Time for one of our famous back-and-forth chats (in public) about a topic that I think is an interesting debate: is Jordan Spieth what golf needs right now?

JK:

I proposed this topic because I believe I know that LG’s answer would be different from mine. You see, LG is an unabashed fan of Tiger Woods; in his mind–and with some truth to the myth–all golfers are mere mortals in a divine playground for one great God: The Big Cat. And it cannot be denied that Tiger Woods did some amazing things on the golf course–things that are unparalleled even to this day.

With that said, Tiger Woods simply cannot be the standard by which all golf is measured, and I feel my co-author often has too high expectations for the golfing elite of today. Yes, the Rory McIlroys and Dustin Johnsons of this PGA era can rival some of Tiger Woods’s physical abilities, but it’s unfair to compare their skill or mental game to the greatest of all time.

And, thus, to LG (and to our readers), I pose the question: is Jordan Spieth what golf needs today?

and I answer it “yes.”

Maybe that answer is qualified a bit. If determining what golf “needs” is finding someone who can help the game stay healthy, growing, and interesting, then I think Spieth is a resounding “yes.” While this may be anecdotal, in the days since Spieth’s victory, I have seen countless examples of greater interest at my local driving range, at my local course, in conversations with fellow golfers. It seems like everyone is coming out of the woodwork to get in the game. No, this isn’t like when Tiger Woods created a new demographic of interest in the game, but it is a revitalization that is much-needed–and much overdue.

Why is Spieth what golf needs? In my humble opinion, golf is perhaps the most personally reachable game that gets consistently put on television. It’s something that you can do even if you’re overweight, lost a leg, can’t see out of one eye, can’t walk straight, etc. etc. etc. And it’s still a challenge no matter your skill level because your main competition is yourself. That means that the professional level is aspirational for many of us. What we see the pros do we automatically want to do. If a pro throws grass in the air, we start doing it. If our favorite pro changes his shaft, we want to check out that new shaft (don’t tell me you never tried the Tour AD DI when Tiger Woods started using it). We are constantly grinding in an attempt to improve.

But the game that we see on TV for almost all TOUR pros nowadays is something that is utterly unreachable. Even on our best drives of the year, we can’t carry the ball 340 like DJ. Even on a jumper downwind downhill, we can’t hit a 7-iron 215 like Rory. Even with months of practice, we can’t reliably flop the ball to within a foot of the hole and have it stop on a dime like Phil.

But we can do what Spieth can.

At least, that’s what we can tell ourselves.

When you look at Jordan Spieth’s game, nothing really flashes out. Yes, he is a brilliant putter–one of the best the TOUR has ever seen. But no matter how flashy that is, we can all see ourselves making a long putt here or there. And otherwise his game never seems too flashy. Many times, he looks human. How many guys have ever sliced the ball onto the driving range? If you’re reading this and have two thumbs, congrats–it’s you. So when Spieth hit his ball further right than the R&A even anticipated any TOUR pro would, we kind of sort of related to that. Making 5 from the driving range (with a penalty drop, no less) is beyond impressive, but that’s not really the focal point of that event. When you watch Spieth, it almost looks like he hits his iron shots a little heavy. His iron gaps are within the range of a normal human being. His driver averages 292.3–not short, but something that many good players can achieve. And even if you can’t achieve it, you might easily be able to get within 20 yards of that.

In other words, his game is relate-able.

And, on a personal level, it’s hard to find any sports figure with a better public image. He’s kind to everyone and seems to make no huge mistakes despite being in his early 20s. He seems to understand his place in history but still tries to remain humble, a trait that Americans–and golfers in general–seem to fall for (maybe because it’s so rare nowadays). He’s even going bald–and admits it.

In other words, Jordan Spieth is making golf approachable again…in much the same way that Tiger Woods made golf exciting. If there’s anything the sport needs, it’s true excitement, but if I can’t have that, let’s make it approachable. Let’s have a guy who’s a role model, a good dude in general, and a great golfer.

And the guy can putt the lights out!

LG:

So the question is: Is Jordan Spieth what golf needs right now?  Based on the way he’s setup this discussion, JK’s right.  I mostly disagree.

JK actually answers the question the same way I do – golf needs to be more exciting than it is now if it is to stay healthy and vibrant.  If we assume people watching professional golf is an indicator of the game’s healthiness, then golf needs to be exciting for it to stay healthy.  In other words, professional golf needs to attract more new players to the game.

