The 18: Hadwin, Cantlay and the API
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. I didn’t get to watch much of the Valspar this week because of personal and work commitments, but did catch some of the coverage on Saturday, and the final few holes on Sunday. It was pretty impressive to see Hadwin bounce back after posting a double bogey on 16 thanks to an errant tee ball that landed in the water. We’ve seen lots of examples over the years of a player not being able to keep it together down the stretch after a bad shot, but Hadwin didn’t seem to be that fazed by the whole thing. In fact, this exchange probably sheds a little light on the way Hadwin approaches things, even in a pressure packed moment near the end of a tournament:
The 59 earlier in the year was a good sign of what was potentially coming for Hadwin, and his performance all year has been solid. The important thing for him now, aside from his first Masters appearance in a few weeks, is that his card is wrapped up for the next two years. On top of that, he should have a spot guaranteed for him in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, at least for the first two weeks, and a few more solid starts will probably give him a spot on the Presidents Cup team in October as well.
How big was Hadwin’s victory at the Valspar here in Canada? The story led all sports broadcasts on Sunday night.
2. Hadwin’s putter gets a lot of the attention, and rightfully so. It seems like he hits a long bomb every week, and his strokes gained putting rank of 3rd on the year (and 12th for all of last season) show that he is one of the best putters in the world.
However, while he did finish fourth in SG:P at the Valspar last week, his SG: Tee to Green numbers probably contributed more to his win than anything.
Hadwin gained 2.287 strokes on the field from tee to green, good for fifth in the field and it’s his second best performance in that metric in the strokes gained era, behind only the 2015 Zurich Classic where he posted a positive 2.624. Funny enough, he missed the cut that week in New Orleans thanks to the worst week of his career on the greens, with a -2.381 mark over the two days. Interestingly, Hadwin is the first winner on the PGA Tour in the 2016-17 season to do so with a negative Strokes Gained: Off the Tee number. Granted it was minimal, with a -0.038 mark, but this is the second year in a row that the Valspar winner hasn’t posted a positive number from the tee, as Charl Schwartzel did the same in 2016.
3. Quickly on Patrick Cantlay: it’s impossible to not be impressed with what we saw in just his second start back since November of 2014. Two and a half years away is an insane amount of time, and the fact that he’s competing at this kind of level is just amazing. His story is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already, and I’m very excited to add him into the discussion with all of the other young players at the top of the game right now if he can keep this play going.
4. On the broadcast on Saturday, there was a lot of discussion about how it just didn’t seem like Henrik Stenson was striking the ball as well as we’ve gotten used to and that the putter was really keeping him in contention. It turns out that the numbers back that up too. In the last five years on the PGA Tour, Stenson’s only results that have been better on the putting green than last week were the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and the 2015 Valspar.
Stenson’s negative SG:OTT numbers from last week were an anomaly as well, as in that same five year period, he has only posted a negative number on four other occasions, including once at that same 2015 Valspar where he putted the lights out.
5. The big story this week with the Arnold Palmer Invitational happening at Bay Hill is the “lack” of big name players in the field, as the tournament enters its first year since the passing of Palmer in September. The idea is that with everything that Palmer did for the game and the current players, that more should be showing up this week as a sign of respect. Fourteen of the top twenty five players in the world are in the field, but big names like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson are taking a pass.
To be honest, I find it hard to get upset about the players skipping this week. In a perfect world, yes, everyone would play this week and every other week on the schedule, but it’s not realistic and the way that the PGA Tour arranged the schedule this year, made things very difficult for the tournaments in the Florida swing. The move from Doral to Mexico right in the middle of the swing wasn’t good, and the WGC-Match Play is coming up next week, too. Throw in that everyone’s focus at this time of year is Augusta, and since each player is going to prepare for it in a different way, some other events are going to suffer. Everyone, from media to fans to players, put so much pressure on these guys to perform four times per year that they’re going to do whatever they think is right to make that happen. It feels very similar to what we saw with the Olympics last year.
The field is still really good, and while I wish more were there in a tribute to Palmer, I’m not going to get too upset about it.
6. In addition to some of the best players in the world taking a pass this week, so is Tiger Woods, and while that probably doesn’t qualify as news at this point, it’s worth mentioning for the obvious reasons. Since he took time off, my thought has been that we would still see him at the Masters, even if that meant he didn’t play beforehand. I still believe that we’ll see him at Augusta unless his back is somehow even worse than we believe, but obviously skipping the API is not a positive move ahead of the first major of the year.
7. Just because Tiger isn’t playing much golf these days, doesn’t mean that we can’t have some positive news about him. His first American course design, Bluejack National, has received rave reviews from everyone who has visited the property, but none have gone as in-depth on the course as Andy Johnson did for the Fried Egg last week. The course takes some obvious inspiration from Augusta National, and it looks absolutely stunning.
If you get the chance to get on the course, take it.
8. While the players skipping the API is the biggest thing people are talking about right now, the more interesting item from the past few days to me was USGA head Mike Davis floating the idea of a variable distance golf ball. Davis made sure to point out that this isn’t an item that is of a pressing nature, but could be in the future. People have been calling for a rollback on the ball for years, and while the USGA continues to believe that distance isn’t increasing, this variable distance idea seems like it exists in direct contrast with their own reporting.
I’m all for it, mostly because I hate to think about what’s happened to some of the best courses in the world since its become so obvious that the ball goes too far. It’s only going to keep getting worse from here, so if this is something that the USGA is actually looking at, let’s get it done.
