June 30th Mailbag: Peak Tiger in 2017, Rory and Steph Curry

As always, keep the questions coming on Twitter or send them to my e-mail: adamrsarson@gmail.com

Westwood Island is looking mighty bare these days, but Andy’s holding out hope and to be honest, I’m right there with him even if it feels like everything has to break Westwood’s way. He’s still a good player, and even though I have zero proof of this being true, it feels like he’s not the type of player that is overly bothered by the fact that he hasn’t won one of these things yet. The way I envision it happening is at the Open Championship, with Westwood going out and surviving in high winds and posting a number that can’t be reached. It seems far fetched sometimes, but if the putter gets hot for a few days, there’s no tournament that Westwood can’t win.

I’m not saying that I’d be betting on that to happen, but if it does, I’m not going to be one of the people that’s shocked by it either.


This isn’t the area that I’m the most comfortable in, but I can give a you a few names:

  • Trey Mullinax
  • Aaron Wise
  • Cameron Champ
  • Braden Thornberry
  • Rico Hoey (h/t to The Fried Egg)
  • From the Euro Tour: Renato Paratore and Thomas Detry, two players that I wouldn’t be shocked to see on the Ryder Cup team next year in France.

To be honest, most of my family does watch golf, but someone once told me that Louis Oosthuizen didn’t have the best looking swing in golf history and it doesn’t get much hotter than that.


Question via email from Trevor: Big fan of your work and love the Canadian perspective you have in the golf media landscape among the big dogs. Ive just finished all my schooling and have a gig with the Canadian Junior Golf Association as their Communications and Media Assistant which requires me to conduct player interviews and write pre and post tournament articles. I was wondering if you have any golf writing tips for a young Canadian golf guy just starting out in the industry and looking to have a bright career within the industry.

It sounds so simple, but really, there are two tips that I can give you and the caveat is that you need to do a lot of both.

  1. Read
  2. Write

When it comes to reading, don’t just stick to golf. Branch out and read all kinds of stuff, from sports to politics to culture and everything in between. More information, regardless of where it comes from, will inform you and make you a better writer. When it comes to the actual writing, I can’t stress enough how important it is to write as much as humanly possible. Even if it’s away from your gig with the CJGA and on a blog, the only way that you’ll improve as a writer and keep your skills sharp is if you write. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to others in the industry and ask for feedback. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at how willing people are to give you help if you just ask.


I’m torn on this. In a perfect world, the only players that would ever get invited to play in an event on a sponsor’s exemption would be players who are truly deserving of being in the field, but that’s just never going to be the case. When you take money from a sponsor and give them the ability to invite anyone to play, you run the risk of having someone in the field who probably doesn’t belong amongst the pros. Now, it should be noted that I don’t think anyone is expecting Curry to play overly well and he’ll probably miss the cut by quite a bit, but he’s also good enough that he’s probably not going to embarrass himself, either. If he was a much worse player than he is, he wouldn’t have received the invite in the first place.

For the first time maybe ever, the Web.com Tour is getting legitimate mainstream attention and while it sucks that it took Curry playing in the event for that to happen, it feels like a good thing overall. If Curry playing in the tournament gets people out to watch, and encourages anyone at all to pick up the game, it’s a win. I do sympathize with the players who say that there are much more deserving people for a spot like that, but again, this is what happens when a sponsor gets to pick who they want to tee it up.

So, to answer the question: the best use would be for a sponsor’s invite is probably this one if you consider all of the factors. You have a player who will attract attention, has a reverence for the game and won’t embarrass himself while he’s out there. I’m fine with it.


This is a great question, and to be honest, I don’t really know the answer. My guess is that the tours/governing bodies simply don’t think about what the other ones are doing, and they’re content to do their own thing. I agree though that with fourteen majors across these tours (4 on the PGA/Euro Tour and 5 on the Senior and LPGA), that you should be able to figure out something where you can get as many eyeballs as possible on the biggest events of the year. The other problem here is that, unfortunately, the focus for the most part from the golf world is going to be on the four men’s majors, with less attention given to the LPGA and even less to the Champions Tour.

The best example of this is that if you include this week, the next three tournaments on the Champions Tour are majors. I didn’t know that was a thing until this week, and if it happened on the PGA or LPGA Tours, people would revolt. All of the tours deserve attention, but when you have scheduling like this, it really does make it difficult to keep focus on all of them at the same time.


So, the first thing to note here is that the Presidents Cup is ran by the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup is handled by the PGA of America. So, even though many of us think of the Presidents Cup as a tune up to the big event, the fact is that they are run by two separate organizations, each with their own set of goals in mind for an event. The last thing the PGA Tour wants to do is not have the best players show up for an event that they are specifically putting on because they want to give some lesser known players some experience.

