We’re back! No more tumor in my brain, and starting to feel better from the surgery, so time for more weekly previews. Though the fourth tournament of the year, this southern California event is by far the best full field tournament thus far and is on our first NFL-less weekend since September 2016 (we don’t count preseason or Pro-Bowl). A tournament with a lot to watch for coinciding with our first football-free weekend makes for an extra fun preview. But first, music:
Yes, Tiger Woods is playing. And if you didn’t know that before reading this, then you really need to follow golf more because everyone’s been talking about him playing this week. This is his first tournament in 17 months! So get excited.
It’s really going to be interesting watching him and seeing how he plays. Back a few weeks ago when he played in the Hero World Challenge, Tiger had the most number of birdies, but still finished T15 (30 players total).
Basically he’s like Brett Favre. Brett really was a great quarterback when he played in the NFL, tons of touchdowns, tons of great passes, but anytime he had the lead going into the 4th quarter, all us Packer fans would sit there worried that he was going to mess up, throw an interception, and we’d lose the game because of it. Oh Brett.
Oh yeah, the other thing about Tiger is his new clubs selection! Nike’s decision to get rid of making clubs meant two things. First, they decided to increase the number of clothes they’re going to make with the Nike swoosh, so Tiger, Rory, and now Jason Day will all be wearing that. Second, all the Nike sponsored players need to find a new brand for all their golf clubs! For example, Rory switched over to Callaway equipment a while ago before his injury. Tiger however, hadn’t told people what clubs he was switching to until this (Wednesday) morning! Drumroll please….
TaylorMade!!!!!! What’s interesting is what he claims to have done to determine which club brand to go with. Apparently he tested all different brands for several months and eventually chose TaylorMade because those clubs were “better” for him. But why did he actually choose TaylorMade? Like was it the quality of the their clubs that really made him decide to use those from now on? Or did it also have to do with the amount of money and advertising that they’re going to give to him?
“I’ve never in my tenure seen so much buzz and interest about rookies and young players creating exciting performances.”PGA Tour Commissioner
– Tim Finchem, end of 2010
The PGA Tour is getting younger. This isn’t something that happened overnight but is something that has been slowly changing the tour landscape over the last twenty years.
So what happened twenty years ago? …Tiger Woods happened, but, much has already been written about Tiger’s epic and trailblazing career along with the correlating increases in tournament purses, tv money, player earnings, longer courses, etc. that his dominance brought to the game.
The development and emergence of younger players has taken the tour to a new level, one that thrives with or without The Big Cat. The first young gun that came on the scene post-Tiger was Sergio Garcia, who as a 19-year old kid was prancing down fairways at Medinah in the 1999 PGA Championship chasing Tiger. Eventually, Tiger held off Garcia, but this duel nonetheless started one of, if not the most dominant era of golf.
By the end of 2000, Tiger had defended his PGA Championship and was a few months away from completing the Tiger Slam. If you take a look at what the top 50 in the world looked like then, you’ll see an average age of 34.3, with 12 players in their 20’s, and one of them was under 25 years old (Sergio Garcia).
Fast forward five years later and the tour actually got older. At the end of 2005, the average age of top 50 in the world was 35.5. Only seven players in there 20’s and Garcia was still the lone member under 25 years old in the top 50.
Over the next five years, Tiger Woods won four majors, including the U.S. Open on one leg, but also missed significant amounts of time on tour due to injuries and that Thanksgiving 2009 incident. During that time, several up and comers including Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler started winning tournaments and grabbing the attention of fans and sponsors alike.
At the end of the 2010 season, the average age of the top 50 players in world dropped to 32.06. Nearly three years younger than top 50 at the end of 2005. Now there were 20 players under the age of 30 in that group and five under 25! Sergio finally older than 25 was replaced in the top 25 by five guys.
In the last few years, players like Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson have joined the young guns by winning a lot and raising the bar. Actually they’ve lowered the age bar. Take a look at the current top 50 in the world at the end of 2016. The average age stayed relatively flat at 32.18, a group of 18 guys were under 30 but seven are under the age of 25 signifying that the best players in the world are getting younger.
Not only are the best players in the world getting younger, but they are getting better! The data from the same years but looking at just the top 25 players is more of the same.