I completely respect what Jordan is trying to do as a professional athlete, but I don’t think he’s “what golf needs right now.”  Every tournament Jordan plays in and wins provides a masterclass in course management and putting, and yes, he also has a perfect public image.  But that’s not why we watch professional athletes.  We don’t watch professional athletics to see things we can do.  We watch to be awed.  We watch to see the ridiculous.  We watch to be entertained.  We watched MJ because of his insane work ethic and desire to win.  We watch Steph Curry because he makes passes and the shots that no one should make.  We watched Tiger because he’s the best forever in the clutch and it was assumed that he could win regardless of where he was in the field.  Listening to Jordan talk about going bald is about as exciting as the thought of talking to your parents about the facts of life.

I agree with everything JK says above regarding Jordan’s game and how it makes golf approachable.  But, Jordan’s game only makes golf approachable to people with interest in golf already.  It is interesting for me as a golf nut to see someone win majors without doing superhuman things with the golf ball, but it is not exciting.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I watched Jordan play more than 9 holes.  The last time I watched him play 9 holes was the back nine at the Masters, which even non-golf people watch…because its the Masters. I’m definitely not turning on the Valspar Championship to see how Jordan Spieth takes on the back nine at whatever course that tournament is played.

I do think Jordan can inject this excitement into his game if he continues to win at his current pace.  The narrative will then be Jordan chasing down Tiger and Jack, which means the excitement comes from chasing down two of the most exciting and greatest players of all time, not from his game per se.  Can he deal with the weight of history? Can he close?  All indications are yes, but the possibility of failure is why we would watch.

 

Advertisements

Hot off the press, the PF releases its predictions for the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon. The 7,175 yard course in Glasgow (which JK might maybe possibly get to play in a few weeks) is one of the classic tracks in all of the old country. This will be its 9th hosting of the Open, with notable winners Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, and Justin Leonard. The most recent was 2004 when Todd Hamilton edged out Ernie Els in one of the biggest upsets in major golf history. We’d be remiss to fail to mention The Postage Stamp green on at the 8th at Royal Troon, one of the most iconic shots in all of golf (http://www.royaltroon.co.uk/courses/old-course/8). Will this hole be the one to decide the Champion Golfer of the Year? We will soon find out.

JK:
Win: Jordan Spieth
Winning score: -8
Runner-up: Graeme McDowell
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Alexander Noren
The US Open Winner (Dustin Johnson) will: Top 10
The Masters Winner (Danny Willett) will: MC
The 2015 PGA Championship Winner (Jason Day) will: Make the cut
Last year’s Open Champion (Zach Johson) will: Top 10
The 2014 Open Champion (Rory McIlroy) will: Top 10
The 2013 Open Champion (Phil Mickelson) will: Make the cut
Sergio Garcia will: bounce it off a flagstick OB. MC
Hideki Matsuyama will: swing out of his shoes, which doesn’t work at Troon. MC
Adam Scott will: have a nice week. Make the cut
Henrik Stenson will: Make the cut
Bubba Watson will: post a stupid video. MC.
Will someone win it, or everyone else lose it: Combination of both–one shining star plays just well enough to outlast an embattled field
What will be the biggest storyline of the tournament: Spieth goes wire-to-wire
Will you watch on Sunday: as long as it looks something like what I’ve outlined above and not a garbage can fire of players, then yes.

LG:
Win: Jim Furyk
Winning score: -2
Runner-up: Tony Finau
Unknown in the Top 10: Tony Finau…
The US Open Winner (Dustin Johnson) will: Miss Cut
The Masters Winner (Danny Willett) will: Make Cut…possibly top 10
The 2015 PGA Championship Winner (Jason Day) will: Make cut
Last year’s Open Champion (Zach Johson) will: Make cut
The 2014 Open Champion (Rory McIlroy) will: Make Cut
The 2013 Open Champion (Phil Mickelson) will: Miss Cut
Sergio Garcia will: Top 10 – possibly playoff with Tony Finau and Jim Furyk
Hideki Matsuyama will: Miss Cut
Adam Scott will: Make cut
Henrik Stenson will: Make Cut
Bubba Watson will: Hopefully miss his flight
Will someone win it, or everyone else lose it: Furyk grinds out a huge win
What will be the biggest storyline of the tournament: the weather
Will you watch on Sunday: I’ll be playing Old MacDonald 😀

Time for the third major of The Year Of The Links Major. This one, the purest form of links golf, the Open Championship at St. Andrews. In the last three contests at St. Andrews, the winner has waltzed to victory, with no margin of victory at St. Andrews being less than 5 shots since 1995. Many story lines pervade our senses–will Jordan Spieth take home the third major in a row? Will Tiger Woods find his game at a place that he has previously been a magician? Can Louis Oosthuizen relive his major championship form when it matters in his St. Andrews defense? Can Dustin Johnson bounce back from a terrible loss at the US Open?

