The 18: Duf Daddy wins the Memorial
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. I missed last week due to a combination of being on vacation/getting my wisdom teeth out, but I should be back on track now. You can catch up on previous versions of The 18 right here.
1. Just like Billy Horschel winning the Nelson a few weeks ago, Jason Dufner’s win at the Memorial on Sunday is just one of those things that feels good for the game. Also like Horschel, I don’t think we’re looking at this being some kind of massive springboard for Dufner to get into the mix with the absolute top players on a weekly basis, but this past week was a good reminder of just how talented of a ball striker he is when he has it all going. The thing that stood out the most about Dufner’s 2013 PGA Championship win at Oak Hill was how surgical he was with his irons, particularly his wedges, and how he essentially overcame a balky putter in order to win a major. That’s not the type of thing that we see all that often.
There were flashbacks to that all week at Memorial. You’re not supposed to fire 65’s around Jack’s place, and Dufner did it in back to back rounds on Thursday and Friday, but what was equally impressive to me was the way he rebounded on Sunday after an ugly Saturday 77. Dufner hasn’t been in the wilderness since that 2013 PGA; he won the CareerBuilder last year and he’s had a bunch of solid finishes since then, but he also hasn’t been super involved in the proceedings either, and after that 77, it felt like he could be in for another lost weekend. He put it together though and won a massive event by holding off some of the best players in the world. That’s impressive stuff, and it was great to see him close it out. The particulars:
- Earns $1,566,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points for the win.
- Jumps from 65th to 27th in the Official World Golf Rankings and from 56th to 13th in the FedEx Cup.
2. As great as it was to see Dufner striping the ball all over Muirfield Village, it wasn’t all positive as the putter did not live up to the ball striking. There were some touchy moments on Sunday with the flatstick, particularly on short putts, where it looked like it could cause Dufner to lose the tournament, but he was able to hang on. Dufner actually finished the week with a negative strokes gained putting mark, which makes him the first player to win a tournament while not being a positive on the greens since Rory won the Tour Championship back in September. When you strike it as well as Dufner did all week, you don’t have to be great on the greens but so far in 2017, he’s actually been putting quite well.
He currently ranks 48th on the PGA Tour with a positive .284 mark, and considering that he hasn’t finished as a positive for an entire season since 2012, these are great signs. In his twelve events played in 2017 that have been tracked by ShotLink data, Dufner has finished with a positive number on the greens in eight of them, so the idea that the putter has been holding him back actually isn’t true, at least over the last few months. This is something that bears watching because if Dufner can continue to putt even passably, he’s going to find himself in contention at an awful lot of tournaments.
3. The strokes gained leaderboard from the Memorial, where Dufner put on a ball striking display. As always, this is with all stats courtesy of Data Golf and only features players who made the cut.
- Off the Tee
- Best: Peter Uihlein (+1.373)
- Jason Dufner: (+0.713)
- Worst: Ricky Barnes (-1.109)
- Best: Anirban Lahiri (+2.261)
- Jason Dufner: (-0.095)
- Worst: Phil Mickelson (-1.392)
- Tee to Green:
- Best: Jason Dufner (+4.136)
- Worst: Matthew Griffin (-3.559)
- Best: Jason Dufner: (+2.671)
- Worst: K.J. Choi (-2.383)
- Around the Green:
- Best: Jason Day (+1.652)
- Jason Dufner: (+0.752)
- Worst: Sung Kang (-1.278)
4. One of the cool things about the Memorial this year was the number of big names that got involved down the stretch. Between Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner, there was a real “big event” feel to the tournament, but the most notable of that group to me was Bubba Watson. Say what you will about Bubba, and I definitely have, but much like Ian Poulter, golf is more interesting when Bubba is around and playing at a high level.
Nobody swings like he does, nobody slings it around the course like he does and very few have the ridiculous kind of firepower that allows him to be a successful player. It’s that mix, along with his volatility when he starts to go sideways that makes him one of the most compelling players to watch on the PGA Tour. He even bowed towards a fan on Saturday who heckled him!
He hasn’t been good since the switch to the Volvik ball, but who knows? Maybe this week is the start of something positive for him, and ultimately, that’s good for the game even if you don’t care for him personally.
5. I have no idea how it’s going to work, but there’s still part of me that thinks we see Phil Mickelson at Erin Hills despite him announcing his intentions to pull out of the U.S. Open so he can attend his daughter’s high school graduation. Once the news came out, everyone seemed shocked that Phil would go down this path, but to be honest, it doesn’t surprise me all that much. We know how much Phil values his family, and even though he desperately wants to add a U.S. Open title to his resume and complete the career grand slam, nothing is ever going to come before them.
