The 18: DJ wins in Mexico
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. You can catch up on previous versions of The 18 right here.
1. Dustin Johnson’s win in Mexico last week was super impressive, and the big reason why was that with the way the course was set up (more on that in a second), it was clear that DJ’s typical advantage off the tee was going to be lessened. He was only going to hit driver three or four times during the round, and in most cases, he was taking an iron out to play for position. Granted, especially in that altitude, he’s still able to hit the ball miles off the tee with those irons, as was evident on the 322-yard par-4 1st where he was able to hit 2-iron pin high onto the green on Saturday leading to an eagle, but arguably his biggest weapon was left in the bag for the vast majority of the week.
Even with the driver not being put into play that often, Johnson still led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, and Strokes Gained: Approach, and his total of 2.174 in the Approach category is his second best performance relative to the field in the Strokes Gained era, according to the guys at Data Golf. The only tournament where DJ posted a better number was at Doral in 2015, which he also won. It was touched on during the broadcast, but a big part of why DJ has become more consistent is that he’s become a better wedge player, and considering how far he hits the ball, that’s kind of a big deal because he’s going to be hitting a lot of short clubs. He did it all without putting particularly well either.
I’m not as bullish on him as some are as it relates to the Masters, but at this point, I don’t know how you bet against him at either the U.S. Open or the Open Championship.
2. It goes without saying that DJ hit a ton of great shots all week, but nothing was better than the last full shot he hit. Tommy Fleetwood had actually mounted a charge, and a lead that was once four shots, was down to one as DJ played the 18th on Sunday. He found the fairway bunker from the tee, and with an awkward stance, trees in the way and 122 yards left to the hole, it didn’t seem like DJ had much of a chance to get it to close enough for the guaranteed two putt he needed to win.
It was the best shot of the week, and a perfect way to cap off the tournament.
3. It definitely wasn’t the weekend he was looking for after holding the 36-hole lead, but overall, I think there are a lot of positives to take out of last week for Rory McIlroy. You never know how you’re going to come back and perform after an injury, especially one that keeps you out for as long as the rib injury did with Rory, plus much like nearly every other player in the field, he wasn’t feeling all that well. Those who wore white pants during the week were the bravest souls on the grounds, with the exception of perhaps any of the fans lining the fairways Phil was trying to hit.
Rory’s T7 finish is obviously positive, but more important going forward is that it looked like he wasn’t in any pain at all and it didn’t appear as though the rib injury was affecting his swing in any way. Assuming he doesn’t suffer any kind of setback along the way, it looks like he’s going to be just fine for the Masters, which is the best possible news we could have received from him after last week.
4. Just a few quick hits on random players from the week:
- Jon Rahm is absolutely terrifying. I know that people have been expecting this from him for a little while now, but it’s scary how easy he has made his first handful of events look on the PGA Tour. He’s for real, and I have no problem saying that he’s already one of the best players in the world. He also joined the European Tour last week, so in case there was any concern about him playing on the Ryder Cup team, you can be assured that he’ll be eligible.
- Tiger could come back and win the grand slam and it would be more logical than Phil finishing within four shots of DJ in this tournament.
- Seeing Roberto Diaz in the field as the top ranked Mexican player was pretty cool. He’s going to head back to the Web Tour this week, but getting paired with Charl Schwartzel, J.B. Holmes, Russell Knox, Alex Noren and Jim Furyk in his home country had to have been pretty fun for him.
5. From the moment that it was announced that this event was moving from Doral, I was excited and to be honest, I didn’t even care where it was going. Just like many other courses that we see every year on the PGA Tour, Doral had gotten stale and it was time for a change. What made it even better was how the fans took to the whole thing. It was clear that the fans in attendance absolutely loved having the players there, and it seemed like the players enjoyed it as well. Overall, it’s pretty difficult to look at last week as anything but a success, especially when you look at the leaderboard we ended up with and the drama that the course produced.
