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.

 

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It’s nearly time for the most punishing week in the professional schedule: the United States Open.  This year, the tournament will be contested at the monstrously long (7812 yards from the tips on the scorecard) Pete Dye (vomit) design at Erin Hills.

Kevin Na provides a perfect preview of the conditions to be faced in the video below:

With that context in mind, here’s the PowerFade’s guide on how to lose your money gambling:

Actual Leaderboard
1 | Brooks Koepka | -16
T2 | Hideki Matsuyama | -12
T2 | Brian Harman | -12
4 | Tommy Fleetwood | -11
T5 | Xander Schauffele | -10
T5 | Bill Haas | -10
T5 | Rickie Fowler | -10
8 | Charley Hoffman | -9
T9 | Trey Mullinax | -8
T9 | Brandt Snedeker | -8
T9 | Justin Thomas | -8
12 | J.B. Holmes | -7
T13 | Brendan Steele | -6
T13 | Patrick Reed | -6
T13 | Si Woo Kim | -6
T16 | Matt Kuchar | -5
T16 | Steve Stricker | -5
T16 | Chez Reavie | -5
T16 | Eddie Pepperell | -5
T16 | Bernd Wiesberger | -5

LG:
Winner: Rory Mcilroy MC—correct answer was Brooks Koepka
Winning Score: -4 -16
Runner Up: Dustin Johnson (in a playoff) MC
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Stu Hagestad Xander Shauffele
Last Year’s Winner (DJ) will…: runner up MC
Masters Champion (Sergio) will …: Make cut correct
British Open Champion (Stenson) will …: Make cut MC
PGA Champion (Walker) will…: Miss cut correct, +6
Last week’s winner, Daniel Berger, will…: Make cut correct, +9
Rory will…: WIN no
Rickie Fowler will…: Top 10 correct, T5 at -10
Jordan Speith will…: Make cut correct, T35 at +1
Justin Rose will…: Make cut MC, +2
Jason Day will…: Make cut MC +10
Will Mickelson play in the event?: Yes. NO
Will anyone break par for all 4 rounds?: No Koepka and Snedeker both shot all red
What will be the highest score that misses the cut?: +35 +20, Walker Lee (a). Highest score by a pro was Wesley Bryan at +15
What will be the highest single hole score?: 11 no idea
What will be the major storyline of the tournament: Mickelson’s daughter’s graduation gets pushed forward an hour so he can make his late tee time to miss the cut with no driver in the bag. that would be awesome…
Bold Prediction?: Stu Hagestad isn’t bold enough???? apparently a bit too bold

JK:
Winner: Dustin Johnson
Winning Score: +2
Runner Up: Rory McIlroy
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Thomas Pieters MC
Last Year’s Winner (DJ) will…:  Back-to-back, assuming he doesn’t fall down the stairs again
Masters Champion (Sergio) will …: MC
British Open Champion (Stenson) will …: MC
PGA Champion (Walker) will…: MC
Last week’s winner, Daniel Berger, will…: Make the cut
Rory will…: Top 10
Rickie Fowler will…: Top 10
Jordan Speith will…: Top 10
Justin Rose will…: MC
Jason Day will…: Top 10
Will Mickelson play in the event?: No
Will anyone break par for all 4 rounds?: No chance
What will be the highest score that misses the cut?: +23
What will be the highest single hole score?: 9
What will be the major storyline of the tournament: The rough
Bold Prediction?: The big names do really well overall…not many unknowns making a play. couldn’t be more wrong–there wasn’t a single prior major winner in the top 20

Prediction: 2017 Masters

April 5, 2017

It’s Christmas! No, it’s even better! IT’S MASTERS WEEK!

This is the week that LG and I wait for every year, the best week of golf of the year. 20 years since Tiger’s record-setting performance, I can’t wait to see how it plays out on Sunday.