Without further ado, here are our predictions:

Final Leaderboard:
1 Zach Johnson -15*
T2 Louis Oosthuizen -15*
T2 Marc Leishman -15*
T4 Jason Day -14
T4 Jordan Spieth -14
T6 Justin Rose -11
T6 Sergio Garcia -11
T6 Danny Willett -11
T6 Jordan Niebrugge (a) -11
T10 Adam Scott -10

*denotes playoff

LG:

WIN: Rickie Fowler (T30, -6)
PLACE: Victor Dubuisson (MC, 74-71)
SHOW: Tiger Woods (MC, 76-75)
Winning Score: -10 (-15)
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Eddie Pepperell (T49, -4. Actual answers: Willett, Niebrugge)
Last Year’s Winner (Rors) Will … (Win, Top 10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): Be discussed on TV, but will not tee it. (yah)
The Master’s Winner (Spieth) Will …: Make Cut (T4, one shot away from the playoff)
The US Open Win….nevermind
The current PGA Champ….nevermind
How many prior winners will be in the Top 10: 2 (1-Oosthuizen)
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Rickie will continue his stellar play from last week and close wire to wire. (I’d say ZJ won it…big putt on 18, great score in the playoff)
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Rory isn’t there, Tiger shows solid form, and Victor Dubuisson holes a miracle bunker shot on Friday from the Road Hole bunker. (ZJ, Spieth ALMOST doing it)
Will you watch on Sunday? Probably not live, but I’ll watch the replay. (I watched a ton. Great tourney)
Tiger Woods will: Top 10 – he could play this place blindfolded. (I wish)
Dustin Johnson will: Miss Cut. (leader at the cut line…fall away on the weekend. yikes DJ)
Bubba Watson will: probably not even show up. (wouldn’t that be nice? MC)
Philefty will: Make Cut. (T20, -7)
Horschel (Current Fedex Cup champion) will: Miss Cut. (T30, -6)
Jimmy Walker (second to Spieth in Fedex Cup points) will: Make Cut. (T30, -6)
Zach Johnson (LG’s favorite player) will: lol. (lol indeed)
Miguel Angel Jimenez (LG’s ACTUAL favorite player) will: Make Cut. (MC, 75-73)
Nick Faldo (1990 winner at St. Andrews) will: probably break a club during missing the cut. (83 on the first day. yeah)
John Daly (1995 winner at St. Andrews) will: sell T-shirts out of his van in the parking lot. (first outside the cut line)
Tiger Woods (2000 and 2005 winner at St. Andrews) will: Top 10.  Come on TIGER! (yeah..right)
Louis Oosthuizen (2010 winner at St. Andrews) will: Top 10. (my second of two prior champions in the top 10) (good call. T-2 in playoff)
Rickie Fowler (2015 Scottish Open Champion) will: WIN! (Dear God)
What will be the margin of victory: 2 (0.0–playoff)
Will Rory McIlroy make an appearance? Probably in some Nike commercial about overcoming adversity (adversity here being an injury during a pickup soccer game…) (yup)

JK

WIN: Tommy Fleetwood (one shot outside the cut.)
PLACE: Paul Casey (T74 at E)
SHOW: Jason Day (T4, -14–one shot out)
Winning Score: -18 (-15)
“Unknown” in the Top 10: uhm….Tommy Fleetwood (right….not exactly)
Last Year’s Winner (Rors) Will … (Win, Top 10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): count his money (indeed)
The Master’s Winner (Spieth) Will …: Top 10 (yup)
The US Open Win….nevermind
The current PGA Champ….nevermind
How many prior winners will be in the Top 10: 3 (1)
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Fleetwood wins running away (ZJ won it)
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Tommy Fking Fleetwood
Will you watch on Sunday? Tune in to watch Tommy Fleetwood run laps around the field? no thanks
Tiger Woods will: Top10. Probably T-4. (nope)
Dustin Johnson will: Top10. Probably T-6 (close enough.)
Bubba Watson will: storm off the course, proclaiming that “Scottish golf is stupid–bubba golf is rad.” (yes!)
Philefty will: Top10. The British Open is always good to philly (close)
Horschel (Current Fedex Cup champion) will: gator champ at a patron, causing said patron to throw beer at him.
Jimmy Walker (second to Spieth in Fedex Cup points) will: Top10.
Zach Johnson (LG’s favorite player) will: Top10

