have the Masters and the US PGA Championship. For me, CBS remains something to watch this year. Their coverage has gotten stale (if not out-and-out bad), and frankly their problems start with Nantz and Faldo. Nantz sounds like a guy phoning it in (I’ve said I think the issue for him is his workload is way too heavy), and Faldo seems to be perfectly happy to go months without saying anything remotely interesting. The problem is that they’re not going to blow it up (they should), which means another 6 months of Nantz on autopilot, and Faldo droning on about nothing. Meanwhile, Peter Kostis and Dottie Pepper do great work and get lost in the shuffle.
Golf Channel will have the bulk of the LPGA season. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Judy Rankin is outstanding on their coverage (her and Terry Gannon have good chemistry). She knows how to inform the viewer and be critical without being bombastic (we used to call this “being smart”).
Note to Michael Breed: Love your work…have you considered cutting back to 1 or 2 triple espressos a day? If nothing else, you clearly have a passion (which is good).
For Golf Channel- please, pretty please give the endless loop of the trilogy of golf movies a rest. Develop original programming geared towards average golfers. Showing Tin Cup or Caddyshack 27 times a month isn’t serving that need.
Major Predictions (use at your own risk): Mickelson (Masters), McIlroy (US Open), Shane Lowry (Open Championship), Dustin Johnson (USPGA). For the women, Christina Kim (ANA Inspiration), Brooke Henderson (US Open), Jutanugarn (USLPGA Chp), Piller (Open Championship), Lydia Ko (Evian). Again- using these at your local wagering house is your decision, not mine. Most likely they’re all wrong.
1) Both tours (men and women) decide to start seriously cracking down on slow play. If this means handing out penalty strokes, do it.
2) The LPGA continue to gain traction and grow their TV audience. And while they’re at it, add an event in the DMV (Williamsburg doesn’t count).
3) The R&A take over as the sole body for rules, and that they bifurcate the rules. The cutoff can be national amateur and above competitions. Let average golfers have a few advantages.
4) The tours agree to roll back the ball, which will negate the need for 8,000 yard courses.
5) The USGA does not decide to fiddle about with golf courses at their national championships. Less is more. Stop worrying about protecting par. If someone goes lights out and shoots -15 it’s not a bad thing (see Tiger Woods 2000 at Pebble Beach). People want to see great shots and birdies.
6) We see Tiger Woods healthy at the start and finish of the season with a healthy sense of humor.
7) The Solheim Cup is contested with passion and great golf, and is remembered for the quality of golf and not a dispute over a rules issue.
8) We see no more ‘scripting’ of outfits for majors. Make this stop being a thing.
9) We see a return to professional tour rounds finishing under 4 hours. No exceptions.
10) That everyone have their best season possible, and if you see me lumbering about, say hi. It may not appear to be the case but I’m not as cantankerous as I appear to be. That the DMV continues to grow and thrive and become a region with strong public courses that do well. Hit ’em straight and make those putts.
Enjoy some pre-2000 Tragically Hip. Forgot they played Woodstock 1999. Courage. Much thanks to Mike in Toronto for posting all 4 hours of The Hip 30 from the Strombo show. I was too busy watching the Centennial Classic on New Year’s Day to tune in.