Picking PGA Tour players to root for isn’t necessarily an easy task. Major golf publications really only cover about 10 different players, so it’s hard to become familiar with the deeper cut players if you’re what I would call an “Easter and Christmas churchgoer” who only tunes in to golf during the majors. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. This is a judge free zone where all are welcome to share in a joint celebration of the game of golf. Because I’m a charitable guy who is short on productive hobbies, I’ve decided to do the legwork for you in finding players to root for that will be suited to your personality. This is based on a highly complex algorithm that is frankly too technical to explain here, so just trust the system. My favorite player might be on the opposite end of the political and social spectrum from yours, but we’re all citizens of the same golf universe, and all of our votes count the same.
Root for Bubba if:
- You’re a huge fan of Donald Trump
- Transformers 3 is your favorite movie of all time
- Your favorite restaurant is Buffalo Wild Wings because you think the commercials are hilarious
- Kenny Bania is your favorite Seinfeld character
Being a Bubba fan requires one of two personality traits: a remarkable ability to separate a golfer’s on-course talent from every other part of his persona, or a BS detector so faulty that it masquerades as willful ignorance. No one can deny Bubba’s robust game. He can be flat out thrilling to watch when he isn’t throwing Veruca Salt-level temper tantrums or sandbagging his way around the course on days when he doesn’t have his “A” game. Like Transformers 3, Bubba delivers stylized visuals with his pink driver, gigantic $500,000 white wrist watch (that thing must be CGI), and 350 yard bombs. However, behind the impressive display is a persona emptier than a champagne bottle handled by Anthony Kim. Off the course, he’s a walking example of cognitive dissonance. He pretends to be a fun-loving man of the people who wears shirtless overalls in parody music videos and constantly references his humble upbringing. We get it Bubba, you’re from Bagdad, Florida. We might be cooler with you mentioning that fact every 10 minutes if you were from Baghdad, Iraq – now THAT would be a story. If that was the case, Operation Iraqi Freedom would have actually been worth it if it meant ending his oppressive regime.
At the same time, Gerry’s the same guy who refused to participate in the long drive contest at the PGA Championship during a practice round. He also does things like this. I’m not in the business of throwing out harsh judgments directed at people I haven’t met (most of the time), but Bubba seems more phony than a Volkswagen emissions test. If your philosophy as a sports fan is to look past the persona and simply enjoy impressive performances, I can’t really fault you for that. Bubba’s your guy. To the rest of you suckers who have fallen for Bubba’s shtick, I feel bad for you because you will probably drop your savings on a life-time supply of Herbalife in the near future.
Root for Furyk if:
- Your dream vacation destination is Davenport, Iowa
- Your favorite Hogwarts House is Hufflepuff
- You can tell me about TurboTax’s new features
- You are sexually aroused by the dialogue in Big Bang Theory
- The most daring thing you’ve ever done was listen to Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” all the way through
- Nothing helps you unwind from a long day like listening to John Tesh tickle the ivories
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with any of the bullet points above. People who enjoy living in the slow lane are unfairly lampooned in our society. We should really be directing our mockery at people who inflict actual damage by being jerks or by taking themselves too seriously. Jim Furyk fans, I’ve got your back. Maybe he’s boring to watch, but his talent, self-made swing, and tenacious work-ethic must all be respected. Like Coldplay, he’s made tons of cash in the past couple decades by cranking out boring hits. He’s made over $65 million in his career, which is fewer Chinese Yuan than it was a few weeks ago, but it’s still a boat load of Chinese Yuan. His hesitation to pull the trigger on putts is similar to me considering shooting myself when “Yellow” comes on the jukebox, but don’t let that cloud your judgment. To re-purpose a quote from Hansel in Zoolander, “I would say Jim Furyk is a hero of mine. The golf he’s played over the years…I don’t enjoy watching it, but the fact that he’s playing it, I respect that.”
Root for Na if:
- You are a psychologist or simply a fan of observing human neurosis
- Your favorite baseball player is Juan Pierre
- You think “Titanic” should have been an hour longer
- You pick 10 seeds and below to go to the Final Four in your March Madness bracket every year
Kevin Na’s psychological struggles are well-documented. Anyone who watched him down the stretch of the 2012 Player’s Championship should have deep sympathy for what Kevin Na has had to battle upstairs. Imagine having a severe case of stage fright that’s nationally televised while thousands of people are yelling things at you like “why don’t you pee already you weirdo!” That’s more or less what Na went through in 2012, so it’s hard not to be happy for him during his recent resurgence. Dating back to the 2014 season, Na has five 2nd place finishes, 17 top 10s, has made 49/59 cuts, and has only blinked his eyes 3 times. I’d pay decent money to see him and Keegan Bradley lock eyes in what would be the ultimate wide-eyed staring contest. At any rate, Na is the Juan Pierre of the PGA TOUR in that he’s small in stature and lacking pop, but is uber-consistent and willing to slap an ugly single the opposite way if it’s for the benefit of the team. One drawback to watching Na is his glacial pace of play. We could start a game of Monopoly whenever he tees off his first hole and by the time he’s done, we will have finished Monopoly, Risk, Settlers of Catan, and “The Godfather.” If you’re into rooting for small ball players, underdogs, or redemption tales, and don’t mind watching 5.5 hour rounds of golf, Na is your guy.
