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January 2017 Mailbag

I try to do a mailbag each of the “offseason” months, but I missed December due to an extended trip to the motherland. But let’s roll…

Phenomenal! (Some pictures here if interested).  Great sightseeing, animal spotting, partying, and vibes. Incredible life experience, and highly recommended to anyone that has the chance to go. It was a rejuvenation for my soul, and a much needed break from dreary European winter.

To tie it back to golf, I met a recently retired 20-something South African pro at a bar in Cape Town. We had a fascinating conversation about the ups and downs of trying to make it as a professional golfer, and I’m trying to get him on the podcast to tell his story. I think it will be a refreshing change to go from some of the top players of the game, to the perspective of a guy who tried his hardest, but just ultimately failed. Hoping to get this arranged this month.

Most importantly, stepping away from golf for a few weeks has really gotten me amped for this season. Let’s get hyped for this next question!

Alright Jason not the enthusiasm I was looking for to start the year but we’re just gonna shake that off and roll with it. For God’s sake, it’s a Presidents Cup year!!!

2016 was phenomenal in a lot of ways, in particular the two middle majors and the Ryder Cup. But, perhaps this is just me, the “regular season” events caught my eye less and less as the year went on. The Olympics were boring (sorry, but that’s just a fact). And were there really that many memorable moments from regular events in 2016? Sure, it finished with a bang with Rory, DJ, and Reed sweeping the playoff events, but just look at the names at this week’s Tournament of Champions and ask yourself if 2016 was really that epic. I’m not saying this to dump on what was a really, really fun year, but I think the 2017 season is going to do a much better job of keeping our attention throughout the calendar, rather than just the big events. It also helps that we don’t have an insane 100-ish day stretch where we have three majors, the Olympics, and the FedExCup. For as much as people around the world complained about how terrible 2016 was, let’s give 2017 a chance to breathe before we bury it!

A few things I’m pumped about:

  • A Rory that looks poised to return to number one.
  • A healthy(?) Tiger playing a somewhat regular slate of events.
  • A Jordan Spieth that isn’t dealing with the pressure and unrealistic expectations of a record setting season.
  • A reinvented DJ that finally seems ready to start fracking into that bottomless well of potential.
  • Brooks Koepka making the leap to a major champion.
  • Justin Thomas becoming a top-10 player in the world.
  • Patrick Reed just continuing to be Patrick Reed.
  • A slew of young, exciting players like Brandon Hagy, Trey Mullinax, Ollie Schneiderjans, etc.

And that’s really just scratching the surface on what gets me jacked for this year. I’m as excited for a non-Ryder Cup year as I can be.

I think we’re going on year three of me writing this exact thing, but I really do think we’re going to see The Leap from Koepka this year. The guy I saw at the Ryder Cup (wrote about it for SB Nation here) and at Vegas a few months has zero flaws in his game, zero fear, and flat out does not lay up. For as far and as pure as he strikes it, he rolls it even better. 2016 was a transition year with equipment, and although he didn’t win, it’s hard to not call it the best year of his young career. I know I’ve hyped him relentlessly, and I know it’s hard to admit, but you can’t argue with what he’s given us so far. I’m taking him to win the Open this year.

I was a few cocktails deep, still on a huge high coming off the huge U.S. Ryder Cup win, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean en route to Amsterdam from Minnesota when I tweeted this (and subsequently, this). I had a really good source on it, and hadn’t seen it reported anywhere else, and thought our followers would like to hear that information. What I did not expect to happen was a 20+ page thread on Golf WRX, twitter scorn, and people to run with it saying that I was “reporting” this. I worded it as carefully as I could while throwing back Jack Daniels trying to knock myself out on this red eye. As someone who has never really had a foot in the equipment game, I didn’t realize how seriously people took this stuff, and didn’t realize how big this Tiger news was.

“He’ll never use an adjustable driver!”

“Pigs will fly before he uses a TaylorMade driver!”

“Your family hates you Soly!”

Ok that last one may have been made up. Tiger of course ended up withdrawing from the Safeway, and showed up a charity event with all Nike clubs still in the bag. The scorn increased ten-fold for me, and I swore off the equipment game forever. If you looked at the below chart, I was definitely on top of Mount Stupid, and I wanted to come down from that mountain.

