Which players would you like to see play in 2017?
If you’re a fan of the NBA, you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you’re not following and watching The Starters. Their coverage of the NBA is the best combination of insight and entertainment there is, and frankly, I’m not sure there’s a comparable alternative in any sport and when it comes to golf, there’s definitely nothing that comes close to what they are doing. On one of their podcasts prior to the new year, they were taking questions on Twitter, and one of the questions that they answered was about which one player they’d like to take from a prior era and drop them right into the current NBA. It’s a great question, and one that definitely applies to every other sport, so I thought it would be interesting to put together a list of the players I’d most like to see tee it up with Rory and Jordan in 2017.
However, to make it a little more interesting, I did set a few guidelines. The first being that anyone who is still currently active doesn’t count, which means that I didn’t want to say that I’d like to see 2000 Tiger Woods show up and anyone that’s still pretty active on the Champions Tour like John Daly or Fred Couples were also excluded. The other rule I put in place was that they had to be a relatively modern player. As much as I’d like to see Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones competing now, I figured it’d look like a list of the best players of all time, and that’s not really what I wanted to get out of this exercise. Obviously I was looking for great players, but I was also looking for some of the most entertaining ones as well because after all, golf is supposed to be fun, right? In no particular order, here are the ten players I’d like to see compete in 2017.
Okay, so we’ll start with the most obvious one. Getting to see Jack in his prime competing against today’s players would be incredible for a variety of reasons, but the one thing that I would love to know most of all is just how long Jack would be off the tee with today’s equipment. Jack was always known as the big hitter when he played, which was proven when he won the long drive challenge at the 1963 PGA Championship before going on to win the tournament a few days later. When the PGA of America brought the long drive back at the 2014 PGA, Louis Oosthuizen was the winner with a drive of 340 yards, which is pretty impressive but not quite as impressive as this:
Give 23-year old Jack a Callaway Epic and a Pro V1, and I’m not sure there’s a course on this earth that could contain him. Oh, and he was pretty good at all the other golf stuff, too.
On top of being one of the best players of all-time, Palmer had a presence on the golf course that was undeniable and that was true all the way up until his passing last year. It’s impossible to compare him to a player that plays today because there simply isn’t anyone that matches up with Palmer in terms of sheer magnetism. I mean, when you look at the GIF above you see the following:
- A totally unique swing that is impossible to truly replicate.
- The Palmer cardigan, which only a few players have ever really been able to pull off.
- That #TourSauce finish.
Almost all of Palmer’s shots looked similar to that, and it’s so easy to see why people flocked to the course to watch him play. Of all the players that I never got to see play at their peaks, Palmer is right at the top.
At 81 years old, Gary Player is still a tremendous force in the game thanks to his incredible personality and willingness to basically say whatever is on his mind. Who wouldn’t want to see interviews like this after a round?
Or hear Player talk about the advantages of wearing all black on the golf course?
Combine that with his insane ability on the golf course, particularly with his short game and bunker skills, and you have a player that would be a must watch in any event that he played in. Plus, can you imagine his reaction if someone thought he worked out too much?
Initially, I didn’t have Watson on this list because he still does kinda compete regularly on the Champions Tour, but he’s not super active anymore and the fact is that he just needs to be here. Much like Player, Watson had an incredible short game, but he was much more than that. He was a complete player, and one of the best putters of his era who would frequently turn what looked like a round of 77 into a round of 71 to keep himself in contention. For as good as he was, it always seems like he gets a little forgotten as one of the best players to ever play, which is strange considering his eight major championships and ridiculous longevity. This line from his Wikipedia page blew my mind.
He doesn’t stand out like some of the others, but there’s no question that peak Tom Watson would be fantastic to watch in 2017.
There is no player on this list that would have benefitted more from technological advancements in terms of garnering fan support than Lee Trevino. Trevino was insanely popular in his day because along with being one of the best players on the PGA Tour, he had an over the top personality that made just about everyone fall in love with him. Of course, a lot of that would depend on whether or not you were his playing partner that day, as Trevino would frequently talk the ear off of whoever he was paired with.
