April Mailbag: Sergio, Poulter and the best players without a major

Lots of questions this week on a variety of topics. As always, keep the questions coming on Twitter or send them to my e-mail: adamrsarson@gmail.com

Questions via email from Tim:

With Sergio winning the Masters, who is the best player without a major championship?

Tim mentioned in his email that in his opinion, it has to be someone with enough scar tissue, like Sergio had, to be considered for the title and I tend to agree. It’s easy to point at Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and even Rickie Fowler and say that they’re the best to not win a major, but that doesn’t feel overly fair because I don’t think we have a large enough sample size to label them in that way.

The easy answer to this question is Lee Westwood because he’s had so many chances, and unlike a lot of people, I still think he hits it well enough to win one of them before he retires, but obviously time is running out. Outside of Westwood, I think you’re looking at guys like Paul Casey, Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas and Matt Kuchar, all of whom are really solid players, but don’t carry the kind of appeal that Sergio or Westwood have in their pursuits.

As a die hard Sergio fan, all I can think now is when his next one will come (because realistically he’s winning 7 more).  But let’s say he goes on a bit of a later version of Phil’s post breakthrough run and gets two of his next twelve major starts…which two of the below do you think he’s taking?

Tim listed out the next twelve major starts, and suggested that the two he thinks fit best in the 2017 PGA at Quail Hollow and the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here’s the thing: I’m not a believer in the “floodgates opening” theory as it relates to any player, if only because the fields are so deep now that I don’t think it’s a given that anyone is guaranteed to win a major. I think all of us need to remember that there’s only four of these things every year.

However, if he does go on some kind of breakthrough run, look at the courses that typically play the most difficult and I think that’s your answer. That means the 2018 and 2019 U.S. Opens at Shinnecock and Winged Foot, the 2018 Open at Carnoustie and the 2019 PGA at Bethpage Black.

What should the Raptors do with Dwayne Casey? His offense is clearly not built for playoff success based on the last four years. Lost in the first round in 14, got embarrassed by Washington in ’15, then backed their way in to the conference finals last year beating a terrible Indiana team and a injured Miami team. They’re somewhat righting the ship against the Bucks but my point is Casey keeps getting wildly out coached. Is it too early to start chanting Stackhouse?

I’m of two minds on this because you’re right, it does feel like Casey gets frequently out coached, makes adjustments too late and tends to get too ISO heavy with DeRozan and Lowry. Having said that, the players love him and you do have to give him credit for making the Valanciunas-Powell switch a few games ago, as without that, this series would likely be in a much different spot right now. The ball moved much better in Game Five as well, and even though they nearly killed me last night after blowing a 25 point lead, they pulled it out and that felt like it was more on the players than the coaching staff.

One of the things that feels like has changed in recent years in all sports is that teams are so quick to pull the trigger on changes, be it with personnel or coaches, and often, the results just aren’t there. For every David Blatt to Tyronn Lue switch, there are about ten others that didn’t work out all because ownership or management just wanted to make a change. There are large parts of the internet that want to see the Packers fire Mike McCarthy, and yeah, he does things that infuriate me as a fan but I also find it hard to believe that you can find someone who is actually better than him on the open market. It’s the same thing with Casey. Sometimes it really is best to just stay the course.

I do agree though that someone will hire Jerry Stackhouse very soon.

Definitely not a favourite of mine because of how it ended up, but the one story that I remember most vividly is one of the most recent. Briny Baird was tied with Chris Kirk at the 2013 McGladrey as they got to the 18th tee, and Baird pulled his tee shot left into the bunker and had pretty much an impossible lie from over 200 yards into the green, which he then plunked in the water.

Baird sits 125th in career PGA Tour earnings at just over $13 million even without a win, so admittedly, it’s tough to feel too bad for him. Still though, it sucks to get that close to winning your first event and not do it.

I’m not as down on the actual on-air talent that CBS puts out there as some people seem to be. Yes, they could use some fresh faces and losing David Feherty to NBC is a blow that they’re still feeling, but that’s not the issue with their coverage. If they kept the exact same crew and just showed more golf shots, everyone would back off. I’d love to see it change, but I’m not sure that I see it right now.

Question from Alice via email:

When will someone from PGA Tour make comment on “dipping”? Do we have to wait until one of the players or caddies has oral cancer? It also is not attractive for the fans – watching in person or on TV.

