The 18: Chappell takes Texas

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. This week will be a little shorter than normal as I wasn’t able to catch much of the golf coverage this week.

The 18 will (hopefully) run every Tuesday. You can catch up on previous versions of The 18 right here.

1. Kevin Chappell won the Valero Texas Open on the weekend in a tournament that from all accounts, lacked drama, until the very end when Chappell made birdie on the 18th to avoid a playoff with Brooks Koepka. It’s the first win on the PGA Tour for the 30-year old Chappell, and it was a long time coming. Chappell had a really good 2015-16 campaign, making the cut in 20 of his 28 starts and posting eight finishes inside the top 10, with four of those finishes being as the runner up. Those second place finishes came at the RSM where Kevin Kisner boatraced the entire field, a pair of losses to Jason Day at Bay Hill and the Players, and the Tour Championship where he was knocked out on the first playoff hole against Ryan Moore and Rory McIlroy.

While 2016-17 hasn’t been as good, those are some impressive finishes at some of the biggest events on the PGA Tour, and it’s good to see that Chappell was finally able to close the door and get that maiden victory. I’m not one of those people who subscribes to the theory that once you get one win, the floodgates open and more are surely to come, but for Chappell, it feels like he’s got at least a few more wins in him on the PGA Tour. He’s just a really good, well rounded player who doesn’t typically play himself out of tournaments and as I’ve talked about numerous times in the past, all of these guys at this level are so good, that all it takes is for them to be hot one week, and there’s a good chance they won’t be beat. The particulars:

  • Earns $1,116,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points for the win.
  • Jumps from 41st to 23rd in the Official World Golf Rankings and from 113th to 21st in the FedEx Cup.
  • Becomes fully exempt on the PGA Tour for the rest of this season and the next two years.

2. Full highlights from Sunday are below:


3. Even though he didn’t win the tournament, we’ve now seen three really solid tournaments in a row from Brooks Koepka. He played well at the Match Play, had a sneaky good T11 at the Masters thanks to a solid 71-69 weekend, and now this runner up finish in Texas. Its been a tough stretch for Koepka statistically, at least in the ball striking category. Coming into last week, the 2016 Shriners was the only start since the 2016 PGA Championship where he was a positive player in Strokes Gained: Approach. Granted, we only have data for eleven starts in that time, as the Masters, some WGC events and anything overseas doesn’t calculate data like the PGA Tour does, but it hasn’t been the best run in that category. The good news is that it looks like he’s starting to turn it around, and I think he’s a perfect guy to look at for the Players Championship at Sawgrass in a few weeks.


4. The strokes gained leaderboard from Texas, where Chappell was just solid in every single aspect imaginable. As always, this is with all stats courtesy of Data Golf and only features players who made the cut.

  • Off the Tee
    • Best: Branden Grace (+1.15)
    • Kevin Chappell: (+1.10)
    • Worst: Brad Fritsch (-1.16)
  • Putting
    • Best: Brandon Hagy (+1.96)
    • Kevin Chappell: (+0.77)
    • Worst: Seamus Power (-1.78)
  • Tee to Green:
    • Best: Brooks Koepka (+3.37)
    • Kevin Chappell: (+3.32)
    • Worst: Steven Alker (-2.52)
  • Approach:
    • Best: Aaron Baddeley (+2.11)
    • Kevin Chappell: (+2.03)
    • Worst: Steven Alker (-2.30)
  • Around the Green:
    • Best: Cameron Smith (+2.64)
    • Kevin Chappell: (+0.19)
    • Worst: Blayne Barber (-0.92)

5. Ken Duke is a national treasure that needs to get more TV time.


6. Last week in this space, I said that if I was putting money on it, I would bet on Ian Poulter finishing well enough in Texas to retain his PGA Tour card. Poulter missed the cut, so that didn’t happen, but we absolutely haven’t seen the last of him. He’s playing in New Orleans this week with Geoff Ogilvy at the Zurich, and he’s a big enough name that he will get invites to play in PGA Tour events, plus with his hero status in Europe, there’s no way that he doesn’t get starts on the European Tour whenever he wants. Assuming that Poulter is healthy, and that seems to be the case right now, he’s going to have plenty of opportunities to play his way back into form and get into the biggest events again. Whether he’ll be able to do just that at 41 years old is anyone’s guess, but he’s not going to be lacking in the opportunity department.


7. One last note on the Valero: Patrick Reed had a good first round in Texas, firing a 69 to get into contention for the first time in what feels like forever, but as Kyle Porter at CBS noted, he started his week by blaming his struggles this season on his equipment. His lies and lofts weren’t correct, but now that he got that sorted, he figured that he was good to go.

He shot 77 on Friday and missed the cut.

We all know that Reed is a super talented player, and I don’t make too much of his struggles just because we should know by now that golf is really hard, and even the best players in the world struggle at it from time to time. Maybe the equipment was off a little bit, but I’m willing to bet that his play has more to do with the fact that sometimes, you just don’t play that well, even if you’re as good as Patrick Reed.


