Golf Architecture’s Richard Humphreysupdates us on construction of 2027 PGA Championship host, the PGA Frisco. The Gil Hanse-designed East course and Beau Welling-designed West course are being constructed at the same time near Dallas with a June 2022 opening scheduled after the PGA of America wisely insisted on a year of grow-in.
While the property didn’t look particularly captivating in photos and flyovers, the early images and comments about the course presentation are pretty exciting:
“The property here reminded me a bit of Southern Hills – the topography, along with the creek so prominently featured,” said Hanse. “Of course, Southern Hills is now surrounded by Tulsa. But when Perry Maxwell built it, Southern Hills probably looked a lot like our site in Frisco does today.
“This used to be a ranch, so we focused on that, along with what is some really interesting topography, good rolling ground. But everything has been done in proportion to the broad expanses we’re dealing with here. In that context the bunkers are the calling card, the most visible feature out there – and they are dramatic.”
And this too:
“The shaping team here is phenomenal,” said Blake Smith, project manager for Heritage Links. “We ended up creating a blowout feature from an old oxbow off number eight that is about the coolest feature you’ve ever seen. And that was actually the idea of Kerry Haig, the PGA’s chief championships officer.
“The design philosophy is to create the feeling of being out there in a ranch setting that has been there for 100 years – with all the tall natives waving, the cart paths that turn into ranch roads, the trees that have been planted to create the look of fence roads, even using barbed wire and hog wire in spots to guide the galleries. Working with Gil and his team is the chance to work outside the box. They tell us what they want, and we say, let us try to do that for you.”
I was initially surprised that the (understandably) protective Tiger Woods would expose his 11-year-old to the national TV spotlight at this month’s PNC Championship (aka the Father-Son-Daughter-Stepchild, etc…).
But it’s a tribute to the well-regarded and impressively-attended 20-team event of major winners that Woods even considered his son’s request. And it was Charlie’s idea, writesDoug Ferguson, reporting Justin Thomas’s comments this week:
“Tiger and I talked about it a bunch. He brought it up a while ago that Charlie wanted to play and Charlie really wanted to play with us,” Thomas said Tuesday. “For some reason, Charlie just always wants to beat me, it doesn’t matter what it is. Although he’s never beaten me in golf or a putting contest, he still talks trash just like his dad. It will be fun.
“We’ll have that like inner tournament within a tournament, trying to shut his little mouth up, but it will be fun.”
Still to be determined is whether Team Thomas and Team Woods are in the same group. One last father-son team is still to be announced for the 20-team field Dec. 19-20 in Orlando, Florida.
It’s humorous now to think that the 40 or so new courses that opened in 2010 didn’t form a critical mass large enough to merit the magazine’s full attention and thus an award. The course-construction recession was considered a temporary squall, but course openings have remained maddeningly scarce over the past 10 years, and this year’s class consists of just 15 graduates. But feeling that new course openings are now more newsworthy than ever, we’ve decided to proceed with the prize—though because of travel difficulties and the extenuating circumstances of the moment we gave each facility that opened in late 2019 or 2020 the option to postpone its candidacy until 2021. (A number of courses took us up on the offer; wait for them next year.)
The Sheep Ranch by Coore and Crenshaw won, with some comically-artificial Tom Fazio real estate play called Troubadour finishing second. Nothing says natural like a creek atop a mountain guarding six tee boxes:
This should have happened ages ago in the form of WGC’s or when geographically logical:
Starting in 2022, look for co-sanctioned events in Britain for players on both tours built around the Open at St Andrews and in the autumn following the end of the FedEx Cup.
‘Those are areas offering great opportunities where we’ve agreed to look closely to see what we can do,’ said Pelley.
‘I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to sit in the room as partners rather than competitors. It totally changes the dynamic.’
‘Those are areas offering great opportunities where we’ve agreed to look closely to see what we can do,’ said Pelley.
Well, a room being a Zoom call for a while still.
There was also this image from Pelley:
‘We come together with the shared desire to make a global schedule and when you have that as your opening objective, everything can flow,’ said Pelley.
‘I can’t get into specifics and pontificate about tiers because we haven’t had what I would call our white-board meetings, where everyone empties their minds and gets creative. I just think the possibilities are endless.’
Endless until they go to those creativity killers on the player boards where most good ideas go to be tabled for slow play discussions.
With the USGA Executive Committee essentially a cast of living, breathing bobbleheads I doubt most care who they nominate these days. Nonetheless, the latest three to join the group of 15 have impressive careers still going and will surely add to a committee filling two outgoing seats—a subtle reminder to those with a sense of humor that the nominating process is never over until the big black tie dinner.
