World number one Dustin Johnson heads to Pacific Pallisades this week to defend the Genesis Open title that he won by five strokes last year. Riviera is perfectly suited to Johnson’s game, thanks to his phenomenal power off the tee, and he has achieved T4 finishes in each of the last four years. Recent winners include Bubba Watson (twice) and James Hahn, both hit ferocious distances, so it is a course geared up for bombers. But the field is strong and deep, the presence of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy means four of the world’s top eight will be in the mix.
Watson, meanwhile, will be hoping for a strong comeback after having the worst year of his career in 2017. He missed the cut in three of the four majors and has not won a tournament since 2016, sending him plummeting down to 117 in the world rankings. Riviera is the perfect setting to launch his return to greatness as the two-time Masters winner claimed victory here in 2014 and again in 2016, when he was ranked second in the world. If he can rediscover his magic touch around the greens he will be a force to be reckoned with, but that is a big if.
Another man hoping for a return to glory is crowd favorite Phil Mickelson, who is now 47 years old and has not won since 2013. He has come mighty close on several occasions, and remains a magnificently talented player, but if he is to force his way into Ryder Cup contention he needs to secure a victory somewhere along the line. He won here in 2008 and 2009 and finished runner-up in 2012, so it is as good a place as any to return to the summit once again.
And then there is Mickelson’s old nemesis Tiger Woods, who will dominate headlines in the build-up to the tournament. He finished T23 on his return to action in the Farmers Insurance Open last month, and said he is looking forward to hosting and playing at the Genesis Open this week. After a long injury layoff, fans will be eager to see if he can recapture the sort of form that led him to eclipse Mickelson and hold down number one spot in the world rankings for many years.
But right now, it is the elite men that head the betting, and deservedly so. Make sure to look at Betonline for odds on the event, and you will see that Johnson is the clear favorite heading into the tournament. His record at Riviera is amazing: he won last year, finished runner-up in 2014 and lost a playoff in 2015. Last year, his five-stroke win catapulted him to the top of the world rankings and he consolidated his place by winning his next two tournaments, the WGC Mexico Championship and the WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay. He was the clear favorite heading into the Masters, only to fall down the stairs and find himself ruled out due to injury. But he has maintained his number one ranking, despite the ascent of Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm and the return to greatness of Jordan Spieth.
Riviera is a second shot test, where precision on approach is paramount to success. Spieth will be a danger here as he is turning a corner on greens and has three T25 finishes in five appearances at Riviera. He needs a win ahead of The Masters and will be going all out for victory. Thomas never knows when he is beaten, while McIlroy can win anywhere and has made a strong start to 2018, but right now Johnson is the man to beat.
Distance has apparently become a real problem. I know I have too much of it. Don’t you? Golf courses are too short now, and many have to spend millions to make a their holes more challenging for .00000000000003% of the golfers on the planet. Why? Most think this “problem” is just the golf ball. This ball distance talk has heated up this year, especially after Dustin Johnson nearly made an ace on a 400 yard par-4 in Kapalua. People got all amped up about the ball going too far with no mind what the conditions were (downwind, downhill, hard ground). I’ve hit a 430 yard drive, in the mountains, on hard ground, with a heavy tailwind. I hit about a 520 yard drive also. It hit the cart path about 20 times. Roll back cart paths!
The subject of bifurcation seems to be making a comeback this year. Bifurcation in golf is the splitting of the golf ball into two different models: a “tournament ball” which the PGA Tour players would use, and a regular ball that Joe golfer would use. The tournament ball would be limited more in its distance than the regular ball.
I’m not a fan of bifurcation, and surely the golf manufacturers aren’t. The reason that 300 yard drives are impressive is because it takes some skill and athleticism to make it happen more than just a rare lucky swing. When I get ahold of one and hit it as far as Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlory, or Tiger Woods, I get excited.
Hitting a big drive is fun. That’s one of the few things that can help me stay interested in golf. How can I compare myself to those great golfers if I’m playing a different ball? Aspiring to hit shots like those pros is part of the fun, and the challenge.
Roll Back The Ball
Instead of bifurcation, some think all golf balls should be “rolled back.” Haha nice pun. The golf ball should be put back to a maximum distance number that’s in some golf governing body members’ heads, a distance shorter than it goes now. What distance? What’s fair?
This theory REALLY takes the fun out of it, and all it will do is make golf harder for those who don’t hit it far, most amateurs and Corey Pavin.
Rolling the ball back certainly wouldn’t help the golf equipment industry. It would pretty much kill every golf ball advertising and PR campaign theme since the beginning of golf balls, “this ball is longer!” What would the companies advertise if the ball is rolled back? This ball is the longest best rolled back ever!
What Else Should Golf Roll Back?
