My Monday Bitch: Jordan Spieth

Look for the last two years I have been this guy’s biggest fan.  His run in 2015 was Jordanunbelievable.  While it wasn’t the sought-after year grand slam, he won two majors, came in 2nd in a third and was a shot off a playoff in the 4th.  He was America’s golden boy, the person to carry American golf back to the forefront. He is dating his high school sweet heart and has a special needs sister he is heavily involved with. He was the one accomplishing what Ricky and Dustin couldn’t do.  But finally, after this weekend, I’m done with him.

Let’s start with how he continually barks at his caddie.  Originally, I admired this as a conversation of two team members plotting their way towards victory.  The outspoken and explosive Spieth and his mild mannered, calming rock Michael Greller making their way around the golf course.  Now, I am so sick of listening to him berate this poor dude on his bag.  I’ve been there as a caddie.  And I get after you chunk a 9 iron that costs you a 7 on a par 3 you want someone to blame.  But shit dude, I didn’t make the swing, I’m just here to give you a yardage and fill your divots.  So, shut the hell up and take some of the blame.

Speaking of taking some responsibility.  After nubbing a 9 iron into the face of a bunker and having to play the same shot over doesn’t make it “the dumbest hole you’ve ever played in your life”.  I mean bro, I’ve made a lot of doubles in my life.  And yes, if you are playing a municipal club with the tee box lined up at a 90-degree angle to the fairway, that’s 420 yards long, a fairway 15 yards wide, with OB lining either side and you have to play your second out of a divot that hasn’t been filled into to a bunker that hasn’t been raked since the Eisenhower administration, you can bitch about how stupid a hole is.  And yes, that hole exists and it’s not on a major championship course.

you're annoyingFinally, we can move on to what started this whole gripe.  Him taking a picture of a poorly raked bunker at the Players Championship this weekend.  Really, bro? Seriously?  First of all, 12 shot penalty for breaking out your phone. It’s not spring break, and as much as I love snap chat, this isn’t your Saturday morning round with the boys with Toto’s Africa piping over the jambox.  Which is probably what you were doing two days later since you didn’t make the cut you child.

I could tolerate all this immature nonsense if it wasn’t how much time he spent on TV.  Not only am I forced to deal with his constant bitching because he’s popular but also because he’d be the slowest player on the golf course during a Sunday morning match.  He’d be the dickhead grinding over a 3-foot putt in a 5 dollar Nassau and bitching when he missed it because there was a spike mark in his way.  Like bro get over yourself and get back to playing golf.


The PGA should tell the USGA to Sit on It

Northern Trust Open - Final RoundRecently the USGA and R&A passed a new rule banning anchored putters, a trend that has been evolving since 1924.  The first belly putter patent was granted in 1965 and for almost 50 years no large party had an issue with it.  That is until Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship in 2011, the first player to ever use an anchored putter to win a major.  When 2 more unconventional putters were wielded the next year to win major tournaments, the USGA swooped in to put an end to it.  In light speed for the USGA, an organization that usually moves slower then a glacier, a rule was presented, tabled, passed and enacted in only 2 years.  Their new ordnance will ban the blasphemous belly putter from golf come 2016.  The USGA and R&A claimed that this monstrosity was out of the spirit with the game and gave the competitors that use it an unfair advantage.  What a bunch of nonsense.

Before I go any farther, let me premise my argument by saying I am a Class-A PGA Professional working on the front Me at Turnberrylines on a green grass facility.  I have worked in almost every golf environment and worked with a lot of different memberships.  I have held positions in Arizona and Scotland and everywhere in between.  I do not use a belly putter and never have.  I have putted with one but after a couple hours of screwing around, found that it didn’t make me any better and I was uncomfortable.  While I don’t claim to be an expert on everything in golf, I do believe my finger is a little closer to the pulse then the bureaucrats at the USGA who are still living in the time of Bobby Jones.  I see the game evolve, and its a good thing.  In fact it may be the only thing that keeps us afloat.  But more of that later.

If the belly putter was a weapon of mass destruction, every pro would be using it just like they all use large headed drivers and graphite shafts.  However at the end of 2013, only 3 of the top 20 of Golf’s World Rankings used an anchored putter of some sort.  A similar stat can be seen in the FedEx Regular Season Rankings where only 4 of the top 20 used a anchored putter.

World Ranking Anchored? Fedex Points Anchored?
1 Tiger Woods Tiger Woods
2 Adam Scott X Matt Kuchar X
3 Phil Mickelson Bradnt Snedeker
4 Hendrik Stenson Phil Mickelson
5 Justin Rose Bill Haas
6 Rory McIlroy Billy Horschel
7 Steve Stricker Justin Rose
8 Matt Kuchar X Jordan Spieth
9 Bradt Snedeker Henrik Stenson
10 Jason Duffner Keegan Bradley X
11 Zach Johnson Adam Scott X
12 Graeme McDowell Boo Weekley
13 Jim Furyk Kevin Streelman
14 Luke Donald Jason Day
15 Keegan Bradley X Jason Duffner
16 Jason Day Dustin Johnson
17 Sergio Garcia Webb Simpson X
18 Lee Westwood Zach Johnson
19 Charl Schwartzel Harris English
20 Jordan Spieth Steve Stricker

Now it is true that some of these players like, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, win despite their putting.  However, if you look at the Top 10 in the 2013 Strokes Gained Putting statistic, none of the players there use a belly putter.  If anchored putting was this huge advantage you would think that these lists would be crammed with players who love the belly putter.  The answer is much farther then the truth though.

