May 26th Mailbag: Phil, Romo’s broadcast career and defining slumps

Full mailbag this month with lots of interesting questions. As always, keep the questions coming on Twitter or send them to my e-mail:

The thing about Phil winning tournaments, majors or otherwise, is that it’s obvious that even as he’s about to turn 47, he still has a lot of talent. He was eighth on the PGA Tour last year in Strokes Gained, and sits 21st this year despite the fact that he still seems to have no idea what to do off the tee. He’s putting great, and he’s still really good with his irons, so the game is definitely still there. The problem, and it’s something that he’s addressed, is that he seems to have trouble finishing rounds and it’s logical to suggest that he’s getting tired. Go back and look at some of his scorecards from this year, and you’ll see a pattern of hot starts and cold finishes that’s pretty concerning. The second round of the PLAYERS was a great example, as he shot 33 on the front and then ballooned with a 39 on the back that featured two birdies, three bogeys and a double. The even par 72 doesn’t look so bad, but when you look at it in the context of him being three under after nine, it looks much worse. I still think he’s too good of a player to not win a few tournaments, but he needs to clean up these inconsistencies, which is only going to get harder the older he gets and it’s not like he was the most consistent player to begin with. Majors though? I’m not sure I see any more of them in his future.

Here’s the thing about Romo: he’s built for the booth. He’s well spoken and and has a natural charisma that really does pop on camera, and there’s no doubting that his knowledge of the game stacks up with just about anyone that you could put on a broadcast. Of course, the problem is that I’m talking about his ability to do football and not golf, which is what he’s supposed to be doing this weekend at Colonial.

I get why CBS would want to do this, as theoretically, it’s a soft landing spot for Romo to begin his broadcasting career. It’s not going to generate the buzz of a regular season NFL game, and it’s not a super high end PGA Tour event either, so it’s a good spot for Romo to get the feel of what his new career could look like, but from a viewer standpoint, it could be bad. Romo’s a good player, but it’s impossible to know how much knowledge he has of the game and how that’ll translate to TV. I like Romo, and I think he’ll be really good doing NFL games in the fall, but I’m not super optimistic about how this is going to work out this weekend.

I think Nintendo’s off to a great start, to be honest. Zelda and Mario Kart are terrific games, and they have some other under the radar titles available right now along with a pretty strong lineup of games on the way. The concept for the system is fantastic, and it’s basically with me 24/7 but this is only a start. E3 next month is big for them, and if they can bring some quality stuff to the table that takes advantage of both their hardware and their vast IP library, the Switch could be absolutely massive for them over the next few years. You really do have to temper your expectations with them because they have a tendency to needlessly shoot themselves in the foot, but their potential is always massive and they’ve gotten a bunch of things right with the Switch so far.

Question via email from Eric: Quick question for your mailbag. What is one piece of advice for someone wanting to become a writer at theScore, that does not have a journalism degree? Thanks!

You do know that you’re asking someone who doesn’t get paid to write for advice on how to get paid to write, right? My role at theScore is entirely in a Product and Operations capacity, and I occasionally jump in and help out our Editorial team when I have time. Here’s the thing: this is a really difficult time to try and break into sports media, and that’s true of living in both Canada or the United States, but I am a firm believer in the idea that if you’re good, people will find your work and as a result, you’ll get noticed. Twitter, and the internet as a whole, has a lot of negatives associated with it but the one thing that it has done is help people surface quality work that might not have been found otherwise.

For example, the people who were down in Jacksonville for the PLAYERS Blog Cabin were down there from all over the world, and the reason we connected was because of a mutual respect for the work that we all do. That never would have been possible, or at least made to be as easy as it was, without Twitter to share information. On top of that, a lot of the best stuff that I consume on a daily basis doesn’t come from traditional outlets with large journalism backgrounds. That background certainly helps, but if you can prove that you do good work, that’s honestly what matters most.

My two pieces of advice are probably going to sound like a tired cliche, but:

  1. Read everything you can, golf or otherwise.
  2. Always write.

There’s always something you can learn by reading what other people are doing, even if you disagree with what they think and ultimately, I really believe that it will make you a better writer. The second point seems obvious, but the only way to find your voice and improve your skills as a writer is to write and do it constantly. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for opinions on what you’ve done. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at how willing a lot of people are to take a look and provide constructive feedback on your work.

As far as I know, there isn’t really an official statistical measure of what you’re talking about, but if anyone does know about something like that, I’d love to see it. From a completely anecdotal standpoint, I think you have to kinda separate the truly elite players and the secondary tier because the expectations for the players are slightly different. Of the guys at the top of the game, my thoughts gravitated towards Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, and to a slightly lesser extent, Adam Scott. For the second tier guys, I thought about Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel and Russell Henley.

Ultimately, I don’t think this is really a knock on any of these guys. It’s just that it’s really difficult to be a super consistent tour pro, and it’s also why on some level, I feel that the careers of players like Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk are a little underrated, but that’s a topic for another day.

I’ve always been fascinated by players in any sport that essentially just vanish, especially ones that are so highly touted like Tryon. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue as to his whereabouts or what’s going on with him, but I’d love to know more about what he’s currently doing. From what I can tell, his last start came at the El Bosque Mexico Championship on the Tour in June of 2012.

Tryon’s one of those guys that I’d read anything on, and I’d love to talk with him and do a deep dive on his career and everything that happened. There’s no doubt in my mind that it would be tremendous.