The problem with distance, if one actually thinks it is a problem, isn’t just the ball. There are many, many other factors involved in how far the golf ball travels these days. PGA Tour golfers are no longer out-of-shape pot-bellied smokers who drink booze all night, don’t work out, don’t have extensive teams of trainers and coaches, and don’t practice. Well, other than John Daly. PGA Tour golfers work out like crazy, have incredible flexibility, and have some of the most amazing advances in technology behind their swings and their gear. I’m not talking about just the golf ball. Here’s list of a few of the things professional golf would have to roll back other than the ball, though I’m sure there are some I’m missing.
Fitness – First, we will have to roll back fitness. Pro golfers today are super-fit (usually). Roll them back from the gym.
Flexibility – We must find ways of making today’s golfers more stiff and less flexible. No more yoga. No more flexibility training. Roll it back.
Personal Trainers – Speaking of training and fitness, part of that whole combo includes personal trainers. They’ll have to go.
Dietitians – Part of the fitness component is dietitians. Golfers who eat better can be more flexible and strong. Roll back the dietitians. Go back to the food pro golfers ate in the 50’s (except probably Gary Player). Make ‘em all eat fatty diets with lots of carbs! No more kale. Roll them back from precisely calculated sports diets to greasy burger
Golf Coaches – Golf coaches will certainly have to be rolled back.
Golf Shaft Technology – Shafts are as much to blame for distance as the golf ball. They’re waaaaay too good these days. Shafts must be rolled back.
Driver Head Technology – Driver head engineering is certainly a distance culprit. What is it this year? Jail face break twist technology I think. Roll back the drivers!
Swing Analysis & Launch Monitors – 99.9% of tour players utilize launch and swing analysis to optimize their swing, their shafts, their launch angles, spin rates and so on. Launch monitors have a huge impact on today’s distance problem. No more launch monitors. Roll ‘em back.
Golf Grip Technology – Golf grip technology certainly helps the pro golfer connect to the club. Let’s roll back that connection. Make the grip weaker, less stable. Roll it back.
Golf Course Conditioning – Hard ground certainly is a contributor to the distance problem. Short, precisely cut grass is too. Roll ‘em back. Let’s make some soft, wet courses with longer fairways and be sure to cut those fairways with inconsistent, dull mower blades. Roll back the roll so to speak.
I find it mildly confusing and entertaining when I hear that golf courses are “too short.” Many courses are ruining their original designs and spending millions by adding more length because .0000000000000003% of the golfers in the world can hit the ball so far. Meanwhile the average golfer’s scores haven’t improved in decades. In fact, over the last few years average golfer’s scores have edged upward. All that extra distance the average golfer is getting these days is really helping!
To fix this mythical distance problem golf’s governing bodies are considering solutions that will hurt the golf equipment industry and simultaneously make golf less fun for the average player. With all this talk of the golf industry’s struggles and the need to “grow golf,” making it less fun is a really dumb idea.
Okay this has taken some time but I’ve had a change of heart about Rickie Fowler. When Fowler first hit the PGA Tour it seemed like the only notable thing about him was his orange jumpsuit, or what I like to call the “traffic cone” apparel script. Here it is below.
After this year’s Masters though I’ve changed my tune about Fowler. First I watched some of the pre-Masters interviews and was impressed. Then I saw Rickie on Thursday morning at the ceremonial tee shot, which was just Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. This was the first time Arnold Palmer was missing following his passing. In my opinion, a historic moment in golf. There may have been, but I didn’t see any other tour players who made the effort to attend that ceremony.
At that point in time I realized something. Rickie gets it.
During the Masters he played very well and ended up in the 2nd to last group, paired with Jordan Spieth. Rickie was at the top of the leaderboard even during the final round, before Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia separated from the field.
So this is an official HOG-style hats off to Rickie Fowler. Looking forward to his first major win. Hopefully it comes before 73 attempts unlike Sergio’s did.
I feel like I’ve been on crack for four straight days and I’m now in withdrawal. I need some Masters methadone. I’m so spent. Sitting on the couch eating salt and vinegar chips and watching the drama of the Masters Tournament is draining.
Once again the Masters delivered. There’s no golf tournament product like it. The genius of Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie in creating Augusta National Golf Club shines every year. THE MASTERS NEVER DISAPPOINTS.
I’ll chime in with some commentary soon. I need to catch my breath and absorb another incredible Masters… process it.
Until then congratulations to Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose on an epic battle and showing great sportsmanship. I’ll finish tonight with one bit of great news: Only 361 days until the 2018 Masters Tournament! Can’t wait.
What’s the call-in number for violations in the Masters Tournament? Rory McIlory has violated his apparel script. Nike’s scripting for him had red shoes, but he’s wearing white shoes. Rory’s gone rogue. I already bought the red shoes because they were in the scripting. Can I get a refund?
Is anyone other than me paying attention to this atrocity? Who do I call or email?