Updates in Bold added 4/20/2017
Top 10:
1 Sergio Garcia -9 3
2 Justin Rose -9 5
3 Charl Schwartzel -6 F
T4 Matt Kuchar -5 F
T4 Thomas Pieters -5 F
6 Paul Casey -4 F
T7 Rory McIlroy -3 F
T7 Kevin Chappell -3 F
T9 Adam Scott -2 F
T9 Ryan Moore -2 F

JK:
Winner: Rory McIlroy T7 at -3. Correct was Sergio Garcia, happy to say
Winning Score: -9 correct
Runner Up: Jordan Spieth T11 at -1
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Matthew Fitzpatrick Solo 32nd at +4. Closest to “unknown” in the Top 10 was Kevin Chappell
Last Year’s Winner (Danny Willett) will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): Make the Cut MC
The US Open Champion (Dustin Johnson) will …: Top 10 WD – back injury
The Champion Golfer of 2016 (Henrik Stenson) will …: Make the Cut MC
PGA Champion (Jimmy Walker) will …: Miss the Cut T18 at +1. Not bad
How many prior Masters winners will be in the Top 10: 4 2
The Low Amateur will be…: Curtis Luck T46 at +9, but not LA. Low Am was Stewart Hagestad, T36 at +6
Does the Low Amateur make the cut?: No Yes he did, and so did the second best
Jordan Spieth will … Top10, second place close, T11 at -1
Jason Day will … Withdraw T22 at +2. Not bad
Rory McIlroy will … Win not exactly
Hideki Matsuyama will … Top 10 T11 at -1. Good showing
Justin Thomas will … Make the Cut T22 at +2
Rickie Fowler will .. Make the Cut T11 at -1
Adam Scott will … Top 10 Correct, T9 at -2
Bubba Watson will … Top 10 MC
Sergio Garcia will … Make the Cut WIN IT
Phil Mickeslon will … Top 10 T22 at +2
Bernhard Langer will … Make the cut MC, 75-78
Ian Woosnam, Mark O’Meara, Sandy Lyle, or Larry Mize–who is lowest?: All MC, I’ll go with O’Meara Larry Mize made the cut with 74-76 then took down solo-52nd at 17 over par. Yikes
Will there be a hole in one? Yes of course, 16 most likely CONGRATULATIONS MATT KUCHAR!!!
What will be the major storyline of the tournament? Tiger Woods / Rory McIlroy comparisons Definitely Sergio dropping the monkey
What is your Bold prediction? McIlroy makes 4 eagles over the weekend yea, not exactly

LG:
Winner: Bubba Watson MC
Winning Score: – 8 Close
Runner Up: Rory T7
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Adam Hadwin T36 at +6
Last Year’s Winner (Danny Willett) will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): MC correct
The US Open Champion (Dustin Johnson) will …: Top 10 Best player not in the field
The Champion Golfer of 2016 (Henrik Stenson) will …: Top 10 not exactly
PGA Champion (Jimmy Walker) will …: MC not exactly
How many prior Masters winners will be in the Top 10: 2 Correct
The Low Amateur will be…: No idea who they are. learn some golf, LG
Does the Low Amateur make the cut?: Don’t care. wasted talent
Jordan Spieth will … Top 10 close, T11
Jason Day will … Make Cut Correct, T22
Rory McIlroy will … Top 10 Correct, T7
Hideki Matsuyama will … take forever to swing, look like he hate the shot, then make an ace on 12.  Make cut. Correct, T11
Justin Thomas will … MC made cut
Rickie Fowler will .. Make cut correct
Adam Scott will … Make cut Top 10
Bubba Watson will … WIN! MC
Sergio Garcia will … Miss cut WIN!
Phil Mickeslon will … Top 10 Closure, T22
Bernhard Langer will … be old. yep
Ian Woosnam, Mark O’Meara, Sandy Lyle, or Larry Mize–who is lowest?: Woosie will be the shortest, for sure. winner
Will there be a hole in one? YES good
What will be the major storyline of the tournament? The rain, sadly. not at all
What is your Bold prediction? Jim Nantz says the word “shit” live on the air. he was fighting it back all week

While this year marks the return of golf to the summer Olympics in Rio, this event has been met with, at best, a lukewarm response from the golf community.

