Tag: Masters Tournament

Monday After The US Open Hot Topics

So after roughly 80 bazillion picks of who will/won’t/might/maybe contend at this week’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the winner was Brooks Koepka, otherwise known as the same guy who won last year.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly a week of smooth sailing.  Traffic (who knew that summer traffic in a summer destination was going to be an issue other than the millions of people who live/work/vacation in the area), course set-up, and a host of other issues got everyone riled up.  Rather than offer my opinions, I’m ceding the floor to Golf Twitter to argue the issues of the week.

Issue: Phil Mickelson’s attempt at playing polo on 13 on Saturday was a disgrace and he should have been DQ on the spot and drawn & quartered.  Or he was making a comment about the course conditions.  Let’s go to the evidence.

For: He deliberately hit a moving ball to keep it from running off the green!

Against: The USGA gave him a 2-stroke penalty as prescribed by the rules.

For: Several players weren’t exactly happy with this.  They typically don’t sound off en masse unless something goes completely off the rails (see Johnson, Dustin in 2016).

Against: He’s Phil Mickelson.  It was his birthday!  Fans love the guy!  Fans don’t care what the haters think.

For: Oh, so the rules don’t apply to beloved players.  His explanation was…well, you watch it.

Against: He wasn’t going to win so what’s the big deal?  Shut up!  Phil’s awesome!

For: Have you heard of protecting the field?

Against: Dummy says what?

For: He should have done the honorable thing and WD on Saturday night.

Against: He offered to and the USGA said no.  Says his wife Amy.

Resolved: We disagree.  Brendan Porath has a pretty smart take here.  I also think John Feinstein gets it right (his words, not mine):

Here are two things that are crystal clear: First, Mickelson embarrassed himself with his sprint, spin and putt while his bogey putt was still rolling. Second, the USGA, already having a bad day because of the way Shinnecock Hills was set up, embarrassed itself further by not disqualifying Mickelson the instant he smugly told the media his act was intentional.

Issue: The USGA’s course set-up went off the rails.  Again.

For: When you look at every foul-up or controversy at a men’s US Open, the problem can be traced back to course set-up.  Golf Channel certainly didn’t mince words.

Against: It’s the National Championship!  It’s supposed to be hard!  Who wants to see someone win with 20 under as a score?

For: The USGA admitted that they lost the course on Saturday and several players agreed.

Against: Oh great, now the players are turning into snowflakes because the course is a bit difficult.  Why not just get rid of all the rough and give everyone a trophy?  I want it harder!

For: The greens were dead.  Again.  After pinkie-swearing that there would not be a repeat of 2004.  They lost them in 2016, 2015, 2014.  Merion was lambasted in 2013.

Against: US Open is supposed to be hard. HULK SMASH.  Put bears in the fairway and land sharks in the rough.  MUST MAKE HARD.  What- they can’t play in wind anymore?  Winning score should be 20 over par so that us regular golfers can relate!

For:  It was windier than they expected.  In an area that is known to be windy.  Apparently with all this technology they literally can’t forecast wind a day in advance.

Against: It’s the National Championship, not some random tournament.

For: You can create a difficult challenge without stressing out greens.

Against: NO YOU CAN’T.  They should be stimping out at 20.  I WANT CARNAGE!!!

For: The Masters, Open Championship and USPGA manage course set-up without turning greens into parking lots.

Against: Did I stutter?  I WANT CARNAGE!  Tears, blood, and everything unfair.  It’s our national championship and it should be hard!

For: It already is.

Against: No it’s not.  I want a literal bloodbath.  I want a 79 to be the low score of the week.  I want to see scores in the 100’s.  9,000 yard courses, bunkers with poisonous snakes, 5-yard wide fairways.  AHHHHH!

For:  In that case they should just change the putting surfaces to concrete.

Against: Now you’re talking!