The second thing is that, again, even though we view the Ryder Cup in greater reverence, the players do seem to care about the Presidents Cup. Phil talks about it all the time in conjunction with the Ryder Cup, as do other players and if the International team can continue to make this thing competitive, the Americans will care about it even more. All of these guys have a lot of pride, and none of them want to lose, even if it is in a tournament that we believe has a little less value than others.


Four questions via email from Tim: Whats your take on Luke Donald vs. The World?  Referring to his tweet pointing out that 6,800 TPC River Highlands (potentially) played tougher than 7,600 yard Erin Hills the week before.  With everyone consistently making a stink about the “distance issue” and how these guys are overpowering golf courses these days, I think the answer is probably somewhere in between a short tight course and an 8,000 yard marathon…but curious to hear your take on where course design and PGA tour venue layouts go from here.

Donald definitely has a point that length doesn’t have anything to do with the overall difficulty of the course, but if the wind blew at Erin Hills and it didn’t get soft from the rain earlier in the week, it would have been tough to see anyone get to double digits. I’d love to see more courses like TPC River Highlands or Harbour Town on the schedule, but that seems unlikely. Most of the tour stops tend to be bomb and gouge style, which is why the Travelers was so refreshing last week, but I don’t see them moving away from the vast majority of the layouts anytime soon, even if those courses tend to be boring and lack any sort of variety.

While we’re on the subject, what were your general impressions of Erin Hills and the US Open?  Are you in the success camp or the traditional masochists who want to see these guys suffer more?

I wrote about this after the tournament, but I loved watching Erin Hills and really hope it gets another chance to host. I don’t mind the idea of the guys struggling, but ultimately, I want to see them play well and hacking it 25 yards down the fairway out of knee high rough isn’t exactly what I would call entertaining.

Any insight on Royal Birkdale and who it favours?  I know the NLU guys went there a couple of months ago and said they couldn’t stop thinking it was very “spiethy”.  I know it’s also Fleetwood’s hometown and after the US Open everyone will be pulling for that story too.  I haven’t heard too much other chatter about the course layout yet though, what are your early thoughts?

I liked this piece from Dave Tindall on the ages of recent Open winners compared to the U.S. Open, and have to agree that for the most part, it always feels like the Open winner is usually someone who thinks their way around the golf course as opposed to bringing it to its knees with raw power. In that case, yes, I completely agree that the course should feel very “Spiethy” because few can navigate their way around any golf course like Jordan. Birkdale is also one of those courses that is notoriously difficult to play when the wind is up, so you should be looking for players who tend to do well in the heavy winds, like the aforementioned Westwood and Spieth, as well as Rickie Fowler and yes, Sergio Garcia.

For your Toronto readers…What’s your take on the Raptors off-season?  Thoughts on whether they should resign Lowry/Ibaka or what changes you think they need?

The last few years with Lowry and DeRozan in the backcourt have been amazing, and I shudder at the thought of not having Lowry back there. As much as I get the idea of a rebuild, partially because the team has obvious flaws but also because of the LeBron factor, I also really don’t want to go back to the days when the team was routinely fighting for a playoff spot at best. Those were some lean, lean years and nothing is worse for a sports fan than your team being mediocre. You can get behind a winner, or a rebuild but that middle ground is the worst and without Lowry, that’s exactly where they’d be.

I’d love to have Ibaka back, and in a perfect world, you’d move Valancuinas out and Ibaka would play the five. If they both leave (not to mention the Ujiri to New York talk) and DeRozan is left on his own, it’s going to be rough.


I’m not sure about the advanced stats part for the Ryder Cup, but I think we’re dealing with a few things when it comes to Reed. The first is that it’s very obvious that he relishes the opportunity to play against someone in a one on one setting, and if he can do that while representing the United States, it probably fuels him even more. I’ve said for the past couple of years that there are a lot of similarities with him and Ian Poulter, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment.

Now, a lot gets made about the fact that Reed hasn’t finished in the top-10 of a major championship yet, and for someone of his talent, it’s a fair criticism. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that he should probably have had some better finishes in the majors over the last few years, but to go along with that, we’re also selectively deciding what to look at when it comes to Reed. Keep in mind that this is a guy who has five PGA Tour wins, including a WGC and a FedEx Cup victory, at just 26 years old and it’s not like he’s missing cuts at every major either. He does have six finishes inside the top-25 in his fourteen starts, and I’m sure that he’s going to get that top-10 sooner rather than later.

As Andy Johnson has pointed out, I think there’s a fair critique about his ball flight and shot shape in certain conditions and how that doesn’t always play out well for him, but I think it goes without saying that there isn’t a ton wrong with his game. He’s just one of those guys that gets up more for the Ryder Cup than anything else.


So, you have a few questions here. First, I do think it’s unfair to consider that a worse round because ultimately, all of the strokes mean the exact same thing. Just because the 315 yard drive looks more impressive than the seven foot putt doesn’t make it more valuable, at least in terms of the final score.