8. Didn’t get to watch much of the European Tour’s Shenzen International either last week, but from everything that I heard, it was a pretty solid event with a deserving winner in Bernd Wiesberger, who is now up to 30th in the OWGR. He beat Tommy Fleetwood in a playoff, who just seems to be near the top of the leaderboard pretty much whenever he tees it up. I’m happy that Fleetwood is finally starting to get some recognition from outside of European Golf Twitter, as for my money, he is legitimately one of the best ball strikers in the world and it won’t be long before you see him break through in a even larger way than he already has.


9. Two questions about this video:

  1. How is this possible?
  2. How do you figure out that this is something that you can actually do?


10. So, we have to talk about Tiger’s most recent back surgery. As I said months ago, and I was far from the first one to have this take, it seems super unlikely that what we saw in Dubai was the result of a spasm that cropped up over dinner after the opening round. Anyone who watched him struggle to a 77 in that first round could tell that something was wrong. He was moving so gingerly around the course, particularly whenever he had to enter or exit a bunker, that something was clearly bothering him and it had to be the back. On top of that, his swing looked strange (even in this latest incarnation) and he winced more than a few times while he was out there.

I don’t know if it was the result of a different workout routine, the long flight over, some combination of both or something else entirely, but it was clear that something happened from the time he left Torrey Pines to showing up on the first tee in Dubai.


11. In terms of what this means going forward, the quotes out of Camp Tiger are interesting because unlike the other times that he has had surgery on his back, the general message seems to be more about having a healthy life instead of competing professionally.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure that we’re going to see him again on the course, but I also don’t think it’s his main focus at this point like its been in the past, which is something his former coach, Hank Haney, talked about last week as well. I’ve always held the opinion, and still do to be honest, that if Tiger could ever get himself to the point of being healthy for an extended period of time, even if it was only for a year or two, that he would win tournaments again, but at this point, even the most ardent of Tiger supporters have to acknowledge that the chances of that are pretty much non-existent.

It sucks because even though professional golf is obviously in a great place right now, adding a healthy Tiger to the mix would be absolutely electric, but that doesn’t seem overly realistic at this point.


12. Having said all that, Brendan Porath wrote a great piece over at SB Nation on even though it seems like it’s all over, we should let Tiger tell us that as opposed to us telling him that he’s done. It’s well worth your time.


13. The last point I want to make on Tiger is about how quickly things can change. Last week, before the surgery was announced, Porath sent out this tweet:

We’re coming up on the fourth anniversary of this tournament, which featured Sergio accusing Tiger of intentionally throwing him off a shot in the third round, a penultimate group of Tiger and Casey Wittenberg and Sergio donating two balls to the water on the 17th on Sunday to take him out of the tournament. Tiger was pretty pumped about the whole thing after hitting his drive on 18, too.

Tiger would go on to win by two shots over David Lingmerth and pick up his fourth win of the season. He would grab one more at Firestone a few months later, and it was clear that he was far and away, the best player in the world. After that win at Firestone, Tiger had an average point total of 14.1864, with Phil Mickelson sitting in the number two spot at 8.5631. The gap between Tiger and Phil was essentially the same size of the gap between Phil and Rickie Fowler, who was ranked 36th at the time. For comparison sake, the gap right now between current number one Dustin Johnson and number two Rory McIlroy is roughly the same gap between Rory and Jon Rahm, who is 13th in the world. We were never going to see ‘2000 Tiger’ again, but the 2013 version was pretty damn good, too.

In some ways, it doesn’t seem like all of this happened that long ago; it hasn’t even been four years. With Tiger though, it feels so much longer.


14. Over the last few years, we’ve seen how some people like to critique Rory for seemingly any apparent struggles in his game, and to be honest, some of them are quite ridiculous. No one is above criticism of course, but if you’re going to take shots at one of the best players in the world for his performance, you should at least have something concrete to back it up. It appears now that some have moved on to critiquing not only Rory’s wedding, but his decision to get married in the first place. Just like anyone else, Rory can do whatever he wants with his personal life, and if that means getting married in a private ceremony, that’s a decision that he and his wife are allowed to make. It’s their day to do what they wish, and respecting that decision is what everyone else should do.

I don’t usually like to share bad #content because giving these pieces attention is far more than they actually deserve, but I’m doing it to serve as a reminder of what not to do. Don’t do this. Ever.


15. On the flip side, I want to share some quality stuff as well. The Fried Egg is my go to authority on anything these days relating to golf course architecture, and they had some good insight into Tiger’s new design at Big Cedar Lodge, as well as a roundtable discussion on architecture that are both worth your time.


16. Well, this doesn’t seem possible, but here we are:


17. I’m planning on posting a mailbag at some point later this week or early next week, so if you have any questions, get them in! Send me a tweet, leave a comment here or send me an email: adamrsarson@gmail.com


18. In honour of Ken Duke’s celebration above, here are some of his finest moments from the past few years in your random GIFs of the week.

Ken Duke was pretty happy with himself after his ace.

Ken Duke wins his first PGA Tour event at age 44.

Duke’s not worthy.

 

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