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March NLU Mailbag (Part 1)

We’re trying something new for these mailbag columns. We opened a thread at the Refuge to submit questions and have tag-teamed responses between the whole NLU crew. Hope you enjoy and get involved in the Refuge if you haven’t already!


If you could live one PGA Tour Pro’s life, who would it be and why? –murph

RANDY: Ryan Moore. 38th all-time in career earnings and zero chance he gets recognized going to the grocery store on a Tuesday night. That’s a hell of a win-win.

SOLY: For the same reasons, Charles Howell III.

NEIL: Adam Scott: Mr. Steal Ya Girl is physically gifted, got boy band ass, splits his time between Oz, Bahamas, and Switzerland (and probably several other non-extradition countries), has enough wins and a Masters to avoid any real “wasted talent” conversations from getting too in depth, owned his own plane (the real sign of “fuck you” money), and now seems to care more about surfing left breaks than reading left breaks. There’s more to life than golf for this guy. Sign me up, I’ll deal with the public recognition.

TRON: Thomas Pieters (I’m assuming this is only forward-looking). He’s been around long enough to have made a lot of money already, but not all the money so he’s still hungry. Crazy upside. Plays a worldwide schedule and possesses an EU passport. Definitely famous, but keeps a low profile. Gonna be a Ryder Cup stalwart. Still plenty of cool stuff he’s going to experience. Low-key funny guy too.

You get one of these two Sunday final pairings AND sudden death playoff at The Masters: Tiger-Phil, or Jordan-Rory. Which would you rather see? –misterfish1

RANDY: Tiger and Phil in a playoff at Augusta would be one of the most iconic, celebrated events in the history of the game. Full stop. It would be the cherry on top of the last 20-plus years of golf, a Hollywood-esque last act in the drama. It’s quite amazing (read: depressing) to think two of the greatest players of all-time, with the vast majority of their careers overlapping, in all likelihood won’t have a signature head-to-head battle for a major championship. If the ‘02 US Open is as close as we’ll ever get I can’t help but feel more than a little cheated as a fan.

D.J.: I think Randy nailed it. I kind of stopped reading the question after “Tiger-Phil.” Nothing else is close.

I think the interesting twist on this question is asking which young star you would want to see these guys go up against before their careers come to a close. For me, I think it’s Tiger and Jordan. JS has been the person whose dominance has most closely resembled Tiger’s (at least at a young age) and I think he feels like the player to me that is set up for the longest run of consistent winning (which would just make a duel like this age even better).

TRON: Didn’t Spieth already end Rory’s career that one Saturday at Augusta when he slow-played him allllllll day? I’ll take a Monty/Norman showdown, final answer.

Is Rickie this generation’s Sergio Garcia? –Blewett

RANDY: When Sergio was 29 going on 30 he had 15 combined PGA Tour/Euro Tour wins. Rickie currently has 6. It’s not getting late for Rickie by any stretch, but with each passing year the career trajectory projections shift a bit. Currently, I’m liking a Fred Couples comp. I can imagine Rickie ending up in the 15 win (+ 3 Euro titles)/1 major territory alongside Fred. Where the comparison really solidifies, in my opinion, is in the popularity of the two guys amongst fans.   

D.J.: I again agree with the Slender Man here. I think what made Sergio Sergio was that his losses were so catastrophic and heartbreaking that he was turned into this tragic figure (sometimes by his own doing, of course). Nothing about Rickie, even at his lowest, ever feels tragic. He seems to just generally be winning at life and any success on the golf course is just gravy on top. The Fred Couples comp is money.

TRON: Everything above is spot-on (also take Randy’s stuff with a grain of salt, as he loathes the Rictator). As far as career arcs go, I’m starting to get a distinctly Adam Scott vibe from Rickie, only if Adam Scott cared more. Similar wins, similar close calls in majors, etc.

Ratio of strokes to pictures during a casual Zac Blair round? –PhilsSignedGlove

D.J.: It’s at least one photo every hole, usually more. So that’s what? 2.5 to 1?

I’ve not only never seen anything like it, I just can’t wrap my head around how he keeps all the photos organized. He’s taking photos constantly through every round, firing them all off to different group texts to illustrate different architectural nuances and then referring back to them all months later. The reason I wanted to include this question is because it’s a perfect illustration of how ZB can legitimately remember almost every hole he’s ever played. It’s incredible. We get done with a round and he can rattle off what each hole was, what number he had in and even what each of your shots did there. And he can remember most of this months later too. I’d say on a good day (and an average course), I can remember about 9-12 holes immediately after the round. After a week, that drops to about 3. He just seems to have infinite space for this stuff.