Then he turns up at the Hero World Challenge with a TaylorMade driver, a Bridgestone ball, and a Scotty putter. No Mizuno irons, but it turns out I was onto something, eh? The fact that the Tiger news ended up being almost entirely true gave me the confidence to come out of witness protection. But it also taught me to be especially careful what I say, as I was the least confident in the Mizuno irons part of it, and I should have made that more clear.

The subsequent reports have been easy, as it helps a ton when I’m able to get information directly from the source, which alleviates any anxiety about a minute detail changing, or getting any part of a report wrong.

The hard part is, most of the stuff that’s out there really is just rumors. And when there is some real, legitimate news, the equipment companies themselves want to be the ones announcing it. That’s what made the Rory story so unique, in that there was no endorsement deal, so there’s no announcement from Callaway or Titleist. Why Rory gave that news to me is still a bit of mystery, but it was awesome that he did.

So don’t expect a ton of breaking news from us in this arena, but we’ll continue to share what we hear through the grapevine, as long as it’s credible.

I’m not sure if it makes him “golf’s villain,” but it sure felt like the tide turned on Day in 2016. This is typically something I’m pretty strongly against, as I feel like in the golf world (and the sports world in general), we love a guy on his way up to the top, and once he’s there, we start to pick him apart until the narrative completely changes. It happened some with Spieth in 2016 as well. We get overexposed to them, and what might have seemed like a minor idiosyncrasy a few years ago flat out annoys us when we see it every week.

I want to like Day. Part of me still does. Everything I’ve heard about him is that he’s a great guy. I met his wife at the Memorial last year, and she could not have been nicer. I respect his grind, and from the stories I’ve heard, really is one of the hardest working guys on tour. I forget where I heard this story, so apologies that I can’t give the proper attribution. But I’ve heard he has 3-4 hour sessions on the range at Muirfield Village on the reg, at a part of the range completely isolated from everyone else. He goes through his full pre-shot routine, and takes the same amount of time before every single shot he hits on the range. I’ve talked to some players who have referred to the fact that their practice needs to as closely mimic their routine during a round, but I’ve never heard of someone putting this level of commitment into it. He’s worked incredibly hard to get to this level, and I have great respect for that.

But when you spend every press conference making it harder and harder to like you, it starts to wear on the fans. He can’t stay healthy, he overreacts to every runny nose, and flat out announced that he’s planning to play even slower in 2017. When he made that eagle on the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship, I should have felt more than I did. I hope he reigns in the antics this year and gets back to being a likable guy, but I think he’s due for some rough social media treatment this year (the new Nike wardrobe did not help his case). The players out there most definitely talk about his dramatics, and I’ve talked to several pros that are really annoyed by it. Said one: “We’ve all got shit going on!”

Great question. What I love about when Golf Channel has the highlights from a major are the reminders that, for most of them, the result is very much in doubt with an hour or so to go. It’s easy to look back at the winner of an event and forget about the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s. Len Mattiace has to think about the fact that Mike Weir gets to go to the Champions Dinner every year. One shot can change a person’s life forever. Once a player has his name on a trophy, that’s the lasting memory we have from that week (the 2016 Masters not withstanding).

I don’t have the energy to go back and look these up, but here’s a few shots that were a bit risky in some way or another, and if they didn’t work out, could have really changed the outcome:

  • Rory’s tee shot at the 72nd at Valhalla at the 2014 PGA that almost went in the water.
  • Rory’s bunker shot in the dark on that same hole (how easy would it be to blade a bunker shot in the dark?).
  • Phil’s shot through the trees at Augusta in 2010.
  • Spieth going for the 13th in two on Sunday at the 2015 Masters with a four shot lead (No Laying Up).
  • Bubba’s hook wedge at the 2012 Masters.
  • Tiger’s 6 iron from the bunker on the 72nd hole at the 2000 Canadian Open.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I would love to hear some others in the comments below.