Miguel Angel Jimenez (LG’s ACTUAL favorite player) will: Make Cut.
Nick Faldo (1990 winner at St. Andrews) will: cheat on his wife or girlfriend. Again.
John Daly (1995 winner at St. Andrews) will: shirtless JD at St. Andrews? Can it be true?
Tiger Woods (2000 and 2005 winner at St. Andrews) will: Top10. Great showing, can’t quite get it done.
Louis Oosthuizen (2010 winner at St. Andrews) will: Just outside the Top 10. He’s doing good right now.

Rickie Fowler (2015 Scottish Open Champion) will: wear orange on sunday?
What will be the margin of victory: 8 shots
Will Rory McIlroy make an appearance? Nike, Omega, the PGA of America….yeah, he’ll be there…in recording at least.

JK: 7/24/2012 at 10:37 AM EST

Alright LG, time to put it out there.

There’s a lot of discussion lately about belly putters. More appropriately, there’s a lot of discussion about what to do about them. After going decades without single mid-length putter or long-putter winnings on Tour, now the belly putter is taking the Tour by storm. Three out of four of the current major champions used belly putters to win (Keegan Bradley, 2011 PGA; Webb Simpson, 2012 US Open; Ernie Els, 2012 British Open). Bubba Watson (2012 Masters) is the only current major champion who did not use a belly putter to win.

So there are many questions to answer here, but to me, the main point boils down to: 1) is it an advantage? if so, 2) what should be done?

Some people are just antithetical to belly putters and long putters in general. While neither you nor I use them–and I personally find them to be a bit distasteful–I do see a need in golf for them. Many amateur-level players need a way to make the game fun. Poor putting can often thwart someone’s progress as a golfer, and a long or belly putter may give them the stability they need to get over the hump. For example, when my wife’s grandfather played, he wasn’t in good enough health to lean over a putt, so he got a long putter and stopped 3-putting EVERY green (he still did 3-5 times per round, but way less than previously).

I think the more important point, though, is that belly and long putters really don’t give a “better” player much of an advantage. No matter the golfer, the person must still read the putt, account for the speed, pick the line, and set up to it properly before any mechanics of the stroke happen. The ability to do this successfully comes after hours and hours of practice that a “good” player will put in regardless of the length of putter he/she uses. To put it another way, the belly putter didn’t read the 35-footer that Keegan Bradley hit on the 17th hole at Atlanta Athletic Club–the player did. The player read it, accounted for the speed, picked the line, and let the put go on that line.

Further, I don’t think a longer putter shaft REALLY makes it all that much more stable for the better golfer. Adam Scott bogeyed the final four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes largely because he picked poor targets and failed to execute the mental part of his putting routine, not because he was using a long putter instead of a belly putter.

Webb Simpson’s putter didn’t make Jim Furyk pull his fairway shot in the bunker on 18 at Olympic or make Greame McDowell miss his birdie attempt by a mile and a half. Am I missing something?

Opponents of longer-length putters say it helps stabilize the stroke. That may be true, but at the same point, it prevents someone from using his or her athleticism to correct in small variations, such as when precise speed is needed, or when the player plays from the edge of the green and needs to blade the putt a little bit. I’ve practiced with a belly putter before, and I do see some stability improvement. But the stability improvement is far outweighted by the inability to control the distance, for me at least.

In my view, there is little to no real advantage in belly putters. I see it more as a mental advantage that some people will find helps their own games. Maybe some people will play better with them, but I firmly believe that others (like me) won’t. Just like all of the other equipment tweaks one can make (shaft flex, various grips and sizes, cavities vs. blades, groove changes, ball changes, etc etc etc etc etc), I see the putter shaft length and stroke method as just another option that a player can choose to make his or her game better. That’s what it’s all about, right?

What say you LG?

LG: 7/25/2012

For two reasons, I don’t think long putters should be allowed.

First, we should look to the game itself.  For me, golf is about using using a club to move the ball closer to the hole.  While this might seem to leave some room for a belly putter or long putter, the image just seems to go against what golf is all about.  When I think “golf swing,” I can’t imagine an athletic motion taking place with an anchored club.  No other club is anchored to the body in “golf,” so it makes little sense to allow it for the putter, in my view.  For that reason, I don’t think it should be allowed in competition.