Trevino with a Twitter account would have been gold, and with how prevalent TV cameras and audio equipment are on the PGA Tour these days, Trevino would likely be the most entertaining player out there today.
But that’s not all. Trevino was often talked about as the best ball striker in the world, and with his homemade swing and orgasmic amounts of traj (cc: @TronCarterNLU), there’s no player I’d like to see more on Pro Tracer than Trevino.
Believe it or not, this has nothing to do with the fact that seeing Johnny play in 2017 would mean that he would be out of the booth. In fact, I’d love to hear current day Johnny talk about peak Johnny in the way that he talks about today’s modern players. The barrel fire takes that would come out about his putting woes, tight shirts and “underachieving” would be legendary.
Much like Trevino, Miller was an incredible ball striker that could do magical things with the golf ball, and would have been an absolute treat to see with Pro Tracer. Plus, as we know famously today, he was never short on bravado and because of his controversial current day personality, he probably doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a player he really was. Miller is the full package of entertainment that would fit perfectly in today’s game.
The first thing that I think a lot of people think of when they hear Greg Norman’s name is that he underachieved as a player, and while part of that is true thanks to the amount of close calls he had in major championships over his career, there’s no denying that Norman was the best player in the world for a long time before Tiger came along.
There was no better driver of the golf ball than Norman, and he did it with an aggressive, go for it all times mentality that definitely played a part in all of the heartbreak he suffered over the years, but there’s no doubt that it made him super fun to watch. The swing was gorgeous, too and I have to say that a little bit of that tortured soul reputation plays a part in me wanting to see him even more. It doesn’t seem fair that a player of his calibre ended up with only two major wins, and when you look at the two decade run he had in the 80’s and 90’s, it actually doesn’t even seem real:
It might sound crazy to say this, but I think if you put peak Greg Norman in today’s game with today’s equipment, he’d be the best Australian player out there and would likely be the best in the world all over again.
Golf is supposed to be fun, right? Well, no one had more fun on the course than Chi-Chi Rodriguez and while he was a talented player with eight PGA Tour wins on his resume, there’s no question that he’s best remembered because of his dance in the above GIF. I often talk about how players like Billy Horschel and Patrick Reed are gifts to people like me and others who post videos and GIFs on Twitter because of how expressive they are, and no one would have been better at this than Rodriguez.
Payne Stewart’s tragic death at the age of 42 in 1999 robbed the golf world of not only an incredible talent, but one of its truly great showmen. He’s always going to be remembered for his style on the course, but his swing was gorgeous and his eleven PGA Tour wins from 1982 to 1999 show that he had plenty of game as well. And much like Rodriguez and Trevino, he wasn’t afraid to have a little fun out there.
The locker room stories of Stewart are legendary, and I can think of only a few things that I would have liked to see more on the golf course than Stewart battling it out with Phil Mickelson repeatedly over the last fifteen plus years just like they did at Pinehurst back in 1999.
Okay, so at the beginning of this piece, I said that these players were in no particular order but out of everyone listed here, I can honestly say that the player I’d like to see most in today’s game is Seve Ballesteros. To me, there’s nothing more exciting in golf than when a player does something so unexpected that it makes you jump out of your seat and say, “Holy shit, that actually happened.” Tiger’s shot over the water at the Canadian Open, Phil going through the trees at Augusta and seemingly every shot that Justin Rose hit at the 2014 Ryder Cup are great examples, but Seve did it on a seemingly weekly basis. I mean, he had to do it that often because he put himself in such bad positions from the tee that he needed to think creatively, but more often than not, he managed to get himself back in good shape from positions that made absolutely no sense.
I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve gotten lost down the Seve rabbit hole on YouTube, but I’ve spent a disturbing amount of time watching footage of him and it never gets old. Throw in the personality and gamesmanship that he brought to the course every single time out, and you have the absolute definition of a player that you would plan your day around watching regardless of the tournament.