2021 USGA Executive Committee Nominations Announced
Fifteen-member group serves as the Association’s volunteer board
LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (Dec. 1, 2020) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced three new nominees to its 15-member Executive Committee: Chuck Brymer, chairman of DDB Worldwide; Cathy Engelbert, commissioner of the WNBA and former Deloitte CEO; and Anthony Petitti, president of sports and entertainment for Activision Blizzard.
In addition, Kendra Graham, Nick Price and Sharon Ritchey have each been nominated to serve a second term, Graham and Ritchey for three years, Price for two years.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have Price making it this far, particularly surrounded by too many folks who had to be reminded he’s not that Nick. Good on you Nick!
If elected at the USGA’s Annual Meeting on Feb. 26, 2021, the three new members will add expertise and leadership that directly align with the USGA’s Strategic Plan and its mission to champion and advance the game of golf. The current set of objectives includes elevating the positive impact of the USGA’s 14 global championships and deepening its investment in golf programs and services to ensure a thriving, welcoming and sustainable game.
The board of the nonprofit golf organization is led by J. Stuart Francis, who will serve the second year of his three-year term as president in 2021.
“It is a testament to the strength of the USGA that we are able to attract global leaders across various industries to serve on our Executive Committee,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “The independent skill sets and experience they possess complement those of the entire board, and their collective passion to support a healthy future for golf benefits our organization and everyone in the game.”
Leaders in industries have generally shown an unwillingness to do what’s right for the game. Hope I’m wrong!
Francis, who is entering his seventh year on the Executive Committee, added, “Each candidate possesses strengths that directly align with the USGA’s long-range Strategic Plan, and the expertise to deliver on the organization’s mission. We are excited about the impact that we know Chuck, Cathy and Anthony can deliver if elected.”
Current USGA Executive Committee members include Graham, Price, Ritchey, Anthony Anderson, Michael Bailey, Thomas Barkin, Stephen Beebe, Paul Brown, Courtney Myhrum, Fred Perpall and Deborah Platt Majoras.
Martha Lang and William Siart will retire from the Executive Committee after a combined 10 years of service to the Executive Committee.
Per the bylaws of the association, Brymer, Engelbert and Petitti will each serve a three-year term beginning in 2021, with the potential to be elected for a second and final three-year term in 2024. The USGA made the strategic decision to increase Executive Committee member term limits from one year to three in 2020 as part of a regular review to enhance the effectiveness of its governance structure.
And now for the bios…
As chairman of DDB Worldwide, one of the top advertising and marketing agencies in the world, Brymer provides oversight to more than 200 offices in over 80 countries and spearheaded the company’s transition into the digital advertising age. His growth strategy led to the acquisition of key businesses in Brazil, India and the United Kingdom and his leadership as president and CEO from 2006-2018 resulted in the company’s recognition as one of the top agencies in the world byAdAge, Adweek and Campaign. As one of the world’s leading brand experts, Brymer authored the book “The Nature of Marketing”in 2008as a guide to engaging online consumer populations and helped create Businessweek’s annual ranking of the “World’s Best Global Brands.” Prior to DDB, Brymer served as global chairman and CEO of the Interbrand Group, the world’s largest branding and design consultancy. He has also served on the board of directors of Regal Entertainment and as board director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A passionate outdoorsman, sports enthusiast and recreational golfer, Brymer started playing the game in his teens with his brothers in his home state of Kentucky. He has a USGA Handicap Index® of 8.0.
Engelbert was named the WNBA’s first-ever commissioner in 2019 after a storied 33-year career at Deloitte, in which she became the first female CEO in the history of a Big Four professional services firm. As Deloitte CEO from 2015-2019, Engelbert led more than 100,000 professionals of the accounting and consulting organization in the United States. Prior to that, she served large, complex global clients, including in the financial services, consumer products, and pharmaceutical industries. She also served on the Deloitte board of directors for over 7 years, as the first woman chair of the Center for Audit Quality Governing Board and, as a strong supporter of diversity and inclusion, as the first woman chair of the Catalyst Board, a global nonprofit organization that promotes inclusive workplaces for women. She was a founding member of the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, is a vice chair of the Partnership for New York City, and previously served as a member of the Business Roundtable, where she sat on the Education & Workforce and Immigration committees. She is currently a member of the board of McDonald’s Corporation and was named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women for four consecutive years. Engelbert, a former Division I college basketball and lacrosse player, has since found a passion for golf, and is a proud mother to two children.
