February 8th Mailbag: More Like Sergiobag
Over the last little while, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a mailbag that would run every few weeks, and with Sergio, Tiger and Hideki all in the news this week, it seemed like a great time to take some questions. Shockingly, Sergio dominated the questions I received.
Here we go!
In Canada, there’s a real pride that exists when our athletes do well outside of this country, especially if it’s in a sport that isn’t traditionally Canadian. Just this past week when the Waste Management Phoenix Open was held and I was talking with my father, he asked me how many Canadians made the cut, and the impact that Mike Weir winning the 2003 Masters had on golf in this country was truly incredible, but I’m going the other way on this one. It would be great to see Adam Hadwin, Graham DeLaet, David Hearn or any other Canadian win a major and I was happy and proud when Brooke Henderson won the Women’s PGA last year, but Sergio finally climbing the major mountain after so many people said he would never do it? That’s the number one for me, even if it meant that he had to crush the soul of my country to do it.
My top five wishes probably go something like this:
- Sergio wins at least one major.
- Tiger actually stays healthy for a little while to get his game back in order.
- Anthony Kim returns.
- FOX broadcasts more tournaments.
- Someone figures out a way to live stream every shot of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Sooomin Lee’s season.
I’m super excited for this event next week. I love that the European Tour is always trying to do something different, and this tournament is the perfect example since the format is a combination of stroke and match play on a cool course that we don’t get to see often. The field isn’t loaded with big names, but that’s when you end up seeing a new player that you’ve never heard of and you become a fan. No one’s going to mistake this for a major championship or even a WGC, but it’s a nice break from the regular stroke play events, and if you live in North America, the Australian time slot is usually pretty friendly for night time viewing. You should absolutely make some time for this one.
As much as I would love a guarantee that Sergio would win multiple majors, I wouldn’t let Trump run Golf Canada for five minutes, let alone the entire country for five years. As it relates to Sergio, I’ve always said that I thought he was too talented to not win at least one major championship, and I still believe that to this day just like I did with Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson. Having said that, if Sergio does go winless in major championships by the end of his career, I hope that we don’t lose sight of just how good of a run he had like many have forgotten with Colin Montgomerie. Golf is really hard, and while going without a major should always be part of the conversation with the best players in the world, it doesn’t mean that we should just dismiss thirty worldwide wins as if they’re nothing either.
As for how many majors he wins in 2017, he’s talented enough to win any of them obviously, but Augusta just doesn’t seem like the right fit for him. He doesn’t have the typical ball flight that wins at Augusta, and we all know about the issues he’s had in the past with the putter, which are the two biggest reasons that of the 22 top-10 finishes he’s had in majors, only three have come at the Masters. His best bet is always going to be the Open Championship, but he’s had some good runs at Quail Hollow in the past, so I think he’s a solid play at the PGA as well.
Via email from Derek Myers:
I enjoy following you on Twitter. I saw your mailbag tweet and wanted to ask you a pretty basic question that’s probably been answered hundreds of times across the spectrum but wanted your opinion. As a weekend warrior who loves golf but with limited time to practice, what’s the quickest way to improve my scores? Is it course management? Practicing short game? something else maybe? Thanks for your time.
I’ll start this off by saying that this is a question that is much better suited for someone like Shane Bacon, who is far better than I can ever hope to be on the course, but I’ll tell you what has worked for me. Unfortunately, the only way to really get better from a physical standpoint is to practice and play. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you don’t know what part of your game is going to work or not work from round to round, but the one thing that you can always control on the course is your frame of mind.
When I first started out, I was bad like just about everyone else and it annoyed me to no end. When I struggled, I would be so furious with what was going on, and regardless of how I was playing, I was obsessed with what the score was at the end of the day even if it was just a casual round with friends. What I’ve gotten so much better at over the years is not worrying about the score or the bad shot that I just hit. It sounds so simple, but it really has made a huge impact on the way I’ve played and scored. It’s not that I don’t care about how I play; it’s more that there’s no point in beating myself up a bad shot or a mistake I’ve made on the course because ultimately, that negativity just ends up leading to more negativity.
Back in October, Padraig Harrington went on the GOLF.com podcast with Sean Zak and was talking about the mental side of the game after he won in Portugal. He shared a great anecdote about how he’ll hit a bad shot during a pro-am, and then see one of the amateurs do the same thing, but without fail, he’ll hear the amateur berate themselves over what they just did which would just cause more bad shots. Remember, even the best players in the world (like a three time major winner) struggle from time to time, so it’s fine if you do too. Just let it go and you’ll be much better off.
UPDATE: Shane Bacon was kind enough to provide some of his own tips that we can all follow to get better on the course.
