A lot of really good questions this week, so I had to break this into two parts. I hope to get to the rest of the questions by early next week. But here is part I:
@NoLayingUp Will you ever have Brian Williams on as a podcast guest?
— J.O. (@GolfExpress1) February 11, 2015
I was trying to think of the golf equivalent of what happened with Brian Williams. There’s a lot of golf stories that come out where it’s pretty clear that certain details of the story are exaggerated (really, Guy-Who-Just-Shot 98? You shot 77 your last time out?), so I can kind of understand how this Brian Williams thing happened. I tried to think back to a golf event from approximately 12 years ago that I might slightly exaggerate today, and I think I found a pretty good one. No, this is not comparable to (not) being a helicopter that got shot down, as far as life memories go, but it’s my best golf example.
“I was there when Tiger chipped in on 14 at the Memorial in 1999!”
To say it that way, it sounds like I was up against the ropes sitting right behind the Big Cat as he hit The Shot Heard ‘Round Dublin. Yes, I was on the grounds of Muirfield Village that day, and yes, I heard the bouisterous, deafening roar that resonated in my ears from that 14th green. This roar was so loud, Bubba still hears the echoes of it when he plays the back nine at Muirfield Village (which might explain this shot, and I WAS there for this one too!)
The 14th hole is probably the most crowded hole on the entire course. Fitted with a huge amphitheater setting, suites where the corporate suits get loaded, and a hill where plebeians sit and hook up IV’s of alchohol to their bloodstreams. So to say that place erupted like Mt. Vesuvius when he holed that chip might even actually be an understatement. And I was there!
The twist is that I was actually patiently waiting in the front row of the gallery behind the 18th green. The grounds of Muirfield were a complete madhouse that day, and it was physically impossible to follow Tiger. You had to pick your spots, and find a place in advance to see anything. My grandparents always claimed a spot on 18 early in the day, and saved a spot for me next to them. The 14th green sits pretty close to the 18th tee, so it didn’t take long for The Roar to seismically shake our plastic chairs behind 18 green. To this day, I’ve never heard anything quite like that cheer. The entire crowd at 18 wanted to cheer, but couldn’t. We all just looked at each other, and you could see that everyone had the exact same thought.
“WE FUCKING MISSED IT!”
We knew exactly who it was, and exactly what happened. It felt like you were at a baseball game, but you were looking at your phone while Joey Votto hit a grand slam. Cheering felt dirty, and cheap, because we missed it. That’s the risk you run being at a golf tournament in person. It’s the one sport that you can be in attendance, yet completely miss the most exciting parts.
So back to the question that you didn’t ask: I can see how an easy detail left our, or misleading statement could be made about an event that happened 12 years ago.
I felt slightly vindicated when I was able to witness Tiger’s chip in on 16 a mere thirteen years later on his way to another Memorial win (OK fine, I was at the tee when it happened, but still… I SAW IT!).
@NoLayingUp my old college golf buddies would talk about this a lot- what would you think of team golf on the PGA Tour? College golf format
— Erik Hoops (@ehoops) February 11, 2015
I’ve actually recently discussed this with Adam Sarson, where I came up with my own admittedly unrealistic team golf scenario. It’s not even a half-baked idea at this point, but it would almost be like the Champions League of European soccer, so we’re going to call this the Champions League, and it will take place after the FedEx Cup “Playoffs.” The top guys don’t play the Fall Series anyways, but we’ll let that continue on for the Jason Bohn’s of the world (like an opposite field event). We’ll give the exhausted stars a week or two off from the FedEx Cup, then the big guns do this:
The top 8 finishers of the FedEx Cup become captains, and a televised fantasy draft ensues until 8 teams of 4 are established. The dynamics of this draft alone would be worth it. Does a player flat out refuse to join Bubba’s team (Eli Manning style)? Does Phil make Keegan draft him, then take over the rest of the picks? Does someone take Poulter when he finishes 78th in the FedEx Cup? What happens when no one takes Webb? Or when Tiger decides his back hurts when he’s paired with Robert Streb? Or when Tiger drafts Notah Begay?
Three weeks of playoff golf begins. The matches are two day events, held on Wednesdays and Thursdays (remember, we’re trying to avoid going up against the NFL) on the West Coast, in primetime. The first day is two 4-ball matches, and the second day is singles. If there is a tie, each time chooses one player, and you play sudden death until it is settled.
We can get someone like Omega to throw a bunch of cash at it (seriously, you guys owe us for the Rory commercial), and make a rule like you’re ineligible for the FedEx Cup the following year if you get drafted but refuse to play.