I’m still shocked that Trump didn’t send out a tweet about how much better looking Doral is compared to what we saw over the last four days though. Sad!
6. As far as the actual course goes, it’s not going to vault to the top of my bucket list or anything, but I enjoyed the relative quirkiness of the whole design. I would have preferred if there weren’t so many trees on the layout, but it played firm and fast, which is something you don’t see all that often on the PGA Tour and it made players find the fairway from the tee. The greens could have been in better condition, but they forced players to think creatively and I enjoyed watching some of the lines that the players were taking on shots.
It was nice to see these guys play a course where it didn’t just feel like target practice. Like I said, it’s not my favourite course on tour and I’m sure we’ll be tired of it in a few years just like we are with many of the other venues, but I enjoyed seeing something new this week. I mean, you’d think that the whole point of a World Golf Championship event would be to, you know, move it around the world every now and then and that was accomplished this week. Now, if we can just get an event down to Royal Melbourne, we’ll be in business.
7. On Sunday morning, I wrote about how much I enjoyed Phil’s third round, but it was clear that some people thought differently. It seems that a few people thought that in order to get three free drops (all of which came on three consecutive holes, amazingly), Phil either massaged the rules to his advantage, or he outright cheated while on the course. It was definitely bizarre, but Bob Harig caught up with the rules official who gave Phil the first drop when a fan apparently picked up his ball, and he said that it was a relatively straightforward ruling.
NBC’s Peter Jacobsen then went out onto the course and found the sprinkler that was giving Phil trouble on 11, and you can see why that would pose an issue:
Does someone else get those rulings? Maybe not, but I don’t think this was a case of Phil doing anything outside of the rules.
8. The big news last week was the new proposed rule changes from the USGA and R&A that are intended to modernize the game and make the game easier to understand. Golf Channel has the full list of changes if you’re so inclined to go through them, and I can’t say I have much of a problem with any of them, to be honest. I did want to quickly touch on three of them though:
- No penalty for accidental movement of your ball on the green: Basically put in place after the DJ debacle last year at Oakmont where the USGA basically knew that they made a mistake but kept putting their foot in it afterwards by denying it. Between their interview on FOX with Shane Bacon in the immediate aftermath, and the conversation they had on Golf Channel where Brandel Chamblee rightly lit them up, it was pretty obvious they didn’t have much of a leg to stand on and had to make a change.
- Reducing lost ball search time from five to three minutes: Anything that speeds up play is a good move.
- Players can repair spike marks on the green: This one makes a lot of sense with the whole “let’s make the game easier to understand” idea. Try explaining to someone who is trying to get into golf that they can repair a mark on the green made by a ball, but not by your spikes. They wouldn’t understand why, and that’s probably because it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Like I said, good stuff even if they somehow don’t believe that the ball goes too far.
9. It’s not all entirely positive on the rules front though. These new rules are currently in their proposal phase, and if they get approved, won’t officially be implemented until January 1st, 2019. I totally understand the USGA and R&A wanting to give people ample time to voice their thoughts on the changes, but 22 months seems like an incredible amount of wasted time. If they were so set on starting it at the beginning of the year, wouldn’t January 1st of 2018 been sufficient? On top of that, I can guarantee you that something will come up in the next 22 months that should be changed, like the DJ rule, but won’t be because it didn’t get into this round of updates. Has anyone seen a logical reason for why these aren’t being implemented until 2019? I haven’t seen one.
Modernizing the rules is great, but it’s also clear that modernizing the process is required as well.
10. A lot has been made about the ridiculously good start to the PGA Tour year in 2017, and rightfully so. We’ve seen wins by Justin Thomas (twice), Hudson Swafford, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson (twice) and Rickie Fowler. That would be considered a good year for golf fans and it’s only early March, but I wanted to look back at previous years in the ‘Tiger era’ to see if anything compared through nine events, and here are my candidates:
- 1998, featuring Phil, Freddie, Jesper, Duval, Calc and John Huston going ham at the Sony.