I’m totally in the bag for Rory, and will immediately start mobilizing troops anytime anyone even hints at criticizing him. So to answer your question, I doubt he struggles, but if you’re looking for objective Rory takes, please know:

Of course it’s going to take some time to get used to the new equipment, with the biggest emphasis being on the ball. It’s kind of one of those things I have a hard time relating to when it comes to tour pros though, because we obviously have no idea where they’re at with their “feels” with their game and equipment. What I do know is that the difference in the Nike ball vs. a ProV1x is significant throughout the bag, all the way down to how they come off a putter face. I won’t be concerned if Rory starts slow-ish in this early European Tour stretch. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t have everything sorted by the time he heads to Riviera.

What makes his situation so unique is that he’s got such incredible freedom to literally put anything in his bag that he wants. It’s not like switching from one company to another, where you’re typically doing that for financial reasons, and you get kind of pigeon-holed into finding the right combination within that company that works for you. He can go with whatever feels best for him, and if he doesn’t like it, he can put something else in the bag. It’s going to kind of be fascinating to watch.

What’s happening the current post mortem Nike world is pretty fascinating. These former swoosh guys trying to balance what works best for their game, while trying to calculate exactly how much money you’re passing up on my not signing a deal has gotta mess with you a little bit.

From what I’ve gathered, and perhaps this is specific to Rory, there’s not $$$ for “putting a club in play.” A signed endorsement contract is very different from simply using a manufacturer’s clubs. With it comes hours and hours of sponsorship obligations, along with many other considerations. A company doesn’t pay you just to use their clubs. They pay you so they can plaster you all over their website, flood social media when you play well, and to have you be a spokesman for the company.

If I’m a golf fan looking at buying equipment, I can’t think of a better endorsement than what Rory just gave to Callaway. He can put whatever he wants in his bag, and they don’t even have to pay him to choose their equipment. That being said, his bag may look entirely different next month.

His explanation for it was honestly childish.

“I took five balls out and hit all kinds of shots,” Watson said. “Teddy [caddie Ted Scott] bought some and tested them as well. And we couldn’t come up with anything wrong with them. Then it comes down to the fun factor—how could you not want a colored ball when you have a colored driver.”

Needless to say I hope this backfires on him. He’s free to do whatever he wants, but I’m free to make fun of him for it. If you want to be different, that’s cool! I’m not gonna hate on that. If you want to be different for the sake of being different, it just comes off as forced rather than a “Bubba being Bubba” kind of thing. At this point in your career, to give up on an amazing golf ball just because it would be fun to play a colored one legitimately sounds like an explanation my 7 year old cousin would give at a putt putt course.

A lot of people are really excited about the format change, but I’ll ask you the same question that Charles Howell III asked me. Do you watch the Shark Shootout? Sure, it’s during silly season when everyone is trying to tune out golf, but there already is a team PGA Tour event on the schedule. And no one watches it or cares about it. I tuned in this year only to watch Shane Bacon kill it in the booth, and to see Greg Norman’s veins popping out of his biceps.

The energy at the Zurich will be totally different, and I love how the players have seemingly embraced it. I love that they can pick their own partners, and I hope this year is a great success and encourages more players to join in the future.

But what I’m most excited about isn’t the actual tournament itself, it’s the fact that the Tour is willing to think outside the box and try something different. I have not heard one person say one single bad think about new PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, and while I’m not sure how much credit he’s owed for this particular move, I take this as a good sign. As long as they hire me as the official half-baked ideas consultant.

Oh how quickly JT’s NLU podcast visits have been forgotten!

In all seriousness, we do owe a lot to JT for being the first pro to ever come on the podcast back in 2015, and for being a great guest again in May of 2016. Being able to point tell agents and players that we had a top young pro on the podcast, he didn’t die, and the feedback for that style was great helped us open the door with a lot of other future pros, including Billy Horschel, Max Homa, Ollie Schneiderjans, Charles Howell III (first and second time), and of course Rory, Jordan, and Bones. It’s been a dream come true run, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.

With regards to Rickie, I have no relationship with him at all. He doesn’t follow us, so I may have a tough time getting in that door.