Nice resumé, what on earth is she doing here? Can’t wait to see how Englebert feels about the Barstool integrations.
Petitti brings more than 30 years of executive experience within the sports and entertainment industries. As president of Sports and Entertainment at Activision Blizzard, Inc., he oversees all esports, consumer products, and film and television for the leading interactive entertainment company. Prior to his current role, Petitti spent 11 years at Major League Baseball (MLB) where he ultimately served as deputy commissioner for Business and Media from 2017-2019. The role included oversight for all digital and MLB Network content, broadcast relationships including all linear and digital media sales and rights negotiations, special events, postseason scheduling, international, youth programs and marketing activities. Additionally, he led MLB’s efforts to bring new diverse youth into the game through innovative programs across the country and expanded the league’s international development initiatives. Petitti joined MLB in 2008 to create, launch, and oversee programming for MLB Network and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2014. Prior to MLB, Petitti served in senior executive roles at ABC, NBC and CBS, overseeing the rights acquisition deals for a variety of sports and leagues, including the NFL, NCAA Basketball Tournament, PGA Tour and SEC Football. A 13-time Emmy Award winner, he was executive vice president and executive producer at CBS Sports, where he was responsible for the network’s sports programming and production. A native of Queens, N.Y, he started playing golf in his early 20s with his father on area public courses and maintains a 7.1 USGA Handicap Index.
I have no idea if the organizers find the .21 (18-49) for last week’s The Match 3 a success or not given the bizarre sports ratings of 2020. As Mitch Salem’sroundup of last Friday’s cable numbers highlights, The Match was just edged out by WETV’s Love After Lockup with the coveted demo and landed 8th on the list of November 27, 2020’s most watched cable telecasts.
It’s a particularly strange stance given how there would be complete understanding amidst a pandemic that things were not perfect.
The result of Pelley’s obvious truth distortion now leaves him open to some pretty and deserved criticism. Not for joining forces with the PGA Tour. No as Alistait Taitwrites in a superb post, the lying seems crude given the spector of the Tour letting go of off a huge portion of the staff. It’s 68, Tait writes.
Since the tour is in “robust financial health” any chance of those 68 getting their jobs back? Or maybe the Tour IS in “robust financial health” because it shed those jobs.
This pandemic has hurt every business. Many people in all industries have lost their jobs as a result. Golf is no different. However, many companies have stuck by their employees, retaining them for the good days that surely lie ahead. That’s certainly true for those companies that are in “robust financial health.”
And what about the tour’s current employees at its headquarters at the Wentworth Club (pictured)? What does this strategic alliance mean for those good men and women currently working their youknowhats off to keep the European Tour circus running right now? They must be worried about the future.
And the first of three California tournaments announced Monday their plan to play the Farmers Insurance Open without fans. From Tod Leonard’sGolfDigest.com story:
The blow of no fans will be lessened, Gorsich said, because the County of San Diego did give its approval last week for pro-ams to take place on Monday and Wednesday of Farmers week. “To not have pro-ams would have been another big hit,” he said. “Getting pro-ams was a big win for us.”
The Tournament of Champions, Sony Open and American Express also will have pro-ams, and it figures that Riviera and Pebble will, too, if their local governments approve.
At the Farmers, pro-am participants pay about $8,000 to play on Wednesday and $4,000 on Monday. Of course, the experience will be very different this year, with only the golfers, the professional and his caddie allowed on the grounds, though Gorisch maintains that it can be a more enjoyable and “intimate” experience. There are no in-person draws parties, and at Torrey Pines the amateurs will warm up in indoor simulators at a nearby hotel.
What could go wrong with a bunch of nervous, huffing and loud pro-am participants gathering in an indoor simulator?
Also, in what should be a pressing matter for the Tour and upcoming non-CBS events: Golf Channelis not COVID testing its crews and is stonewalling. It’s surprising, even at this point, that the Tour’s testing apparatus is not incorporating these hard-working folks into their fold.
After calling the deal the “right partnership” for the European Tour and the sport, he gets to some of the primary motives of the “alliance”:
The idea is that we become a little bit more international in terms of the schedule of the world's top players, so they're able to visit other places and play in other events on the European Tour.
Three of the four major championships are played in America every year and a lot of the World Golf Championships have migrated back to the USA. I think the players can eventually expect, hopefully from a European point of view, a more international flavour to the world's best events.
