Football Versus Golf – Golf Can’t Win

As The FedEx Cup Finale Begins, The Tour Discusses Schedule Changes

Numbers don’t lie. Television ratings for golf begin to suck sweaty balls the second the college and NFL football seasons begin in earnest around Labor Day weekend. Golf isn’t as universally accepted or loved as a big game on the gridiron. That is a fact. It won’t change in our lifetime. I’m fine with it, I love me some football too and as much as I love golf I have to make myself watch some of the fall events that occur after the Fed Ex Cup playoffs end. So what can the Tour do to try to optimize the eyeballs their beloved Fed Ex events get? Flip the schedule again, of course.

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The birth of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs was a major tweak to the PGA Tour season schedule in itself. Remember, before the playoffs we had nothing but silly golf, weak full field events, and then a random 30 man field somewhere in a fairly warm climate around the first week of November. No one watched that either. The Fed Ex schedule initially created a spark but now nearly a decade into it the newness has worn off. The format is still confusing. And the Tour still loses too many valuable viewers to pigskin. You can rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic all you want, but the solution is to simply avoid putting your prime events up against NFL Sundays, period.

Tim Finchem held a presser this week which will likely be his last as commissioner. His 2nd in command, Jay Monahan will take his over as the big cheese in 2017. His fingerprints will be all over the task of fixing the Fed Ex events TV ratings. The rumored changes involve moving the Players Championship back to March where it was played from its inception until 9 years ago when it was moved to May. The Tour has figured out that the course is too hard to prep for play in May. A March date will get more publicity as the first big event of the season.

The next rumored major schedule change is getting the PGA of America to move its major championship to May. Ok, that’s possible, but now you’re starting to lose me because moving both of those might be hard to sell to fans. What these moves will do is open up August for a run to Fed Ex Cup glory. That sounds good, but it still puts the Tour Championship up against football on Labor Day weekend. Why not try something completely new? Like what? Like play the Fed Ex events during the week on the West Coast in prime time!

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Big boy golf tournaments that finish on a Wednesday during prime time television would bring viewers from all over the country that are home from work, with no football on, looking for a sports fix to get them through the football lull that occurs in the middle of the week. The sun sets at about 10 pm Eastern time this week in California. With smaller fields in the last two Fed Ex events you could easily schedule tee times that have the contenders finishing about 30 minutes prior to sun down right in the heart of prime time for half the country.

The crowds might be smaller, but the crowds in Atlanta could care less about showing up at East Lake this week anyway. We’re not concerned about ticket sales. TV ratings are all that matter. Drop Atlanta. Drop Boston (they have the Greater Hartford Open anyway). Play the first event in the New York area as you do now, week 2 in Chicago over Labor Day. Then start the events on Sunday and end them on Wednesday going forward while playing on the West Coast. No more boring East Lake. No more rating problems.

Ryder Cup Fallout?

My West Coast solution doesn’t help U.S. Ryder Cup players that could be playing 8 of 9 consecutive weeks. They’ll still be fatigued. The schedule option that includes moving the PGA Championship does help fix that problem though. That would give Ryder Cuppers almost a month off before the big (exhibition) matches. I bet you’d see the U.S. record v. Europe steadily improve over the next few years if they were fresh and rested. If you could guarantee me that result I’d junk my West Coast idea in a heartbeat.

Speaking of the Ryder Cup, did you hear that Captain Love had the boys at Hazeltine for practice during the off weekend last week? All 11 members made it, as did Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, and Bubba Watson, who are all being considered for the final Captain’s pick. Who didn’t make it? This guy.

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It wasn’t as if he was not invited. He was. But Moore told Love that he was fatigued and needed to rest for the Tour Championship. He says that the Tour Championship has been his goal all season and the Ryder Cup thing was an after thought. I’m sure Love respected the decision, and apparently Love told Moore that skipping practice didn’t exclude him from being the final pick, but come on. Moore is out right? Good coaches that get to make cuts, recruit players, etc. tend to go with guys who want to be on the team. They want them to bleed the team colors. That kind of intangible is often what puts one player ahead of another contender when their so close otherwise. Moore shot himself in the foot. Even if he wins in Atlanta he shouldn’t be picked by Love. He’ll have 10 million reasons for skipping a weekend in Minnesota, but he has no business being on the team now.

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Johnson (Naturally) Wins At Crooked Stick: Final Thoughts On BMW Championship

The Ultimate Driving Machine

I’m almost sick of Dustin Johnson winning. His stock post round presser is lame and boring. He’s seemingly past all his rules gaffes on his way to the finish line. And he’s so good the field is nowhere in sight to make things interesting. But I do marvel at two things. His massive drives on Pro Tracer and Paulina’s ass as it comes hopping out onto the 18th green. I guess as long as that keeps happening I’ll be okay with Johnson winning for the foreseeable future. I’m kidding of course. What I really want is a DJ/Rory McIlroy bash off for 18 holes, maybe a few weeks from now…..in Minnesota?

I’ve been late in my updates to this site but I’m sure you’ve gotten used to that by now. And because it is Thursday when I’m finally writing about the BMW Championship you already know how Dustin won, why he won, and how dominate he was all over again. I’m not going to beat that to death for you. What you need to know is that Dustin is probably the best player in the world at this moment. He may not be ranked there, yet, but he will be soon. Brandel Chamblee has been pumping that story line on Golf Channel for a few weeks now and he’s right. That hurts to say. I hate Chamblee but even he can see where Johnson is headed. He’s right where Jason Day was a year ago. The only thing that can stop him now is a drug relapse or a 2nd kid.

Dustin Johnson rarely has an off week from the tee. That held true at the BMW where he lead the field driving distance. Pete Dye’s Crooked Stick course was tailor made for Johnson to dominate on. His wedge game is so damn good right now and that’s all he had left to the par 4s with his big drives. He played the par fives in 15 under. He played 16 of them for the week. Oh, and he threw in a new putter for the tourney and lead the field in putting average while being 2nd in strokes-gained-putting. You can’t beat him with that combination. That’s Tiger circa 2000 like shit.

Johnson won’t win again next week in Atlanta. The course isn’t really his style and he’ll only have two par 5s in play which limits his ability to shit on the field by 8 holes for the week. I think he’ll carry some momentum forward from the BMW but in the end the off week will have cooled the putter. He’ll show well. He’ll walk away with a $10 million pay day and a Fed Ex Cup. Then he’ll go give Wayne’s daughter a good thrashing. See you at the Ryder Cup, DJ. Now back to Paulina.

Usually when Johnson wins PG goes on a Snapchat-Instie bender of her own and we an eyeful of her T&A. It took her about 24 hours but she didn’t disappoint. I’m not suave enough to capture her snaps so this is all you get this time around.

I got 99 problems but you won't be one @djohnsonpga

A photo posted by Paulina Gretzky (@paulinagretzky) on

I think motherhood agrees with her. I doubt we see a glimpse of her in Atlanta. She’ll need the rest for her big Ryder Cup WAG weekend in Minnesota.

The Field

Paul Casey could have easily won in Boston last week. He played well but a Rory McIlroy freight train in the final round kept Casey from his first win in the United States in 7 years. He must feel snake bit because he showed up in Indy and played his ass off again for 72 holes and could barely stay in sight of Johnson. He was the only guy in the field that had a shot at DJ. He posted 20 under for four rounds on a 7500 yard golf course. What else could he have done besides have Robert Allenby take DJ out boozing on Saturday night?

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My gut says Casey shot his wad at the BMW and will be quite cool by the time the first ball leaves a peg at East Lake. Robert Castro also played well at Crooked Stick and would have been right with Casey if he hadn’t shit his bed Saturday with a 3rd round 74. Castro rebounded on Sunday and finished 3rd which earned him a trip back to the Tour Championship. He lives in Atlanta. He went to Georgia Tech. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Castro is in the hunt next week. Outside of Charl Schwartzel, the rest of the field isn’t worth mentioning. They were just there. Charl was a round away from calling his 2016 complete. But his 8 under 64 on Sunday vaulted him up the leaderboard 22 spots to 4th place. That 64, Rickie playing like shit, and JB Holmes not making birdie on the final hole (not my math) meant that Charl was in the East Lake field and Fowler was out.

Ryder Cup Pick’em

Don’t cry for Fowler. He can use the week off as he preps for the Ryder Cup matches at Hazeltine. I’m still scratching my head how a guy who hasn’t done much in the last 6 months like Rickie has, a guy who didn’t earn a spot on the team, can be such a slam dunk pick for Captain Davis Love? Love picked Fowler, Matt Kuchar, and J.B. Holmes to get his squad up to 11 players with one more pick remaining for after the Tour Championship. Love made comments in his presser about easily pairing guys together and then dodged ever question about Bubba Watson being on the team with the next pick. That was kind of weird.

