Monday, June 22, 2015

My Meaningless Thoughts on the US Open...

I think it was Lee Trevino who once said that “if you want to get golfers to quit the game, make a course that turns Tour players into hackers.” The point being is that if you make a course so hard for Tour players, then your average Joe won’t think they have a chance.

The agenda set forth by Mike Davis was clear, we need to deal with the shortage of water for golf courses and show that ‘brown is the new green’ and that you can have an enjoyable golf course that is not perfectly green all over. The only issue was that Davis neglected the ‘enjoyable golf course’ part of the equation. Seriously, are the conditions in the picture on the right so difficult to obtain?

The thing is, I generally liked the design of the course. But the condition were not appealing to the eye and it wasn’t fun to watch. Normally, I would disagree with a pro that gets this angry over conditions, but in Billy Horschel’s case, I can perfectly understand his frustration.

And there were various other videos and vines of ridiculous putts that went in or did not go in. Certainly, this ended up creating an intense US Open. But, I get the feeling that Mike Davis falsely thinks they scored a victory because of the close finish with a superstar winning the event. In reality, the overwhelming majority of fans I encountered thought of it as a sham. It reminded me a bit of the steroid era in baseball when people would say “hey, Home Runs and breaking records = more fans.” But, what they didn’t realize is that in the long term it ended up cheapening the game and the fans started to question the legitimacy of the game. Nobody questions Spieth’s legitimacy, but thinking that a tight finish will always bring in viewers regardless of how it’s accomplished is very short sighted.

In the end, Chambers Bay looked like Bushwood…after Carl Spackler blew it up.

As far as the telecast, FOX’s debut was disappointing to say the least. I did like the Pro Tracer being used quite a bit. It’s just cool to see the ball flight of Tour players and it’s not used nearly enough on ESPN, CBS and NBC telecasts. The green shading did nothing for me except for fool me into thinking that the greens were even worse than they were (which is abominable).

The other issue is that they had too many announcers and they would switch announcers. From my count, they had:

Joe Buck (who was awful)
Mark Rolfing
Gil Hanse
Greg Norman
Corey Pavin
Scott McCarron
Holly Sonders
A couple of British dudes
Eddie Vedder
Richard Sherman
Loch Ness Monster
The Ghost of Kurt Cobain’s past

After a while you couldn’t figure out who was talking or why. I prefer the NBC method of Dan Hicks, Johnny Miller and Roger Maltby. Easy to follow who is talking and why they are talking

I don’t have a problem with Sonders’ position in the golf world and I liked the idea of interviewing players after the round with the TV showing the shots they hit. The issue is that FOX didn’t realize that many Tour players are not good at this because they’ve never done it before. And the best way to work around that is to have an excellent interviewer that can lead the golfer through it. Sonders, at this point, is not a good interviewer by any means and those interviews ended up being boring and awkward.

Lastly, if I didn’t know any better I would swear that the producers of FOX were 5 year old boys as they were obsessed with the train rolling thru on 16 and 17. It’s a train that runs next to a golf course…WE GET IT, ALREADY.


I had picked Dustin Johnson to win. I was afraid the event would be something like Doral was this year where the conditions and the course were such that the 3 longest hitters would be the only ones in contention. And I figured that shots from 175-250 yards would play the most critical role and Dustin is one of the best. It was hard to deny Spieth (who was in my top-10 picks) because he is flat out incredible outside of the fact that he ‘only’ generates about 113 mph club speed.

Here are Spieth’s rankings in the key metrics going into the US Open (out of 202 golfers):

Driving Effectiveness: 10th

Green Zone (75-125 yards): 7th
Yellow Zone (125-175 yards): 24th
Red Zone (175-225 yards): 8th

Short Game Play: 3rd
Putts Gained: 20th

While his Yellow Zone play may look a bit odd given how well he strikes the ball with his irons, I think that stems from those occasional missed tee shots (which don’t happen very often).

I really love watching Spieth’s swing. One of the big factors is that he has a bent left arm into and after impact. This is because his left shoulder is internally rotated so the left elbow is facing the target thru impact.

What this does is it stabilizes the club head thru impact. And I don’t think anybody has a more stabilized club head than Jordan Spieth.

Before the US Open, I was thinking that if Spieth could make it thru Chambers Bay which would benefit bombers, he has a good shot at winning the Grand Slam. In many ways, he reminds me of Tiger in that he has no real weaknesses and his biggest strengths are iron play and his ability to make 15-25 footers.

Unlike Tiger, he’s not super long. But, sometimes that super length works against golfers, even great drivers of the ball like Bubba Watson. Because roughly 25% of the par-4’s on Tour require players to lay-up off the tee. As I’ve shown many times thru research, laying-up off the tee is much more difficult than people think, even for Tour players. They simply are not that great having to hit 3-wood off the tee.

For bombers (118+ mph), they’ll have to lay-up even more. And it usually leaves a large gap of where they can hit a driver 330 yards, but their 3-wood about 270 yards. Meanwhile a player like Spieth can hit driver 300 yards and now gain distance on those bombers. This is why guys like Bubba avoid courses like Harbour Town and Colonial. It doesn’t fit their game. And this can give somebody like Bubba issues on some British Open courses and courses like Olympic Club where you have to lay-up a lot. Meanwhile, Spieth plays those courses like Harbour Town and Colonial because they fit his game just as much as Congressional or PGA National.

The other part, and it is ever so critical to Spieth’s success, is that he seems to have a fantastic mental game. The important part of that for golfers that they can learn from is how he talks to his caddie before each shot and after each shot. As Dr. Bhrett McCabe has said, you have to verbalize things out there. If you don’t have a caddie (which most of us never have), verbalize that stuff to yourself.

But another part of that is if Spieth hits a terrible shot or misses a cut, it’s not something plastered all over the Golf Channel or ESPN like it would be with Tiger Woods. Forget about Tiger’s recent woes, if Tiger was in his prime and missed a cut or hit a bad shot, it went viral. Of course, a big reason for that is the ungodly amount of hype and hysteria that went into Tiger Woods *before* he started playing on Tour. Spieth didn’t have that and I think it will be to his benefit.

So, I think the Tour is in pretty good shape at this point in time. Spieth isn’t exactly Muhammad Ali of the 20-teens, but people of all generations really seem to like him. Getting those chants on the 72nd hole are things you just don’t see in golf. And he appears to be a ‘good dude.’ The same goes for McIlroy and Rickie Fowler should rebound quickly. There’s plenty of good, promising youthful stars out there, we just need for the Mike Davis’ of the world to get out of their way.



Joseph K said...

Great article, definitely agree with Lee Trevino quote.

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