TRON: Zac could probably give David Cannon a run for his money in terms of pictures taken over the past few years. The energy and mental organization he has to keep all this stuff straight continually blows my mind. He’s the RaynorMan in more ways than one.

NEIL: A more statistically relevant question would be “Ratio of strokes to, “this is the best (insert: hole, green, tee box, bunkering, layout, usage of native area, cart path) I’ve EVER seen” comments per round (minus the cart path line, RaynorMan would never say that). When you play with ZB, you have to relish the way he lives in the present. He might be Dori, from Finding Nemo, reincarnated as a dude in land-locked Utah. After the round he can remember every shot on every hole, but he can’t remember that he just told me the last green two greens might be the sickest green he’s ever played. It’s like active short term memory loss with no impact on the long term photographic memory. That’s wild man!

Why do you all love golf? –ejdean7

D.J.: I know this can sound cheesy (and I hope this person is not a sleeper cell with Big Insurance referencing those bad Zurich commercials where the players are taking lie detector tests about how much they love golf). But I think it’s kind of a fun one to think about every now and again.

I love it for all the reasons you’d think (you never perfect it, great company, challenge, etc.), but I think the main reason I love it is because there’s nothing else I’ve found that has so many different parallels to life in general. Legitimately every problem or high point in life can have a golf parallel/analogy to it (“Tin Cup” illustrates this really well in the therapy scene). But golf is also a perfect microcosm for people’s worldviews I think. You can learn so much about someone based on whether they’re obsessed with conditioning or score or architecture or equipment or hitting on the cart girl. You can see how people handle bad shots and how they gamble and whether they throw clubs or not. I can’t think of anything else that airs someone out quite the same way that golf does.

TRON: Because it’s a total mind-fuck.

SOLY: Golf is a perfectly imperfect blend of nature and sport. You’re outdoors amongst the elements, and battling the wind, the challenge of the terrain, the grass type, the trees, the hazards, all to put a ball into a tiny little hole. It’s hard as hell, so the genuine satisfaction that comes with a well-executed shot or a solid round hits you in the feels harder than it does with any other sport I’ve experienced. Almost all of the other sports I’ve ever played are played in the same dimensions, and are played directly against other people. With golf, the only defense you face is the course. The feeling when you stuff an approach is infectious, and you think about it all day until you get to tee it up again.

RANDY: Who says I do? (Whoa…)

With Furyk this year, Stricker likely in 2020, and Phil seeming to fit better in 2024, who do we have for a 2022 Ryder Cup captain? More likely to be a first time captain or a repeat? –coliphant

SOLY: Tiger.

It’s pretty safe to say that the U.S. has essentially adopted a similar model to Europe, requiring future captains to have at least served as an assistant captain. Cat will have likely been a 3-time assistant at that point, and he seems heavily invested enough in the process to want to take that leadership role.

Some media types that I’ve talked to think that we’re overthinking the Phil/Bethpage thing. Which Ryder Cup will be the first one that Phil misses? I honestly think in his mind he believes he’s going to be the playing captain at Bethpage, and I’m not willing to rule it out. That may very well be more of a pipedream than it is a prognostication, but that’s where my dream currently lies.

RANDY: Can I be honest? Are we in the nest? Unless it’s a gregarious personality or somebody willing to try something completely outside the box, I can’t begin to muster the energy to care about Ryder Cup captains. Having said that, I hope it’s Phil or Tiger.

D.J.: I’m down with the Tiger call (especially if the Tiger Presidents Cup reports are true for Royal Melbourne). I’m not sure if he’d ever be down for it, but I think getting David Duval in there would be really cool. His highs were so good and it’s kind of become a shame that he doesn’t get more recognition for what he did. It could be the Jacksonville in me talking.  

TRON: Curveball – I’m going with Mark Calcavecchia. And he brings in Chris Dimarco, Steve Marino and Freddie Couples as ass captains, plus Dominic Bozzelli can hang out in the team room. Obviously there’s an Italian theme here with the event being in Italy, but I also think Calc would make for an awesome captain and his career is overlooked. He appeared on four Ryder Cup teams over a fifteen year period, and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and still plays enough to have a pulse on things. Not sure Duval will be a great captain, but he’s certainly deserving. 