Hope you got that in writing! Because given the opportunity, the American organizations given the chance to go international with top events have a mixed track record.
More from McGinley:
This is a way of working together to get everyone back to playing under one umbrella, which will help bring a little bit of a better narrative to what golf is all about.
It's a simplification of the sport to try to create a real top tier of professional golf, Premier League style if you like, with gateways for the players underneath that to then get into that style of event.
Sounds familiar. Oh right, that’s the Premier Golf League concept.
Anyway, here’s the big reveal: “a real top tier” of professional golf, the main philosophy behind the PGL, is the goal if the often-xenophobic PGA Tour membership can be ignored for some form of international symmetry to happen. McGinley says that’s the goal here.
It has been pre-empted a lot by the coronavirus pandemic and the PGA Tour deciding that this is a route they want to go down. The PGA Tour have previously been a little bit hesitant and a little bit American-centric in what they've done and how they've viewed things.
It is going to take a little bit of time to develop, as this is a very raw relationship at the moment that's just starting out, but I think there's more of an understanding now that the PGA Tour need more of an international element to what they do. The European Tour is the obvious place for that.
It has been the obvious place for a long, long time. And thanks to a “compelling” offer from the Raine Group, the two Tours finally figured out how much they need each other. A least for now.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship traditionally delivers the best nature shots of the golf year. And as always, the European Tour broadcast provided plenty of images from Leopard Creek’s location next to Kruger National Park.
This handy roundup was posted by the European Tour social team:
Chief Executive Colorfully Coordinated sported a less-than-comforting black-on-black motif for Friday’s hastily-arranged Zoom to spin the European Tour’s “landmark strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour.
Based on the reports by those partaking in the call, Keith Pelley remained light on details about the surprising Thanksgiving Friday announcement. Skepticism was in order given that it’s traditionally a day reserved for only Grade A, First Team, All-World news dumps.
The alliance has been years in the making but came together in the space of 72 hours as both tours look to kill off the upstart Saudi-backed Premier Golf League.
The PGL have promised untold millions to the top players and were rumoured to be ready to make a big announcement next month regarding a circuit for the elite they hoped would be up and running by 2023.
You’d have thought after four and a half years of talking to PGA Tour counterpart Jay Monahan they’d have laid out some basic plans of where this strategic alliance was going to take the game. No. Just airy-fairy stuff cobbled together over 72 hours. Why the rush?
“You might ask, why now?” Pelley acknowledged. “Jay and I have been talking about working closer together for the last four and a half years. I've always said golf is very fractioned with four major championships and two professional organisations. This was just a moment in time when everything aligned.”
Who said stars can’t align during Thanksgiving week in a pandemic?
"I think the whole process made us realise, you know, we are in this game together, and we have so many synergies. We are both committed to growth and globalisation of golf, and I think the Covid showed us that actually we shouldn't be competing against each other.
"We should be pulling together and aggregating our skills and our best practises, our commercial streams to ultimately benefit both tours and the game of golf, which has seen an incredible boost, and I think what we can do together, it really gets me excited."
Probably the biggest reveal came with the following quote, placed high in Brian Keogh’s Irish Golf Desk assessment of the call.
But Pelley vehemently denied it was tantamount to a first step towards a merger, explaining that the deal came about after it turned down “a very compelling offer” by the private equity group fronting the breakaway Premier Golf League, Raine Capital, “to take the European Tour to another level but in a different direction.”
“Compelling” and using “another level” only adds intrigue to this bizarre late-year news dump.
South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout held off Sean Crocker to win the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek. And while the 26-year-old’s second win came over a so-so field, Bezuidenhout picks up a win in his native land, comfortably moves inside the all-important world top 50 (41st), and has solidified himself as a player-to-watch heading into 2021.
Bezuidenhout has much to be proud of. For those who need a refresher, here are the spark notes: Bezuidenhout nearly died when he was 2 years old after unknowingly drinking from a Coke bottle that had been contaminated with rat poison. The poison took a toll on his body, affecting his nervous system and causing a stutter, which in turn led to bouts with anxiety and depression. When Bezuidenhout turned 14, his doctor prescribed him medication that helped him “enjoy my life again,” Bezuidenhout wrote last year in a blog post for EuropeanTour.com, but the beta blockers were also a banned substance, and despite Bezuidenhout being adamant that he filled out the proper paperwork, he was disqualified from the 2014 British Amateur and subsequently banned for nine months.
“It felt like my life was over. ... I was inconsolable,” he wrote in the same post. “However, I eventually turned this into energy to help me come back stronger.”
