The 18: Fowler’s Honda Classic win
The 18 is a look at eighteen stories from the previous week or so in the world of golf, and they will usually be on stories that I didn’t dedicate a full post towards. Expect a combination of thoughts, GIFs, images and anything else that caught my eye from the past seven days. Some will be longer thoughts, and others will be no more than a line or two.
The 18 will (hopefully) run every Tuesday.
1. I already wrote a bit on Rickie’s win at the Honda because of some ridiculous comments on the broadcast by Johnny Miller, but I wanted to touch on it a little more. It was actually super impressive to watch him on the weekend when you consider the contrast in play. Saturday’s round showed a version of Fowler that was in complete control of his game, and it’s one of the best rounds of golf that I’ve ever seen him play. Sunday was quite a bit different, as it was obvious that he didn’t have his best stuff, but he overcame that in tough conditions to best the field scoring average for the day and win by four. That’s what got me so irritated by Miller’s comments because it was clear that Fowler persevered and ended up keeping his lead on a day where he very easily could have lost it.
At least to me, that variance between what we saw on Saturday compared to Sunday was impressive.
2. Two shots in particular stood out from Fowler’s win. With him hitting it all over the property early in his round on Sunday, he found himself in the pine straw on the par-4 8th, and even though he had a good angle, it didn’t look particularly promising. Making matters worse was that with Fowler playing the previous four holes in three over par, he had opened the door to the pack behind him. That’s when Fowler did this:
The other one was on Saturday when Fowler was just about to finish a dominating round as he stepped to the 18th tee. Fowler’s not known as a big hitter in the way that Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson is but in recent years, he’s really been getting it out there at a good distance and the line he took on the 18th tee was super aggressive.
Even though I’m used to seeing Fowler hit the ball a long way, it was still jarring to see this much in the bag. It was very impressive.
3. One last thing on Fowler: I understand the idea that this was a PGA Tour event, and he had yet to close out a 54-hole lead going 0-4 in that scenario, but would it have killed people to mention that he actually won on the European Tour last year in Abu Dhabi after holding a 54-hole lead? That was a big event with a field that was better than most PGA Tour events in 2016, and Fowler ended up at the top of that leaderboard. Ignoring the European Tour is something that happens on a regular basis during PGA Tour coverage, but this along with the constant discussion of how Tyrrell Hatton ended up climbing the OWGR so fast, just showed a lack of balance in NBC’s coverage last week.
4. So, the big story over the past few days was Pat Perez commenting about Tiger and where his game is at right now. In case you (somehow) missed it, this is what got everyone riled up:
Perez later clarified his remarks, and said that he had texted with Tiger about the whole thing. For some further reading on it, I suggest checking out Chris Solomon’s post at No Laying Up, as well as Kyle Porter’s excellent take on how we all deal with Tiger news and opinion in 2017.
Perez is known as a guy who isn’t going to shy away from giving his opinion, and we should all be thrilled that he isn’t concerned about what the rest of us think, but that didn’t stop people from going after him because that’s just what people do when it comes to any criticism of Tiger. Most of the hate was directed at Perez’s lack of a resume, which is the most ridiculous take possible because by that logic, Jack is essentially the only one who is allowed to have an opinion on Tiger. I do think that some of what he said is unfair, particularly the part where he basically said Tiger faked a back injury after that 77 in Dubai, which if you watched him play that round, it was pretty obvious that something was wrong. Ultimately though, I don’t really have a problem with what he said and to be honest, I’m sure that a lot of other players are thinking the same thing but they are just afraid to say it publicly.
The percentage chance of it happening is essentially zero, but people really need to chill out when it comes to anyone saying anything negative about Tiger. It’s just going to lead to the players not saying anything of value, which is something Graeme McDowell talked about years ago, and that just ends up as a negative for all of us.
5. Rory continued his media tour last week ahead of his return in Mexico this week, giving some interesting quotes to Ewan Murray of the Guardian. As you would expect, there was plenty of talk about Donald Trump, but the most interesting stuff to me came when Rory started talking about Tiger. Everyone kinda focused on the part where Rory said he felt sorry for Tiger, but to me, this was the most interesting quote:
“Playing tournament golf would be a bonus and awesome but life is more important than golf, which is what people have to remember when talking about Tiger Woods. Everyone sees him as a golfer, not a person. Tiger doesn’t owe anyone in the game. He has nothing to prove to anyone. I just hope he gets healthy and happy.”
I couldn’t agree more.
6. On the Trump/Rory stuff: Personally, playing a round with Trump wouldn’t be at the top of my list of things to do for reasons which should be obvious, but Rory doing it doesn’t really bother me. Based on the statement he released on Twitter though, it’s clear that he got some blowback from a large group of people who disagree with his decision.
Two things are true about this whole thing:
- Rory’s right that it’s ridiculous that people have called him a fascist and a bigot for playing a round of golf with Trump.
- Even though I feel like the reaction was over the top, Rory’s one of the smartest people in all of golf and had to know that this was going to come because for a myriad of reasons, Trump is so far removed from what our standard view of a head of state is.
Trump is such a lightning rod that anything or anyone who comes into contact with him is going to get some degree of flak, and with his close ties to the golf world, Rory’s probably not going to be the last guy to deal with this kind of criticism.
7. Awful Announcing posted an item last week about 2017 potentially being the end of the line for Johnny Miller at NBC with his contract set to expire at the end of the year. NBC can pick up an option on the deal for 2018, which I assume they’ll do because even though Miller annoys a large portion of NBC’s viewers, he’s still the big name on the broadcast and it doesn’t really seem like he’s slowing down in any way.
