I’ve said before that to be a cool kid in the golfing world, all you need to do is talk about all the Coore & Crenshaw designed courses you’ve played in your life. And last week, a couple other of the GOTM guys (and gal) and me made it down to Dallas for a post-Christmas golf trip where the location was decided by finding a direct flight to somewhere without snow. Dallas got checkmarks for both of those, and also was home to Trinity Forest, one of the newest Coore Crenshaw designs.
Trinity Forest, plunked just south of the city and home track for SMU’s golf teams, opened in the spring of 2016, and the big wigs of Texas also gravitated to the course right away. Jordan Spieth becoming a member (he can’t play Dallas National every day amirite?), nobody’s favorite side-saddle putter with the SMU ties, Bryson DeChambeau has also joined. Throw in a former president in Dubya, and you’ve got yourself a Texas party. Also while we were out there, Cameron McCormick was giving a presumably $500 an hour lesson, and Emmett Smith was somewhere on the course, but try as we might, we had no luck in finding him.
Facility-wise, the main clubhouse is still (and was) being built, but the makeshift trailer clubhouse has to be the best trailer clubhouse in the history of trailer clubhouses. Full bar, lockers, showers, all the hair and beauty products that could possibly be needed in a men’s locker room, lounge room, TVs, shoe shine equipment, and even M&Ms that Dylan crushed after the round.
The attitude at the club was awesomely laid back too. There was a group that went off along with us, them starting on #10, who went off with those Golf Board things. Pat asked our forecaddy Jesse about the policy on phones and cameras on the course, and Jesse gave a look of “why would there be any issues with using phones?” When we rolled up in the carts that we took from the parking lot, there were a bunch of push carts there if we wanted them. And at the turn, the guy working brought out a foam cooler of beer at Dylan’s request.
We headed to the practice facility first, which featured a range with an indoor teaching area (where McCormick was teaching), and on the other side, a giant facility which we learned was for the SMU team. Off to the side was a giant sloping putting green with only 3 holes cut for some reason, and connected to that was a chipping area with bunker. Off past that was a 9 hole short course, which we didn’t play.
“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.
The Masters. The best week of the year. The beginning of spring, warm weather on the way (maybe a while off here in the Midwest however), and gorgeous rolling hills of Augusta National. The Masters also means birdies and eagles, and roars from the patrons when players make those birdies and eagles. Basically, Masters week makes for the best golf watching of the year.
Looking to know who’s going to win? Check here.
Music this week was pretty easy to pick out. Click play on this video and let the soothing sounds of Augusta take you away to your happy place. That sounds pretty weird, but I’m gonna keep it.
What to watch for:
Bad Young Guys
Aka amateurs! The Masters, bless its soul, was founded in a time where being an Amateur (note the capital A) was a good thing. A sign that you’re stable enough in life to not need to play golf for money. Bobby Jones, co-founder of Augusta National and the Masters, was a poster child of amateur golf. And because of that, the focus of amateurs in the Masters lives on some 70 years later.
Copperhead! If you got that answer correct, then I’m sure you’d get a top score in the PGA Tour SAT test if there existed such a thing. And if you didn’t put Copperhead down as you’re answer, take solace in the fact that there isn’t a PGA Tour SAT test. The explanation however, is that the Valspar Championship is begin played on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort this week.
First some music if you’re so inclined, otherwise skip and go right to what to watch for!
No Actual Copperheads
I was curious how the course got the name Copperhead, when the other courses at Innisbrook are named Island, Highland North, and Highland South. Clearly it’s after the copperhead snake (the giant snake statue pictured above, and the Snake Pit nickname for 16-18th holes, see below). What I wasn’t sure about was where the copperhead snake exists in the wild, if only to be sure that I wouldn’t accidentally run into one here in the midwest.
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!
It’s the end of the West Coast swing, but not before stopping in LA at Riviera Country Club for one more event, the Northern Trust Open.
Here’s a song to listen to while you read:
And here’s what to watch for:
5 of top 10, 15 of top 30
It’s funny how surprised I get when I see all these top players in these non majors. This probably dates back to Tiger, when a PGA Tour field could only have been considered “strong” if Tdubs was in the field. These days, there are a more than a few players who, when lumped together, can turn a weak field into good field. This is one of those cases.
Having Rory, who plays in Europe for the most part, gives the tournament a big bump in quality.