TOP 25 OWGR 2000 Average Age: 32.84 ; Under 30: 8 ; Under 25: 1
TOP 25 OWGR 2005 Average Age: 35.76 ; Under 30: 3 ; Under 25: 1
TOP 25 OWGR 2010 Average Age: 34.20 ; Under 30: 7 ; Under 25: 1
TOP 25 OWGR 2016 Average Age: 31.48 ; Under 30: 12 ; Under 25: 4
Look at how the average drops over four years since 2005! Almost, half of the best 25 golfers in world are in their roaring twenties. Four of them are younger than 25 led by 23 year old Spieth who already has a couple majors. Tim Finchem thought there was excitement in 2010 around the youth on tour. As he enjoys retirement, he has to be beyond excited and overjoyed with the current crop of young guns and youth on tour.
Welcome to golf in the year 2017! Most of these 2017 preview articles take either one of two directions. 1) Super boring lists of facts about the upcoming season or 2) Ridiculous lists of predictions that aren’t going to come true and where the author isn’t held accountable for their terrible foresight. So I figured, instead of sticking to just one of those standard forms of preview article, I present the GOTM mishmash 2017 preview!
And as Chance the Rapper notes at the beginning of the intro here (well actually, the line was taken from Kanye, but I’m crediting Chance for now), even better than I was the last time, and we back.
The Rise of Hideki
Most well known for the odd Srixon outfits he wears, which I’m not sure if Hideki picks out himself or if Srixon forces him wear presumably to appeal to the Japanese golf playing public. Pretty sure no random Joe in the US is going to be wearing this yellow getup just because Hideki wore it when he beat a flailing Rickie Fowler in a playoff (during the Super Bowl) at the Waste Management Phoenix Open this past year.
Hideki is also hilarious to watch because of his displays of displeasure, and abridged follow throughs on what most people would consider decent shots. I can understand the desire to hit every shot perfect, but Hideki takes it to a whole new level. Compilation time! Watch the whole vid, it isn’t too long.
All that being out of the way first, people quickly forget how good H-dek has been his entire life, dating back to his amateur career. He was the first person, as a 19 year old, to earn the Masters exemption for winning the Asian Amateur back in 2011, where he was also the low amateur that year, making the cut. In 2012, reached number 1 in the world amateur golf rankings. After his first professional year in 2013, he earned enough world-wide money to become a member on the PGA Tour in 2014, where he won the Memorial. After a lack luster 2015, where his highlighting accomplishment was t5 at the Masters, he won the WMPO early in 2016, and current, has won 4 of his last 5 events dating back to this October, including a victory at the Hero World Challenge.
Now obviously I’m not talking that he’s Tiger level, considering Tiger. But given his consistency from these last few years and the recent improvement makes him poised for a big breakout soon. And when I say “big breakout”, I mean top 3 in the world within 3 years.
Hideki is going to have a great 2017 no doubt, but I don’t know if I’m ready to proclaim him as number 1 in the world at the end of 2017 just yet.
DJ is best
With all my drooling over Hideki, I need to step back and make sure people know that Dustin Johnson will have the best 2017, money-wise, win-wise, sexy butter cut drivers that go forever-wise, and chiseled beard-wise.
He’s got the most talent, and seems like he finally has the experience and self control to play well rather than party it up on yachts. And after all this time he appears to have learned to overcome his brother’s lack of caddying prowess and win nonetheless.
Throughout this whole election season, I’ve been pretty good at ignoring the candidates and the 24/7/366 (happy leap day!) news cycle. Unfortunately, as I sat down to write this preview, I realized I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Because this week, the WGC Cadillac Championship is being played at … Trump National Doral. Yup that Trump. Luckily for everyone out there, I decided to not put a picture of the man in this article, and this is the only time I’m going to mention him specifically. I for one, believe GOTM should be a PFZ — politics free zone. This is something increasingly rare in modern culture, so enjoy it.
Now time for the music. Last year I used the standard Billy Joel Cadillac-ac-ac-ac song, so I figure I’ll just go with one of the more catchy songs I’ve been listening to recently. Also since they don’t have a music video out yet, I’ll use the soundcloud stream.
Here’s what to watch for.
All the top guys
Invites to the Cadillac Championship are given as follows.
- Top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings
- Top 30 from 2015 FedEx Cup
- Top 10 from this year’s FedEx Cup from after the Honda
- Top 20 from 2015 Euro Order of Merit
- Top 10 from this year’s Euro Order of Merit
- Top 2 players from the final 2015 Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit
- Top 2 players from the final 2015 Australasian Tour Order of Merit
- Top 2 players from the final 2015 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit
- Top 2 players from the final 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit
What this means is viewers are treated to one of the best fields outside of a major. 48 of the top 50 in the world will be in Miami, only Jim Furyk (wrist injury) and Thongchai Jaidee (sickness) won’t be making the trip.