If they did decide to part ways with Miller, they have a natural replacement on the team already in David Feherty, so they’d be fine in that regard, but I really can’t see them dropping Miller at this stage.
8. I didn’t get a chance to watch any of the European Tour’s Joburg Open last week, but I couldn’t help but notice the tiny putter that Jaco van Zyl actually put in the bag.
Look at that head!
Apparently, this is the Cleveland Smart Square Stubby, which is obviously used as a training aid and not something that is typically meant for competition. I have no doubt that the pros can putt with pretty much anything you give them, but how bad must you be feeling with your regular putter to make this switch? Even though I’d never personally do this, I love that van Zyl gave it a go.
Only wish that Johnny would have been in the booth to provide a barrel fire take about what he was watching.
9. Bryson DeChambeau made news a few months ago when he debuted his side saddle putting stroke, and he was positive that once he got it perfected, that it would make him a superior putter. When he jumped on The Clubhouse podcast with Shane Bacon, he oozed confidence about the stroke, but things haven’t gone well to start 2017. DeChambeau has only made one cut in six starts, including a WD at Riviera after getting a sponsor’s invite, and that side saddle stroke has yielded the following strokes gained numbers on the green:
- Sony Open: 0.005
- CareerBuilder Challenge: -.722
- Farmers Insurance Open: -4.076 (!!!)
- AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: -.779
- Genesis Open: -1.166
Yikes. So, DeChambeau ditched the side saddle for a traditional stroke at the Honda this past week and posted a -3.273 number, which is somehow not the worst of his 2017 season. His reasoning for the switch? He blamed the USGA, saying that they didn’t like him doing it and then said “they’re not a good organization, and you can quote me on that.” Spicy! The problem is that in that same article by Brian Wacker at Golf Digest, the USGA refuted the quotes, saying that they discussed the matter with DeChambeau in January and that he was good to keep going with the side saddle. DeChambeau then issued an apology.
I’m all for people bashing the USGA when they deserve it, and they definitely give us plenty of opportunities to do just that, but I’m definitely taking their side on this one. With how forceful they were in their response to DeChambeau’s quote, it’s hard to believe that they told him to stop, and the more likely reason for the switch would be the poor putting from DeChambeau to start the season. I’m pulling for the guy because we need more characters in the game, so hopefully he can figure all of this out.
10. Really liked the decision by the R&A to award the 2020 Open Championship to Royal St. Georges, which is arguably the best course in all of England. Part of the reason why Troon was so much fun to watch last year was that with the courses on a rotation for the Open, we just don’t get to see these courses all that often and once the 2020 Open rolls around, it’ll be nine years since the last time we got to see one of the best tracks in the world.
If you’re wondering about the standard rotation that sees the Old Course host every five years, it’s expected that it will get to host in 2021 for the 150th anniversary of the event.
Double ear infection and the flu is what has knocked Day out this time. It sucks because for as much as it’s getting old to hear constantly about whatever illness is going around the Day house, there’s no doubting that golf tournaments are more interesting when Day is in them and playing well. Throw in the fact that we’ve already had such a good start to the season with our winners, and I was looking forward to seeing him in the first WGC of the year.
It feels like we’re getting into a Typhoid Mary scenario here with Day, and someone needs to figure out why exactly this is happening so often. I get that he has young kids, but so do a lot of guys on the PGA Tour, and they don’t miss nearly as much time as Day does.
12. Can I place a bet anywhere on Trump tweeting at some point during the week about how much better Doral is than the course that is hosting this week? I’d pretty much put everything to my name on it.
13. So, we’re apparently hearing about the latest batch of changes to the Rules of Golf tomorrow, and both the R&A and USGA have been talking them up over the past few weeks so it’s clear that they think we’re headed for a pretty big makeover here. As I’ve written about on numerous occasions over the years, the Rules of Golf have always been needlessly complicated, and unfortunately, the early reports don’t exactly inspire confidence that the two governing bodies really have much of a handle on this whole thing.
Throw in the fact that they refuse to believe that increased distance is anything but fake news, and I’m not exactly super optimistic that they’re going to make a huge overhaul here, but I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with tomorrow.
14. I’ve mentioned this on Twitter a few times over the past couple of months, but I can’t say enough good things about the product being put out on PGA Tour Live. On top of getting to see early morning coverage that you wouldn’t normally have access to, the actual broadcast itself is of the highest possible quality from a pure golf standpoint. There’s little to no fluff, the commentators are great and they pick up a hefty amount of quality audio on the course that they don’t talk over.
I love the European Tour broadcasts on Golf Channel more than anything produced by CBS or NBC, and PGA Tour Live is the closest thing to it. If you haven’t signed up already, it’s more than worth your time and money.
15. Tron Carter touched on this on the NLU podcast this week, but even though NBC struggled on Sunday with their broadcast, it was still great to have them back in the saddle. There’s just a different feel to the events when Dan Hicks, Johnny Miller, David Feherty and others are on the call, and even though I’m not crazy about everything they do, it’s a welcome change from the early season CBS broadcasts. The new Pro Tracer split screen view was great to have as well.
16. Yes. Please stop.
17. In case you haven’t listened to it yet, friend of the website Shane Bacon had European Tour CEO Keith Pelley on his podcast recently and it was pretty fascinating. Pelley gave a lot of great insight into what the European Tour is doing in an attempt to push the game forward, and it’s just a really solid listen from start to finish.
18. Hat tip to Kevin Igo for the heads up on this one, as he alerted me to the existence of video from the Sergio Garcia/Phil Mickelson Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. Fantastic.