Personally, I’d have picked Tiger, Anthony Kim, and whomever TW wanted as part of the team to get him to agree to the pick (more on that later). I’m kidding, sort of. Fowler’s RC record is pretty weak. I don’t think his 2016 has been great but it isn’t a disaster. He deserves the pick more than a guy like Furyk or Kuchar. Kuchar gets on because he’s a team room guy. He’s well liked and he’s never going to play poorly enough to drag a partner down to a loss. He’s not dynamic. He back doors his high finishes. He wears a fanny pack and Sketchers. He could be 0-4 or 4-0 and who will notice? I like the Holmes pick. Golf Channel showed the 2008 matches the other day. Holmes was legit in that thing. He’ll be great again at Hazeltine. I have no concerns about him. His emotion will fuel him to a great week.

The choice for the final spot will be interesting. Bubba is out. Love would have just picked him already. Holmes, Fowler, and Kuchar were 10, 11, and 12 in the standings. Bubba is 9th. If he were supposed to be on the team he already would be. Love and the VCs probably did a happy dance when the final standings showed Watson outside of the automatic selections. My educated guess is that the 12th spot will go to Justin Thomas. He’s a friend of the Love family as he played college golf with Davis’ son at Alabama. With Rickie and Spieth on the team they already have 1/2 the #SB2k16 squad on board. Thomas would make it 3/4. Shit, maybe they can sneak Smylie Kaufman in wearing a mascot costume.

So what if it isn’t Thomas? Could Love pick Ryan Moore? Sure. Daniel Berger. Why not? Berger will play well at East Lake. I have little doubt of that. So is the Tour Championship a defacto Ryder Cup qualifier? No, according to Love. Does DL3 have an outside the box option? You bet your ass he does. Tiger Mother Fucking Woods.

Tiger as a pick hadn’t crossed my mind but then Matt Kuchar mentioned it in his interview after he was picked on Monday. There was a collective “yeah right” from all of the Golf world. When you stop and actually think about it as a possibility it gets a little more real, or surreal perhaps. I don’t know who wrote the above piece at medium.com, but thank god ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg decided to share it with the world. That’s the best thing you’ll read all week if you haven’t already seen it. Let it sink in. Let is wash over you. And then cross your fingers and hope that it happens just as the writer laid it out for you. How fucking glorious.

Shot Of The Day

Castro. Eagle. Nonchalant. Need I say anything else? Ok, I’ll set it up for you. Roberto Castro dunked one from the fairway on the 7th hole for eagle to help him finish 3rd and make his way back to the Tour Championship.

Cool reaction? Maybe. I had one of those on Labor Day. I didn’t throw my club and yell. I simply verified that my shot went in, fist bumped my playing partner, said “fuck yeah” at a normal volume, then tended the flag for my whole group after I got a pic of the ball in the jar. Castro is too cool for school.

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Rory Back In Winner Circle: Final Thoughts On Deutsche Bank

Twas Just A Matter Of Time

Over the last few months Rory McIlroy looked more lost on the golf course than he looked ready to win again. It wasn’t his driver, his Nike deal, or his gym habits holding him back (but don’t ask Johnny Miller). It was his putter, of course. Nike folding up shop on making equipment meant he was free to try and use anything he wanted and put it in his bag for tournament play. He’s on record that he’s stocked up on $woosh gear and balls for years to come but he did start courting various flat sticks as soon as he was allowed. He found a dance partner in a new mallet-like wrench made by Scotty Cameron and Titleist. He tweaked his grip and his set up. And after starting round one in Boston 4 over after 3 holes he got his shit together and made a charge up the leaderboard.

Rounds of 67-66-65 to finish allowed McIlroy to chase down Paul Casey and win his first event in the United States in 2016. He lead the field in driving, strokes gained putting, and average putts per green. No one is going to beat Rory if he’s doing wizard shit like that. His 65 on Monday in the final round was most impressive. I think I saw one errant shot for the entire day. He made 7 birdies in weather and wind that was part of a tropical storm. Only Adam Scott’s final round equaled Rory’s and Scott wasn’t really in contention for much of his day.

This is Rory’s first win as a newly engaged man. I wonder if that was weighing on him. Remember when he was engaged to that horse-faced tennis pro? He won the week after he broke up with her and admitted wedding planning was a stress to him. This bodes well for the future Mrs. McIlroy, Erica Stoll, pictured above. Now Rory’s putter being on means the rest of his game feels a lot less pressure. He’s back, all pistons are firing, and he’ll probably win at Crooked Stick this week in Indianapolis where the BMW Championship is being contested.

The Field

Paul Casey had a 6 shot lead on Rory entering the final round. The Deutsche Bank was his to lose, and that’s exactly what he did. Considering the rough weather he didn’t play poorly. He shot 73 which was probably pretty close to the field average for the day. But that’s not good enough to hold off a guy with McIlroy’s fire power. Casey made passive swings and way too many unforced errors for a guy looking to beat a great field like the Deutsche Bank has. His driver was crooked, his putter was unsteady, and I think he felt the pressure of trying to get his first US win since 2009.

But hey, 2nd place pays well too and I think Paul was perfectly fine with taking that check home (home to his wife – Pollyanna – with the best fakers on Tour).

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Smylie Kaufman played in the final group with Casey and was looking to get his first big check in months. The least well known of the the #SB2k16 crew has a Tour win, but he hasn’t played in many final groups during the final round. The last time he did so he shot 80 on Sunday at the Masters. Kaufman trailed Casey by 4 shots to start the round and bogied his first two holes, which are birdie holes, to fall out of contention early. His back nine 40 sent him to the back of the pack costing him hoards of Fed Ex points and cash he can’t spend in the casinos of the Bahamas next spring.

Ryan Moore finished T8, which is just about where he’s been on the leaderboard for over a month now except for his win at the John Deere. If he’s not on the Ryder Cup team and Jim Furyk is I’m going to send DL3 a bag of my dog’s shit. He’s a match play ninja too, dude won the US Am and Publinx in the same year, remember? Adam Scott finished 4th thanks to a back nine 29 that helped him tie McIlroy’s final round 65. He might sneak in another win in the next few weeks and throw his name into the Player of the Year discussion if he does so.

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Outside of the leaders NBC gave viewers two other compelling story lines to follow. First we had Justin Rose. The Golden Brit was in contention after 63 holes in Boston. He was 11 under and trailed Casey and McIlroy by a few shots. He then made two triple bogies, a double, two bogies, and four pars on the back nine to shoot a ten over 45. Holy shit!

Harold Varner’s journey to make the Tour Championship field as a rookie was the other plot NBC fed us. Varner teetered on the brink of the BMW cut (top 70) with every birdie and bogey. After a sloppy bogey at the 15th hole Varner moved from inside the number to the wrong side of it. His clutch par putt at 16 kept him in the hunt but failing to make a birdie at either of the closing holes meant HV3 was heading home. Season over. The Fed Ex Cup isn’t perfect, but it does give us some unique story lines to follow outside of the leaders each week.

Shot Of The Day

I’m not sure how it is possible, but somehow Rory hit driver on the 18th hole on Monday and it only went 261 yards. He had a full 257 left to the hole and hit his fairway wood in the greenside bunker. Anything could have happened from there. He could have scooped his 3rd shot and left himself no chance at making birdie with a long putt from the wrong tier of the green. He could have caught the 3rd shot a hair thin and gone long into the dreaded collection area. But no, his wedge game around the greens on Monday was nearly as good as his driver and putter….

A tap in birdie. A two shot margin. The only thing left for Rors was to sign the card and watch Casey play his final two holes from the scoring area.

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A Reed Win For The Red, White, & Blue: Final Thoughts On Barclays

Patrick Reediculous

Patrick Reed loves America. He loves playing for his country. He’s built for the Ryder Cup. It would have been tough to fathom the U.S. team without him next month. Before the Barclays at Bethpage last week that was a real possibility. Not anymore thanks to Reed bullying the big bad Black course and outlasting the field on his way to a 1 shot victory.

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Reed’s victory shouldn’t have been as easy as it looked. Pat and Rickie Fowler entered the back nine on Sunday at the Black with Reed trailing Fowler by a shot. Fowler hadn’t made a bogey in forever, but he also hadn’t starred Patrick Reed in the eye in the heat of a battle. Reed birdied the 12th after Fowler bogeyed the 11th and Fowler’s meltdown was underway. From there Reed kept hitting greens and the result was a 3 shot lead with a few holes to play. Sean O’Hair and Emilo Grillo were in the house at -8 but not exactly threats to someone playing with Reed’s confidence.

I’m still dumbfounded by the fact that Reed had not won a Tour event in 20 months, since the 2015 Tournament of Champions. The fact that he was on the Olympic team with that track record tells you how many guys had to say no to Rio before Reed was an option. It also shows you how flawed the Ryder Cup points system is if Reed was even in the top 10 without a 2016 victory. He hasn’t played poorly, but he hasn’t lived up to his top 5 billing. Don’t tell him that.