I wrote about our expectations of Rory after his 64 on Sunday at the Travelers, and to me, that round is one of the ways that you can define “grinding”. One of the common criticisms of Rory is that he doesn’t grind out rounds, but to me, it would have been much easier for him to mentally pack it in on Sunday and fire an “easy” 72 before leaving the premises, but he didn’t do that. He worked and shot 64. I guess I’d look at Justin Rose as a guy who is great from tee to green, not so great on the greens and is seen as a “grinder” who hasn’t wasted their talent, even though I’d be lying to you if I said that I knew exactly what that meant.


Right now, exactly zero dollars, but you’d be crazy to think he wasn’t a perfect fit.


Question via email from Brian: With the success and positive reports stemming from the Travelers Championship this past week, does it have a shot at becoming one of the premier non-major stops on tour, despite being immediately after the US Open? With Spieth promising to return, do you think other big names (Rickie, DJ, Phil) will consider adding it back to their schedules? 

It absolutely does, and I really hope that ends up being the case because TPC River Highlands is probably the most underrated course on the regular PGA Tour schedule. For a good look at what Travelers is doing to make this a reality, I highly recommend Brendan Porath’s piece that he wrote on this topic before the tournament started last week.


To be honest, I have no idea. I’ve heard decent things about the Golf Channel Am Tour, but that doesn’t sound like it’s exactly what you’re looking for. If anyone reading this has any ideas, send it Nick’s way. If you find one, I hope you don’t end up punching Lee Trevino.


I would be absolutely floored if the PGA Tour ever decided to host an event on a Par 3 course, but I can definitely see the European Tour doing something like that and tricking it up even more with pyro and music and anything else that would offend the sensibilities of the most hardcore of golf fans. And I’d love it! There’s no harm in trying these things, and as long as the players and the fans are having fun, that’s ultimately what matters.


So, I told Tyler that I was going to use this for my mailbag, and I think the answer is this: if you take prime Tiger, and drop him down into the current climate, I feel very confident in saying that he’s the best player in the world and there really isn’t any argument to the contrary.

BUT

I don’t think he ends up with the same number of wins that he has right now if that was the case. On some level, I think the idea that he played against mediocre competition gets overblown because it’s clear that guys like Phil, Ernie, Vijay, Retief, etc were all very good, but it’s more about the sheer depth of competition now versus then. Instead of seven or eight top guys to fend off for tournament wins, Tiger would have to fight fifteen or twenty, and as a result, I don’t think he ends up with 79 wins but he still gets to over 60 and is looked at as the best player since Nicklaus, and maybe of all time.


Question via email from Robbie Vogel: From 2006-2016, so the past ten full seasons, which year has the best major champions? Take it however you like – best cumulative careers, who would win in a 4-player-per-team event, which year had players with the highest win margin… but yeah, that’s the thought i’ve been ruminating on. 

This might be my favourite mailbag question of all time because I love hypothetical exercises like this. As a reminder, here are the major winners since 2006 and I’ll tackle this from a few different angles as Robbie suggested.

Year Masters U.S. Open Open Championship PGA Championship
2006 Phil Mickelson Geoff Ogilvy Tiger Woods Tiger Woods
2007 Zach Johnson Angel Cabrera Padraig Harrington Tiger Woods
2008 Trevor Immelman Tiger Woods Padraig Harrington Padraig Harrington
2009 Angel Cabrera Lucas Glover Stewart Cink Y.E. Yang
2010 Phil Mickelson Graeme McDowell Louis Oosthuizen Martin Kaymer
2011 Charl Schwartzel Rory McIlroy Darren Clarke Keegan Bradley
2012 Bubba Watson Webb Simpson Ernie Els Rory McIlroy
2013 Adam Scott Justin Rose Phil Mickelson Jason Dufner
2014 Bubba Watson Martin Kaymer Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy
2015 Jordan Spieth Jordan Spieth Zach Johnson Jason Day
2016 Danny Willett Dustin Johnson Henrik Stenson Jimmy Walker
  • Best cumulative careers: Has to be 2006 because you have Tiger twice, Phil and one of the most underrated players of the last 25 years in Geoff Ogilvy
  • Best four player team: Really hard to go away from 2006, but I’ll take my chances with the 2015 team because you have three guys who are all good to great ball strikers, and can make putts.
  • Most explosive: Definitely 2014 because if you can get Rory, Bubba and Martin Kaymer firing on all cylinders, you might have the three best players in the world.
  • Best year to watch: I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a better major year than 2013. Great combination of courses and champions.
  • Group I want to go to a bar with: Has to be 2006, though if I could pick my ultimate four from the group above it’d be Ogilvy, Harrington, Rory and Phil.
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