Root for Wilcox if:
- You drink multiple Mountain Dew products each day
- You routinely wear t-shirts with cutoff sleeves, and/or cutoff jean shorts
- You’ve never stepped foot in a Hyundai and you’re upset that I even asked you the question
- The stuffy golf culture is not for you
Wilcox is a bit of a reclamation project who has taken a rocky path to the Tour. On a scale from Lafferty, Daniel to Happy Girlmore, he falls closer to the latter end of the spectrum than the former. Once a junior golf whiz, Wilcox partied his way out of college at UAB and had to pick up the pieces of his life before rediscovering his game. His personality is somewhere between “marches to the beat of his own drum” and “I don’t give an eff what you think.” His most notable accomplishment other than his sneakily solid play last season was pissing off Brendan Steele at the driving range of the 2015 Traveler’s Championship by loudly playing Drake songs while practicing. If anything, we should be thanking Wilcox for exposing Steele as a hardcore Meek Mill fanboy.
Ryan Palmer/Kevin Kisner/Robert Streb
Root for Palmer, Kisner, and/or Streb if:
- Your favorite genre of music is Jazz
- Your favorite movie of 2015 was “Bridge of Spies”
- You are from Portland
Like yours truly’s favorite movie of 2015, “Bridge of Spies,” these guys are solid, fun to watch, and underrated in most circles (although Kisner might be pricing himself out of this market). They’re the kind of guys that true fans want to list as their favorite players because doing so demonstrates a degree of knowledge about the game. Even though they’re all legitimately fun to watch, calling one of these guys your favorite player is kind of a hipster move. It’s kind of like saying your favorite fruit is the kiwi. It’s defensible in my book, but also definitely not what most people would say. If you appreciate quality but don’t want to be caught rooting for someone too mainstream, these are your guys.
Harold Varner III/Tony Finau/Daniel Berger
Root for Varner, Finau, and/or Berger if:
- You were the first of your friends to own an iPhone and you’re damn proud of it
- You knew about dabbing before it became played out
- Your favorite actor is Robert De Niro
These guys are the (slightly) less talked about young guns. NLU has already expressed a deep affinity for Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, and the immortal Pat Reed, and I’m not here to argue with those high-caliber choices, even if I think Soly’s man crush on these young Americans borders on being creepier than the Big Cat’s web browser history circa 2008. The three guys above represent the next wave of younger golfers who have Top 10 potential and are just getting their start. Each one of these guys is so explosive that Ted Cruz has already dubbed the trio “The Carpet Bombers.”
Varner (who desperately needs a nickname – I’m proposing HVAC, Harry Triple Twigs, or Varney Rubble as possibilities) more or less plays golf with the mindset of “I’m going to hit driver on every hole and I’ll find a way to play it from there.” I heard he once hit driver off the deck from 150 out just to see if he could make par from wherever he ended up (I just made that up). Varner projects to be like Bobby De Niro in that he will have really high highs and will also throw out some “Dirty Grandpa” and “Meet the Fockers” dud performances. Nevertheless, he should have a bright career.
After jumping around the mini-tour circuit for a few years, Tony Finau finally broke through by earning his Web.com Tour card in 2014 and he launched himself into orbit from there. His first PGA Tour season in 2015 saw him earn a cool $2 million, good enough for a respectable 43rd on the money list, with five top ten’s and at least 1,000 drops of “Finau the phenom” wordplay by PGA Tour broadcasters who self-identify as hilarious. This dude hits it a mile and has a pretty solid all-around game that is currently a bit more polished than Varner’s. He also has two cousins in the NFL (Haloti Ngata and Sione Pouha) and one cousin in the NBA (Jabari Parker), which is neither here nor there but is pretty fascinating. At minimum, his floor is to be a backup tight end on the NLU All-Pigskin team.
Berger has had the most success of this trio so far, with 6 top 10s and two runner up finishes in his Rookie of the Year award winning 2015 season. He’s probably more in line with the Justin Thomas/Brooks Koepka group of higher ranked younger guys based on what he’s already achieved, but I just don’t feel like he’s getting the same buzz and I’m the one making the rules. Berger King should be cranking out whoppers for the next 20 years (I’m so sorry).
If you enjoy following guys from the ground floor to the penthouse or if you enjoy trying to predict the big wave before it comes, these are your guys.
Jordan Spieth/Rickie Fowler/Rory Mcilroy
Root for Spieth, Fowler, or Mcilroy if:
- You root for the Cowboys, the Yankees, Duke, or the Lakers
- Your favorite member of N’Sync is Justin Timberlake
- You wear high tops and joggers on the reg
- You’re currently sporting the Macklemore haircut
All three of them are incredible to watch and to be fair, are all much easier to back than the Cowboys or the Yankees because they all seem like nice guys. Just because they’re easy to root for doesn’t make you not a front runner for rooting for them, though. Luckily, front-running is really comfortable in those slim fit joggers you’re wearing.
Spencer Levin/Boo Weekley/Jerry Kelly
Root for Levin, Weekley, or Kelly if:
- The number of Camel Bucks in your wallet exceeds the number of actual bucks in your wallet
- You’d prefer to see a tour pro throw his bag in a lake out of anger over witnessing a hole in one
- You enjoy dark comedies like Bad Santa
- You still root for John Daly
These guys are interesting to watch and it’s usually for reasons other than their transcendent golf. Watching Spencer Levin is kind of like watching Kevin Na only way, way darker. His claim to fame is his tendency to rip cigs throughout his round – particularly in pressure packed situations – although he recently cut that habit. He definitely wins the PGA Tour award for “most likely to hit himself in the face with his 9-iron out of anger.” What you see with Levin is what you get, and usually what you see is a fidgety bundle of borderline psychotic emotions. What you see is also what you get with Boo Weekley and Jerry Kelly, who have amassed a cult following on tour by being candid, down to earth guys. If you aren’t about frills and polish, look no further.
And there you have it. The beauty of the PGA Tour is that there’s something for everyone. The players run the gamut of personalities and are much more fun than stereotypes would suggest. Golf may always remain a niche sport for a plethora of reasons, but there is still plenty of fun to be had. Stay tuned for more potential decision trees in the future.