PGA Tour- There have been an increasing number of fans each week at the tour events but it is still hard to imagine full galleries lining the fairways. I hope, as the masses are vaccinated and we begin to feel confident around other people, that there will be a return of a necessary aspect of big-time golf: the ebb and flow of gallery emotions. The huge Sunday roar, from the adjoining hole, that makes this next putt seem more important than the same shot on Thursday. is an integral part of professional golf. Think of any compelling tournament, the ’86 Masters, Tiger Woods’ Masters win in 2019, or any Ryder Cup and it was the gallery that drove the emotions we felt as viewers.
Some players enjoy the stoic atmosphere. Over the years, contenders have spoken about being trampled by Tiger’s gallery, who ran to the next vantage point instead of waiting for everyone to putt out. Others need the adrenaline supplied the cheers, as the energy helps them rise to accomplishments that may not have been possible through normal human emotion. Professional golf, at it’s best, provides us all with the needed infusion of optimism and anticipation of the coming golf season.
At San Diego, Patrick Reed won with some wonderful golf and a tremendous display of short game imagination. But that was not the aspect of his victory that carried the focus. Once again, Reed took full advantage of the players in the field. It seems as if he is never content to play the ball as he finds it. In this instance, he called for an official to determine if his ball was embedded, and then picked the ball up before
the official arrived at the scene. He also put the ball into his palm, to clean the ball, instead of holding it between two fingers until he knew it was legal to clean the ball (after the embedded ball ruling was given). Replays showed his ball bouncing, before it supposedly embedded. Perhaps he couldn’t have known that, but he knew to wait on the official before touching his ball.There is plenty of available evidence of Reed pushing the envelope. He finds his ball in the rough around the green. He starts setting different clubheads down behind his ball, as if to determine which club would be best for the upcoming shot. After doing this, he then seems to have a better lie and goes to the original club and plays the shot. Announcers, and players alike, have witnessed this weekly performance. It is the body of work, since his days in amateur golf, that speaks the loudest. The players were not happy, even if they didn’t go to the microphone to express their feelings. Reed is unapologetic, always having some “end of the day” logic that seems to exonerate his actions.
It was nice to see Jordan Spieth continue his resurgence. This past Sunday he had his chance, but other players stepped up. I saw a short putt early in the round, from ground level camera view, where the putter head rose abruptly and right of the line through impact. This has been a recurring problem in his stroke. Early in
his career he putted many of these shorter length putts while looking at the hole. This greatly reduces any impact anxiety. Throughout his slump, Spieth has been courteous with the press in discussing his
struggles. He realizes that the bad goes with the good. It is because of that you can feel the fans and media rooting for him, which is refreshing in this climate of moral magnification.
Another player who has been riding out a slump is Brooks Koepka. Due to injuries that, I suspect, were more serious than he chose to reveal to the scrutinizers, his game has not been up to his past level of performance. And maybe he just needed some fresh air. He decided also to take a break from working with his long-time swing coach Claude Harmon. Three straight missed cuts had the boo-birds chirping but then Koepka did what he is known for: a rock-solid final round when the pressure is the highest.
Koepka moved himself into contention after Saturday and flew under the radar, with the attention given to Spieth. Perhaps Koepka benefitted from his stand- offish treatment of the press. The microphones knew they were going to feel more love and get their questions answered with Spieth. Brooks is better left alone. But, like Spieth, it was nice to see Koepka play well and win again. We want to declare “problem solved, we’re back,” with Spieth and Koepka, but I am sure they would say, “not so fast. It was nice to perform well. I have been playing well in practice for awhile and it was nice to take it to the course this weekend, but I have to see myself do this with regularity to have full belief in myself.” Such is the nature of golf at the highest level.
Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)