His emotional post round interview and the Director’s Cut of the final round highlights.
Belaboring the cynical timing of Friday’s “landmark strategic alliance” announcement could grow tiresome, but it’s also hard to filter much of anything out of the detail-light European Tour-PGA Tour release without returning to the odd rush to share so little detail.
This much is apparent: Jay Monahan joins the European Tour Board of Directors and with it, he brings a check of an undetermined amount to own a stake in their impressive television production operation. Less apparent: how much of that is an investment in a media operation versus a quick way to help the European Tour’s finances?
In a call with UK writers, ET Chief Keith Pelley refuted the idea that this was about finances:
.@EuropeanTour CEO Keith Pelley on "strategic alliance" with @PGATOUR :"Emphatically, this is not a merger. I read 1 tweet that said a takeover is inevitable because of the situation that we are in. We are categorically not in financial difficulties, that is simply wrong."
But as the AP’s Doug Fergusonwrites: “The announcement comes toward the end of a devastating year financially for both tours. The PGA Tour has lost more money than Europe because of its size, though it had more in reserve to handle the crisis.”
Setting the finances aside, this looks like the PGA Tour blocking a European Tour acquisition/merger/strategic partnership/just friends/whatever-you-want-to-call-it deal with the Raine Group. They are holders of the proposed Premier Golf League that was declared dead back in March.
The historic alliance announced Friday between the PGA Tour and European Tour came after months of tense negotiations, and fended off a rival bid to take a stake in the European circuit by the private equity group fronting the Premier Golf League, multiple sources have confirmed to Golfweek.
The prospect of Raine Group — and by extension, Premier Golf League — gaining a foothold through the European Tour caused dread among executives at the PGA Tour, which views the PGL as a potential existential threat should it successfully lure major stars away with the promise of huge paydays.
There is life after death!
A number of sources said the Raine Group proposal was always unlikely to win favor with the European Tour’s board and was being used as leverage to secure better terms from the PGA Tour, which was keen to ensure the PGL did not secure the infrastructure and tournament network from which it could launch its own rival operation.
After checking in with sources who have knowledge of the Raine Group’s efforts, negotiations between the private equity firm and European Tour had advanced considerably this summer.
Around 50 meetings had taken place this year.
Zoom’s with the player board and Board of Directors had taken place after Raine was given full access to European Tour financials, including the Ryder Cup. That was a risky leverage bluff by Chief Executive Keith Pelley but it does appear to have led to a last-minute deal where the PGA Tour wrote a check to stave off a rival. A dead one at that.
But as one source put it, “To paraphrase Mark Twain: reports of the PGL’s death are greatly exaggerated.”
Beyond the questions of financials and dead proposals, what does this mean for players, fans and sponsors?
For now the alliance appears to be a survival move with benefits TBD. Fans might eventually get a better world schedule that will undoubtedly be streamlined due to the pandemic. Players, however, will face the prospect of a monopoly that some like Rory McIlroy openly lamented with the Premier Golf League’s more controlled franchise infrastructure. And sponsors? Perhaps there is a better solution to the WGC, Rolex, Race to Dubai and FedEx elements that seem to clash instead of delivering better golf tournaments.
Until more exciting details come forward, Andy Johnson’s take sums things up:
The PGA Tour bought a competitor with the same product and from a financial side, a worse one. The PGL has always bet on providing a different product. The positive spin for the PGL is that the Tour has doubled down on the same existing product.
The European Tour and PGA Tour have finally decided to join forces. And what better day to share this news than than the ultimate Friday news dump window, Black Friday!
Blow is the PGA Tour release, dropped on the Friday most Americans focus on getting 60% off an air fryer and anything but looking at news. While light on detail despite seemingly positive news for the two Tours, it is hard to get past the odd timing and brevity of the release.
EUROPEAN TOUR AND PGA TOUR ANNOUNCE LANDMARK STRATEGIC ALLIANCE
* Historic move brings golf’s two leading global Tours together in partnership
* Alliance allows for further collaboration on scheduling and commercial opportunities
The European Tour and PGA TOUR today heralded a significant new era for global golf with an historic announcement of a Strategic Alliance.
The landmark agreement will see golf’s two major Tours explore all facets of collaboration, working together on strategic commercial opportunities including collaborating on global media rights in certain territories.
Certain territories. Tantalizing!
This will come through part of the agreement which sees the PGA TOUR acquire a minority investment stake in European Tour Productions (ETP), the European Tour’s Media Production company, which produces and distributes content internationally.
