October Mailbag

The mailbag took a one month hiatus, but it’s back! As always, continue sending your questions to me on Twitter or to my email: adamrsarson@gmail.com

For matters of such international importance, I must redirect you to someone who is far more worldly than I am: Tron Carter.

Question via email from Dave: Who are you and how do you have 11k followers?

Even though I’m not 100% certain if Dave is being serious or not, this is absolutely one of the best questions I’ve ever received for a mailbag and actually completely understandable given that I’m an “indie blogger” with no real golf affiliation to a larger company. I work in Toronto as a product manager at theScore, where I basically help guide our sports decisions for what I believe is the best sports app on the market. You should download it! Aside from that, I’ve always thought of myself as a writer in some capacity and my love for golf has ballooned over the last 10-15 years, so I decided to start writing about it a few years ago.

In terms of the following, I started making GIFs of live action years ago before the larger #brand accounts had really figured out how to do that or live video properly. The following slowly grew, and thanks to people like Shane Bacon, Kyle Porter, Chris Solomon and others for sharing not only GIFs but written pieces as well, my follower count jumped. Do I deserve that following? Maybe, maybe not. I like to think that the #content I’m creating, as infrequent as it may be these days largely due to increased responsibilities at my actual job, is good enough to merit some level of attention, but part of me also thinks that it’s weird that this many people actually value my opinion on these matters.

That, or people just really want me to tweet out Sergio GIFs.

Well, Buttplug, I’ve actually never been to Pinehurst, and can’t recommend anything specific outside of the knowledge that No. 2 is obviously stunning. The good news is that the No Laying Up podcast tackled this very topic back in August, and you should absolutely give it a listen.

To me, there are two events that immediately spring to mind: the Wyndham and the Canadian Open.

For the Wyndham, everyone raves about the course when they get there for the first time and how well the tournament is run, but it never seems to attract a great field. Part of that is because it’s usually the last event on the schedule before the playoffs, but the larger point is that at least last year and this year, it follows the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship, where players are always going to prioritize ahead of Greensboro, even if they like the tournament and course.

Now, I know what you’re thinking for the Canadian Open: of course, the Canadian is going to cape for the Canadian Open and say that it deserves a better turnout, but my nationality has nothing to do with it. One of the side effects of the “modern” golf schedule with not only the FedEx Cup playoffs, but the WGCs as well, is that national opens on both the PGA and European Tours have lost a lot of prestige. There was a time when going to places like Argentina, Italy, Australia, Spain and Canada was a bigger deal for the top players and for a lot of people, this was their only chance to see some of the best players in the world in person. As it relates to the Canadian Open specifically, Jack Nicklaus always looked at this tournament as the one thing that he didn’t win that really bothered him and now, the tournament has such a bad spot on the schedule in July sandwiched between WGCs and majors, that it just isn’t a priority these days for the top players. Long before the Players was given the “unofficial fifth major” distinction, it was the Canadian Open that held that spot, which makes sense given that the only two events on the PGA Tour schedule each year that are older than Canada’s national open are the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.

The schedule isn’t bad, and the European Tour has definitely done a better job of raising the profile of national opens in places like Scotland and Ireland, but there’s part of me that wishes that there was something that could be done to give importance back to national opens worldwide and the Canadian Open is near the top of that list.

The one thing you have to remember when it comes to any player making an equipment change is that much like player and caddie splits, these things happen pretty frequently. Relationships like the one Sergio had with TaylorMade of 15+ years and the one that Phil Mickelson continues to have with Callaway are the exceptions to the rule. Pretty much every player, even the best ones, go through multiple equipment contracts before their careers are over.

I find it hard to believe that it was a situation where the equipment let him down. As of this writing, Sergio has won three times in 2017 and has several other good finishes under his belt as well. Anecdotally, when you watch him play, nothing has really changed in that he’s still traj-ing his ball all over the place, hitting tons of fairways and looking a little weak on the greens.

To me, it feels like if anything caused him to switch, it was more that he simply found something that he liked more than what TaylorMade was offering. It also doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be interested in dropping him after the kind of year he had, so if I had to guess, it feels like this decision was likely more his than their’s. Not to mention that it’s not like TM doesn’t throw money around to keep and lure talent.

He certainly has plenty of options, with the likes of PXG, Titleist, Callaway being the most likely options, along with other companies like Mizuno and Ping feeling less likely. For some reason, I just can’t see him making the jump to PXG, so if I had to guess, it’s either Titleist or Callaway.

Given his success this past year and the history of his relationship with TaylorMade, the timing is definitely curious, so it’s something to keep an eye on in 2018.

First off, it’s WAY more likely that Tiger wins the grand slam next year than me being able to provide you or anyone else with an authentic, Canadian walrus recipe.