I’ll throw in another couple wild cards in Stew Cink (he’s been on five teams!!!!) and Justin Leonard.

After Phil’s incredible win and ensuing post-round interview and press conference, I’m looking for you guys to put together your Top ___ (as many as you want) Phil interview clips into one glorious video. Please and thanks. –BettorThanMost

RANDY: /would watch

D.J: For me, it probably will never get any better than Phil saying he was going to wear all black on Masters Sunday because he wanted to play aggressive and “studies have shown football teams get more penalties when they wear black.”

Other gems that spring to mind:

– Phil murdering Tom Watson in cold blood at the 2014 press conference.

– Phil explaining that he and Zach Johnson spotted the Internationals two holes and they still couldn’t beat them at the Presidents Cup in Korea.

– Oldie but a goodie: Phil’s “I am such an idiot” at Winged Foot.

May not be a popular take, given the NLU crew’s infatuation with JT – it seems like JT has really begun to rub people the wrong way (myself included). Sure it’s a lot of twirls and #toursauce when things are going well, but otherwise he comes across as whiny and immature when facing adversity. Why do you think he catches heat for many of the same antics that his buddy (spoiler alert) Spieth displays? –zman

SOLY: A few things here. I think the rest of the guys will say that “NLU’s infatuation” is actually just limited to me. The rest of the guys are probably able to maintain a much more impartial view of JT than I can.

I think it’s easy to forget how the tides kind of started to turn against Jordan last year. It’s not dissimilar to how young athletes in other sports get treated. On your way up, people are unfamiliar with you. When you can excel at your sport, you can do no wrong, and as the next big thing, everyone gets super hyped about the next rising star. With Spieth, television networks were barely paying attention to him prior to winning the Masters in ‘15, despite him having one of the most remarkable starts to a career in modern history. After winning the Masters (and later the U.S. Open), he was no longer the rising star. At the ‘16 Masters, he was treated entirely different by the internet crowd, as his pace of play was heavily criticized, as was his body language and dialogue with Greller. He was behaving and playing the same way he always has, but with the cameras fixated on him for a much longer duration, it shined a different light on it, and the nitpicking began.

The same cycle is happening for JT. Now a major champion, the focus on him is just different. If Luke List had done what JT did on the 16th, would people have even cared? I’ve never quite fully understood why mannerisms and body language factors so much into what a lot of people think about a player or person. I get that it’s the only thing viewers at home have to go off of, but it amazes me how fast people turned on Spieth considering all the positives he brings to the table. To me, what kind of guy a player is off the course, how he treats people, and what his peers say about him weigh much more heavily than behavior on the golf course.

RANDY: Relative to Spieth, specifically, I think JT exudes more cockiness. That’s my perception at least, and I’m sure some other people’s as well. And while cockiness has a negative connotation it’s absolutely not a knock against him as far as I’m concerned, golf is way better for strong and different personalities! But I do believe that’s why he elicits stronger reactions, particularly on the critical side, than Spieth does for similar actions.

Neil: I agree with both Soly and Randy’s sentiment. I’d also add that I think his wardrobe makes him an easier target. Where Spieth is rocking bland shades of greys and poorly cut Under Armour threads that will only elicit shaming from someone like Tron, JT is usually wearing bright pants at least one round a week as well as shirts with obnoxiously large Polo logos. More often than not his outfits screams, ‘look at me,’ so when people do, and you are whining about a bad drive while being 5 under, it’s not a great look. The Happy Gilmore line often comes to mind when I watch him live in person: “If I wore pants like that, I’d kick my own ass.” For the record, I think that every time I watch Horschel…

TRON: I’m shocked Soly didn’t have a whole lot to say on this subject (LOL). While JT rubs me the wrong way sometimes – I’m like 90% in. He seems like he gets it for the most part. Perfect example was the whole fiasco at Honda. I have zero issue with him kicking that dude out. It sounds like the guy deserved it. He just didn’t do himself any favors with HOW he did it. Tell one of the fifty marshals, cops and tour officials with the group to kick the guy out, otherwise it comes across like Webb Simpson snidely telling the Big Jungle Bird to “enjoy the jail cell, pal” and that’s just not a good look.

 

Check back on Thursday for Part 2. 

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