The NLU fellas tweeted that as a joke, but it wasn’t far off. I saw the tweet before I saw Reed’s actual interview. Pete Kostis put the mic up to Reed and that’s almost exactly what came out, sponsor mentions and all. I’m glad this guy is on our side at Hazeltine. For the record, the top 8 on the U.S. team were locked in place after the Barclays. Reed is now 4th on that list, as if it matters. Fowler is on the outside looking in. As are Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar…..who were fellow Olympians with Reed.

The Field

Rickie Fowler knows he let one get away. I blame that cheese dick mustache he sprouted last week at the urging of Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman. You saw that thing, you couldn’t miss it. Gary McCord even wasted our time pontificating that Fowler was coloring the ‘stache. Ahhh…..CBS at its worst best.

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In my mind Fowler should have some work to do to make the Ryder Cup team. He’s been almost invisible in big tournaments for about 6 months until last Sunday. Captain Love will be watching Fowler closely before he makes his captain’s picks, but most seem to think Fowler is going to be on the team. It is rumored he told Reed that he’d see him in Minnesota when they left the 18th green at Bethpage. Hey Rick, you’ll also see him on Boston and Indianapolis the next two weeks if you need some time with him.

Sean O’Hair finished T2 with Emillo Grillo. O’Hair, really? Was Anthony Kim in the top 5 too? I like O’Hair and always root for him due to his personal back story. Hopefully his play on Long Island is a precursor to more good golf in his future. I’d like to see him back with the “haves” and not the “have nots” of the PGA Tour. As for Grillo, he’s trending in the right direction and will be a popular pick in Boston this week. If he’d putted worth a shit he might have taken’s Reed’s trophy from him.

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Jason Day played at his C+ game level again and still snagged a top 5 finish. He’s been good in 2016 and could win POTY depending on how the Playoffs finish. But think about how much better he was in 2015 and was overshadowed by Jordan Spieth. If he finds his 2015 form he might be set up for a legendary 2017 season.

Speaking of Jordan Spieth…..he was in the top 10 at the Barclays too. He played alright. His putter showed a few glimpses of what we expect from the Golden Boy, but that isn’t the bigger story here. Remember when he passed on the Olympics due to health concerns. When he bailed on Rio most figured that meant he was thinking wedding bells and babies with his long time girlfriend. The Twitterverse seems to think otherwise as they’ve documented Jordan with a few girls somewhere between his round at Friar’s Head with the #SB2k16 boys and getting to the pro-am at TPC Boston.

So that’s out there, and I’m not sure what to think of it. For you old guys that can’t interpret millennial communication, that’s a pic of Jordan with two girls from SnapChat and it is followed by screen shots of one girl’s texts where she explains her (alleged) evening with the Golden Boy without his Under Armor. Perhaps it is fake. Perhaps it isn’t/wasn’t really Jordan Speith. It sure looks real. Let’s see how the damage control plays out, if it does. Maybe Spieth broke it off with his home girl and this was his way of catching up for lost time.

Shot Of The Day

You heard all last week how tough of a golf course Bethpage Black is. From tee to green I agree that it is extremely hard. And therefore it didn’t yield a ton of the darts, hole outs, and chip ins that a typically PGA Tour tournament site does. You know that I hate giving you a SOTD that is a putt, but this one from Jason Day is too good to ignore.

Some of you guys don’t last 16 seconds in bed, let alone hole a putt that takes that long to get to the bottom of the hole.

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Course Review: Bethpage State Park (Black Course)

Bethpage State Park (Black Course) – Farmingdale, NY (Architect: Albert Warren Tillinghast 1936)

Background

When the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt set the wheels in motion for his New Deal that would bring the country out of the worst economic times it had ever seen. Part of FDR’s new deal included plans to put people back to work building infrastructure and other public goods, including parks. Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York on Long Island is a result of one of the New Deal’s programs. In 1936 A.W. Tillinghast was hired to build the Black Course at Bethpage.

The Black Course has become infamous for being tough, just like the Long Islanders that play it, but before 1995 Tilly’s fantastic design had been left for dead. Enter David Fay, the USGA’s former Executive Director had played the Black in his youth. He happened by the course on a trip back to his home in New Jersey while still the USGA chief and saw the potential it had. The course simply needed a face lift. Fay got the state, the USGA, and NBC all to buy in and agree to have Bethpage host the 2002 Open only if a severe restoration could be done in time for the championship. Thanks to Fay’s vision and everyone that bought into it the Black Course became the first publicly owned facility to host a U.S. Open. Since then it has hosted a 2nd U.S. Open (2009), a Fed Ex Cup event with more coming, and a PGA Championship and Ryder Cup in the not too distant future.

When Fay walked the course on a whim that fateful day he saw a beautiful old girl that needed an influx of cash and some TLC. Rees Jones, the Open Doctor, was hired to do the restoration work. The bunkers you see on the course today are mostly his works of art in Tillinghast’s fingerprints, but the routing and green complexes are all thanks to A.W. Jones came back between the U.S. Opens and added another 400 yards and I noticed new tee boxes on several holes that didn’t exist when I first played the course. The Black has some of the thickest everyday rough you’ll ever play thanks to their staff over-seeding it every spring.

I’ve made two trips around the Black. The first was in 2002, 4 months after Tiger Woods won his 2nd U.S. Open there. The rough was cut to 3.5 inches, but was so thick you could not advance a club longer than a 7 iron from it. The sand in the bunkers was so fluffy that any shot that landed in them that had height on it would result in a fried egg. I played from 7100 yards, had two birdies, and shot 79.

I returned in 2006 in the middle of a NYC heat wave. The course is “walking only” and I carried my bag in 102 degree heat. There isn’t much shade on the rugged Black. Moisture wicking material hadn’t yet hit the golf world. My cotton shirt and shorts were ruined for life after that day but I still had a blast. We played from 7400 yards that day and I shot 77. I can practically remember every shot. The Black does that to you. Everything about it is memorable.

Of course the urban legend surrounding the Black course is that you have to sleep in your car to get a tee time. Not exactly. It is a State Park and the New York State employees run the show here. Tee times can be made by New York residents in the tee time system. Back in the day, other state residents could donate a kidney, get in the tee time system, and grab a time by calling to see if anyone cancelled the day before. Ok, not a kidney, but they did want a copy of your license and social security card to add you. I actually am in the system and made a time there my 2nd time around. The first time I showed up around 9 on a nice October day and was on the 1st tee by 10:45. Weekends are a different story. If you don’t have a time you’re sleeping in the car. When you pull in they give you a wrist band to make sure you don’t get out of line. The last car in line keeps their lights on. You get certain times before the sun comes up and a few cancellations. This is the democracy our forefathers dreamed of 250 years ago.

Layout/Scenery

If it isn’t dark out when you pull into the Bethpage parking lot you notice that it is immediately aesthetically pleasing. The old trees that line the drive, the stately clubhouse, the view off the first tee….nothing about it screams “MUNI!” until you see the driving range or try to check in (more on both later). The brick walk behind the clubhouse leads you around the putting green and the famed warning sign comes into view as if you’re about to chug a bottle of poison.

That’s all New York ego. Don’t let it scare you. From the 1st tee your drive will launch out into space to a fairway that is about 50 feet below the tee. It is a majestic opening shot and your ball will travel about 30 yards further than you’d expect (unless into the wind) because of the change in elevation. What a great way to start a round. The grueling walk begins once you find level ground in the first fairway. Holes 1, 15, 16, 17, and 18 are the only 5 holes in the same section of the park as the clubhouse. To get to number two you cross Round Swamp Rd. and the hike truly begins up and down Long Island foothills you didn’t know existed. The warning sign is more applicable to the walk you face if you ask me.

That is the par 3 eighth hole above. It looks benign and the water isn’t in play but that tree will reach out and slap a push into the H2O if you get sloppy. Humble brag alert –   I birdied it both times! The turn is made to the back nine at the farthest point from the 1st tee. They don’t sell rounds of 9 just as the golf gods intended it to be. At this point in the hike the course actually flattens out for 3 or 4 holes, but 10, 11, and 12 can be some of the toughest on the course. If you really bust a drive you may have a short iron to 11, but the 10th is a long par 4 you’ll be lucky to reach in two no matter how good you hit it. If you’re in the rough you have no shot at the green.

Your last hole before you again cross Round Swamp Road is the short par three 14th hole. The USGA will play the hole anywhere from 100 yards to 165. I think you’ll see it more around 150 for the Barclays, PGA, and Ryder Cup events coming up. A reader tells me they’ve revamped the green a touch. Perhaps there was too much slope and it was brushed up to allow for more hole locations.

That’s Tiger at the 15th above. This hole statistically is the toughest but it has been neutered a bit by modern equipment. At 475 yards most players will hit 3 wood then 8 iron to the severely uphill and undulating green. A long iron into this in 2002 made the approach much more troublesome. The hike up to that green is exhausting at that point in your day, and once you get there you have to focus on navigating one of the Black’s few greens that has real teeth.

