All posts by JYB

SENIOR-ITIS

So Phil Mickleson has entered, and won, his first two Champions Tour events. As the winner of the first two events he’s played on that Tour, Smilin’ Phil has tied a previous record held by Bruce Fleisher (1999) and Jim Furyk (also this year).

But take a look at the stats Hefty has piled up in his six rounds on the Geriatric Tour.

Stroke Average: 65.0. The Mick has shot 61-64-66-68-66-65. Ernie Els is the current leader in stroke average on the Champs Tour, at 68.29 over 34 rounds, and the Tour average is 70.97.

Average Driving Distance: 311.7 yards. John Daly is the stat leader at 298.7 yards, and the Tour as a whole averages 276.0.

Greens in Regulation: 79.63%. Els is the Tour leader at 77.61%, and the Tour is down at 67.81%.

2.85/3.67/4.33. These are his average scores on par 3s, 4s and 5s. The current Senior Tour leaders are Jerry Kelly on par 3s (2.92), Bernhard Langer on par 4s (3.88) and Robert Karlsson on par 5s (4.40).

Driving Accuracy: 56.79%. Furyk’s Tour leading stat of 68.29% is better, as is the Tour average of 70.97%. But Lefty is hitting fairways with more accuracy than he did on the PGA Tour this year (54%), last year (50.77%) or the year before (52.91%).

So the Old Mick is doing quite well for himself playing amidst the Seniors. Pocketing a lot of cash. Could set a few new records. He won something over $300 grand last weekend. To do that on the regular Tour, he would have had to finish in the Top 8.

Where will he play in the future? Hey, those gambling debts don’t pay for themselves, you know.

Bryson is the bomb

So Big Bry managed to bring Winged Foot to heel, mainly by blasting his drives as far as humanly possible, and then wedging and putting his way to an easy victory in the 2020 U.S. Open.

They said it couldn’t be done, but he did it. Hmmm: the ‘experts’ are wrong, again.

I’ve never understood why DeChambeau is looked at askance by all the so-called golfing experts. He’s not the first big bopper to turn heads in this game. He’s not the first buffed up bopper to play this game at a high level. Does anyone remember Frank Stranahan? A power lifting champion in the 1950s, he played in and contended for several major championships. Kind of a nut, if I recall, but a helluva golfer nonetheless.

Bryson is certainly unique and different from all the rest. He plays clubs all cut to the same length (six-iron size) with clubheads all the same weight. My friend Steve Pike mentioned that the last two U.S. Open champions crowned at Winged Foot played with clubs made by Cobra (Bryson and Greg Ogilvy).

But there are other cool things about Big Bry. You might not know that:

  • He’s right-handed, but he taught himself to sign autographs backward, with his left hand. No, I don’t know why, but he says it was a challenge and he therefore did it.
  • In high school, he borrowed a physics textbook from the library and copied it down, word for word, in his notebooks. Odd, yes, but he says he learned physics that way. He is kind of a math savant, by the way.
  • He read Home Kelly’s book The Golfing Machine at age 15. Yeah, that kinda figures: you can tell he’s a super-duper mechanical-swing kinda guy.
  • When it became legal to leave the flagstick in the hole while you putt, he studied the coefficient of restitution differences between metal and fiberglass flagsticks. I believe he leaves them in if fiberglass because the numbers say he should.
  • He used to putt sidesaddle (shades of Sam Snead) but now uses something called ‘vector putting.’ Don’t know what that is, but it apparently involves lots of math. And I became a golf writer because they promised there would be no math.

So, yes, Bryson DeChambeau is something of an odd duck. But he can play the game, from tee to green, and I believe the numbers indicate he may have more than a few more majors coming his way.

This post on the U.S. Open is brought to you by An Open Case of Death, the Hacker Golf Mystery set at the Open at Pebble Beach.

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courses for horses

Another clear winner on the PGA Tour this weekend: Olympia Fields CC outside of Chicago brought the game’s best players to their knees in a fascinating weekend at the BMW Championship, the second leg in the Fedex Cup that ends this weekend at Bob Jones’ old stomping grounds at East Lake in Atlanta.

Yes, Jon Rahm dropped a 66-foot bomb on Dustin Johnson on the first playoff hole (after DJ sank an equally impressive long bomb for birdie on the last hole to get into the first-place tie). And Rahm’s final round was impressive, a good sign for the Spaniard who has loads of talent but always seems to wither at the end.

