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Top 10: The Greatest Golfers Ever

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Mickelson’s final-round charge that led to his win at The Open Championship, as well as another runner-up finish at the U.S. Open in June and his win at the Scottish Open in early July have a lot of folks talking about Lefty’s place in golf history.

Just a decade ago, Mickelson was viewed as an underachiever whose potential for major championship dominance never materialized for one of two reasons:

  1. Tiger Woods’ domination of major championships from 1997 to 2008.
  2. Mickelson’s aggressive style of play.

Five major championship victories later, no less of an authority than Jack Nicklaus has said that Mickelson will go down as one of the greatest players ever. With over 40 PGA Tour wins, and victories at the Masters (three times), PGA Championship and Open Championship, it is not too soon to discuss where Phil stands in the pantheon of great players — especially considering his six second-place finishes at the U.S. Open, which would be a great career in itself for many long-time Tour players.

When we compile any list of the “best ever,” era comparisons invariably rear their head. It is difficult if not impossible to compare Old Tom Morris and Tiger Woods, so perhaps some criteria are in order. To be fair, we needs an apples-to-apples basis for our list and I think we have to consider some of the following:

Dominance: Was the golfer the dominant player of his/her era? Did he/she beat the others often enough to be the best player of that time? This is tricky, because in golf we’ve had “waves” of great players who often stood in the way of one another.

  1. The “Great Triumvirate” of Harry Vardon, Ted Ray and J.H. Taylor, to the early American supremacy of Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen.
  2. The war years of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.
  3. The modern era of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.
  4. The “Tiger” era.

In the first three eras, there always seem to be three players that stood out among the rest. So if a player didn’t win every time (in golf, they don’t), the greats were often in contention. For example, there’s no doubt that Palmer and Player took potential titles away from Nicklaus, but even when Nicklaus lost he was often in close pursuit.

Only Tiger Woods has stood head and shoulders above the rest in his era. The late 1990s to 2008-2009 is really the only time we’ve had one player completely dominate an era, with the possible exception of Bobby Jones from 1923 to 1930.

Some may argue that Tiger dominated the golf world because their was no other “great” player at the time. Tom Watson was past his prime, and Nick Faldo was slowly exiting the scene as well. Mickelson was still learning to win the big ones, and not the player he is now. Others like to argue that Tiger dominated because he was playing the best golf the world had ever seen, which I’ll touch on more later in the story.

Major championships: While it difficult to say where the cut off line would be, I will arbitrarily select five (5) as the number of majors a player had to win to be considered on our greatest-of-all-time category. Here, too, we are on a slippery slope, because majors have changed.

The U.S. Amateur is a great example: In Bobby Jones’ era, surely it was a major. In Jack’s era, it may have been marginally a major, and today is clearly is not. The Masters, a modern day major, was not played until 1934, and the PGA Championship not until 1916. So we have to be careful when comparing on this basis alone. But majors are how we define good from great in our game, and, in some form, we have to consider their records in them.

Longevity: Again, using this as one of our criteria can get confusing, as golf is a game where most players do NOT stay at their peak for very long. Nicklaus, Snead and Player are notable exceptions, but many of the game’s greats have had short reigns at the top.

Jones was at his best from 1923 to 1930, while Nelson was in his prime from 1937 to 1945. Even in the modern era, all of Palmer’s majors came in an 8-to-9-year period. And often the flame burns brightest before it burns out: Nelson, 18 wins in 1945, gone two years later; Jones won the grand slam in 1930, retired the next year. A player named Ralph Guldahl, one of the premiere players in the 1930s, won back to back U.S. Opens and nothing after really — so did Curtis Strange.

On the other hand, Snead won events over a 30-year period as did Gary Player, and Jack over 25 years. So we still have to give longevity a place on the list.

Total Wins: There’s no denying that great golfers are able amass their share of total tournaments won around the world, not just the PGA Tour. Gary Player, for example, won only 24 events on the PGA Tour, but over 150 worldwide. Tiger is rapidly approaching Sam Snead’s all-time record of 83 PGA Tour wins, but of course he also has 14 majors victories. Considering all that, here is my vote for the top 10 players ever:

No. 1: Jack Nicklaus

With 18 professional majors, 2 U.S. Amateur titles and 73 PGA Tour wins over 25 years, Jack’s record speaks for itself. Tiger has won three more times on the PGA Tour than Nicklaus, but until him or someone else tops his record 18 major championships, there is no question that “The Golden Bear” is the greatest golfer of all time.

The best golf that has even been played was from Woods from 2000 to 2008, but he still has work to do to catch Jack in longevity (Nicklaus won his last major at the age of 46) and majors.

No. 2: Tiger Woods

In his prime, Tiger was the best golfer the world has ever seen. Winning the U.S. Open Championship by 15 shots, the British Open by 11, the Masters by 12 and the “Tiger Slam” are just a few of the things that separate him from the others.

Consider this statistic: Tiger has won 25 percent of the professional tournaments he has played. The next best on that list is Phil at 8 percent! And I, for one, believe his comeback is almost complete and inevitable. But until then he remains firmly in second place, four majors away from the No. 1 spot.

No. 3: Ben Hogan

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Hogan was the consummate ball striker, winning three consecutive majors in 1953 — The Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open (he didn’t play in the PGA Championship).