The 17th might be the signature hole of Bethpage. The 200 yard par 3 has a natural stadium around it. The fescue grown post 2002 between the tee and the green frames the hole well with the hills, trees, and bunkers creating a postcard back drop. The Black’s weakest link is its finishing hole. Eighteen is a mere 410 yards down hill. Three iron followed by a short iron is no way for a major championship to be decided. There’s no room to extend the hole either. In 2009 the USGA had the hole play 295 yards in the final round and almost no one went for it. While the hole isn’t perfect the idea of making it driveable is as gay as cum on a mustache.

If I have a favorite hole (it is hard to pick just one) I’d go with the 5th shown above. Number 5 at Bethpage Black is often discussed as the quintessential Tillinghast hole. It is about a 480 yard par 4 with a new tee added around 2006. There are bunkers down the right and woods on the left. The tee shot requires a slight fade or a 295 yard carry over the bunkers. The approach requires a slight draw to a green that sits 25 feet above the fairway. Fade tee ball with a draw approach, that’s why they say its a classic Tilly hole.

My first grade in this review is a 5 out of 5 for the layout. There were once some ugly backdrops around holes 3, 15, and even 2 but those have been cleaned up. I’m nitpicking the 18th hole only because it is the final hole. If it were played in any other order it would be a fine hole. I won’t deduct a point for that. Tillyinghast’s routing is classic and thrilling. When you walk the land you know you’re some place special.

Score: 5.0

Conditioning

My sample size of what the conditioning is like at Bethpage is a small one, but both times around the Black the place was in fantastic condition. This was true even in October just a few weeks after the greens were aerated. As I noted already the rough is thick and lush as if the grass is being fed steroids. It isn’t kept long for everyday play but the ball settles down easily in it. You don’t get too many good lies. See below.

The greens at the Black aren’t too undulating, minus a few, and from what I saw they were consistent and mowed at decent speeds for both my loops. I’d bet for everyday muni golf you won’t find any better. They probably run about a 10.5 on the Stimp meter. If they made them much faster the every man playing the course for 99% of its rounds wouldn’t break 100. I also noted above that in 2002 the bunkers were too soft. That was fixed 4 years later. The track I saw in 2006 could have hosted a Tour event with 48 hours of prep. No point deductions here.

Score: 5.0

Value

Because Bethpage is a state park the New York residents get a nice break here just like San Diego County residents get a price break at Torrey Pines. You can see the fee structure below.

Bethpage State Park Golf Coursesbpresidents

Yeah, $65 to play a 2 time U.S. Open host site that is getting a PGA and a Ryder Cup…??? There’s no better deal in the world for a big boy golf course. Even the out of state rate isn’t too bad and well worth it. I think I paid $89 and $110 for my fees around the Black. Nothing in New York is cheap, and you rarely find true value in anything within 50 miles of Manhattan, but golf at Bethpage is the exception to the rule.

Score: 5.0

Service/Pace

So far everything at Bethpage Black sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Here’s a category that will take the Black down a peg. When you check in you’re basically cattle. You stand in a line like you’re at a bank. You have to have all your shit ready and your whole group there to get a wrist band that gets you a date with the starter. That’s all after you slept in your car if you went that route. The staff is made up entirely of state employees. They don’t have to be nice because there are 20 people behind you that would love to be shit on just to play the famed course.

Things don’t get much better from the staff once you get to the 1st tee. The starter has seen all types and he’s not there to entertain you like so many with his job might try to do at a resort course. He’s a tough Long Island guy who wants you to be ready and get the fuck out of his sight. He’ll grunt at you as he cuts off your wristband (it is entirely possible that the wrist band system is gone since I haven’t played the course in ten years). Staff at the halfway house is average at best and don’t expect a hot college girl to roll up on a beverage cart. Those don’t exist at the Black.

You like that big black cloud I just threw at you concerning the service? Well, it only gets worse in this category. There is no pace at the Black course. It isn’t a crawl, but you’ve got a packed course everyday that has as many tourists on it as it has locals. The tourists might not even belong on a course this tough but they’ll play it to say they did. They’ll take 5+ hours to do it to. And remember, they’re walking! The hike is tough and it certainly hurts the pace at the Black. I scored BPB low in this category but not a 1 or a zero. The staff is probably a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of rounds and customers. There’s not much more they can do when offering up a course like that with such a low price.

Score: 2.5

Amenities

The part of Long Island that Bethpage is on isn’t exactly a place you’ll want to hang around in after you play the Black course. The park itself has some amenities like a restaurant, tennis, hiking, etc, but there’s no way you’re up for any of that shit if you just hiked the Black. You’re thisclose to New York City. Go explore it. Go to a Mets game, go to a horse track, go to Manhattan and do any of 100 million things there is to do there. Pro tip – when you’re done with any of that find a good seat at Scores and don’t use the ATM once you get there.

As for the golf amenities, this is another category that Bethpage will lose a point or more. The range is a joke. It has no grass hitting area. It was significantly improved from 2002 to 2006 when I came back but it still isn’t up to snuff with what you’d expect at a major championship course. Note that they make a range on one of the other courses when the PGA Tour comes to town. The putting green is fine but there’s no short game area or anything resembling one that I ever saw when I was on the premises. There’s no golf carts on the Black so you’d think they might have a caddie program. They do, but it wasn’t official or affiliated with the course ten years ago. It was local dudes offering to carry your bag for somewhere between $50 to $100 for the round. They sit around the outside of the clubhouse and appear more likely to rob you than they do to give you the right club or read a putt. They might all know their shit and be great caddies, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Score: 3.5

Difficulty

Outside of the pond in front of the 8th hole there’s not a water hazard on the course. There are a few forced carries, TO THE FAIRWAYS, that may be too much for weaker players so you’ll want to make sure you’re playing the correct tees. Note that the white tees are still nearly 6700 yards. That’s long for an average player. Most people don’t check the yardage and tee it up on  the white tees without thinking. That’s too much golf course for a guy hitting 200 yard tee shots. As I said earlier, many of the greens are flat-ish, with a few exceptions. I think the main challenges thrown at you by the course are the rough and the approach shots. It is a tee to green course. No short game wiz that hits it shorter than average is going to win a tournament on the Black.

I do think that the course is fair and playable for players that have an 18 index or lower as long as they don’t lack distance. You have to be pretty far off course to have tree problems at Bethpage. You aren’t likely to lose a ball. The longish heather is way away from the fairway and there’s plenty of primary rough to play from should you miss a fairway. The most difficult task ahead of you playing BPB is hitting to the greens. Many are raised or sit on top of a decent size hill. You’ll be clubbing up for much of your round because a 150 shot here will likely play 160 on most holes with just a few exceptions. There aren’t any true blind shots but there are several holes that you can’t see the putting surface from the fairway. The Black fucks with you that way.

Per usual, this rating isn’t based on a 5 being “way too hard”. I’m rating a course a 5 when I’d say it’s playable and enjoyable, but not easy, for players of all levels. Bethpage Black is hard, but it isn’t tricked up and there’s nothing crazy asked of you outside of the rough and some extra yardage. I don’t think a short knocking 25 handicap would have any fun on it, but the course wasn’t built for them. It was built for championship golf. It has a high slope and course rating for a reason. It is going to punch you in the face a few times. Can you take a punch? If so, play the Black. Don’t be scared.

Score: 4.5

Composite

The composite score from all categories above takes a hit for the service, pace, and amenities the facility lacks, but there’s no shame in the score I arrived at. The course and its conditioning are as good as it gets. If that has more to do with your decision to check a course out then by all means you need to put Bethpage Black on your bucket list. If you need to be pampered, ride in a cart, and have everyone on staff service you like you’re the 1st lady, go play somewhere else. This is the People of New York’s course, they don’t want you here anyway.

Score: 4.25

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US Am, Olympic Golf, And Wyndham Final Thoughts – All Rolled Into One

Lydia Ko To Show Was The Smart Bet

With the men out of the way the ladies got their chance at Olympic gold this week in Rio. They smartly teed off on Wednesday and wrapped up Saturday and I think that helped them get the air time they deserved from the golf world. With the US Am final on Sunday and the Wyndham final round being played concurrently the medal ceremony would have been buried like women’s golf typically is. Maybe it would have been better off if it had. I’m kidding, but Inbee Park dominating took the gold medal drama out of the round by the time she made the turn to the back nine. I watched to see if Ko and Stacy Lewis would medal, but the gold was off the table.

Park is a Hall of Famer and has been ranked #1 in the world plenty over the last 4 years. But Inbee winning gold in Rio was a huge surprise due to all the shitty/injured golf she has/hasn’t played in 2016. Park hadn’t even broke 70 in months. She began playing in events only to count them for her Hall of Fame numbers then withdrawing week after week after one shot because of her injury. The rest must have done her well as she was aces in Rio. I’m not sure what it says about me but I hate watching her play. Her swing is ugly as fuck, she hits it nowhere and she has no personality. Watching her win isn’t much different than watching the World Championships of mini-golf. Both are all about putting.