It definitely feels like the play of Canadian born players has never been better, at least on the PGA Tour. Having said, that Adam Hadwin is still our number one ranked player, sitting at 105th in the world, so the word takeover might be a touch strong. What I would say is that there is definitely a clear cut 1-4 for Canadians, with Hadwin, Mackenzie Hughes, Graham DeLaet and David Hearn, but it gets a little rough after that with no one else ranked in the top 400 in the world. I still believe in DeLaet, even though he’s fallen off the pace a little bit in the last few years thanks to a dodgy short game. It’s hard to remember, but there was a time there for a few years that he was legitimately one of the best ball strikers in the world, and I have a hard time believing that guys like that won’t get it done at some point. In terms of other young Canadians to watch, I’d keep my eye on Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith.
As for Hadwin, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t surprised at the sheer level of success that he’s had to this point in 2017. He wasn’t a highly touted college kid out of Louisville, but as I’ve said before, all of the guys at the professional level are so good that they can win at any time, and we shouldn’t be surprised if Hadwin keeps it up. He’s a really, really good putter but my thought is that sustained success on the PGA Tour is going to require a little more consistency with his ball striking. It’s a fantastic start to 2017 though.
Man, you’re bringing back some childhood memories. Apparently, those gingerbread men were discontinued in 2014 but I don’t even remember seeing them that recently, and you’re right: they were amazing. The fact that these aren’t available nationwide is a travesty comparable to the Vince Carter trade, our dollar and Nickelback.
This is absolutely going to continue. I think a lot of what you’re seeing right now is the effect that Tiger had on the game not only in terms of making it feel cool, but also in getting out of the stereotypical out of shape golfer era. The players who get on the PGA Tour these days are usually all in tremendous shape, and save for a few guys, can absolutely bomb the ball. Obviously that’s not everything, but going forward, it’s going to be harder and harder for the older players to keep up with the young crowd, which is something that Kyle Robbins touched on in a great piece for SB Nation last week. It’s simply a new game these days.
What I find interesting along these lines is how we, whether you’re just a fan or a member of the media, are going to end up judging this era of player compared to others. One thing that’s abundantly clear to me is that the goalposts need to be moved at least a little bit for the modern player. The fields are so deep these days that getting to 79 wins like Tiger or 42 wins like Phil is pretty much impossible, and even getting to someone like Furyk (17), Els (19) or Love III (21) is going to take a lot of effort, and to be honest, quite a bit of luck. When it’s all said and done, there are going to be some truly great players who end up with 8-15 wins in their career, and most of that will be because of the era they played in. For the record, I don’t think this is a bad thing either because there are so many great players in the game right now that you’re pretty much guaranteed a quality show every single week.
First off, in terms of obsession, my Sergio fandom clocks in somewhere like this in the Golf Twitter rankings:
- Sean Martin and Hideki Matsuyama
- Every Australian and Adam Scott/Jason Day
- Kyle Porter and Rory McIlroy
- Soly and Justin Thomas
- Me and Sergio
I do get this question a lot though, and to be honest, it wasn’t always this way. When I first started watching golf seriously, I wasn’t a huge fan of Tiger or Phil which is something I kinda regret at this point because I don’t feel like I truly appreciated what I was watching at the time. I look back at some of those older events and tournaments, and I just wish I had a better understanding of what was going on with those two at their absolute peaks. My favourite guys to watch were David Duval and John Daly, and I didn’t really get hooked into Sergio until I became a little more knowledgeable about the game itself. I totally get why people don’t care for the things he’s done in the past, as he has been petulant and in the eyes of many, he’s a choker who should have had way more success than he’s had. Plus, there’s that fried chicken remark that was completely offside and horrible, and even though people who know him would say that he he couldn’t possibly be any sorrier for it and I believe them entirely, it still happened and it’s impossible to write the story of his career without bringing it up.
Having said all that, I think what draws me to Sergio is something that he seems real and genuine. He has made mistakes, but the one thing you can’t accuse him of is a lack of honesty about those mistakes, both on and off the golf course. There’s no holding back with him, and maybe that has worked against him in the past, but I find it refreshing to listen to him tell us exactly what’s going on with either his golf game or life instead of the tired cliches that we get from so many other guys. It’s the exact same thing that makes Rory so refreshing. On top of that, he’s a freakishly good ball striker with a totally unique swing that has lag for days and more traj than anyone since Trevino.
Whether you love him or hate him, no one can deny that Sergio Garcia provides as much entertainment as any other professional golfer in the game today.