- 2003 is the most stout, with Ernie, Big Cat and Weir (#CanadianContent) each winning twice, along with Vijay, DL3 and Frank Lickliter getting into the mix.
- 2004 had no repeat champions through the first nine, but featured Ernie, Phil, Vijay, JD, Weir and Tiger.
I don’t think any of these really compare to what we’ve seen so far, aside from 2003. When you look at the non-Tiger era though, there’s one year that definitely sticks out, and I can only assume people were really excited back in 1963:
11. I only got to watch a little bit of the LPGA Tour event in Singapore last week, but I just wanted to give a shout out to Inbee Park, who ended up winning the tournament by one with a 64 on Sunday. It’s only her second tournament back after taking several months off because of thumb surgery, and by any measure, she put on an absolute ball striking clinic. She hit 64 of 72 greens in regulation, and only missed one fairway for the entire week, which are numbers that shouldn’t even be possible. Just crazy good stuff, especially when you realize that she is just getting back out on the course.
12. Kasumigaseki Country Club in Japan is currently set to be the host course for the golf portion of the 2020 Olympics, but there’s one problem: they are currently a male-only club. There was some talk a few weeks ago about what the IOC would do, if anything, about this and it appears that they’ve done the right thing. They’ve essentially issued an ultimatum to the club to change their policy, or they’ll lose the event. The good news is that based on the story linked above, the club seems to be moving in the right direction, and my guess is that it’ll get resolved shortly. When Muirfield voted against including women in their club last year, it was an incredibly bad day for the sport and something that just shouldn’t exist, which Shane Bacon tackled wonderfully for Fox Sports. The same thing applies here.
13. Please watch this video:
14. Kevin Na fascinates me on a number of levels, but the thing that has my eye most right now is his attire. This is just a sample of the threads Na has donned in the last few weeks on the PGA Tour:
Not all of it is bad, mind you. I’m partial to a cardigan from time to time myself, but man, there’s some stuff in this wardrobe. If you didn’t get a chance to check it out, Alan Shipnuck did a great job of diving into his psyche last year for Golf.com, and it’s a must read.
15. Every episode of ‘Feherty’ is worth tuning in for, but the season 7 premiere last night featuring Phil Mickelson was just phenomenal, and the great thing is that there’s going to be a second part. I’m sure Golf Channel is going to be playing it a lot over the next few days, so if you didn’t see it on Monday night, you absolutely need to make the time for it. It’s every bit as good as you would think an interview with Phil and Feherty would be, with this being my favourite moment of all:
16. “Twitter is the most narcissism-inducing, vanity-vomiting, muckraking scourge of harmony and aggregate source of everything one needs to know, time-suck in history.”
Brandel coming in hot! I haven’t received the block yet myself, but 20,000 others have, which is an absolutely insane amount of people. I’ll also admit that Twitter can be a horrible time suck, but at least in my experience, it has allowed me to make friends and contacts while interacting with a pretty fun golf community that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to talk to if Twitter didn’t exist.
17. Just wanted to remind everyone of the Friday deadline on the PGA Tour to commit for the next tournament. Is he going to play?
18. So, it turns out that one of the favourite parts of last week’s post was the GIFs at the end of Phil and Sergio. I have a lot of GIFs that have never seen the light of day for whatever reason, so I’m going to lose this last part of these posts to highlight some random GIFs. Am I trying to figure out an artificial way to get to 18 thoughts each week? Maybe…but it’ll be fun.
First up is Leo Diegel with this putter trick, but what I like most of all is his reaction after he hits the putt. Peak #TourSauce.
Second is a putt from Curtis Strange at the 1985 Masters that misses the hole. The tracking of the putt is very cool, and to be honest, is something that I would actually like to see more of right now. It would be a great addition to what we already have with Pro Tracer.