I’m not doubting his sincerity in any way about wanting to be there for his daughter’s graduation (especially one where she is giving the address), but I also don’t think that it’s out of the realm of possibility that now that this has been made public, that the date gets changed to something else just to accommodate Phil. We’ll see what happens, but I’m not going to be shocked if he’s on the first tee in Wisconsin on Thursday morning. It definitely deflates the tournament a little bit if he’s not in the field.
6. The tough thing about Phil not playing Erin Hills is that he’s actually playing pretty well, and while I wouldn’t consider him one of the top favourites for the event, he absolutely has the game to win if he tees it up in a couple of weeks. If not, Shane Bacon pointed out that he has a pretty favourable schedule based on future U.S. Open venues.
For further context, here are his results in tournaments held at those venues:
- Shinnecock: (T4 – 1995, 2nd – 2004)
- Pebble: (CUT – 1992, T16 – 2000, T4 – 2010), plus four wins at the AT&T
- Winged Foot: (T2 – 2006)
- Torrey Pines: (T18 – 2008), plus three wins at the Farmers
I mean, you’d be hard pressed to find someone with a better record in big time events at four courses than Phil at what the USGA has scheduled. As much as I’m a skeptic about how much energy he has to finish off rounds and tournaments these days, it’s very easy to talk yourself into Phil Mickelson, even at 50+, winning a U.S. Open.
7. For the longest time, I’ve been a big advocate of watching as much European Tour coverage as possible just because of the exposure that you get to a really good group of young players. It was through watching the European Tour on weekend mornings that I became fans of players like Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and others, and I was pumped to see Renato Paratore break through this past weekend in Sweden at the Nordea Masters. You won’t find a faster player on the planet, he bombs the ball from the tee and unlike a lot of young players these days, he has a completely unique swing that is instantly recognizable when you see him on television.
At just 20 years old, he’s now ranked 131st in the world and it’s very, very easy to see big things for him in his future and that includes potential Ryder Cup selection. Holding off multiple time worldwide winners like Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood, George Coetzee and Thorbjorn Olesen at that age on a tough course in less than ideal conditions is very impressive. I’m all in and you should be, too.
8. We lost Roberto de Vicenzo on Thursday last week at the age of 94. I never got the chance to watch him play live, but obviously when you win over 230 tournaments worldwide in your career and get inducted in the Hall of Fame, it’s safe to say that you were pretty damn good at what you did. Winning the 1967 Open Championship, defeating Jack Nicklaus by two while in the final group with Gary Player, was the pinnacle of those triumphs.
Despite all of those wins, he’s always going to be remembered for the scorecard gaffe at the 1968 Masters, and to be honest, that really does seem unfair. You have to be really cold hearted to not feel bad for how all of that went down, and how he was really torn up about the whole thing. For some additional reading and viewing, I recommend the following:
- The New York Times: ‘Roberto de Vicenzo, a golf champion remembered more for a gaffe, dies at 94’
- Golf World: ‘The Choice I Made’ by Jaime Diaz in 2006
9. Very little in golf entertains me more than Gary Player, real or KVV version, and he’s really on a roll right now.
First, after realizing that Bernhard Langer was likely to become the all-time leader in senior major championship wins, Player took the PGA Tour to task for not counting the Senior Open Championship as a senior major until 2003. Player’s three senior Open wins were not counted, and if they were, he’d be tied with Langer at the top of the pile right now. I’m completely on his side about this one because it’s obvious that they should be counted, though Player’s motivation as someone other than Jack is set to become the new leader is interesting to say the least.
Then, two years after the fact, Robert Trent Jones Jr. called him a showboater for Player’s epic rant to Golf Channel’s Damon Hack about the quality of Chambers Bay, which Player responded to on Twitter:
He retweeted it! Strange coot!
Gary Player is a treasure.
10. Players deciding to rip into the USGA certainly isn’t new, but what is new is hearing Adam Scott lobbing takes at the organization like he did to Jeff Babineau on Sunday at Memorial. Scott is always looked at as a super thoughtful and insightful guy, so when he speaks, people tend to listen and to be honest, it’s hard to disagree with anything he said.