Second,I think there is advantage and long putters should probably not be allowed in competition.  Golf is a mental game.  Putting is the strongest mental test given that it requires the least athleticism.  It takes a lot of skill and nerve to make short putts that matter.  I am inclined to believe that long putters provide a mental crutch to players that use them on those kinds of putts because they have the knowledge that they will make a fluid stroke based upon their equipment, not their practiced routine.  In that way, they provide an advantage (whether real or not).  While you can pretty easily point to Adam Scott’s performance in the 2012 Open Championship to counter this, the point isn’t players with long putters can choke, but rather, he choked DESPITE having that mental advantage.  Read: double choke.  At the highest level in the game, the point is to test your mental fortitude, not your ability to make a 4 footer.  No one in the entire world would (or should) bet against Adam Scott on any given 4 foot putt, but that putt becomes harder when it means you win or lose the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year.”  For a player to have a mental advantage over another based upon the equipment they are playing rather than the time spent on the practice green is what bothers me about the long putter and why I think it should not be allowed in competition.

That being said, I think they can be great learning tools to learn a fluid putting stroke.  Often, players like Ernie will switch back and forth between a standard putter and a long putter to get a feel for a good putting stroke.  I’m all for using them in a practice round.  I’m all for using them on the putting green.  I think you and I agree on the fundamental point; Long putters just aren’t golf.

JK, 7/26:

I agree that long putters and belly putters “just aren’t golf,” but I’m less opposed than you. The entirety of golf is about selecting equipment that maximizes your game. We do it with drivers; we do it with golf balls; heck, we do it with shoes. Every little thing to get an advantage makes sense. Some people had this “ban it” mentality when metal woods came out or when cavity-back irons were developed. Slowly, those things have become part of the fabric of the game to where no one would think of using a non-metal driver and cavity-back irons are almost universal. Even the classic “PING Anser” putter was looked at with shame originally but now is the most ubiquitous design available. While I see your point, I think it’s just part of the natural progression of the game. If you’re wanting to ban something, ban the way Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey swings a golf club. That’s way more offensive than a belly putter.


I think the only thing I can say is wow….(original answers published 7/13)

It’s that time again LG. Here we go…

JK:
Winner: Jason Day T-30, correct answer: Darren Clarke
Winning Score: -8 -5
Runner Up: Matt Kuchar m/c – correct answer: Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson
Low Amateur: Tom Lewis correct
“Unknown” in the Top 10: George Coetzee close, 15th – correct answer: Raphael Jacquelin
Last Year’s Winner (Oosthuizen) Will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): Miss the cut made cut, T- 54
The Master’s Winner (Schwartzel) Will …: Top 10 T-16
The US Open Winner (McIlroy) Will …: Top 10 T-25
How many prior winners will be in the Top 10: 1 0
Will Rory blow the 54 hole lead? no correct
Will Tiger’s absence be referenced on Sunday? hopefully not wasn’t–amazingly
Will Monty’s absence be referenced at all? of course not at all
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Someone will win it. RSt.G is that kind of course. Clarke won it. Great round in great weather. He may have bogeyed coming in, but it was still his game.
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Lost balls in the fescue nope–just darren clarke
Who is most likely to Tom Watson it? Stricker Phickelson (yes I did that on purpose)
Will you watch on Sunday? Only if it’s close I watched the whole damn thing

LG:
Winner: Luke Donald m/c
Winning Score: -6 -5
Runner Up: Angel Cabrera m/c
Low Amateur: Peter Uielein 2d low am
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Fredrik Andersson Hed T-57
Last Year’s Winner (Oosthuizen) Will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): make the cut correct
The Master’s Winner (Schwartzel) Will …: miss the cut T-16
The US Open Winner (McIlroy) Will …: Top 10 T-25
How many prior winners will be in the Top 10: 2 0
Will Rory blow the 54 hole lead? Nope – He’ll lead after day 1 and probably hang around and be discussed by the commentators to death. not too bad
Will Tiger’s absence be referenced on Sunday? only if golf channel wants to improve its ratings they didn’t
Will Monty’s absence be referenced at all? who? correct
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Donald will win it coming down the stretch.  He will birdie 17. eh, not quite
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Luke Donald finally winning a major nope
Who is most likely to Tom Watson it? No one.  Not going to happen this year. phil…and DJ
Will you watch on Sunday? If I’m not called into the office, definitely.  I love the Open Championship! uh, incorrect