Beef – Same. I’ve been a bit put off with Beef just because of how much the mainstream media freaked out over his arrival this year. I’m sure he’s as awesome as he seems, but what is there left to uncover with him? His agent can’t spell the word no, and he went from cult hero to overplayed in like three days. This is why we can’t have nice things.

I don’t want to give anything away, but early to mid-next week we might be recording with one of our dream guests. And I’m kicking the tires on another legend, but that one might be a long shot.

To close this question, I wanted to quickly mention our appreciation for everything you guys have given to the podcast. From the downloads, ratings, reviews, feedback, questions, linking, retweeting, and inspiration, you really are the entire reason for the success of it. It’s what keeps us going, and with your continued support and your eagerness to spread the word about the podcast, we’ll continue to pound out the content. Just don’t get mad if we add a sponsor or two this year (*ducks*).

The countdown is on! Now that the calendar has turned to 2017, I’m half dreading and half excited about the move back across the pond. Most of the dread comes from the fact that I have to return to see Cubs 2016 World Series Championship banners strewn across the city. As a lifelong Reds fan who lived six years in Chicago, I’ve never had a stronger hate for a professional sports franchise than I do the Cubs. I’ll never forgive the Indians for what they did.

So you’re asking which course would I compare to that shit hole they call Wrigley? (I begrudgingly have to admit that the stadium has improved remarkably in the last eight years). Let’s go with Pebble. Although Pebble is most certainly not a shit hole, it’s similar to Wrigley in that they are both bucket list type experiences, date back to to the early 20th century, a bit smaller than their peers, incredibly crowded every (game) day of the year, and have both swallowed up hundreds of my dollars. They’re both classics, and while both a bit flawed, represent so much about about both golf and baseball that we love, and are terrific blends of modern and old school. I could hit a 5-iron from my porch and hit Wrigley from my first Chicago apartment, and can definitely say that aesthetically, they do not belong in the same category. However, both places also have great 19th holes, and are as much about the atmosphere and experience as they are the substance.

Do we have to have a poll to know the answer is CBS? I caught like two seconds of PGA Championship highlights the other day, and just hearing Nantz trying to shove stories down our throats made me cringe. We were incredibly tough on CBS in 2016, and there have been no hints as to any changes in their approach. I strongly believe that their broadcasts contribute towards pushing people away from watching golf on tv, and have that much more respect for how the Golf Channel, NBC, and even Fox cover the game. They are on notice for 2017, and it might get ugly if they don’t start listening.

TV networks are our window into a golf tournament. We can’t see what they don’t present, so what they present is inherently essential to our experience. This is why CBS needs to be held to a higher standard, and needs to get with the times.

Ideally, we’d love to get to the point where this becomes our full time job. And I’d like to think that we’re on our way towards that.

We’ve got a lot of stuff in the hopper. I’d love to attend more tournaments once I’m stateside, and planning to be at the Memorial and the BMW, along with the Irish Open and the Open Championship back on this side of the pond. We’re also working towards planning a big outing in late 2017. Would love to do more video work. Actually setup a podcast studio, and not have to sketchily record podcasts in the middle of the night to accommodate US time zones. The possibilities are limitless, but the key will be time.

Fun fact – the four co-founders have only ever been together in person one time in our entire lives, and that was at the 2014 RBC Heritage for what we coined our “Board of Directors Meeting” at a Japanese restaurant that I’ve since forgotten the name of. I think we’ll change that in 2017, and with that, a slew of new content and changes will hopefully emerge.

Thanks all for the questions! Here’s to a saucy 2017….

About the Author

Inventor of #TourSauce, always waits for the green to clear, and club twirl savant.

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  • Harry Bosch

    Re: The Shark Shootout. I live about a half hour from the course and decided I would go to this year on Sunday to follow JT around in my No Laying Up t-shirt. Started asking clients, etc. if they had tickets for Sunday they were trying to give away. About the 7th person I asked finally informed me the tournament ends on Saturday.

    So there is that.

  • Robbie Vogel

    Another ‘risky’ situation that worked out: Rickie firing at pins on 17 at Sawgrass [Marshawn Lynch voice] over and over and over and over… and over and over again. The pin was cut down in that bowl on the right, would have been very easy to push one into the drink and rinse his Players Championship hopes.

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