Ko was pretty damn good, but she wasn’t in Park’s world on the scoreboard. I’ll give Lydia credit, she played with the weight of New Zealand on her shoulders and gutted out the final round without her A game to pass Stacy Lewis and Shanshan Fang to get the silver medal. Fang kind of dumb-lucked her way in to the bronze. She had no idea what her score meant as she finished. Lewis left her birdie putt short on the final hole to finish one shot out of a bronze playoff. She was beside herself on the final green after tapping in for par.

All in all I think having Olympic exposure helped golf a little bit, but it probably helped the women a little more. Shit, they got me to watch. The results say plenty about the state of the women’s game in the US, note no medals. Stacy Lewis disappointed, as did Lexi Thompson. I didn’t expect much from Gerina Piller until she played well enough to find herself in the final 3 some on Saturday. The moment got to her for the last 18 holes. It is cliche to say she wanted it too bad, but that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t that she choked, it is that she was pressing all day. How could she not with Park going nuts with her putter?

The course Gil Hanse built for two tournaments during the Olympic games once again held up great for the ladies a week after the men stomped all over it. More kudos to Gil for that and I think it is a sign of a great course that it produced such similar results from different players and tees.

Better To Be Luck(y) Than Good

As I noted above the US Amateur was being contested last week in suburban Detroit of all places. The venerable Oakland Hills Country Club hosted 36 holes of stroke play qualifying on both its North and South courses, then the low 64 players advanced to match play. By the weekend we were down to four players that included Brad Dalke, Curtis Luck, and Nick Carlson.

carlson

That’s Carlson above. He was the lowest ranked player left in the field after nearly ever round of match play (he was ranked above 1000 in the amateur rankings). He goes to school about 40 minutes away from Oakland Hills and had the home crowds buzzing with great matches and phenomenal shot making. He also made a name for himself by playing with more emotion than I’d ever seen from a golfer playing in such a prestigious event. The diminutive Carlson had adrenaline flowing with every shot. He could often be seen jumping and shouting after his swing or stroke. His story was great, but I wonder if that much emotion left his tank empty when he finally lost on the 23rd hole of his semi-final match.

He had Curtis Luck dead a few times in that match and Luck found a way off the mat and put Carlson away with a two putt birdie on their final hole. The Luck-Carlson match was by default the Championship Match. Unfortunately for Carlson the timing of his loss means no Masters invite, no US Open exemption. Instead Luck gets those as the champion as does the runner up from the other side of the bracket, Oklahoma’s Brad Dalke.

Luck beat Dalke handily, 6 & 4 in the final. If he’d lost on Saturday he would have turned pro on the spot, signed for some nice cash with Callaway, and started using exemptions immediately on the PGA Tour after the Fed Ex Playoffs end. He’s basically a pro anyway. He’s Australian. He doesn’t go to college. He plays in big boy amateur events and some pro events back in Oz. How does that work? Who’s paying the freight? His schedule, his travel, and his equipment being all Callaway sure seems fishy to me.

manbun

Most U.S. Am champs go on to pretty successful careers on the PGA Tour. I’m not going to forecast that for Luck. He’s a fine player. He’s calm and calculating and has every shot. But I think he won this week more because of his demeanor and experience than because of talent. That won’t beat many professional fields. I can’t root for him anyway until he he loses the man bun thing he’s working with his hair (my dog was unharmed).

I always enjoy the U.S. Am. I like to see the host site for 5 days on TV. I like to see the college kids rip it. And the drama of match play never disappoints. The Fox coverage was pretty good besides Azinger. They continue to lead the way in Pro Tracer use and that is a big plus for junkies like me. I didn’t like the USGA set up of the course very much. They didn’t use the entire golf course and made two par 4s drive-able in the same round at distances 60 to 100 yards shorter than the members play it. Doing it on one hole per round is fine. Twice is a gimmick. And shorting us the chance at seeing the players play a 260 yard par 3 (the 9th) is weak. It was never set up longer than 211 yards.

Si Woo Run Away

I’m honestly not that familiar with Si Woo Kim’s golf game, or I wasn’t until I watched him scorch the field at Sedgefield Country Club this week. He’s 21 and is playing his first full year on the Tour. He’s best known as the 17 year old that qualified for the Tour in 2012 but couldn’t play the full schedule until he turned 18 nearly a year later. Because of his age snafu he toiled on the Web.com Tour until earning his promotion last fall. Kim had a fairly successful 2016 going making 2/3 of his cuts with a smattering of top 10 and top 20 finishes. His Wyndham win now puts him back in the young phenom discussion so many tried to make him a part of 3 and a half years ago.

Kim did it all with ease in Greensboro for four days. His trophy run was highlighted by his 2nd round 60. That’s not a typo, that says 60. Dude had a chance at 59. Then he backed it up with a 64 on Saturday! He was nearly mistake free and went on to win by 5 thanks to his final round 67. At 21 Kim is only a few months older than the new U.S. Am champion.

Luke Donald finished T2 in what seems like a typical sneaky Luke money grab finish. Luke’s game has come around of late but he still has no chance of making the Euro Ryder Cup team. He was ranked 90th in the world before the Wyndham. Speaking of late Ryder Cup pushes, Jim Furyk has all but put himself on the USA team thanks to….well, a lot of bullshit. Furyk shot 58. Furyk had a top 5 finish at Oakmont. That is about it. He’s horrible in the Ryder Cup and has no business being on the team based on what he’s done this year. I’ve said my peace but the boys at NLU lay it out real clear. I could not agree with them more.

Shot Of The Day

I guess it can’t be the Shot of the Day when it happened on Saturday, but whatever. Normally on SFG.com we talk about Maria Verchenova because she’s the best looking pro golfer on the planet.

Yeah her, remember her? The Russian broad with great tits. I’d forgotten she still played professional golf. Apparently she dabbles in the professional game on the Ladies Euro Tour. Who knew? Ok, I kind of knew, but I never see her name on a leaderboard. Turns out Maria qualified for the Olympics for Russia. On Sunday in Rio she shot a course record 62 (!!!!!!!) with the help of an ace.

That was enjoyable. Did her boobs shrink? Great shot. I liked that she had no idea it went in until it was confirmed over the radio. That might put her in the running for September’s Up & Comer.

What’s Next?

That is a full week, a helluva week of golf. But now big boy golf picks back up again with a vengeance. The Fed Ex Cup Playoffs start this week on Long Island’s Bethpage Black course. That’s almost like getting a 5th men’s major for the year. The Black won’t play like it does for U.S. Opens, and you’ll see plenty of birdies with the 6th hole likely playing as an easy par 5 instead of a tough par 4, but there won’t be anything too easy. The New York fans will make the week fun. I’m not sure why but this one feels like a Jason Day win. I’ve played the Black twice so I’ll also be putting out a course review sometime before the event starts. You’ve been warned.

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Did I Miss Anything?

Golden Rose

I’m back, whether you wanted me back or not. I know, I know. You missed me terribly and couldn’t even take your Monday morning shit without my ramblings to read. I’m sorry to have disappointed you but daddy needed some time away. Remember, I have a day job and a family that require my attention more than the interwebs do. So what did I miss? A lot of fucking great golf, with more to come.

First off, lets talk Olympics. Rose wins the gold. He was fantastic all four days of the tournament and deserved the big prize at the end of the 72 hole exhibition. I liked how he embraced the entire Olympic experience. That might be why he won. I enjoyed how he practically rubbed the gold medal in the face of guys like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy. In hindsight the Olympic tournament was a great event on a very cool course. All the terror talk, Zikka, it was bullshit media hype that the top players should have ignored. Yet in the end this isn’t some game changer in a sport with 400 years of history behind it. It will be a side note to the year’s majors every 4 years. There will be some cute and quirky stats that come from it. A gold medal here or there might sway a Player of the Year race in someone’s favor in the future. Outside of that I’m not going  to give it a second thought.

Kudos to Kuchar and Stenson for playing their guts out and taking home medals from Rio as well. I’ll also give a big tip of the cap to Gil Hanse for designing a compelling golf course on shitty land in such short time. The design, the bunkering, the grasses he used…dude nailed it. We know that Rory was watching, Jason Day too, and don’t think for one second that Jordan Spieth wasn’t getting an earful from Rickie Fowler about being a pussy for skipping the games. I suspect all will crawl to Japan for the 2020 games if they get the opportunity to play for their countries.

Ugh, too bad I can’t get that image of Rosie out of my head. He’s a pretty big dork to begin with, sunglasses issues and all, then throw the dude into a UK themed tracksuit and let him slick his hair up and he rivals any Staten Island guido waddling through shitty pizzeria. I hope he got a bowl of soup with that.

Moore Deere

I’m told Ryan Moore won the John Deere Classic. I love the event and how it is usually a show case of young talent trying to make it on Tour as they fight Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker for every dollar available to them. Sadly this year I didn’t catch any of the Sunday action. I’ve got no Shot of the Day for you and in general no comment about the actual golf. I’m happy to see Moore win because he’s one of the more under-rated players on Tour and I’d like to see him in more WGC events than also ran stops like the Deere.