Guess that’s what happens when you drop money on money at the players, with the winner getting a stout $1,612,432.
Random players making bank, even if they suck
With no cut, everybody makes money!
Last year it was the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Apparently they dropped the National from the name because they’re unpatriotic! I’m guessing when #trump wins the election this year, “National” will have to be in every PGA Tour event name.
This week’s event is at one of the most famous courses in the world. Somewhere between San Francisco and LA, it’s the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Here’s what to watch for.
Here’s a little background music while you read:
Surprisingly Decent Field
Spieth, Day, Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Phil, and Bubba are all playing this week. I actually just sat here for a minute deciding whether or not I wanted to include fan favorite Patrick Reed in this list. I settled on not putting him in the original list of “top players”. Just mentioning him here, in a slightly diminished role would be enough.
Time for a more general point. A common thought about the PGA Tour is that anybody can win on a given week. This is true to some extent; You will see unproven winners pop up from time to time. But for the most part, the guys that win are really good, and consistently finish at the top of leaderboards. Bold prediction time, out of Spieth, Day, Sneds, DJ, and Walker, at least 4 out of the 5 will finish inside the top 25. Feel free to call me out if I’m wrong on that.
Just like the Career Builder a couple weeks ago, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is, wait for it, a Pro-Am! The difference between Career Builder and AT&T is that AT&T actually has famous people as their amateurs. Career Builder just had rich people. The AT&T has rich celebs, people you’d recognize.
This’ll actually be an issue even on Saturday. Usually telecasts of the first two days are smattering of players and shots, not really focusing on much in particular. Saturday rolls around and there are guys in the lead, and people moving up the leaderboard. Because of the 3 day cut however, the Saturday broadcast this week will be heavily focused on the celebs. The tee times for the amateurs are such that the most famous people are on Pebble Beach on Saturday, and they’re usually stopped after teeing off on 17 to do interviews.
Old man grumpy me is annoyed that the networks are going to play up the fact there are famous people playing in the tournament. More reasonable me realizes that it’s not the end of the world, and since this is the end of the Pro-Am tournaments for a year, I can suck it up and deal. Also, I’ll get to see Aaron!
Other notable celebs include, Jake Owen (if you were wondering why I had you listen to a Jake Owen song, it’s cause he’s playing), Jim Harbaugh, Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake (now I realize I could have put an N*SYNC song at the top. Oops), and Larry Fitzgerald.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
The main attraction of the week. The course you’ve played a million times on some golf video game for N64. Arguably the most recognizable course in the world (along with Augusta National) by people who haven’t stepped foot on the grounds. It’s the course that Tiger Won the US Open at by about 50 shots. It hosted the US Open in 2010, won by Graeme McDowell in a cardigan. You know the course, I don’t have to explain any more.
Turns out it’s really hard to figure out how to spell the sound that JK Simmons and company do in the Farmers Insurance commercials. I’m also realizing that I haven’t seen those commercials in a while, so here’s an example to refresh your memory bank.
Feel free to leave that on repeat while reading this preview. Definitely would add to the experience.
Here’s what to watch for.
Surprisingly Decent Field
Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Phil, Sneds, Bill Haas, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama. Didn’t know Farmers was drawing this big of a field.
For those who’ve been reading my previews for a while, you should know that my favorite thing to do is mention Tiger when in all reality, he has no business being mentioned. But Tiger’s history at this tournament, and his performance at the US Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines, make mentioning him a requirement.
Tiger has won the Farmers Insurance Open 7 times, including 4 in a row from 2005-2008. Throw in a US Open in 2008 as well and he’s won at that place 8 times. Absolutely absurd given the talent on Tour.
It’s an interesting thought trying to figure out why a certain player always performs well at a venue. Layout makes a big difference, not necessarily knowing where to hit it, but also being comfortable with the looks off the tee; it’s tough to force visual comfortableness. Another factor is the grass type. Tiger grew up in Southern California where the kikuyu grass is all over. Knowing how the ball is going to react out of the rough is a big help. Or maybe, he just wanted to please his Buick overlords, considering this event was the Buick Invitational for 6 of his victories.