Yes, there are about 500 holes you could poke in this idea, but you can’t convince me that team golf (plus match play) would not be a huge hit.
@NoLayingUp who wins a major first? Rickie, Speith, PReed, Koepka, Walker, Kuch.
— wesley whamond ⚡️F (@wesleywhamond) February 11, 2015
I’m sticking with my predictions from the December Mailbag: Patrick Reed is going to win the Masters, and Jordan Spieth is going to win the U.S. Open. If I were to re-do my picks, I would probably pick Koepka to win all four. Have I mentioned I’m a fan?
Jimmy Walker’s emergence into a Tier 1 player (it’s true) is one of the more remarkable developments on tour the last two years. There’s no way to properly give him the credit he is owed because there is just nothing interesting to discuss about him, other than that he is all of a sudden really, really good at golf. He dominated this stretch of the schedule last year as well, so I’m interested to see if he’s able to continue his run into the summer where the fields get a bit stronger, but he’s taken “The Leap”, even if he has (I’m assuming) a 3 inch vertical.
But back to Koepka. The reason I’ve obsessed drooled slobbered been touting him as much as I have is because Americans were cheated out of seeing his development up close and personal because of #FinchemsFolly. Any system that would encourage young Americans to willingly reverse commute and go play over in Europe rather than stay home cannot be supported, and because of it, Koepka isn’t nearly the household name that it should be. The guy has stones the size of Tiger’s boulder in Phoenix that that needed six people to be moved. He’s an absolute superstar.
As high as I am on Spieth, Rickie, Reed, and the rest of the young Americans, I have to point out that none of those three has any one part of their game where they are truly elite. Spieth was extremely well rounded in 2014 (especially considering his age), which is what helped lead to his very consistent success. But he doesn’t hit it very far (relatively speaking), and relies a lot on his putter (20th in strokes gained in 2014). The season is very young, but so far, he’s ranked 152nd in strokes gained putting. Fowler and Reed are both also well rounded players, but don’t dominate any one facet of the game.
This is where Koepka could potentially set himself apart: His distance is truly an elite skill. He’s leading the tour in driving distance so far this year, and ranked 6th a year ago in limited starts. Per Jal Nichols, only Rory, Bubba, and Lucas Glover (!?) have been better off the tee than Brooks Koepka over the last several months. The Mark Broadie stat movement will tell you how important it is to be dominant off the tee in today’s game, and if the rest of Brooks’ game remains consistent to complement this elite skill, then we’re talking about a top 10 player in the world, with a higher ceiling than all of my hopes and dreams.
@NoLayingUp You draw Bubba for a Pro-am and sense he has been tipped off to your shenanigans..whimp out or man up?
— Adam Staelin (@threeguysgolf) February 11, 2015
One of my favorite pieces of the year last year was written by Dave Kindred from Golf Digest. Kindred shredded Bubba for his behavior in the PGA Championship, then went right up to Bubba the next day and told him to his face: “I was very hard on you.”
I would like to think that I would do the same. If I met Bubba in passing, I can’t say that it would be something I would bring up to his face. I don’t think it’s a discussion you can have briefly. But if I had actual time to talk through things, like during a Pro-Am, I would at least state my issues with him. It might be difficult to do it in front of the three other hacks we’re paired with, so I can’t guarantee it would happen on the course, but say we were seated next to each other on an airplane, I would absolutely do it. And I feel like Bubba wouldn’t even fight back. He has to know that he rubs people the wrong way, and I don’t think it would bother him one bit that I can’t stand him. I’m guessing that I would walk away from the conversation liking him a lot more than I do now.
@NoLayingUp Why is Keegan Bradley so bad at (individual) match play? Is match play or stroke play a better measure of a golfer?
— Buttplug Gonzalez (@BplugGonzalez) February 11, 2015
What a tremendous question, Buttplug Gonzalez!
My first reaction to the Bradley question is that I don’t think we have a large enough sample to really say that a player of Bradley’s age is a bad individual match player. We need more match play! (See idea above).
The second question is a good one. I’m of the belief that four days of stroke player are a better measure of a golfer than say, a single day of match play. Golf is very volatile, and it’s no one bats an eye when Tim Wilkinson beats Matt Kuchar on a Thursday afternoon in Mempis. But if you put the two against each other in a match play event, and Wilkinson won, it would be classified as a HUGE UPSET. Match play can be very fluky, and totally depends who you are going up against. You can shoot 66 and lose, or shoot 75 and win. Ian Poulter is really good at match play, and has never won a stroke play event in the US. That should tell you something.
(You thought I was gonna go all mailbag with only one Poulter diss, didn’t you.)
Check back for Part II next week.