As the calendar makes the turn from the front side of the year to the back side, let’s take a look at where things stand in professional golf at the moment. Feel free to grab a hot dog and a beer while we’re making the turn.
Was anyone surprised that the PGA Tour and the PGA of America ultimately went along with the ban on anchoring? Didn’t think so. The Tour made its point during the public comment period but wisely decided to go along with the USGA and R&A, as did the PGA of America after all of its huffing and puffing. In a statement last week, Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem made it clear his organization wants a voice in future major rules decisions. Fair enough, though the Tour’s voice is already heard. It has a seat on some USGA committees. As for the suggestion that amateurs shouldn’t be subject to the 2016 start of the anchoring ban, that has no traction. The sooner this is behind everyone, the better.
On the subject of rules, why is there a four-year window on rules changes? Why not two years? Why not one year? If you’re going to change the rules, change them. Things happen faster now – changing golf rules should be the same way.
Imagine the mainstream buzz if Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy had won the first three majors of the season as Inbee Park has done. It would be relentless. What Park has done is extraordinary. As impressive as the trophies she’s collected is the way she’s made the game look easy. When she makes a mistake, it’s a small one. And when she putts, it looks as though she’s putting to a bigger hole than everyone else. If she wins the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews, she wins the Grand Slam. The women’s fifth major – the Evian Championship – is more a marketing ploy than major championship. You can’t just declare another major. Ask The Players Championship.
While I’m on the subject, Annika Sörenstam did a very nice job as a television analyst on the U.S. Women’s Open. Of course, she knows what she’s talking about.
McIlroy says he feels “a little lost” and is testing drivers in advance of the Open Championship at Muirfield in two weeks. He might also want to work on his putting. McIlroy ranks 128th on Tour in strokes gained putting, which may also explain why he’s fallen from 22nd to 113th in sand saves this year.
As for his tee shots, McIlroy is hitting is 60.82 percent of his fairways – the highest percentage in his PGA Tour career. He ranked 156th in driving accuracy last year and is 89th this year.
Look at the list of Open Champions at Muirfield – Vardon, Ray, Hagen, Cotton, Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Faldo and Els among them – and it’s obvious the course has a way of rewarding the best players of their generation. If you go on tradition, that makes it a short list of potential winners this year. Woods, McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Ernie Els come to mind quickly. Woods is a 7-1 favorite at the moment. He’s due. Overdue, in fact.
How lucky can professional golf be? Derek Ernst won the Wells Fargo Championship in May. In his other 14 PGA Tour starts, Ernst has not finished inside the top 40, missing the cut eight times. Like they say, all it takes is one good week.
Speaking of lucky, Mickelson has played in the Greenbrier Classic each of the past three years and he still hasn’t played the weekend. Part of Mickelson’s game is on-again, off-again nature but his Greenbrier record is odd. It looks like the kind of place where he could really get it going but so far it hasn’t happened. What does it mean for his chances at the Open Championship? Nothing.