The Golfer Watchability Index: Part 3
T31. Lee Westwood (56.5)
Lee Westwood is a former world number one who has won 42 times as a professional and has represented Europe in the Ryder Cup nine times. No, he hasn’t won a major championship to date and he’s not the player he once was, but the man still has a flair to him that is eminently enjoyable. His play style hasn’t really changed much, as he’s still pretty aggressive and even though his #TourSauce game isn’t very deep, he is a master of the violent club drop/toss immediately at impact:
The interesting thing is that the one aspect of his game that has always held him back as a player was his putter, but he finished fourth in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour in 2015, without seeing a real noticeable gap in his tee to green game, which is something to watch in 2016. On top of that, he’s friends with J.R. Smith, his swing is delightfully weird and that GIF above may be the only known footage of Westwood not wearing white pants. His story is worth noting too because he really did come from nothing and his return from the very bottom of the professional game, where he thought about quitting entirely, is pretty remarkable and he’s done it while being one of the more honest and entertaining players in the game.
His interview with David Feherty, linked below, is one of the best Feherty has done.
T31. Jamie Donaldson (56.5)
Much like Jerry Kelly in part one, watching Jamie Donaldson on the course really makes you believe that he’s just having a ton of fun out there. After his breakout 2014 campaign where he played on his first Ryder Cup team, clinching the victory in the process against Keegan Bradley on Sunday, Donaldson hasn’t had the best time in 2015 with just four top-10 finishes worldwide and no wins, but it’s easy to see him bouncing back and regaining his form. This is a guy who basically had to take three years off from 2004 to 2007 because of back problems, and he earned his way back to the European Tour through hard work and an aggressive style that is very pleasing to the eye. His go to #TourSauce move? Definitely the club twirl, though he added a very subtle delay to it recently that makes it even better:
Barring a late season victory, 2015 will be the first year since 2011 that he hasn’t picked up a victory, but I have no doubt that the 40-year old will be making a run again in 2016 with an eye on the Ryder Cup at Medinah. Even if he doesn’t make it, bring him anyway and just have a camera on him to pick up moments like this:
T31. Emiliano Grillo (56.5)
This is going to be a bit of a controversial selection, but I’m putting the 2015 Frys.com Open winner on the list based on a hunch that he’s an absolute stud that we’re going to be talking about A LOT in 2016, as predicted by Tron Carter prior to the win in Napa:
…and by Jonathan Wall while his Frys run was in full gear…
Look, the kid can play and the fact that he basically twirls his club on nearly every shot like he’s Shane Lowry is pretty fun and much like every player around his age, he legitimately believes that he’s been wronged by the golf gods when a ball doesn’t drop, even from the fairway. Trust me on this one, you’re going to love watching Emiliano Grillo in 2016.
T31. Graeme McDowell (56.5)
One of the worst things to happen in golf in 2015 was that Graeme McDowell really didn’t do anything of note on the course. He started his year by finishing tied for 9th at the Dubai Desert Classic, but wasn’t able to register any other top tens, which in turn, deprived us of seeing one of the most unique swings in all of golf and someone who never fails to make me laugh with how he reacts to nearly every shot.
In turn, we also didn’t get to hear enough from McDowell in interviews and he’s really one of the game’s most thoughtful players. Near the top of my wishlist for golf in 2016 is a better year for Graeme McDowell simply because golf is more fun when he’s playing well.
T26. Victor Dubuisson (57)
Of everyone on this entire list, I feel like we know the least about Dubuisson and I wouldn’t expect that to change, which really does add to his appeal. He’s run into some injury problems over the last few years, but hopefully he’s over that with his win last week in Turkey because there’s no doubt that the man has talent, even if his short game abilities have been overstated a touch thanks to his ridiculousness at the match play a few years ago. He pretty much always plays at the pin, is never afraid to take a shot on and even though he usually emotes at the level of a trash can, when he does decide to show some emotion, he does it at an impressive level:
On a side note: my mother would have ranked Dubuisson at number one because she thinks he’s perfect.
T26. Tiger Woods (57)
Putting Tiger here feels both too high and too low, which probably means that he’s right where he should be. If this was Tiger from 2000 or hell, even Tiger from 2013, he probably would have received ten points in all five categories and put up a perfect score, but this is where we’re at with him. Nobody who made this list scored worse than him in the ability category and considering where he is in the OWGR, I think that’s understandable, but he’s still Tiger Woods and I can’t get away from that idea. In part one of this series, I mentioned that I couldn’t bring myself to watch Ernie Els anymore on the greens because it was just too painful to see someone that elegant battle the yips, but with Tiger, I just can’t pull myself away despite being so mortified at what he gives us from week to week these days. It’s the same reason why the Lakers are still appointment viewing for me even though Kobe clearly doesn’t have it anymore.
