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.
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?
Nike Sumo “Mickey” Driver – Didn’t sell too well…
I’m not one to post the same over-hashed topics that most other golf sites post but today I have to. Nike is going to “transition out of equipment – including clubs, balls and bags.”
For many years Nike was a great sponsor to HOG, especially the fantasy golf leagues. They provided some huge prizes. They also sent me a bunch of clubs, bags and balls to test over the years. Some I liked. Some I didn’t like, especially the golf balls. Apparently with no more Tiger Woods fueling sales and buzz, the likes of Rory McIlory and a few others aren’t enough to keep interest at a high enough level to drive sales.
BEAVERTON, Ore. NIKE, Inc. announced today that it will accelerate innovation in its Golf footwear and apparel business and will partner with more of the world’s best golfers. With this new focus, Nike Golf will transition out of equipment – including clubs, balls and bags.
“We’re committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel,” said Trevor Edwards, President, Nike Brand. “We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike Golf.”
“Athletes like Tiger, Rory and Michelle drive tremendous energy for the game and inspire consumers worldwide,” said Daric Ashford, President of Nike Golf. “Over the past year the MM Fly Blade Polo, the Flyknit Chukka and Air Zoom 90 have all connected strongly with golfers. We’ll continue to ignite excitement with our athletes and deliver the best of Nike for the game.”
The golf equipment market is already flooded, so in the long run I think this is good. Sometimes businesses branch out too much and go away from focusing on their strengths. Nike’s apparel sales are so huge, golf equipment was really not worth it. They tried to be groundbreaking and cutting edge with their designs in golf clubs, like the square “Sumo” driver. In the long run those quirky, weird looking clubs just made Nike look bad. The Nike Sumo “Mickey” was one of the worst (pictured).
It’s better not to produce a product than it is to just produce one that makes you look bad, or desperate.
I’ve never done crack or any severely addicting drug… or even mildly addictive drugs. But I feel like I’m in a serious withdrawal state right now after the Masters concluded a day and a half ago. The Masters is as close to a drug as tournament golf can get.
Most “journalists” have a large portion of their articles written before the tournament ends. I’m starting mine over a day later, and honestly, I’m coming up pretty blank. Perhaps I’m partially brain dead from traveling all last week to the other side of the planet, and then suffering a sudden passing of an uncle on Masters Saturday. That’s my excuse. Then again, I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger. Thankfully I don’t have a deadline a minimum number of words to turn in.
Willett Winning or Spieth Collapsing – Which Will Be Remembered?
Quick quiz: Who won the Masters the year Greg Norman blew a 6-shot lead? Golf aficionados probably know, but the average joe doesn’t. It was Nick Faldo, the first englishman to win the Masters.
Will the 2016 Masters be the same? Will it be known as the year Spieth blew the 5-shot lead with nine holes to play? I hope not and here’s why. Danny Willett played his ass off. His final round was as close to flawless as it could have been. Willett had five birdies and NO bogeys. None. Willett shot a 67 in the final round of only his 2nd Masters to win it. That’s spectacular golf people. Spectacular. Hats off to Danny Willett.
Jordan Spieth was fighting his swing in the final round of the 2016 Masters. He was getting away with it until #12 where he dunked two shots in the water and one in the back bunker on the world’s most famous par-3. He was able to recover from his off-shots previously and make up for it with great putting, but you can’t hit a recovery shot from water.
I think this Masters will be a very good learning experience for Spieth. It might take a little while for the sting and mental effects to subside, but in the long run it will be a character builder and something he can look back on and build from. Greg Norman used his Masters meltdown as a building block to great golf and business success.
One major championship left for Rory to claim the grand slam. I think this one is going to be more and more difficult for Rory to obtain. He has the perfect game for the Masters physically, but mentally this one is going to be tougher and tougher for him.
Rory played some very questionable shots from a game management standpoint. One in particular is the punch shot he hit out of the left trees on the par-4 11th. Too aggressive and it went in the water.
Jason Day should win a Masters one of these years. He too has a perfect game for Augusta. He just didn’t seem to have it this past week, especially with the putter.
Ernie Els and the Yips
On the first day we watched Ernie Els 7-putt (later it was recounted and was determined to be a 6-putt). Bad case of the yips and impossible to watch.
Aces on 16
The Sunday pin placement on the par-3 16th lends itself to aces and that’s just part of the great setup that produces excitement at the Masters. The 3rd and final ace was by Louis Oosthuizen and was amazing. His ball hit another player’s ball and still went in the hole. Never seen anything like that before.
No Tiger. No Phil. No Problem.
This is the first time since possibly the mid-90s that neither Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson have at least been part of the Masters conversation. Times aren’t changing. They have changed. Welcome to the new world. We may have a flash of Phil and Tiger in the future still, but the new guard has taken over.
The Masters Never Disappoints
I say this every year and it’s true every time I say it. The Masters Tournament never disappoints. Thanks to Bobby Jones and Allister Mackenzie for setting up a golf course and event that is truly the best and most exciting and entertaining, year in and year out. Even though I was not able to watch Thursday or most of Saturday this year due to more important things conflicting, it was still a thrill.
Good news! Only 359 days until the 2017 Masters Tournament!