Outside of Moore winning the buzz out of Silvis concerned Robert Allenby, he of Hawaiian made up stories and kidnapping fame. No, we weren’t talking about him for his golf, or firing a caddie mid-round. Allenby has missed 90% of his cuts this year and has a high finish of T63 in the two events in which he did play the weekend. Who would want to talk about him and how terrible he is?

Instead Allenby made headlines because he was arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct outside an area casino around 3 am. This happened about 12 hours after he again missed the weekend cut. He was hammered. He’s done with golf. His season stats tell you he’ll be lucky to find a home on the Web.com Tour in 2017. My gut says Mr. Finchem will suspend him for quite some time anyway. I’d go play in Europe for a year if I was him to try to figure out life. The Euro brass seem much more accepting of drunken shenanigans their players are up to.

I Missed Hartford Too

I actually watched the action in Hartford two weeks ago. Somehow fate found me with time on my hands in my house that day. I watched Russell Knox gut out a great par on the 72nd hole to send a knockout punch to Jerry Kelly’s gut as he waited in the scoring area to see if he’d get a chance at a playoff. Poor Jerry. Great hat toss though.

Fucking-A did Knox earn it! The other story from the GHO was Jim Furyk’s early Sunday 58. He was 15 shots behind 54 hole leader Daniel Berger to start his final round. Three hours later the two were tied (largely thanks to Berger blowing up). Furyk shot 58 but don’t kid yourself, he had no pressure on him. Of course there’s a lot rattling around in your head when you’re 11 under after 13 holes, or whatever the number was, but Jim has been there before. He shot 59 in Chicago in 2013. He didn’t birdie two of the easiest holes on the back nine at TPC River Highlands because he was shitting himself. That is the lowest round ever on Tour in some 1.5 million tries. What an amazing stat. Jim deserves credit for the number but that 58 may not even win my award for the Round of the Year.

Oh relax, it will be nominated. It might win, but this is no slam dunk. Remember, Stenson shot 63 in a major in the final round and won. A 58 on a TPC during a sleepy Sunday morning can’t top that.

US Am and Womens Olympics

All that golf and there’s still so much in front of us. The women get their shot at the Olympic track in Rio this week. I know you’re not expecting me to say this, but I’ll be watching. I want to see how they compare to the men. I want to see them cry when they get medals. And I want to see if there are any foreign hotties in the field that aren’t LPGA regulars. See, I haven’t changed since I’ve been away.

We also have the U.S. Am in Detroit this week at Oakland Hills. Unlike some years I think the Am is wide open. There isn’t a distinctive favorite. The stroke play portion of the championship ended on Tuesday. Wednesday will kick off with 23 players playing off for the final 8 spots in the 64 man match play bracket. Then round 1 of the matches will start. The final will be held on Sunday. Oakland Hills hosted the Am in 2002 but the USGA hasn’t been back since. That’s mostly because the Ryder Cup came in 2004 and the PGA was there in 2008. Once the PGA rolls in to town the USGA generally stays way for a bit. This works similar to how you don’t fuck your buddy’s crazy ex-girlfriend for at least 6 months after they broke up. #Respect

I’ve played Oakland Hills. It is a venerable, historic track. It is long. The rough is always thick. The greens are always insane. But it won’t play all the way back for the ams this week. And the Detroit area as seen a bit of the wet stuff in recent days so you can expect plenty of birdies being given up by the old Monster* (c) Ben Hogan. If you made me pick a winner I’d take Texas’ Scottie Scheffler. He’s a former U.S. Junior Amateur champ who looked really comfortable in match play at the NCAA Championships in June.

WAG Round Up

When you’re on a 3 week mini hiatus you not only miss a bunch of golf, you miss WAG pics fluttering about the interwebs. If you caught one that I didn’t don’t be shy, tweet it to me or email me. In the meantime you’ll have to settle for these. We had this Twitpic from Chris Kirk showing us his lovely wife again – this time on the beach.

Remember, she’s had at least 2 kids.

Wesley Bryan won a 3rd Web.com event for 2016 and got instantly promoted to the PGA Tour while I was away. Then he showed up at the John Deere and grabbed a top ten finish. Somebody sneaky at the Tour snapped a quick pic of him with his wife/girlfriend. I’m not a fan, but I know you horn dogs wanted to see her. Who is she?

Lastly, Mrs. Justin Rose – Kate, traveled with her gold medal winning hubby to Rio and didn’t disappoint when she greeted JR on the final green. Did your medal stand get erected quickly? I think I actually down played her look once upon a time. I take it back. She’s won me over.

That’s all for now. I’m hoping to get back to regular updates soon. I also still need to select an August Up & Comer. If you have a nominee please drop me a line, comment, email, whatever.

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Major Win For Walker: Final Thoughts On PGA Championship

I’ve Always Been A Day Late And A Dollar Short

Maybe being nearly a week late in a major wrap up post is a bit much, but life happens. With a bump in the schedule from the Olympics the PGA Championship came and went the last week of July, but it did not go quietly into the night thanks to Jimmy Walker. Walker lead Glory (hole)’s Last Shot from wire to wire after opening with a Thursday 65. He only lost the lead briefly on Sunday morning when he began his 3rd round with a few bogies. He was only briefly threatened in the final round when Jason Day hit an all-timer of a shot to make eagle at 18. Walker is a world class player who’s come into his winning ways in the last 3 years since he began working with Butch Harmon.

Walker had zero PGA Tour wins before 2013 when Harmon came into the fold. He won 5 times in 2 years, but before the PGA he hadn’t won in 17 months. I thought the Jimmy Walker comet had come and gone. Then Baltusrol came arond and fit Walker’s game perfectly, especially with the sloppy weather that hit the course all week long. Jimmy took advantage and played a near flawless yet smart final round to become the Tour’s latest 1st time major winner.

Walker made 9 straight pars to start his day then missed a green at 10 and appeared to have some stress facing him to save par. Instead he holed his bunker shot to make his first birdie. Apparently that freed Walker up a bit to go on and birdie the 11th as well by making a smooth 20 foot left to right putt. More scrambling and more stock pars followed until Walker played the hole of his life to birdie the stout 17th hole. At that moment he had a 3 shot advantage and could taste the Wanamaker trophy. His dream was complete after making a quasi safe par at the last.

Some Twitter dorks questioned Walker as a major-worthy player, as in his game isn’t up to snuff with the big boys who pick off majors in bunches. While I don’t think Walker will win another major in 2017, don’t sell him short. Watch him swing. He’s rock solid. When his putter is hot he’s a top 10 player in the world. Who does he have to thank for his success? Certainly Butch Harmon is on the list, but Jimmy never would have hooked up with Butch if it weren’t for his wife, Erin.

As the story goes, Jim contacted Butch to try to work with him. Butch didn’t get in contact with Jimmy right away and Erin took that as a slight. She called Butch herself to get the golfer and instructor together. The rest is history as I laid it out for you above. Jimmy is a quiet guy. He’s known for his astrology hobby, star gazing if you will. She’s the ying to his yang. For all the credit Harmon gets for making Jimmy who he is on the course, I’d say he should only get 49% of the credit. The rest goes to her. He wouldn’t have the Wanamaker trophy without her.

Winners & Losers

Fourth major in the books, 4th edition of major winners and losers at your fingertips. That’s how we roll. Here goes:

Winners

Jimmy Walker – The champ gets top billing, how could you ever justify anyone else? Walker now joins players like Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Dustin Johnson, Danny Willett, and others who are 1 time major winners with gobs of talent to win more. Who will break out of this pack and tag more majors? Who will never get another and be a Davis Love or Justin Leonard type?

Did he just go full Dufner there on Erin with the ass pat? I think he did, with the kids around too. That’s straight out of my play book.

Jason Day – Day didn’t win but he did make things interesting. I’ve made comparisons of Day to Tiger Woods all season long. Everything Day did at Baltusrol was Woods-esque. He mounted a late charge and nearly won the damn tournament with his B game. Not a lot of guys can do that.

Then he stuck around to congratulate Jimmy in person because that’s the kind of guy he is. He and Jimmy are bus buddies at most Tour events. Their families know each other well. Without a doubt there are more majors in Day’s future. Walker getting this one won’t hurt Jason’s legacy and that shot he hit to the 72nd green is the stuff of legend.

Daniel Summerhays – Where the fuck has this guy been and what was he doing in the PGA Championship in the first place? He’s won of these guys that makes a bunch of cuts but never really contends on the weekend. I was shocked to find out he’s won over one million dollars on Tour for the last 4 years. Who knew? His 3rd place finish at the PGA is a game changer. He’s in the Masters and several other big boy tournament for 2017. If he can take advantage of those opportunities he’ll move up in class among his PGA Tour peers.

