Editor’s note: This is part two of a four part series previewing the 2015 PGA Championship by Matt Craig and Torey Fox. Torey will be on-site at Whistling Straights for the week and Matt as always will be glued to his TV.
An open letter…..to golf fans
By: Torey Fox
Dear Golf Fans,
I know you all don’t know me, but I assure you that I am a fan just like you. I love this beautiful, mentally excruciating sport that separates the men from the boys, but then brings them to their knees when they least expect it. Golf brings out the best, then the worst in all of us, yet always teases us to keep coming back for more.
This letter is two-fold. It’s designed to open your eyes about the current state of the game, but more importantly its written to make sure you’re aware of the occasional hyperbole we’re all accustomed to seeing when major golf tournaments come and go on the calendar.
As the season’s final major draws closer this week, I want to remind you that this game is perhaps approaching one of its all-time highs. The emergence of Jordan Spieth this season, coupled with the meteoric rise of Rory McIlroy last season, has given golf a rejuvenation in 2015. Then, throw in some rising names in popularity like Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Jason Day and you’ve got yourself a rock-solid grouping.
Am I forgetting anyone?
Of course I am! I’m forgetting Open Champ Zach Johnson. I’m forgetting Bubba, Phil, Sergio, Adam Scott, Jim “bridesmaid, never a bride” Furyk, and yes, even Tiger.
Golf fans, this sport is deep and frankly, deeper than any other point than I can think of with golfers that people know and actually cheer for.
The competition and leaderboards across the Tour, specifically majors, have been routinely deep, not to mention an Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone that have been packed with big names and unknown outcomes.
Golf has finally pulled itself out of the post-2008 Tiger era when the sport was seemingly stuck in neutral. From the 2008 PGA Championship through the 2012 Open Championship, professional golf had 16 different major-winners in a row with non-sexy names like Stewart, Charl, and Webb leading the way.
During those years, I’ll say golf wasn’t bad, but it sure wasn’t great. It was hard to pick a favorite, hard to rally around someone, and sometimes hard to watch both physically and emotionally (e.g. Tom Watson at Turnberry).
Luckily, golf fans, we’re out of that jumbled mess, so enjoy it! But buyer beware…
In that inconsistent stretch, please remember that you and I were introduced to “superstars” by the golf media many times over.
Padraig Harrington “couldn’t stop winning majors” after winning his third major championship of his career at the 2008 PGA Championship. After that, it took him SEVEN years just to win another tournament.
Lucas Glover’s “cool-hand Lucas” mentality won him the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in 2009.
Believed to be another solid U.S prospect at the time, Glover has missed the cut or not even played in 14 of the last 16 majors. It has earned him a “cool-hand” world ranking of #474.
And last but certainly not least is 2009 PGA Champion, Y.E. Yang. Yang famously outdueled Tiger Woods at Hazeltine, becoming the first Asian-born player to win a major and earning the infamous nickname of “The Tiger Killer,” according to his Wikipedia page. Unfortunately for “The Tiger Killer,” he hasn’t played in a single major this season and has missed the cut in seven of his last nine majors he has played in. Tiger Killer, ehhh?
Where am I going with this sad, critical news? I’m pleading all of you to enjoy where the game of golf is now but more importantly urging you to not drink the “major-winner” Kool-Aid like many golf pundits do when someone wins his first major.
Time and time again, the golf world proclaims the next superstar when the final putt drops on the 72nd hole, but in reality golfers like Mike Weir, Trevor Immelman, or Stewart Cink really did nothing more than just play four good rounds of golf. I don’t mean to put these guys down, but a major championship doesn’t just automatically make you “the guy,” contrary to popular belief. They are good players, don’t get me wrong, but I’d hedge my bet with non-major winners like Stenson or Westwood over these flash-in-the-pan winners.
Why bring this up now? Because we’re heading to the PGA Championship, a major that could truly be anybody’s guess if Whistling Straits acts like Whistling Straits. This is a course that blends American and European-styles of golf along the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s hilly, it’s full of sand, and if the wind starts blowing, the entire dynamic of the course changes.
Golf fans, I encourage you to be vigilant this week. It’s a great time to be one of us. The sport couldn’t be in a better-hands with the names at the top of the World Golf Rankings. The PGA Championship could be wild, similar to what we saw at Valhalla last year. It also could be a runaway with someone like Soren Kjeldsen hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy.
If that happens, please breathe, relax, and resist the urge to say that golf has found the next Jack Nicklaus. If we haven’t found the next Jack by now, we’re not going to find him this week. Cheer for your favorites, applaud those that play well, and more importantly, enjoy the sport of golf. It can’t get much better than what it is right now.