That’s the lead news in this? I mean, we all love ETP and they certainly do a fine job but uh, ok. More likely it gets top billing because this was the easiest way for the PGA Tour to send a check that keeps the lights on in Wentworth.
The Tours will also work in partnership on a number of other areas including global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities for the respective memberships. Further details of these areas will be announced in due course.
That would have been my lead!
Now to the air quotes…
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “This partnership is an historic moment for the game of golf and is a fantastic opportunity for both the European Tour and the PGA TOUR to explore ways to come together at the very pinnacle of our sport and work in unison for the benefit of the men’s professional game.
First thing we’ve learned: Tour remains in all caps for the PGA, not for the European.
“Today’s announcement is the formalisation of a closer working relationship between the Tours in recent years. It was one which was crystalised earlier this year when both Jay and I were part of the working group containing representatives of the four Majors and the LPGA, a group which helped shape the remainder of the golfing calendar for 2020 during unprecedented times.
“We shared the challenges of working through a year neither of us could have ever imagined and we found definite synergies in many areas of our respective Tours. That gave us the impetus to move forward together and arrive at this momentous announcement we are making today.”
So momentous we are dropping it on a Friday with only one significant detail about acquisition of a minority share in a money-losing in-house television department? Whatever you say Chief Executive!
Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, said, “We are thrilled to announce this further strengthening of our partnership with the European Tour, and we look forward to working together for the benefit of the men’s professional game and for golf fans around the world.”
One element of the partnership which can be confirmed today is the fact that PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan will take a seat on the Board of the European Tour.
A board seat is a pretty big deal. It means Monahan gets a close look at all of the European Tour financials, including the Ryder Cup. And from the player’s perspective, this particular bit of news should prompt multiple questions including, “why wasn’t Keith Pelley afforded a similar seat on the PGA Tour Tour Policy Board?”
Just guessing here, but that would have required assembling the current board, a lot of lawyers who’d charge double to work on Thanksgiving, and doing a major re-write of the PGA Tour by-laws that would have taken more time.
In Europe they’ve lately been handing out board seats monthly so clearly it was an easy move for the European Tour to add Monahan. Still, it raises questions.
The model’s lessons are intuitive. To thump the ball as far as possible, maximise clubhead speed and launch angle while minimising spin (which causes the ball to soar higher, rather than racing forward). However, most players face a trade-off between these goals, explains Paul Wood of Ping, a club manufacturer. Harder impacts usually mean flatter trajectories. Although the average male player swings faster and produces less spin than in 2007, launch angles have declined since then.
One golfer, however, has escaped this constraint. Bryson DeChambeau, a physics graduate with oddly designed clubs and a voracious appetite for data, is nicknamed the “Mad Scientist”. While the PGA Tour was suspended because of covid-19, he added 18kg (40lbs) of bulk. This has allowed him to swing faster than anyone else. But he has also managed to smash the ball with a high launch angle, rather than a low one—an unprecedented combination that might owe something to his unusually stiff wrists and robotic technique.
Putting Shotlink data to good use, The Economist put together a stunning chart showing DeChambeau’s outlier (for now) status in the launch/speed world:
A variation of that question gets asked pretty frequently of most anyone who calls themselves a golf writer and there are no easy answers. Derek Lawrenson highlights the recent struggles of Rickie Fowler’s efforts to retool his swing in his weekly Daily Mail column and writes:
The Californian has played in 18 consecutive tournaments without so much as a top-10 finish and is now on the brink of falling outside the world’s top 50 for the first time in a decade.
That’s quite some fall for a man who won six times between 2015 and 2017 after finishing in the top five in all four majors in 2014.
It’s another illustration that while golf might be the slowest of games, it has a fast-changing landscape. Who could have imagined just five years ago that Jordan Spieth and Fowler, back then the two golden boys of American golf, would both be ranked outside the top 50 and all but forgotten heading into 2021?
At 27 and 31 respectively, it’s too glib and easy to say they will be back. It’s certainly the hope given they’re two of the game’s nice guys.
The bald truth, however, in a mentally shattering game, is it’s far from a given.
Another factor that can’t be discounted: both Fowler and Spieth have had incredibly lucrative off-course endorsement careers. No matter how much drive both may have, the financial windfalls inevitably have to chip away at their competitive edge. Oh and the balls goes to far and the future will be all about bashing, so I’m not sure the motivation will be there for players who, at their best, thrive on a variety of skills instead of just driving and putting. That should annoy them or the governing bodies, but so far, not yet.