Robert Streb – I could say see Summerhays, Daniel above, but most golf fans have at least heard of Mr. Streb. He’s actually won an event before. You forgot that didn’t you? Due to the weather delays and the PGA not re-pairing for the final round Streb played the final 36 holes in the last group with Jimmy Walker with mucho air time. He held his own just fine and finished T7, his best ever finish in a major. He was 1 putt away from locking up a spot in the Masters field next year but I’m not going to shit on a great week by a PGA Tour also ran just because he did everything but earn an Augusta invite.

Butch Harmon – I’ve already detailed the difference Harmon has made with Walker. He’s done it with Tiger, Rickie, Phil, and Walker is just the latest proof in the pudding that Harmon is the best at what he does. Sadly, Butch isn’t looking too good. Big Cat better get over to Vegas and see the old man before he’s 6 feet under.

Losers

Golf Fans – We essentially got dicked out of the 3rd round theatrics we were hoping for on Saturday afternoon. Playing that round on Sunday morning took the wind out of the Jersey fans. Maybe that isn’t all bad.

Now we fans have to wait 8 more months for another major. That flat out sucks but I’m hopeful the Ryder Cup makes up for this slight.

The Favorites –  I’m looking at you Dustin and Rory. You can’t take the collar in majors for the year if your name is Rory McIlroy and you are the most talented player in the game. If you’re DJ and you’ve done what you’ve done in 2016 I would give you a pass from making the cut and not contending, but missing the cut and shooting some of your worst rounds of the year was a disaster for him. DJ will be fine. Rory has to steam on this for 8 months. I will be curious to see what the 2017 Rory looks like with new equipment.

Matsuyama’s Putter – The side story from CBS outside of the Walker/Day duel was Hideki Matsuyama’s inability to get the ball in the hole. He hit it great, but his putting became laughable. I think he’ll take more positives away from the PGA due to his high finish but his attempts with th flat stick will be something to keep an eye on next time he is in contention at a major.

PGA of America – They got the weather wrong. They got the hole locations wrong. They looked bad in Jordan Spieth’s ruling. But in the end we finished on time and they look a whole helluva lot better than their USGA counterparts in how they run a championship. I think they tried to make the best of the weathe situation, but they also could have moved up Saturday times so they could have got the round in and re-paired for Sunday.

Vijay Singh – This old grumpy fuck missed the cut and bolted for Connecticut so he could work on his game in solitude. I’m not kidding. Take a look.

That is the most VJ thing ever. Looks like he’s practicing with all his friends too.

Shot Of The Day

For as long as I’ve awarded a SOTD or week I can’t recall ever calling for a tie. That ends today because I cannot deny what both Jimmy Walker and Jason Day did.

First Walker got his round jump started with his hole out at the 10th. It was huge and I do not think he wins without it.

Then Day’s 2nd shot to 18 happened. If he had won this would have been the Shot of the Year.

I can’t pick one so therefore you get both.

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What Happens In Canada – Vegas Takes RBC Canadian Open

I Only Think Of Windsor When I Think Of Vegas In Canada

I almost picked Jhonny Vegas as a dark horse for the Canadian Open. Almost. Too bad I wasn’t playing horseshoes. Jhonny played well and lead the Barbasol Championship after 54 holes the prior week. He didn’t close the tournament on Sunday but his game was rounding in to form. Where’s he been? The young Venezuelan burst on to the professional scene straight out of the University of Texas in 2011 with a big win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He’s barely been heard from since.

If you’ve ever watched a Tour player hit a golf ball you know that most of them, over 90 percent, hit the ball a damn mile and appear to never miss a shot. So what separates them week to week, year to year, in how they perform? It is the little things like making putts inside of 10 feet, saving strokes from places they have no business making a par or better from, course management, and even some luck. All those factors come into play. I saw Vegas in person at the Masters a few years ago. He looked like he could win every week. For whatever reason he not only hadn’t won again, but he hadn’t sniffed many top 10s in the last 5 years.

The Barbasol showed that Vegas was close. This week he charged home in Canada to steal a win with a final round 64. He started his Sunday 5 back of the leaders after a mundane first 3 rounds. There’s no doubt that took pressure off of him. His opening round par might have looked like more of the mundane was there to stay on Sunday, but 5 straight birdies afterward meant he was now a contender. Closing the round with 3 more birdies on holes 16 to 18 meant he was the leader in the clubhouse. That number held up over the last 10 or so groups to give Jhonny a win and a spot in the PGA and the 2017 Masters. Welcome back to relevance Mr. Vegas.

The Field

Jared du Toit just finished his sophomore year on the Arizona State golf team. When he gets back to Tempe from his summer vacation all anyone is going to want to talk to him about his how a country put all their golfing hopes and dreams on his back for one week in July. Jared is of course an amateur, he’s also Canadian, and therefore the Canadian Open is a big deal to him. He was in the field, and in the hunt, at the RBC all week long. The kid has a unique swing and is exciting to watch. His galleries grew like he was the Canadian Francis Ouimet. A Canadian hadn’t won their national championship in over 50 years. He could have been the guy, as an amateur no less. This putt on the 18th hole for eagle on Saturday set the crowd into a frenzy.

That got him into Sunday’s final pairing with Brandt Snedeker. A final round 71 left him in a T9 finish. He hits it a mile and I can’t wait to see more of him. The next time we see him he might not still be an amateur.

John Rahm is my leader for Rookie of the Year on Tour. He finished one shot behind Vegas in 2nd place. He just exhausted his eligibility at Arizona State. With Rahm and duToit how did ASU not win every tournament they entered? That is tongue in cheek. College golf is full of deep fields. DEEP. You need more than two studs to win.

Brandt Snedeker hasn’t had a great season but he looked like a new guy at the Canadian Open. His short game was phenomenal as he chipped in, or nearly did so, more than a few times for the week. I think we’ll see more of Sneds as 2016 comes to a close. You could say very similar things about Martin Laird as I said about Sneds. He hasn’t been on many leaderboards either but his weekend scores of 68-67 left him tied with Rahm as a runner up to Vegas.

Dustin Johnson showed up in Canada only because baby mamma Paulina has so much family there that she makes him go. He was clean shaven for the first time that I can remember this season. He lead most of the week but got lapped by Vegas in spite of a late charge. Don’t worry about DJ. The RBC was his 3rd event in four weeks. He’s probably a bit worn out from traveling. He’s finished  3-5-1-1-9-2 in his last five starts. He’ll be fine and still a heavy favorite come Thursday morning at the PGA.

If you’re looking for someone to worry about look no further than Jason Day. Day came to Canada to play mostly because he was the defending champ and was probably obligated to do so for his sponsor, RBC. He didn’t want to be there. He needed the week off between the Open Championship and the PGA (where he’s also the defending champ). To his credit he made the cut and shot 67 on Sunday with his C game. Now he’s in New Jersey with less than 48 hours to his tee time at the final major of the year and he hasn’t seen the course yet. Day has taken Monday and Tuesday off to rest. Good luck with that approach in your quest for a 2nd major title.

Shot Of The Day

Snedeker chipped in, but that was nearly a gimmie for a Tour pro. Otherwise, due to the firmness of Glen Abbey’s greens, there weren’t a lot of stellar shots to show you from Sunday. That leaves me with this lob shot from John Rahm. I can’t tell you how good this is.

That’s off a slight down slope. The ground under the ball if very firm and dry. He’s trying to get up and down for birdie to stay in contention for his first win. And if he fucks it up his tournament is done. That’s why Rahm is going to make millions on Tour and cubicle jockeys like you and I have day jobs.

On To Baltusrol

The whirlwind season of majors comes back hard with the PGA at Baltusrol this week. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I have plenty to say about the host site. I played in the 2006 Met Am there and became very familiar with both courses and much of the facility. I hope to provide a little more insight to the famed course later this week. Stay tuned.

The news from the first two practice rounds out of the Garden State is a bit on the dull side. The short story is this, the weather has been very hot, it rained 2 inches on Monday evening, and Byeong-Hun An won the long drive contest by hitting it 347 yards down the first hole (2 yards past Rory). Seriously, that’s it. Who am I picking? Glad you asked. Phil and Rory seem like the picks to click. I think Rory could run away and hide this week. I think he’s motivated. I think he wants to save his season, and the course is perfect for him. There’s nothing tricky. He can blast driver on 12 holes per round. If he’s anywhere in the top half of the field in strokes-gained-putting he wins by 3+ shots. Lock it.

Site News

A note in my inbox this week came from the folks of GolfAssessor.com. I don’t know much about the site but they made a list of top 50 Golf Blogs. They rank this one at 27. I’m honored. You can see the rest of the list at the link below. Thanks for the recognition. Now hopefully I can get off my ass to give you all more content this year.

ga-best-blogs-badge

I MADE THE LIST!