The professional ranks have given little attention to this event, with notables such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, and Graeme McDowell refusing to compete for their respective countries.  Indeed, Rory has gone so far as to say that:

“I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships. I’ll probably watch the Olympics, but I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.’’

While I appreciate Rory’s candor, part of me feels as though this attitude marks a departure with the beautiful amateur tradition of golf.  The days of Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet appear to be well behind us.  I find it hard to believe that if Bobby Jones were around today with an opportunity to compete for love of country and the pure love of golf that he would shy away because of the overblown threat of Zika.  Yes, golf in the Olympics does not have the history or tradition of a U.S. Amateur or British Amateur, but don’t we have to start somewhere?  Even if we hold the IOC in such low regard as to think that they would add the Olympics to get a few more viewers, shouldn’t golf be happy to take advantage of the opportunity to grow the game to countries that have no significant exposure?

In any event, I think the IOC (or whoever oversaw the competition) did the game a disservice by sticking with a monumentally boring 72-hole medal play format and not including a team component and/or a component where men and women compete in the same event.  How great would it be to have a mixed best ball event?  an alternate shot event?  I understand that the committee is just dipping a toe in the water, but come on!  Let’s make this something people want to watch!  To the format’s credit, there will be playoffs in the event of any ties, so there will not be 4-5 bronze medals given out for T-3s.

At minimum, we get some really great stories like Ben An, who’s parents were Olympians in their own right in table tennis.  When they met during the Olympics, Ben’s South Korean father told a young lady on the Chinese team that he loved her at first site.  Despite the diplomatic disaster that relationship could have caused, the two were married and had Ben.  While the parents were able to collectively capture a silver and a pair of bronze medals, neither was able to obtain the gold.  Because golf is now back in the Olympics, Ben has a chance to add to the family collection.

I understand the wider golf community’s immediate lack of interest in golf’s return to the Olympics, but I find it slightly disheartening.  I personally doubt it will ever hold the same weight as a major, but I would hope it takes on significance comparable to the Ryder cup.  I find any event where nations compete for the love the game exciting, and hope that golf can assign the same gravity to the Olympics as most other sports have in time.

*This opinion, in no way, shape, or form, is shared by JK.

Apparently, there’s another major this week?

Glory’s last shot at Baltusrol… yada yada yada…

JK:
Win: Jordan Spieth
Winning score: -6
Runner-up: Phil Mickelson
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Jason Kokrak
Low PGA Professional: Rod Perry
The US Open Winner (Dustin Johnson) will: Top 10, probably T2
The Masters Winner (Danny Willett) will: Make the cut
The Open Champion (Henrik) will: Top 10
The 2015 PGA Championship Winner (Jason Day) will: Top 10
Sergio Garcia will: Miss cut
Hideki Matsuyama will: Make Cut
Adam Scott will: Top 10
Bubba Watson will: Get caught in his jetpack
Will someone win it, or everyone else lose it: Tough rounds in the middle of the week, but Spieth lights it up on the weekend to take his third major
What will be the biggest storyline of the tournament: Jordan coming back after not showing up for most of the year
Will you watch on Sunday: Hell no…I’ll be flying somewhere golfy

LG:
Win: Rory
Winning score: -15
Runner-up: DJ
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Kevin Chappell
Low PGA Professional: Mitch Lowe (GO MITCH!)
The US Open Winner (Dustin Johnson) will: 2nd!
The Masters Winner (Danny Willett) will: MC
The Open Champion (Henrik) will: Make Cut
The 2015 PGA Championship Winner (Jason Day) will: Make Cut
Sergio Garcia will: Top 10 (sorry, Sergio)
Hideki Matsuyama will: Make Cut
Adam Scott will: Make Cut
Bubba Watson will: Miss Cut
Will someone win it, or everyone else lose it: Rory takes it down.
What will be the biggest storyline of the tournament: Classic Rory/Tigeresque win.  He’s Back!
Will you watch on Sunday: Nope – on a plane to Scotland!