He still plays pretty aggressively, especially when he gets into positions where he can be creative and shape the ball, and there’s no denying that there would be no #TourSauce without him. Tiger Woods is #TourSauce and even though he’s nowhere near the player he used to be, he certainly still acts like he is when he stripes one down the middle or he makes a horrendous swing. No one knows that 2016 will bring for Tiger Woods, and I’m sure if he was being honest, he’d say the exact same thing but there is always still a glimmer of hope that he might figure it out and turn it around.
This guy still exists somewhere, I think. I hope.
T26. Dustin Johnson (57)
Dustin Johnson is one of four players to receive the perfect ten in my ability section (I’m sure you can figure out the other three) and the bomber’s mentality he takes to the course every time he tees it up is remarkably fun. My guess on how a casual round with DJ would go is something like this:
- Me: “Hey, I bet you can’t hit the ball over the trees on the left and clear the pond.”
- DJ: “Okay.” *hits driver over everything*
It always makes me laugh when people label Johnson as an underachiever due to the fact that he hasn’t won a major championship. He’s won nine times on the PGA Tour since 2008, which is a great career for most players, and I’m sure that some of the label has to do with the narrative that surrounds him about how he’s not that bright, which is something Kyle Porter and Chris Solomon debunked quite well on the No Laying Up podcast after the PGA Championship. Sure, he emotes at the level of a folding chair, but doing anything more than that’s just not the player or person that he is, and his game is good enough to do all of the talking. His laid back approach where he doesn’t let things get to him just adds to his appeal.
He’s not the most typical player when it comes to excitement, but the way he plays makes him a must watch at all times.
T23. Spencer Levin (57.5)
From a pure talent perspective, Spencer Levin doesn’t really belong on this list, but everything in that video above is why he’s here. Before we go any further, let’s sample some of Levin’s other work:
The #TourSauce is incredible and the swings of emotion are off the charts. He’s sponsored by MLB.com for some reason and as much as he’s known for contending as an amateur at the 2004 U.S. Open and the chain smoking, his return to golf after dealing with tragedy and dumping the cigarettes is a fun story. I get the sense from watching Levin that I’m not looking at someone who’s completely balanced; someone who is ready to explode at any given time, but not really do anything destructive. That is the very definition of watchable.
A few weeks ago, when the PGA Tour was in Kuala Lumpur for the CIMB Classic, Levin was featured heavily and it was the main reason to tune in to the coverage. The next week, the WGC event in Shanghai seemed to lack a distinct amount of pop, and I figured out why pretty early.
Do I have a problem? Probably, but so do you if you don’t love watching Spencer Levin.
T23. Kevin Na (57.5)
A few years ago, Kevin Na wouldn’t even have entered the conversation about being watchable because of how slow he plays, and while that can still be an issue, his game has evolved so much that he’s now one of my favourite guys to see on the PGA Tour. The issues he had standing over the ball appear to be gone and he’s quietly become one of the sauciest players in the game thanks to a club twirl that usually happens so fast that I wouldn’t be surprised if Na has dimples on his hands after impact. The way he dresses is a constant source of confusion on my part, simply because I don’t know how someone could wear what he does on a regular basis without being on the losing end of a bet:
When he hit driver off the deck twice on Sunday at the Frys a few weeks ago, he said afterwards that even though he lost, it was the correct play in both instances, even after he duck hooked one into the trees against Grillo in the playoff. That’s the kind of attitude that gets you a lot of points, at least with me. Lastly, I was on the Na for Gleneagles campaign in 2014 and I’m going to be on it again for Hazeltine next year. Not only is he good enough to play on the Ryder Cup team, he still plays slow enough to frustrate the hell out of any opponent and get under their skin. This needs to happen.
21. Angel Cabrera (58)
The only thing keeping Angel Cabrera from being higher on this list is the mind boggling level of inconsistency in his game. Cabrera has 52 wins as a professional worldwide, with only three coming on the PGA Tour against the world’s best competition, but two of those wins are majors and he nearly had a third if not for Adam Scott stealing another green jacket from him in 2013. Cabrera seems to contend in a tournament on the PGA Tour every other year or so, and when he does, it’s in your best interest to tune in and in the field’s best interest to get out of the way. Part of the reason that he’s so inconsistent is that he’s one of the most aggressive players on the planet, and when that goes well, he does things like this:
When it goes poorly…
Part of me wishes that he would be more consistent and show up at the top of the leaderboard with more regularity, but on some level, I also think that adds to his appeal. When he’s playing well, make sure you’re around to watch it because you never know when you’re going to see it again.
The next post will examine golfers 20-11.