The Ryder Cup is the best event in golf without question, and as I’ve said before, I really can’t think of a course that would be a better host than Augusta National. Think about the fireworks on the back nine! Unfortunately, it’ll never happen because ANGC will never host anything other than the Masters, and I can’t see any of the others hosting it either, especially Cypress and Pine Valley. The thing about the modern Ryder Cup is that, much like the rest of professional golf, it’s such a made for TV event that the organizers need to think about everything that surrounds the course as much or more than the course itself.
Think about the 2014 Ryder Cup. The Centenary Course at Gleneagles will never be confused for an incredible golf course, much less a traditional Scottish links as Jack pretty much designed it like a course you’d see anywhere in the United States. You could probably name forty courses in Scotland that are better without blinking an eye, including the other two that are on the hotel property. But, it’s long enough with ample room for seating and TV considerations, plus the accommodations are truly first rate which is what we’ll always get more consideration these days than anything else. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true and it’s also one of the reasons why we’ll likely never see a Canadian Open at Cabot.
Are you giving me a healthy Tiger? If so, the answer is yes and it isn’t even a question. If the answer is no, he has no chance.
The health is the big thing at this point, and I think we saw a little bit of that at Torrey a few weeks ago. The first round was bad, but in tough conditions on Friday, he didn’t play poorly, especially for it being his sixth round in the last seventeen months. Not that it’s going to happen, but if he does get healthy, we really do owe him the time and space to actually figure out where his game is and that just takes time. As I said on Twitter recently, there’s a really good chance that he might not get it back even if he is healthy, but it’s not fair to assume that he won’t based on this small sample size.
You mean before he’s eligible to hit the Champions Tour, right? Because even if Tiger is healthy and able to play once he hits 50, I’d be willing to bet that we see him on a family vacation with Sergio, Stevie, Vijay and Charles Pierce before he tees it up on the senior circuit.
Tiger won’t be eligible for play on the Champions Tour until 2026, which gives him nine years and when he was healthy, Tiger would average about twenty starts per year. Trying to predict the amount of tournaments that Tiger will play in the next nine years is pretty much impossible, but I’m pretty confident in saying that he doesn’t get to 180 starts. Unfortunately at this point, I’m not sure he gets to eighteen starts let alone ten times that much, and to be honest, I don’t think he knows at this point either.
Via email from Max Morris:
I hate talking Tiger when there are such great golfers and better storylines out there, but had to ask about his trip to Dubai. Why go to the other side of the world when there was a tournament right down the way in Phoenix? I know he has some history there but seems like the logical choice when you’re working your way back from injury. My theory is he still has a couple girl friends left over in Dubai from his glory days. Keep up the good work! Can’t wait to celebrate Sergio winning the masters!
I think there were a couple of things at play with Tiger going to Dubai instead of Phoenix last week, and I think they each played an equal role in his decision. The first is that, much like every other high end Tour pro, Tiger is a creature of habit. He started at Torrey, despite it being notoriously difficult with thick rough that was always going to put more strain on his back, because he’s had a ton of success there and he’s comfortable. Before last week, he also had a tremendous amount of success in Dubai, and even though none of it has really come since 2008, I’m sure it’s pretty easy for Tiger to convince himself that he can still get it done because it happened previously.
The second thing is that even though he doesn’t need money, Tiger definitely got his appearance fee to go over there and while that probably shouldn’t matter, I think it did. The last thing is that I’m pretty sure the embarrassment of firing a second round 82, thanks to an apparent case of the yips, when he was last in Phoenix two years ago made him want no part of going back to the Waste Management. He wasn’t going to see this in Dubai:
The long flight definitely didn’t help his back though, and now we’re back to a place of uncertainty with his health. If he didn’t want to go to Phoenix, the best play was probably to just sit last week out entirely. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.
I used to write about video games, and still play them religiously to this day which Ben obviously noticed. Trying to pick out the best Mario game is like trying to pick your favourite shot from Phil Mickelson’s career: there’s been so many that you could easily leave off one of the best games ever made, and trying to get consensus amongst a group of people would be impossible. I actually grew up owning a Sega Genesis instead of an SNES, so I didn’t get to play the earlier games until much later, and while they are still great to play today, they didn’t have the impact on me that I know they did on other people. Super Mario 64 is a tremendous game too, but back when I owned the N64, I was way more into the multiplayer games like GoldenEye, Mario Kart and WCW/NWO Revenge.
My favourite Mario game ever is Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, and the sequel is probably second. I’ve never had more fun playing a Mario game than that, even if I wasn’t crazy about the motion controls. It was perfectly paced with an insane variety of levels and traditional Nintendo charm.
It should probably come as no surprise that I have this sitting in my house as a collector’s item.