MinLast tournament of the year! Only 30 players left at East Lake (excluding Hunter Mahan who said screw it and is playing over in Europe this week). Who’s gonna win? Will the $10 million giant check that I assume the winner gets fit in their pocket? What does Morgan Pressel look like in a video game? Find out below!
About the Sponsor
Compared to pretty much every other sponsor on the PGA Tour, Coca-Cola has got to seem like the odd one out. I mean we got insurance companies, we got car companies, we got banks, and we got … soda?
I suppose it fits because Coca-Cola is based in Atlanta, and they they are sitting on an pile of cash with a market cap of over 168B. Geez who knew you could make that much money in soda?
Well obviously Coca-Cola isn’t going to put all it’s carbonation in a drink that goes well with whiskey, so I looked up some of the other ways they make dat money. They own a couple other brands of beverage, including Minute Maid, Sprite, and Barq’s, but by far the most interesting way Coke has made money is by buying Columbia Pictures in 1982 for $692 million and selling it in 1989 to Sony for $3 billion. Not a bad return for 7 years. In reality though, I guess Coke is just one of those brands the pretty much everyone everywhere likes. And the fact that they distribute in 200 countries doesn’t hurt.
The Barclays sets itself apart from most other tournaments by deciding to not use an identifier or other words in the tournament title besides the name of the sponsor. So I guess it’s neither an Open, nor a Championship, so probably just a Tournament. Actually, I’ll go with invitational since you have to qualify. So this week, it’s The Barclays Invitational. I asked Barclays officials about what kind of event this really is and they declined to comment.
About the Sponsor
I’ve sat here for a while now trying to think of what to say about Barclays. I figured I needed to mention that you have to say “Barclays” with a English accent, cause 1) it sounds better, and 2) that’s a good enough reason on its own. But that’s about the only interesting thing about it. In reality, all you really need to know about Barclays is that it’s a British bank that does bank like things all around the world.
About the Tournament
Beginning in 1967 (and first won by Jack Nicklaus), The Barclays had a rich history of being played on the same course until 2008. The tournament was pretty much synonymous with Westchester Country Club, even donning the name “Westchester Classic” for the first 9 years of existence.
But money changes things, and in 2007 when the FedEx Cup began, the tournament was moved from June to August, and also started moving around host courses (and hasn’t returned to Westchester either). Currently, the tournament seems to be on a 5 course hosting rotation, with Plainfield being a part of it.
A WGC Bridgestone Invitational without Tiger is like a Christmas without Santa. It just doesn’t seem right. But we’ll make do with a stellar field right before a major. Buckle up for the WGC Bridgestone Invite.
About the Sponsor
The week, we’re playing the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, which is cool since Bridgestone bought Firestone (the tire company) back in 1988!
Now in the golfing circle, Bridgestone makes kind of ok golf balls, and pays some guys like Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Fred Couples some money to go on tv and talk about how they’re a golf company.
Well I’m sitting here thinking, how does a company that makes tires get into the golf bidness? So I’ll do a little investigating and get back to you. In the meantime, enjoy this not at all cheesy commercial brought to you by Bridgestone.
Hope you enjoyed that, and I’m back with the lowdown on the history of Bridgestone. Here’s a quick synopsis for you all, cause I care so much.
So Bridgestone was started in 1931 by Shojiro Ishibashi, who’s last name of “Ishibashi”, means “stone bridge”. A simple flip of the two words and you’re left with Bridgestone! Now Bridgestone’s primary business is making tires. Tires for cars, motorcycles, bikes, and airplanes, where it is the #1 manufacturer in the world. But along with just making tires, they’ve always led with innovation and being able to stay ahead of competitors with research, something that Japanese companies tend to do, and probably allowed them to stay on top for 80 some years now.
Welcome to Card of the Week, where we take a look at the most interesting scorecards from the preceding week’s play. This week’s action was in the heart of Texas at the aptly named Valero Texas Open.
While I’m loathe to admit it, the most interesting part of the tournament was… the wind. Wind in the morning and early afternoon on Thursday created an incredible advantage for the players with the late-early draw (afternoon tee times on Thursday, morning on Friday). It was crazy, I’ve never before seen a draw so thoroughly eliminate (nearly) half the field from contention. Matt Kuchar played remarkably well and shot even par, five shots back of the eventual lead. Of the 31 (!) players that shot in the 80’s, 23 had morning tee times. All told, it was at least a 5 shot advantage to go off late, and in my opinion cost several contenders a shot at, well, contending.