9. Congratulations to Muirfield for realizing how monumentally stupid they were last year in voting to keep women out of their club, as they re-voted this morning and declared that their rules will change. Selfishly, I’m happy that it means Muirfield will be back in the Open rota, but I’m more happy that things like this are starting to change and part of the reason why it did was because of the backlash that the club faced for not doing the right thing several months ago. Ultimately, golf still has a long way to go, but this is a positive step in the right direction.
10. Jim Furyk and Mike Weir were named assistant captains for the upcoming Presidents Cup recently, and both made some level of sense, but for different reasons. Furyk assisting Steve Stricker was an obvious choice, as with Furyk leading the American side at the Ryder Cup next year, it’s good to get him some experience on the team level that doesn’t involve him playing on the course. It seemed like Weir drew some raised eyebrows though, but I think it made sense and here’s why.
International captain Nick Price has always gotten along well with Weir, and respects his knowledge of the game even if it’s obvious that Weir is nowhere near the player he once was. Weir also brings some experience to the table as he played five times in the event from 2000 to 2009, which Price may feel helps his squad given that the bottom half of the roster is usually comprised of at least a few rookies.
Weir’s 2003 Masters win is without question the number one accomplishment in Canadian men’s golf history, and ultimately, it’s what Weir will always be known for, but the 2007 Presidents Cup is always looked on fondly as well. Royal Montreal played host that year, and Weir was able to go 2-1-1 for the Internationals heading into the Sunday singles portion where he was matched up against Tiger. Weir went on to beat Tiger 1 up in the match with a pretty raucous Canadian crowd behind him.
We can debate how much impact an assistant captain has on these events, but for the International side, Mike Weir is a very deserving member of the management team.
11. While we’re on the topic of the Presidents Cup, the below table shows the top twelve players for both sides as it sits right now. As per usual, the International side has about half of their roster that you think can compete against anyone in the world, but it gets really thin after that.
|Team USA||Team International|
|Dustin Johnson||Jason Day|
|Justin Thomas||Hideki Matsuyama|
|Jordan Spieth||Adam Scott|
|Rickie Fowler||Branden Grace|
|Patrick Reed||Charl Schwartzel|
|Gary Woodland||Louis Oosthuizen|
|Daniel Berger||Emiliano Grillo|
|Brandt Snedeker||Yuta Ikeda|
|Brendan Steele||Jeunghun Wang|
|Ryan Moore||Byeong-hun An|
|Phil Mickelson||Adam Hadwin|
|Kevin Na||Hideto Tahihara|
12. On top of not getting to watch much of the Valspar, I didn’t get a chance to see any of the Hero Indian Open on the European Tour last week, but the course that they played looked legitimately insane. Gary Player designed the course a few years ago, taking some new land and an old Arnold Palmer design from the late 90’s to form a course that is looked at as exceedingly difficult. The scores from last week back that up too, as even though SSP Chawrasia won the tournament at -10, his closest competition was seven shots back.
You can see some photos from the week below.
13. Your scorecard of the week from India? The second round of Wei-chih Lu, who opened with a first round 85, but topped his week off with a second round 90 to miss the cut by a few shots.
The best part of the whole thing is that he posted that 18-over par 90 while putting up five pars, including four in a row on the front nine. I can definitely relate.
14. We’re into season seven of ‘Feherty’ on Golf Channel, and as good as pretty much every episode has been so far, the two-parter with Phil Mickelson over the past two weeks is probably my favourite of all time. As expected, the stories were just incredible and it was fascinating to get a window into not only one of the most talented players we’ve ever seen, but also clearly one of the most interesting. His explanation of everything he goes into when deciding what club to hit on certain shots was my favourite moment of the two episodes.
David Feherty has this quality about him as an interviewer that I don’t think you can find in anyone else, sports or otherwise. When he interviews someone, I’ve almost always come away from the interview with a more positive opinion and outlook about that person, and I think that’s a credit to Feherty as an interviewer more than it is a reflection on the interviewee. If you somehow missed it over the past two weeks, it’s absolutely worth your time to seek it out.
15. As a take off from the point above, here are five people that I would love to see Feherty interview that he hasn’t already had on his show.
- Tiger: Obviously this is the one that everyone would want to see, but it’s only useful if Tiger lets his guard down and doesn’t give us all the answers we’ve been hearing over the past twenty years. If he did let Feherty in and allowed him to ask real questions, I’d be beyond enthralled.
- Gary Player: If anyone says they wouldn’t want to see Gary Player interviewed by Feherty, they are absolutely lying to you.
- Henrik Stenson: Stenson is probably the funniest guy in golf, and his story is so interesting that he would have some great stories to tell that we probably haven’t heard.
- Colin Montgomerie: I’m a sucker for any Monty story, and on top of that, he’s such a great talker himself that him and Feherty for an hour would be absolutely magical. By the way, Feherty stopped by the NLU podcast quickly on the weekend, and told a fantastic story about Monty that is a must listen.
- J.R. Smith: Feherty doesn’t just stick to golfers, and J.R. loves to golf. If you know anything at all about the NBA, you get why this would be a great interview and I would love to see it happen.
16. Wanted to pass along this link for anyone who missed it: Golf World is essentially relaunching with Jaime Diaz as editor, and it sounds like they have some ambitious plans. While I’m skeptical about the idea of a “daily longform”, I’m excited about anything that allows for quality content to be created instead of the very little substance, clickbait stuff that we see from many outlets. Very intrigued to see where this goes, and with Diaz at the helm, I’m sure it will be great.
17. I don’t really have much to say about this video other than it’s awesome and I would love to see it in person.
18. For your random GIFs this week, we have old footage of Bobby Jones taking shots at a camera that seems to be about 40 yards away from him. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t take him too long to knock it down.