I mean, I think everyone is gravitating towards Rory McIlroy at this point if he’s healthy. At least, that’s what I’ve seen people talk about on Twitter and a few other places because of his track record at Quail Hollow. In his seven starts at the Wells Fargo, he has six top-10 finishes, including two wins and a loss to Rickie Fowler in a playoff. Not to mention that in 2015, he ran away with the tournament, lapping the field by seven shots and setting the course record with an 11-under 61 on Saturday. So yeah, it’s safe to say that he likes the place and assuming he’s healthy, he should probably be the favourite unless DJ, Day or Spieth is on a ridiculous heater. If he’s not healthy, it’ll probably be DJ.

Of course he is, Andrew. Don’t waste my time with silly questions like this.

I said this on the Fried Egg podcast after the Masters, but generally, I’m not a subscriber to the “floodgates opening” theory. That’s especially true now because the competition is so deep that you could probably go down the top 50 in the OWGR right now and not be truly shocked if anyone won a major in the next two years. As I wrote after Sergio won at Augusta, I always thought he would win one, but I never thought it would be the Masters. To me, it was going to be one of the Opens that he would win because of his track record and the way his game matched up with the type of courses they play on.

Who knows? It seems like he’s in a good place mentally, and his game is still really solid. I think I’d be surprised if he ends his career with only one major win, and the Open Championship seems like the one that makes the most sense for him to grab next.

The smartest thing that the European Tour did when they announced the Rolex Series was that they placed the events with bigger purses to run against the lower end PGA Tour events, starting this week with the BMW PGA Championship against Colonial. Even with the amount of money in the professional game right now, the purse size is always going to be a big reason why you get players to come out, so that’s reason number one. Reason number two is going to be scheduling and the players not wanting to get burnt out for major championships, and the third reason (albeit not as important as the first two, in my opinion) is the course that they’re playing. If this was a mandate, my guess would be the following five events:

  • BMW PGA Championship
  • Open de France
  • Irish Open
  • Scottish Open
  • DP World Tour Championship

Granted, there are qualification requirements for some of these events, so it might not be entirely feasible, but in this fantasy scenario, I think these are the ones that the players would gravitate towards.

Three questions via email from Tim: TPC Sawgrass 12th hole – much was made of the renovations, and the results were relatively flat.  In your esteemed experience as a course designer, how would you advise the PGA to tweak the 12th for next year?

I’m in complete agreement with what Mackenzie Hughes said to me last week: they need to make the left side less severe toe encourage players to go after the green, but as a result, they also need to make the layup more difficult. Maybe move the big bunker further to the right hand side. I love that they tried to make the hole more exciting, but it just didn’t work out the way they intended.

What was your favourite part about the course attending/experience viewing in person? 

Favourite part was definitely just getting a better sense of the place in general. I felt like I knew the course well from watching it on TV all these years, but you really get a much better appreciation for the place once you’re on the grounds. Also, as it was suggested to me, if you really want to get a better feel for a course when you attend an event, follow a “lesser known” group around instead of the superstars and see how they play the course. I learned so much more about the course by following Hughes, and then the Noren/Donald/Hadwin group. Also, after that experience, I’m all in on Noren.

What have you heard so far about Erin Hills? All I’ve heard is how incredibly long the course is and vast the property is (walks from hole-to-hole, etc).  And given the kind of course it is, who do you think it sets up well for? (besides DJ).

I’ve heard all the same things that everyone else has, to be honest. It looks stunning and I can’t wait to see how it plays, but it’s hard to look at the course and not think that a bomber ends up winning it. It’s just feels like it’s too long for anyone not hitting it consistently down the middle at 300, 310+ on every tee ball, and that reduces the field to I’d say probably ten to fifteen guys at most. It really sounds like it was built with DJ in mind.

This is a fascinating question because it’s something that I always talk about from the other side. I’m always preaching patience, that golf is hard, that sometimes even the pros just don’t play all that well, and that just because someone misses three out of four cuts, it doesn’t mean that the world is crashing down all around them. Part of this, as always, is Tiger’s fault.

For a long stretch of time, he was so good and made everything look so easy that it feels like he’s moved the goalposts for everyone else that has come after him. Granted, part of that is that everyone (especially people who don’t cover golf all the time) needs to have a #take in 2017, and for those people, it’s so much easier to say that Rory or Jordan are in a slump than it is to suggest that there are peaks and valleys in this game that get to everyone. On top of that, it feels like we put a little too much emphasis on actually winning golf tournaments and especially on winning major championships. Obviously that’s super important, but the fact is that sometimes, you play really well and just get beaten by someone who was a little bit better than you that week.

Phil might be the best example of this. We’re quickly approaching the fourth anniversary of his last win at the 2013 Open Championship, and so technically, I suppose he’s in a slump because he hasn’t won anything since then, but in truth, he has actually played really well in those four years. By any statistical measure, Phil put on one of the greatest performances of all time at Troon last year and didn’t get rewarded because Stenson was just a little bit better than him.

Generally, I think you’re right about the timeline, unless you get into a Rick Ankiel situation where it’s obvious that for some reason, the guy just can’t do what he’s supposed to be doing. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that someone like Bubba, who is clearly struggling relative to his lofty past, is in a slump or has lost it. With that said, it’s probably best to look at it on a case by case basis instead of just lumping everyone into the same bucket of slumping or not slumping.

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