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Henrik Tops Phil In Battle Royal At Troon

Like A Five Course Meal, I’m Still Savoring Every Bite

I’m not going to recap every shot we watched Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson strike in their epic standoff at Troon to become the 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year. I can’t do them justice. Besides, you watched them all anyway. Of course you did. It was must see golf like most of us have never witnessed before, or at least since Tiger Woods stole Cinderella’s slippers right off Bob May’s feet when the clock struck midnight at the 2000 PGA. Henrik and Phil battled blow for blow for all 18 holes. They made 14 birdies and an eagle between them. Their 4 ball score would have been a 57. Are you fucking kidding me? They did it under cloudy, windy conditions, while more than 10 shots clear of the field, in the final pairing of a major championship. Phil totaled 65. Henrik 63. Amazing.

Stenson earned his first major unlike I’ve ever seen a golfer do before him. Johnny Miller’s final round 63 at Oakmont to win the 1973 U.S. Open has long been the gold standard of going low to win a major. Not anymore. Stenson’s 63 now holds the top spot in my mind. He couldn’t have done it without Philly Mick pushing him. I’m not sure Stenson missed a green. I don’t recall him having to chip on a par 4 or par 3 all day. He technically missed greens but then putted from the fringe. His two bogies were 3 putts. I still am not sure he’s not a robot. Phil was bogey free for his 6 under round of 65. His opening birdie at the first hole set the tone from the jump. These two were so hot they set the spider cam ablaze.

Ok, that’s not exactly true. But they were in the proverbial zone. Stenson didn’t even know what he shot until he got to the scorer’s table to sign his card. Score wasn’t on his mind, his only goal was to keep his foot on the pedal to stay clear of Mickelson. For much of the day Mickelson was a cat with 9 lives taunting Henrik. He couldn’t put Phil away. Once Hank walked in a 50 footer for birdie on 15 and dodged Phil’s eagle effort at 16 it was clear that Stenson’s first major was eminent. Then Hank hit it stone dead on 17 when Phil missed the green. Ball game. As the two men finished their round they embraced and congratulated each other. Phil knew he didn’t lose this like Winged Foot or Merion U.S. Open attempts. He got beat by a better guy, and he acknowledged that fact like a true champion.

Winners & Losers

That leaves us with your favorite part of every major wrap up at SFG.com, the Winners and Losers of the week. No more beating around the bush.

Winners

Henrik Stenson – You know the drill, the guy with the big trophy on Sunday night of a major always gets top billing. Stenson shot 63 in the final round of a major after he slept on the lead. In doing so he held off one of the 10 greatest players in the history of golf. That’s all. No big deal.

If the dude is going to basically hit every green and then walk in putts like that, like he did all day, well there’s no stopping him from beating down the field. He set an Open Championship scoring record at Royal Troon. This isn’t pitch and putt, no wind, St. Andrews. This was nasty, mean, windy, gloomy Royal Fucking Troon. He beat DFL place Greg Chalmers by 40 shots!!!! Chalmers won a PGA Tour event two weeks ago. I’m thrilled for Stenson and his major victory was well deserved and earned. I’m just pissed that I picked him to win the 2015 Open at St. Andrews instead of this one.

Phil Mickelson – What? Did you really think I’d put a guy that shot 17 under in the loser list just because he finished 2nd? There’s a reason they say it takes two to tango. Even in defeat Phil made and became a big chunk of Open history this week. If it weren’t for his 2013 Claret Jug I’d probably feel bad for him for not getting the win.

What was it Phil was saying about golf gods earlier in the week? That Golf Channel graphic tells you what he’s gone up against, and it doesn’t even count all the times Tiger Woods handed his ass to him.

I normally don’t think of Colin Cowherd when I think about golf commentary. In hearing Herd’s show this week he compared Tiger to Eddie Murphy, because he had a great run as number 1 but then became a “has been”. He then compared Phil to Bill Murray, because he was never number 1 but he kept churning out hits for a much longer career. That’s not a bad analogy. I’ll buy it.

The R & A – Boy do these old codgers look good after such a great championship, especially in comparison to the buffoons running the USGA. In ever changing weather conditions they made good decisions, stuck with them, and let mother nature and the golf course determine the winning score instead of trying uphold par or some strange ideal they think has to be protected for their championship. They also made rulings when necessary without hesitation. Everyone in Far Hills should take notes. I think everyone that had anything to do with the Open at Royal Troon would agree, except perhaps Thomas Pieters’ 7 iron.

Andrew “Beef” Johnston – When you become a cult hero in about 5 weeks, finish 8th at the Open to sneak into a spot at the PGA, and have the nickname “Beef” you’ll make my winner list more often than you won’t.

My god is this guy fun to watch. Its like Boo Weekley, John Daly, and Angel Cabrera all put their DNA into the same woman and he’s the result. And he can play too. The fans loved him, waived hamburgers at him, and he soaked it up like a guy who knows this might not last forever. Then again, maybe this is just the beginning of a 20 year career for the man once called “beef head”.

Steve Stricker – Did Father Time forget to tell Steve Stricker he’s nearly 50 years old? Nah. Old guys often hang around the top ten at the Open (see Watson, Tom and Mickelson, Phil). I think Old Man Winter is the thorn in Strick’s side instead. Dude spends most of his time in Wisconsin hitting balls in the cold. It takes until July to thaw his game out. Its also why the shit weather at the Open doesn’t bother him. Like “Beef”, Steve’s 4th place Open finish will also get him into the PGA. He was only in the Open thanks to a high finish at the Quicken. That makes him a winner, parlay style.

Losers

Sergio Garcia – He’s now 0 for 72 in majors. He was everybody’s pick last week at Troon. Sure he snagged a top ten finish but he’s running out of chances. He’s not going to win the Masters. That means he might have 15 to 20 more shots at a major before he’s done. He’ll make the loser list for everyone one of those he doesn’t win.

Bill Haas – Bill had never finished in the top 10 at a major championship. He did so at Troon for the first time, so why does he still make my loser list? Because he started the final round in 3rd place six shots off the lead. There was no pressure on him to win. Yet he shot 75 and barely hung on to his spot in the top ten. I think it is fair to expect more from a guy with his resume and pedigree.

He finished 18 shots behind Stenson. But hey, I will give him the best dressed award for the week. That Peter Millar layer look works well in Scotland.

Olympic Golf – Rory, Spieth, Dustin, and Day are all out. If you’re scoring at home that’s the top 4 players in the world no-showing in Rio. Spieth made it official last week from Troon right before the deadline. He is the golden boy. He was doing commercials for Team USA for the last year. He has no kids. What is he really scared of at the Olympics if Zika isn’t a concern? I’m not sure what could possibly save Olympic Golf at this point. The format is failed, the course could be as well, and now the field is flawed. I’m glad they juiced the whole fucking summer of professional tournament golf for the shit show they’re going to feed us next month.

Rory McIlroy – Rory won his pre-tourney presser this week taking shots at Olympic Golf, growing the game, and a few of his top 4 peers. Then he broke a club, got a fashion and fitness lecture from Johnny Miller, and back-doored a top 5 finish. I’ll take the finish as I used him this week in my pick’em pool. Everything else is a bit of fail when you’re a talent like Rory. His frustration showed on Saturday.

NBC – This one is hard to justify. The Peacock was largely good all week with their coverage. Feherty was solid. Maltbie was stellar. Roger and David together was borderline brilliant in covering the Stenson/Mickelson game on Sunday. They gave us tons of hours of television coverage with great graphics. Mike Tirico was a nice addition to the team. Even Miller was tolerable. I’d give them an A if they’d simply used protracers on nearly every shot. Yes, I see it on Rory’s swing above, but they didn’t have it available on the 11th hole? They showed hundreds of tee balls leaving that tee over a gorse patch to a blind fairway. Why not have the tracer? That fail erased all the good they did in every other way. Their ratings did kill though, they even beat Fox’s U.S. Open final round number. That’s big.

Shot Of The Week

There were a ton of nominees. If Phil makes eagle on 16 on Sunday and wins that 280 yard 3 wood to the green might have been the swing. Stenson’s putt on 15 is stellar, but I don’t like giving awards for putts. That leaves us with Louis Oosthuizen’s ace from Thursday.

Remember when he made an albatross at the 2nd during the final round of the 2012 Masters? He threw that ball into the crowd just like he did with his ball from the ace at Troon. What the fuck, Louis? The man has no sentiment.

Close Shave

Did you forget there was an opposite field event in the states going on this past weekend? Yes, a bonafide PGA Tour event declared a winner at the Barbasol Championship played in Auburn, Alabama. After 4 playoff holes Aaron Baddeley canned a 25 foot putt for his first win in 5 years. He was pretty jacked up because he was playing in 2016 on the past champion one time exemption. Now he has full status for the next two years. Ironically, even with the sponsor being a shaving cream company, Aaron looked rather scruffy during his big win. But who fucking cares? The good news is a win from Bads means we get to see wife Richelle again. It’s been along time. I still can’t believe she’s a mother of four. 

You heard me. MOTHER OF FOUR!!!!!!

God bless her.

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