Despite what they say, it’s pretty clear based on the way that they set up their venues that the USGA does have an obsession with par and making the course difficult, despite the fact that the most exciting tournaments from a watchability standpoint come when players are allowed to make magic happen as opposed to hacking out of ridiculous rough. Also, their focus on things like the anchored putter and green maps while turning a blind eye to the distance issue has been frustrating for all involved and while I do enjoy watching players bomb the ball, it’s my view that it is detrimental to the game overall to see how far the ball flies.
I do agree with Scott that it doesn’t seem like the USGA has bad intentions, but it just doesn’t seem like they’re on the right side of these issues all that often. You don’t see this side of Scott come out very often, so I highly recommend that you read Jeff’s piece and listen to what Scott has to say.
11. Aside from Rory himself, is there anyone more excited (or relieved) that he confirmed himself fit for the U.S. Open than Fox? Who knows how he’s going to play and if he’s fully healthy, but without Tiger and maybe Phil, it was looking kinda bleak for anyone to tee it up that has that mainstream appeal, and by the sounds of it, Erin Hills should be the perfect playground for Rory. It’s great news that he’s declared himself ready to go, and I can’t wait to see how he tackles the course.
12. On Sunday, I tweeted my appreciation for Golf Channel/NBC broadcaster Terry Gannon, not expecting much in the way of a response.
Right after I sent it out though, it was obvious that pretty much everyone was in agreement with me, which was cool to see because you never get universal agreement on anything that you send out on Twitter. Everything that Gannon does is super smooth, and he has a fun, laid back approach that doesn’t seem forced to go along with a conversational tone that is unmatched in golf coverage right now. Also, as was pointed out to me by a few people, he does it with a wide range of colour commentators as well, which isn’t easy since everyone from Nick Faldo to Frank Nobilo have their own little quirks that you have to adjust for as a broadcaster.
Hopefully we get to see Gannon in a more prominent role in golf going forward, as I’d love to see what he could do outside of the early PGA Tour coverage window on Golf Channel.
13. My reaction to the Tiger DUI news from last week was mostly just one of sadness. I feel comfortable in saying that the majority of us would love to see him back on the course and playing high level golf again, but honestly, I just hope that he can get whatever help he needs to live a happy life going forward.
14. My reaction to the coverage of the DUI was quite a bit different. Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to unplug a little more often and stay off of Twitter and the internet in general. With my actual job, this is tough and because I love technology, it’s even tougher but part of the reason I wanted to do it was because I felt like I was in a position where I needed to have a take on everything that came across my timeline, and I didn’t want that to be the case anymore. On top of that, I would react to everything that was shot out of Twitter’s hot take cannon, and it felt like a giant, frustrating waste of my time.
I understand that the #content machine needs to keep churning, and nobody gets those wheels moving like Tiger, but the constant flood of mugshots, dashcam videos, memes and jokes is part of why Twitter can absolutely stink sometimes. I don’t necessarily blame anyone for the coverage because it’s kinda just the way things are these days, but it was just a good reminder for me personally that sometimes just knowing the news and not diving completely in on it is the best approach.
15. Congrats to everyone who qualified for the U.S. Open yesterday, including Steve Stricker, who continues to be someone that amazes me on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, he probably needs to win a PGA Tour event to get recognized for what he’s doing, but it’s honestly amazing to me that he continues to put up these kinds of results.
On a side note, it would be an absolute logistical nightmare to coordinate, but how awesome would it be to have some sort of live stream of a few sites every year for sectionals? I’d be glued to the TV for the entire day.
16. Your must reads of the week:
- Kyle Robbins wondered about bringing the NCAA Golf format to the professional game
- Speaking of the NCAA’s, Crooked Andy’s thoughts on the NCAA Championship from the grounds are a must read. Andy’s work on the NCAA scene in general has been fantastic and because of it, I’m making a pledge right now to pay more attention to it next year.
- John Huggan wrote a great piece for Golf World on how to identify young players with star potential on the European Tour.
- A part time contributor to NLU was on the grounds at the Memorial and wrote up some thoughts on the event. Really adds some great colour to a fantastic event at Muirfield Village.
17. Your must listens and watches for the week:
- Before winning the Memorial, Dufner joined Soly on the NLU podcast and it’s a great listen. If you haven’t listened yet, I guarantee that you’ll be a bigger fan of Dufner after listening to him for 50 minutes.
- We all miss you, AK.
- This might be the number one seed in the 2017 #Saucies.
18. For your random GIFs of the week, I give you a great 5-iron punch from Lee Trevino at the Old Course, and one of the smoothest looking swings you’ll ever see from Arnold Palmer.