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 😀

Make Golf Fun Again

July 4, 2016

Happy Am-exit day, everyone!  In the spirit of the occasion, the PowerFade team has decided to do something that the country as a whole is threatening to do: when faced with mass hysteria about the state of an alleged problem, we’re going to throw out everything anyone has ever done to try to fix a problem and replace it with an entirely new regime that has never been tried or tested.  In this case, we’re talking about the rules of golf.

In the wake of yet another rules fiasco at the U.S. Open that could have cost Dustin Johnson yet another U.S. Open title, several questions keep coming to mind: why are the rules of golf so damn hard to understand?  Shouldn’t they be easier to understand?  Why isn’t the USGA following their own rules?  And most important: are the arcane and unapproachable rules contributing to why golf is falling off in popularity in this country and around the world?

After discussions between JK, LG, and the AMTP, we have devised a set of rules for the weekend golf crew that we think will make golf fun again.  Disclaimer: in order to prevent these rules from becoming as cumbersome as “the Rules of Golf,” we have assumed a certain amount of knowledge of the “Rules” and of golf in general.  We’re not a rules making body, and the scores that result from playing with our versions should not be posted for handicap purposes.  Read: You’ll end up losing a lot of money in your regular $2 nassau if you start posting these scores, so don’t do it.

Rules of PowerFade Golf

Goals of our rules: Make golf faster, more fun, and keep it in the spirit of the game.

  1. The Game:
    1. …it’s golf.  Hit the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible.
  2. Playing the game:
    1. Winter rules apply everywhere – No bad lies.  If you roll into a divot off the tee – move it.  If you get a fried egg in a bunker, roll it out, but stay in the bunker.  If you get a gnarly lie in the rough, improve it.  Mud ball? clean it.
  3. Scoring
    1. No penalty shots will be assessed for hitting into or out of hazards.  Not even if you ground your club in a bunker.
    2. All marked or staked hazards/Out of bounds will be played as lateral hazards if possible.  This means drop it within approximately two flag sticks of the nearest point you think it went into the hazard.
    3. If it is not possible to play a hazard/OB, yell over at your opponent and come to a fast and reasonable agreement about where you should play from.  Remember, karma is a bitch.
    4. On the green: only intentional putts count toward your stroke total.  If the ball moves closer to the hole at address without an intentional stroke, move it back to where it was.  If it moves away from the hole, play it as it lies.
    5. On the green: no more than 3 putts are allowed.  If you reach the green in 1 shot, the worst you can do is 4.  Once you reach 3 putts, pick up.  If the greens have been punched in the last 3 weeks, automatic two putts are mandatory.
    6. Once you reach 8 strokes, pick up.  If you both reach 8 strokes, the hole is pushed.
  4. Tees: Any set of tees that are 6,400 yards or shorter.  It may help to modify the scorecard by tearing off the top two sets of tees that are no longer relevant, or even part of the course, as far as you are concerned.
  5.  Equipment
    1. No limit on the number of clubs in your bag.  (You’re welcome, Phil)
    2. You may only use one putter per hole (no switching putters between putts).  (Sorry, Phil)
    3. You may NOT adjust an adjustable club during the round.
  6. Time of play: 15 minutes per hole or fewer.  There’s no scoring penalty for violating this rule, but don’t be a pill.  If your group violates this rule more than once in a given match, each member of the group must donate $5 to the local First Tee organization per violation.  If, at any point during the match, the total amount of the bets placed on the first tee has been exceeded by repeated violations of the $5 rule, any member of the group that has not already deposited his or her clubs in the nearest lake should do so, and everyone should trudge into the bar so as not to have wasted the entire Saturday.
  7. In general, discrepancies that are not addressed by the rules should be handled with common sense.  To the extent common sense is not available, trial by combat is appropriate, assuming no violation of Rule 6.

Next up: The PowerFade team reviews how well the rules accomplished their objectives by playing a round or two using them.  Please feel free to post your own reviews in the comments below if you use these rules during your next round!  If you’re going to troll this, please do so in a way that makes us laugh 🙂