News and Notes: Jordan wins at Pebble

If you’re a regular reader of the site or my Twitter feed, you’ve probably noticed that things have slowed down a little bit in the new year and I apologize for that. Things have been a little hectic on my end here in Toronto, but I’m hoping to rectify that going forward. So, while I don’t have a full recap of everything that happened at Pebble this week, I do have some thoughts on what we saw over the past few days.

Jordan Spieth makes it look easy at Pebble

When you have a tournament that goes back to 1937 at an iconic venue, you’re going to have a quality list of former champions. Snead, Hogan, Nelson, Casper, Venturi, Nicklaus, Miller, Watson, Mickelson and Tiger are just some of the great players who have won at Pebble in the past, and it’s fitting that Spieth was able to join the group on Sunday. The way that he went about it was what impressed me the most, as it never really seemed in doubt for the final 27 holes, even throughout Sunday when he couldn’t really get anything to drop. He basically played the prevent defence and asked the field to come get him, and while Kelly Kraft got it to within three at one point, it never felt that it was anyone else’s tournament.

The putter was on fire all week. We’re dealing with a limited sample so far in 2017, but this is what Spieth has put together through on the greens his first four tournaments on the PGA Tour this year:

  • Tournament of Champions: 1.043
  • Sony Open: 0.065
  • Waste Management Phoenix Open: 0.135
  • AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: 2.125

2.125 for the week, and he didn’t hit anything on Sunday. I can’t wait for Augusta.

No, this does not mean that Jordan’s “back”

Where did he go, exactly? Since his collapse at the Masters last year, Spieth has done the following:

  • Starts: 18, with one missed cut (2016 Players) and ten finishes inside the top-10.
  • Wins: 3 (2016 Dean and DeLuca, 2016 Australian Open and 2017 Pebble Beach)
  • Hasn’t played a round of golf over par since the 2016 Tour Championship.

He can’t be back because he never left. He’s ranked sixth in the world because he’s really, really good at golf and people need to stop acting like he’s not because he doesn’t win every other week. Please remember that no one, not even peak Tiger, did that and they never will and that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with them in any way. We went through the same stuff with Rory McIlroy last year, and it’s just as ridiculous now as it was a few months ago.

By the numbers

Some numbers for the week at Pebble, courtesy of the fantastic work done by the guys at Data Golf:

  • Spieth was actually slightly in the negative off the tee (-0.10) and around the greens (-0.06), but made up for it everywhere else with big edges on approach shots and on the greens.
  • Top and bottom for the week in Strokes Gained:
    • Off the tee: Charley Hoffman +1.71 and Matt Every -5.09
    • Putting: Xander Schauffele +2.94 and Zack Sucher -4.12
    • Tee to green: Kelly Kraft +4.21 and J.J. Henry -7.88
    • Approach: Kelly Kraft +3.67 and Brendon Todd -4.48
    • Around the green: Bryson DeChambeau +2.19 and Brett Stegmaier -2.63
  • Jon Rahm’s week in the above categories? All positives at 0.99, 0.96, 2.97, 1.01 and 0.97. That’ll do.

  • Somehow, Luke Donald finished tied for 23rd despite being a negative in all five categories.

Update: This was a thing that I wasn’t aware of when I wrote this post.

Update 2: Why is this actually a thing?

The broadcast was much better than expected

The quality of the CBS broadcast has been a topic of conversation for a long time, and the tournament that usually draws the ire of golf fans is this one. It’s been so bad in recent years, particularly during the third round with way too much attention on “celebs” and non-golf related items, that I wrote about how I would fix it if I were in their shoes, but something happened this year that surprised me: the broadcast was actually much better than it usually is.

Granted, some of what made it better was that the groups themselves had more name value, but there was far less attention paid to the amateur players. Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo weren’t camped out on 17 to interview every group that came through and Peter Kostis wasn’t analyzing the swings of Gary Mule Deer, so things moved at what appeared to be a much better pace, at least from the TV broadcast standpoint. The rounds were still too long and I’m definitely ready to tap out on the Bill Murray/Pebble experience, but it wasn’t so bad this time around. Most importantly, we still got to see some great amateur Pro Tracer, which I will never get tired of. Thanks Bob Stoops!

Mickelson’s inconsistency

I’m not going to lie to you about Phil Mickelson: I’m a little concerned. In the past, I’ve talked about how the consistency wasn’t always going to be there, but that a few times per year, I expected him to go deep and contend. The problem that we’re seeing a little too much of now is that the consistency is waning from hole to hole, instead of round to round or tournament to tournament. Phil was always prone to blow up holes, but some weird stuff has gone on over the past few weeks that is giving me a little bit of pause.

Don’t get me wrong, the stats are all there for the most part and it’s more than obvious that he’s got a lot of game left in him, but this might be something to keep an eye on over the next little while.

Cantlay’s return

It was really great to see Patrick Cantlay make his return last week. Not only was his career derailed due to injury, but he has also been dealing with some pretty serious personal trauma with the death of his caddie. Please take the time to read this story in the Orange County Register.

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