Resolved: Somewhere between last year’s event and this year, the USGA can and should create a difficult test that involves something more than lightning-fast greens.  Luckily they should not need to do much to Pebble Beach for 2019.

Issue: Fans at the US Open behave inappropriately.

For: You don’t see this in Augusta or at the Open Championship.

Against: Mashed Potatoes! Dilly Dilly!

For: This isn’t the Ryder Cup.

Against: U!S!A!  Hey look it’s Poulter….boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

For: Maybe a few less beers.

Against: Baba Booey!  Look at me everyone!

For: Seriously…can you not?

Against: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Killjoy.  Stop being a hater, broheim.

Resolved: The 2024 Ryder Cup is going to be a gong show.

Issue: Fox completed their 4th US Open so only 8 more years of this.

For: Their production and their technical advances are outstanding.

Against: Joe Buck.

For: Shane Bacon was outstanding.

Against: The Bill Hemmer interview during the 2nd round was a special kind of tone-deaf stupidity you only get from Fox.

For: Brad Faxon was outstanding.  Not flashy, but does a solid job of telling the viewer something they probably don’t know.

Against: Picking up player-caddie discussions are great. Fan discussions about their…ahem…partners isn’t.  Who thought this was a good idea?

For: Mike Davis appeared at the end of the 3rd round and took the hit for the course setup.

Against: Seriously.  Get rid of Joe Buck.  While you’re at it, tell Paul Azinger to drop the Grumpy Old Man bit.

Resolved: If Fox feels like they need him around, push Buck into a host role (think Bob Costas when NBC had the US Open) and find a competent 18th hole tower announcer.  Maybe Shane Bacon is the answer, maybe he’s not.  Think beyond the norm.  Some people are good at golf. Buck isn’t.  It’s been four years of USGA events; he’s not going to get better.  It’s just not his thing.

SONG OF THE DAY

30 years ago today I went with some friends to see Depeche Mode at the Rose Bowl in California.  Good times, minus the five couples around me who broke up (including the couple I went with), and two people projectile vomiting in the sink of the men’s washroom.   Enjoy.

 

My 2017 Predictions (and Wishes)

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.

Some wishes:

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.

 

Round #2

Played at Redgate in Rockville yesterday…despite a cold wind it was a nice day.  Course was, for the most part, in good shape (the cold March and some pretty bad t-storms on Friday evening aren’t anyone’s fault).  The old SGWC played with a rare friend who doesn’t give me the stink-eye (in fact I think I contributed to him getting the golf bug as bad as he did…you’re welcome).

A full review to follow, but a few mentions about Redgate Golf Course:

-Folks in the pro shop were very polite and friendly and not the “whaddya want” attitude I’ve experienced a few years ago.  The gentleman who was working was apologetic about it being “cart path only” (given we had strong t-storms on Friday night, it’s understandable- several bunkers had standing water and there were at least half a dozen not small puddles in fairway and greenside areas).

-The starter was a nice guy as well.  Look- we’re playing golf!  It’s supposed to be fun so starters that see themselves as some kind of “Checkpoint Charlie” types…ugh.

-Played (as is my want) as part of the dawn patrol.  I play fast (our twosome wasn’t trying to set a speed record, but by playing ready golf and having a reasonable “circle of friendship” on conceded putts) and we got around in 3 1/2 hours; saw the group in front of us a couple times and only saw the group in back of us a couple times.

-Billy Casper Golf is managing it; I won’t pretend to know or care about the politics of the course (at one point the city of Rockville ran it).  If the course continues to be viable (and honestly it’s a great traditional course) then that helps everyone.

-I played average.  Did something to my middle finger (those that know me would say it’s from overuse) so the back nine wasn’t exactly great.   Unlike last year I didn’t have a chance to do a lot of gym work early so I feel like I’m behind the 8-ball a bit.  Played really good on the front nine but missed more than a few makeable putts.  Maybe not having feeling in my  hands didn’t help (and having people and animals look at me weird for choosing to wear shorts).