Adam ScottMany players see the belly putter as a resurrection of their playing careers.  No, right now I am no longer talking about the Adam Scotts.  I am talking about the normal people that keep golf in business, who now enjoy the game again because of the belly putter.  I have heard horror stories about the Yips almost forcing players to quit the game.  It was not enjoyable to them anymore.  However, this new look and feel gave them some confidence to stay in the game.  I have played with many of these people and statistically it hasn’t helped them much.  They still miss short putts and fan on long ones.  Call it the placebo effect though.  Even though this new tool is not helping their game too much, the confidence they gain from the switch does, and keeps them on the golf course.

Golf is in decline.  There is no way around it.  The NGF reported that in 2011, 157.5 of facilities closed while only 19 opened.  Both of which are the extremes of the bell curve so far.  Economically these numbers aren’t shocking.  Golf is an expensive, time guzzling sport in an era of fast movers.  Because of these factors consumers who consider themselves avid golfers, are now moving away to being occasional golfers, and occasional golfers are quitting.  Now these numbers aren’t the fault of the anchoring ban.  Ignored ladies and youth programs, as well as a dissolving middle class are the main issues we’re dealing with.  However, why pass a rule that discourages a group of people from playing while the game is in decline?  It makes 0 since to me.

The USGA is going to do what they are going to do.  Like all bloated, authoritarian bodies they live in a realm that is USGA-Logosometimes a far cry from reality.  Statistically, belly putters don’t seem to give anyone an advantage over the field.  In fact most of the best putters in the world still use a short putter.  Belly putters make the game more palpable to a mass of people who seem to be starting to shun it.  The PGA does have an option though.  Forget what the USGA says.  Run your tournaments, and allow the use of belly putters.  Pass a rule to keep them on tour.  Do anything, except let the USGA stifle innovation.  The PGA Tour is the only professional sport that is governed by amateurs, but why?  Because it has always been that way?  The game needs to evolve and adapt if the industry expects to survive, not be stuck in the stone ages.

What else can Golf do to reach new markets?

Who was Golf’s 2013 Player of the Year?

Is Ladies Golf Sexy?

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Golf’s Missed Opportunity

It’s hard to imagine the sport of golf with more than Four Major Championships a year.  Yet currently golf is missing a huge marketing opportunity with the expanding markets in Asia, Oceania and South America.  Currently, 3 of the 4 Major Championships are held on US soil (the fourth is held in golf’s birthplace on the links land of Scotland and Northern England) even though many of the world’s best golf courses take up residence in South Africa, Oceania, and China.  Yet us as Americans receive all of the spoils.

The United States is still the largest sports market in the world.  International competitions are often known to rearrange their schedules or to run frequent replays in order to reach a larger American audience and also the abundance of commercial revenue that comes with it.

Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand

Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand

However the US no longer leads the world in economic growth.  While the US struggles with a worldwide recession and closes golf courses, countries like Brazil and China are opening large exotic golf resorts.  (The growth of golf in Brazil has been artificially inflated due to the upcoming Olympics and the addition of golf to the festivities but this should be seen as an opportunity not a negative.)  Golf is no longer a sport played by the Brits and their colonial brethren, but rather a worldwide game.  There are world class golf courses in mainland Europe, South Africa, China, Australia and New Zealand that do not receive the attention that they deserve.

The PGA currently holds a justified ethnocentric view of these major tournaments and how the PGA Tour state side should operate.

Ballybunion in Ireland

Ballybunion in Ireland

While the European Tour has expanded to include Asian and Middle Eastern markets (in fact their tour championship is known as the Race to Dubai) the American tour hosts only one significant tournament off of American soil.  The PGA understands they have an obligation to their golf courses where PGA Members are employed to promote the game here in the US and prefer the revenues the tour generates to be kept here on US soil.  However their failure to cooperate with the European Tour or expand its current netting leads to many opportunities south of the American reign of influence untapped.

The Tour also wonders about the additional strain of worldwide travel on their participants.  That adding a fifth major would be too strenuous and many of the top players would skip the events due to exhaustion.  Also, a fifth major would make breaking current records such as Nicklaus’ less strenuous since there would be more opportunities then Nicklaus’ had.  This would then dilute the essence of a major and therefore be damaging to the game.  However, with all these negatives there is a solution.

Out of the 6 livable continents on the planet there are 5 with Major Championship Golf Courses ready and the 6th will be ready by the next summer games.  The 4th Major (The PGA Championship) should take turns rotating throughout these continents and visiting some of the great golf courses on this planet.

Mission Hills China

Mission Hills in China

Other sports organizations such as FIFA or NFL understand the importance of hosting their major events in new places to help expand the market, so should the PGA.  Most players have already adapted to the strains of travel and one can argue that it is one of the prerequisites of the job.  60 years ago, The Great Ben Hogan played his only Open Championship at Carnoustie because of the strains of travel.  However, with the advent of private planes and first class, this travel has become almost convenient for the majority of the players.  Also, many players would be excited to play new and exotic golf courses.

There is so much golf on this planet it seems a shame to hog it all.  The US Open, Open and Masters have so much traditional no one would want them to change.  However, there is a huge opportunity for golf to expand its boundaries with the PGA Championship.  There may be some griping at first but in the long run fans and players would love a rotating schedule.