Secondly, I have always made the argument that the one thing both Tiger and his fans can hold onto is that the last time we actually saw him healthy on the golf course for a sustained period of time, he won five tournaments. I have made that argument various times over the last few years with each one of his comeback attempts, and it’s still true, but at this point, we’re talking about that being essentially five years ago. That’s an absolute eternity when we’re talking about the last time someone played a meaningful stretch of quality golf. I highly recommend listening to Shane Bacon and Kevin Van Valkenburg talk about Tiger on Shane’s podcast, as I thought it was a well-reasoned conversation about everything surrounding him right now in this latest comeback.

For me, if we’re living in the fantasy world where he’s actually healthy for an entire season and he’s able to play something like fifteen events, I think it’s reasonable to expect half of those events to be missed cuts. From there, he could probably make some noise in a few events if he was smart about where he teed it up. Him playing at a place like Torrey Pines, despite all of his prior success there, feels stupid given the narrow fairways and thick rough that are sure to lead to a 77-76 and an early weekend. It’d be like expecting Paul Pierce to drop 40 on the Celtics last year with the Clippers just because of all the good memories he has of playing in Boston.

I’m never going to fully count him out just because sports are weird, and there are far too many examples of players seemingly coming out of nowhere for end of career runs, but the health is by far the most important thing. If he doesn’t have that, he has nothing.

It’s been a super eventful 2017, as I’ve really noticed in the last few weeks when I’ve been trying to narrow down my top 100 stories of the year. To be honest, it’s impossible to pick just one, so I’ll give you a few in no particular order.

  1. Phil’s third round in Mexico, where anyone else likely would have shot no better than 73, but he managed a 68.
  2. The approach shots by Jon Rahm at Torrey and Alex Noren at Wentworth for huge wins.
  3. Everything that happened to Jordan Spieth at the Open on Sunday.
  4. Justin Thomas joining golf’s elite.
  5. The look of relief on Sergio’s face when the putt dropped in the playoff at Augusta.

As it stands right now, I don’t have anything planned for off-season rounds, unfortunately. Always up for suggestions though, even if they are last minute, so hit me up!

If you spent any time in Canada in the late 90’s/2000’s, you would have seen these Canadian Heritage Moment commercials on TV in basically every other break. They celebrated the most significant moments in Canadian history, and if Tiger was Canadian, this would have happened:

tiger heritage

Question via email from Bryan: Which European Ryder Cup guy (Poulter, Donald, Westwood, Kaymer, etc) is most poised to bounce back next year?

The easy answer is definitely Poulter based on the way he played last season once he got his card back. Throw in the fact that it’s a Ryder Cup year, and I’m sure Poulter is sufficiently motivated to make it back and attempt to be a thorn in the sides of the Americans once again. Donald is interesting to me because even with his struggles over the last few years, he is still an elite wedge player and putter, but he can’t seem to get anything else going. If he could figure out some way to improve his driving and approach play, he could be a pretty big factor again but that is a lot to ask.

The problem that all of these guys have, and that extends to guys like Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington, is that they are pretty short in comparison to the distances everyone else is playing at these days. The margin for error is so much smaller for them everywhere else because of it.

I’m really the worst person to ask this to because the only media members I’ve played with are the ones who joined me at #BlogCabin, and of those, I was definitely the worst. I expected that to be the case going in, but having said that, I know I’m also a much better player than the way I played that week. Eagerly awaiting my next opportunity.

I mean, if Tiger plays in any event, let alone wins it, he’s going to be the talk of the game. At this point though, the only way that he makes people forget about the “current golden generation” is if he goes on a run like JT did this year and wins six times, and, well, that’s not going to happen. The players at the top right now have been there for long enough, and are so good that it’s pretty much impossible to see how anything could happen to make people forget about them. It’s too deep.

This may come as a shock to you guys, but I’m not one of the lucky people who has had the chance to play Pine Valley. Even with that said, I feel that there are two reasons why this could unfortunately never work.

  • Modern major setups

These days, major championships need to accommodate so many things that just didn’t exist in the way that they do in 2017. Think about the modern tournaments you’ve been to and how you see things like grandstands, TV towers, room for spectators and hospitality. This was the thing that struck me most about when I went over to Scotland in 2014 ahead of the Ryder Cup and got the chance to play Gleneagles, and then saw it on TV months later. The course looked so different from the day that I played it, and as I was walking the fairways that day, I told our guide that I didn’t understand how they could jam so many “TV ready” items onto the course. It just didn’t seem possible, but they got it done and Gleneagles looked tremendous from a TV standpoint, even if you won’t find a single person who will tell you that it’s a great course.

They’d probably have to change the layout to get it to work, and that is simply not happening.

  • Desire

Does Pine Valley want to host a tournament? If they do, they’ve certainly never shown it publicly as no professional event has ever been held at what is widely thought of as the best course on the planet. They’ve hosted the Walker Cup twice, and that’s about it, aside from a fantastic episode of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf where Byron Nelson took on Gene Littler.

In short, it’s not happening.

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