Maybe I’m not watching close enough or I’m not connected in the way that you’d need to be to know that this was a major thing, but I didn’t really think this was a big deal on the PGA Tour. At this point, we should all be aware of the dangers of chewing tobacco, which has been a major issue in Major League Baseball for decades and was the main reason why San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn passed away in 2014 due to salivary gland cancer. The MLB has now instituted a rule prohibiting new players from chewing.

It’s probably a good idea to follow suit, but I can’t really see it happening.

Okay, so I told David that this was one of the best questions I’ve ever received, and I’m sure that many of you have no idea why that’s the case. First, you have the story of Tom Gillis calling out Ben Crane on Twitter for allegedly not paying up on a bet he made months ago with another tour pro (apparently Daniel Berger), which I assume most of you have already heard about. What you might not have heard about though is what happened in Toronto on Wednesday. A 23-year old woman scaled a crane at a construction site and had to be rescued by a firefighter, and has now been charged with six counts of mischief. The whole rescue took 2.5 hours, and the video is pretty incredible.

Also, I usually make a point of telling people that Canadian stereotypes aren’t overly accurate. Sure enough though, when the firefighter was asked if he now had the rest of the day off after the rescue, he responded that he did but that he had to leave because he had a hockey tournament to play in and already missed the first game. So, in this case, the stereotype couldn’t have been any more accurate.

So, this really depends on how you view Sergio and it can really be taken in so many different ways. For me, I’m going to look at it from the viewpoint that Kyle Porter took in May of last year, which is that his career has been pretty great and probably underrated, but people don’t tend to believe that because of a variety of reasons.

  • MLB: Joey Votto is unquestionably one of the best hitters in the world, and produces at a remarkable level of consistency, but the Reds haven’t been good in about four years, and even if they were, I’m not sure Votto would get a ton of attention anyway. If he played in a major market, we’d talk about him like we’ve talked about Miguel Cabrera for the last decade.
  • NFL: Frank Gore is eighth in all-time rushing yards, and he was able to jump into the top-10 last year because he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the ninth time in his career. Still doing it and not getting as much attention as he probably should feels like the perfect comp for Sergio.
  • NBA: Maybe it’s because of the run he’s on right now with the Jazz, but Joe Johnson was the first name I came up with. He’s always been an incredible scorer, but everyone always looked at that huge contract he signed with the Hawks that made him the highest paid player in the league, and used that to explain why he wasn’t any good. He is very good and always has been, plus he has kinda reinvented himself with the Jazz in this role, which also seems to fit with the Sergio narrative.
  • NHL: Patrick Marleau has over 500 career goals, and at 37, his career should be winding down but he’s still a super effective scorer and is probably going to end up in the Hall of Fame. When he retires, he’s going to be one of those guys that everyone looks back at and says “Wow, he scored that much?”

Even though the 2014 Ryder Cup was pretty much in the bag already for Europe, and he didn’t hole out with driver off the deck or beat the world number one, I’ll never forget Jamie Donaldson’s 9-iron on the 15th on Sunday at Gleneagles. It was an awesome moment, one that won the European Tour’s Shot of the Year award, and is always going to be the thing I think of when Donaldson comes up.

Granted, it would be miles better to do it with a driver off the deck to beat Dustin Johnson, but I’m still taking the green jacket. It’s one of the three most prestigious events in golf, and once you win it, you’re there for life. Not to mention all of the practical things like the money and that your tour card is safe and secure for some time afterwards. That might not mean so much to someone like Tiger or Phil, but if you’re not one of those guys, that means everything.

In my experience, the Shot Tracer apps are decent, but not great. It really depends on your setup, though. My guess is that part of the problem I’ve had while using them is that I’m doing it on the course, filming with someone holding my phone, which is going to lead to movement and throw off the tracking. If you have a more “professional” setup where you can place it on a tripod, they probably work a little better. The good thing is that the one I use (Shot Tracer) does have a manual editing option that works pretty well, and they have been improving it with lots of new updates over the last year or so.

It’s still very much a work in progress, but they’re coming along. I would say that it is worth the purchase, but just be prepared to deal with some frustration along the way.

At first blush, my gut answer would be that it doesn’t get him in the Hall of Fame just yet, but let’s take a look at some of the recent inductees and see how Sergio’s career stacks up:

  • Fred Couples: 15 PGA Tour wins, including one major and two Players, along with two European Tour wins.
  • Colin Montgomerie: 31 European Tour wins, but zero wins on the PGA Tour and no major championships. Sterling Ryder Cup record.
  • David Graham: 40 professional wins, with eight on the PGA Tour and two majors.
  • Mark O’Meara: 34 professional wins, 16 on the PGA Tour and two majors.
  • Davis Love III: 21 PGA Tour wins, with one major and two Players.
  • Ian Woosnam: 52 professional wins, one major and fifty weeks as the world number one.