It might just be me, but I’m way more interested in watching Rory play than watching Spieth play. Keep in mind, this isn’t a comment on who’s better, and I’m not implying at all that I don’t like to watch Spieth. But right now, I’m more inclined to see how Rory does. A disappointing 2015, and being out-shined by Spieth seemingly gave him a new drive to play better. Getting to watch him play on US soil is a must.
Plus I love watching Rory’s swing. Seriously, it’s so good. Actually might be a feature article soon – best swings on tour.
Riviera, the best course on tour that you wouldn’t think of being a best course
I got to play at Riviera in college and came in with no expectations, and as the day progressed I was blown away by all the intricacies. Usually the PGA Tour does a great job of photographing the courses for the previews, but I don’t really think this week’s set does the course justice. But take a scroll anyway and you can see part of what makes it special.
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.
Third event of the 2016 year, and the first pro am of the year. All the good guys are across the world in Abu Dhabi, leaving the dredges of the PGA Tour to play with the random amateurs in the California Desert. That’s a decently pessimistic description of the event, but I’m not into sugar coating. Still plenty of storylines for the new year though with young guys looking to leave their mark on a controversial course, making this tournament worth the TV time.
About the Sponsor!
This was actually one of my favorite sections of the preview from last year, and I figure I’ll bring it back whenever we have a new sponsor.
In the ironies of all irony, turns out the CareerBuilder office is right next door to the place I’m starting work in two weeks. Unfortunately for you all, I’m too lazy to make the trip to downtown Chicago to take a picture of the building, or even get that interview with the CEO everyone’s been clamoring for. I’ll assume that the CEO is somewhere in California schmoozing with Bill Clinton and all the NBC crew and use that as my excuse.
I’m a fan of company names that make it easy for a person to figure out what they do. So big congrats to CareerBuilder on that front. Taken directly from their website is, CareerBuilder’s slogan / tagline, “Find the Right Job. Right Now.”
Even though I have a job lined up, I decided to take CareerBuilder’s job search for a spin. “Web developer in Chicago” turned up more than a few jobs. The first was for front end development for some company called Collabera, who I won’t talk about until they sponsor a PGA Tour event. Interesting is that my ad block detected and blocked 29 ads on that job listing page alone, but then I realized that the entire page was a giant ad, so ad block failed by displaying anything at all. No idea how up to date or real the listings are, but in a few minutes I found a job that I could conceivably take. So good job again CareerBuilder.
It really is amazing how many odd businesses are able to be title sponsors of PGA Tour events. You probably don’t think that a job listing site could generate enough money to validate a sponsorship, especially when they’re somewhat competing with Craigslist. However, finding the right person for the right job, right now is difficult. And companies pay big money to have that taken care of. So maybe it does make sense to sponsor a tournament.
None of the Top Players in the World
Shoutout to Abu Dhabi, the European Tour, and appearance fees that lured all the top players in the world away from the US for this week’s event in oil country. With a pairing that includes Spieth, Rory, and Rickie, that’s probably going to be more interesting to watch in terms of world ranking. And good golf for that matter.
Welcome to the 2016 version of the PGA Tour!
Regardless the sport, many news outlets will have a writer post a list of “bold predictions” for the upcoming season. Here’s the process: 1) get some outlandish predictions on paper. 2) Incite argument, get page views (which turns out to be great alternative lyrics to the song Get Money, nsfw language). 3) At the end of the season, after none of the predictions turn out to be correct, the author can just say that the boldness means they weren’t likely to happen anyway!
Well I think those articles are way overdone, so this year, the GOTM preview article for the 2016 season will consist of Not So Bold Predictions. Predictions that will very likely be the case, along with some generalizations that are pretty much guaranteed to happen. The goal here being say things that nobody can argue with! Enjoy!
Rory, Spieth, Day will win at least 1 of the 4 majors
They’ve accounted for 5 of the last 8. I’d say that’s good odds one of them will win at least one of the majors. If I was bold, I’d say they’d win at least 3 of the 4. But I’m not so bold.
Media will refer to a group of the X top players as “the big X”
Quite possibly, but not limited to a “Big 3” consisting of guys above.
Tiger will get headlines
Everyone loves reading about a good comeback story! And if you’re one of those terrible cynics who loves when the top guy falls so hard, you’ll probably be able to read about that too. Either way everyone is happy. Except Tiger in the second case.
People won’t be complaining about the US Open
Unlike last year where interviews were littered with complaints from player ranging from the benign “the ground might be a little too dried out” to Billy Horschel’s wavy arm and fake putter slam.