But the story was the golf course, set up like a U.S. Open venue with narrow fairways, long, punishing rough and lightening-fast greens. Winning score was -4, after the embarrassing -30 total Johnson rang up in Boston the weekend before.

As the author of Think Like A Caddie/Play Like A Pro, I don’t understand why the caddies universally took the drivers out of all the bags and made their players pursue a conservative strategy of hit the fairway, hit the green, take par and move on. That would have ensured a top-10 finish. But noooo…these guys have to hit the big dog … into the woods, into the rough, and into oblivion. These guys are … dumb.

But kudos for the course set-up at Olympia. They both identified, and embarrassed the world’s best players (as Joe Dey used to say about U.S. Open course set ups). It was actually fun to watch them struggle.

A few weeks earlier, I thought the same thing about Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast, which hosted this year’s U.S. Amateur. I forget who won, but the golf course was magnificent, as usual. It’s a true American links course, with the same closely cropped fairways, ball-swallowing bunkering, corrugated fairways and greens, and lots and lots of wind.

Which is all appropo of something I read this morning about the Old Course at St. Andrews. Some hand-wringers are afraid that with the advent of Bryson DeChambeau, he of the 350-yard drives and the steroidal muscle mass, the Old Course will be rendered obsolete. Maybe we need to dig up the bunkers and move them down the fairway. Or take the New and Jubliee courses and turn them into a Monster Course of 8,000 yards or something. Just to keep Biceps Bryson from shooting 50 under par.

Nonsense. First, we’ve had this conversation my entire life. Jack Nicklaus was one of the first who was going to make the game, and the Old Course, obsolete with his prodigious length. He didn’t. Then it was one big bopper after another, up to and including Tiger Woods.

The reason why the Old Course continues to be a great test of golf has nothing to do with its length. It is a golf course of amazing and endless subtlety. A player there almost never faces a simple shot from a flat lie. Then there are the conditions. Sure, if there is no wind and bright sun, Biceps Bryson can bomb his drives and have less than a wedge left on many holes. Assuming he doesn’t get any odd bounces, which happens exactly never there. But how often does the Old Course play in perfect conditions? Almost never.

So you still have to golf your ball around the Old Course, from tee to green. With every club in the bag. And, in the Open Championship, while dealing with history, pressure, stress and tension. Your bicep size has nothing to do with any of that.

Nope…as we saw at Olympia Fields and Bandon Dunes, it’s the courses more than the horses that determines greatness. That’s always been true at the Old Course. And it always will be.

A Cinderella Story

Sophia Popov, a 27-year-old German ranked 304th in the world, won the Women’s British Open on Sunday by firing two weekend rounds of 67-68.

If you watched her final round on Sunday (I did), you saw a golfer in total control of her game, her emotions and the elements.  Despite a bogey on the first hole, she hit almost every fairway, almost every green, and putted like an angel was sitting on her shoulder.

It was a great performance in the circumstances and I hope she goes on to win a lot more. The women’s game needs some new heroes and some new blood. Remember the name: Sophia Popov. She’s got game.

PGA 2020

Well, the first major of the Covid-infested year is in the books, and it was (almost) worth waiting for!

Great last round, tons of great players all bunched up, we the viewers waiting for someone to reach out and grab the tournament by the neck. Enter Collin Morikawa.

The Kid is obviously a great young talent. 23-year-old nerves of steel allowed him to go for broke on the 16th hole in the final round, driving the short par-four green and sinking the 8-foot eagle putt to win the Wanamaker Trophy. Good stuff.

There were lots of other good stories who came in second. Big Brawny Bryson was right there. DJ. Paul Casey for those of us who always like the fuzzy foreigners. Jason Day. Tony Finau, who I sincerely hope wins one of these one day: he’s got a lotta game.

And even though Brooks Koepka disintegrated on the last day, he is still the Major Man: he’s won a bunch of the last few (and was going for the PGA three-peat), and always seems to be on the first page in the big events. Ought to be fun to watch Brooks vs Bryson in the years ahead.

So: well played to all. Great to be able to watch big-time golf again. Looking forward to the next one up: the U.S. (delayed) Open is scheduled for Sept. 14-20 at Winged Foot.

This blog post is brought to you by PGA Spells Death, the newest Hacker Golf Mystery, due to be released for sale August 20, 2020. Click here to pre-order a copy.