By contrast, Sergio has thirty one wins as a professional, with thirteen on the European Tour and ten on the PGA Tour. Along with the Masters, he has a Players Championship win and much like Monty, he also has a tremendous reputation in the Ryder Cup. I don’t think he’s far off from the Hall of Fame as it sits right now, especially if you subscribe to the theory that his career has taken place in an era where it is more difficult than ever to win consistently. Sergio’s reputation as an underachiever probably doesn’t help his case,

The good thing for him is that he has plenty of time left to get it done, and if he can wrap up another major and a few more wins, he’ll be a virtual lock.


Question from Matthew via email:

Favorite budget courses to golf in GTA?

The first thing that I would recommend is that you sign up for two services. Golf Now gives some pretty solid prices for a set group of courses in both Canada and the United States, and the selection for stuff in and around the GTA is pretty good. The second site that I use a lot now is Under Par, which posts limited time deals for the entire province, and if you sign up, you can get emails whenever something new goes live. The deals posted here are usually significantly discounted with no catches, so they come highly recommended, especially if you’re looking to try something new.

In terms of budget courses in and around the GTA, there really isn’t a whole lot unless you’re willing to travel a little bit. Part of the problem is that because courses up here can only stay open for a maximum of, say, seven months, prices tend to be higher than they are in warmer climates. Still though, you can find some good value outside of using the two services above. These are my favourites:

  • Bunker Hill Golf Club: 12-hole, par 3 course that just opened in Pickering last year that is very well priced and quite a challenge for players of all skill levels. Just played it for the first time last week and I enjoyed it.
  • Black Diamond: Little further out from the GTA, but for $50 to walk on a weekend, i love the value. Good variety of holes, and it plays much better after they re-routed it last year. Doesn’t feel like two different golf courses anymore when you make the turn.
  • Kedron Dells: Always enjoy the difficulty of Kedron, even though I never seem to score overly well. Has been voted as the best value in the GTA in recent years.
  • Simoro: So happy that I found this underplayed course in the Barrie area a few years ago. Not the most challenging course out there, but the value is tremendous and the variety of holes is nice as well.

Believe me, I’d love to forget everything about my golf swing tomorrow. It’s not going to shock anyone to hear this, but Sergio’s swing and ball flight is part of what makes him so much fun to watch, but I also don’t think that’s something that would work for me, or many others. I can only imagine that having that much lag would be a nightmare for me to try and figure out.

The easy answer to this question is always going to be to model yourself after guys like Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Soomin Lee, who have the best looking swings on the planet. For me though, I’d love to have something that’s easy and repeatable and the first two guys that come to mind on that are Luke Donald…

…and Bud Cauley.

Right now, it’s tough. He has to essentially rely on sponsor invites and Monday qualifiers to get into events because he doesn’t have any status. If he plays well enough to earn a decent amount of money/FedEx Cup points, he can get his card back, but that’s obviously going to be really tough. According to this exemption list, he can still play on the European Tour out of the medical exemption category, and my guess is that it would be pretty easy for him to get additional starts over there based on his God-like status over there.

If he went down that path, he could play well on the European Tour, jump in the world rankings and get into events that way without playing much on the PGA Tour. I’m not counting him out because I think he’s talented and it’s clear that he’s pretty driven, but he’s going to have to play well to get it done.

I assume that everyone will be on their best behaviour this week, but…I mean, if there were odds on this, the runaway favourite at like -750 would have to be Bryson DeChambeau and Rory Sabbatini, right? You could charge me money to watch that, without hesitation. It’s either them or Cameron Percy going off on Grayson Murray for saying something inappropriate.

I’m not certain that he qualifies as a dark horse anymore given his recent play, but I love Tommy Fleetwood. He’s an incredible ball striker, and at least anecdotally, it seems like he has grown very comfortable with the stage. I know a lot of people would be surprised if he won a major, but if he does, you really shouldn’t be surprised at all.

Back in December, I told Ben Coley of Sporting Life that my thought has always been to retire the Sergio “roadside stare” GIF when he won his first major:

I haven’t tweeted it since he sunk the final putt on 18, and I’d like to think that I’m a man of my word. Does this mean its gone forever? Maybe. If it is, it had one hell of a run and I can’t think of a better way to go off into the sunset than with a win at Augusta.

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