The “Wee Ice man,” as the Scots affectionately named him, was one of the best ever. His nine major championships in a five year stretch is the stuff of legends, and it seems that his legend is improving as the years go by.

Remember this: Hogan basically only played the majors after his near-fatal car accident.

No. 4: Walter Hagen

Hagen

With the possible exception of Gary Player, Hagen was the best match play player ever, and maybe as good a putter who has ever lived as well.

Hagen taught golfers that confidence is a MUST in championship golf, personifying his self belief with his lavish dress and habits. He won four consecutive PGA Championships (1924-1927), five British Opens and 2 U.S. Opens.

Once, needing to hole out from the fairway from 155 yards to force a playoff, Hagen had his caddie remove the flagstick! That’s confidence.

No. 5: Bobby Jones

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The best amateur golfer of all time, and his No. 5 ranking here could easily be higher — Jones quit tournament golf at the unthinkable age of 28! In 1930, his grand slam year, he only played in two other events.

Remember this: Jones averaged one round a week during his playing days, and he put the clubs away most of the winter! He was an amazing talent that may never be duplicated. In his last 12 national championships (U.S. and British), he was first or second a staggering 11 times.

No. 6: Gary Player

With nine majors and over 100 victories worldwide, Gary Player brought physical and mental fitness to the world of professional golf. He was also the first to play the game internationally at the highest level.

Player is one of only five players to win the modern grand slam, and he also won the World Match Play Championship an unprecedented five times! But because he played in the same era as Nicklaus, Player’s place in history is sometimes greatly underrated.

No. 7: Sam Snead

Sam Snead is still the winningest player ever on the PGA Tour, with one of the sweetest swings anyone has ever seen. He amassed 81 wins on the PGA Tour, all while while playing in the era of Hogan and Nelson.

He won the West Virginia Open 17 times, often playing in bare feet in the early days. A natural athlete who took great care of his body, Snead could kick the top of a door frame with his other foot on the ground!

No. 8: Arnold Palmer

Every young player who collects a big, fat paycheck today should quietly thank Arnold palmer. “The King” popularized the game and brought it to the masses like no player before him.

Loved and adored by fans for his go-for-broke style, Palmer saved a moribund game and Tour after the Hogan era. Consider this: from 1960 to 1966, Palmer won the U.S. Open once (Cherry Hills, 1960), and played off for the title in 1962, 1963 and and 1966. Although he lost all those playoffs, that is first or tied for first for four out of six years!

No. 9: Byron Nelson

His 18 wins (19 if you count the New Jersey Open) in 1945 puts him automatically on my top-10 list. A quiet man, who eschewed the spotlight, his ball striking has become the stuff of legends.

Byron was alleged to hit a golf ball straighter than anyone before or since him. But he disliked tournament golf, often to the point of nausea before big matches.

Once Ben Hogan, who saw Nelson with his head in the toilet before the 1942 playoff for the Masters, actually offered to delay the start of the match! They didn’t and Nelson won. After his record-breaking 1945 season, he retired two years later.

No. 10: Harry Vardon and Tom Watson

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I’m copping out a bit here because although the two played some 75 years apart, the single dominance of the British Open alone (six wins for Vardon and five for Watson) make it very difficult to choose.

Vardon actually invented the more modern golf swing, and left us with the famous “Vardon Grip,” the overlapping grip as we know it, and dominated golf just as it was coming to America.

Watson won 39 PGA Tour events, eight of them majors, and of course came within a whisker of winning the British Open at the age of 59 in 2009. He may be best known for his memorable battles (and victories) with Jack Nicklaus when Jack was in his prime.

I would love to hear from anyone who would adjust my list. Please remember, this my the list as it stands today. My list does not include Mickelson yet, but he is surely a bullet!

How can my list NOT include Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Billy Casper et al? Well, again it is my list, and I was asked to write the piece. Again, era comparisons are difficult at best, but it makes for great 19th hole conversation.

Fianlly, I think Phil is a long way from through, and at some he will be on that list. His talent is that good.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Graham

    Mar 8, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Your article would have some credibility if you included a player who won 89 tornaments around the world including five Open Championships. I’ll leave it to you to work out who this player is.

  2. Mark Stephens

    Apr 27, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Have to place Tiger in the No. 1 spot based on something Jack Nicklaus said when asked about Tiger’s ability and record: Jack replied, when I played competitively, each tournament I played against (the same) 5 or 6 players. Tiger plays against the entire field in each tournament
    That’s about 124 golfers who enter each tourney.

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Golfers Of All-Time – Golf in the Year 2000

  4. Ben Barclay

    Jun 7, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Nice list, but your mistake is trying to rank these players within the top 10.
    Best pure golfer: Jones
    Player who dominated his era best: Woods
    Most impressive career: Nicklaus
    Most competitive Golfer: Snead
    etc

    This is similar in every sport. In hockey, you can’t rank Richard, Howe, Gretzky, and Lemieux.

    One thing you can say, is 5 Bobby Orrs would have beat 5 anybody elses, in their prime. Not sure if golf has an analogy.

    What if you took them all in their prime, with magically equal equipment, and it came down to 18 holes.

    Who would win?

  5. Dlygrisse

    Feb 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Good list. Tough to compare eras, but I have to go with the best player of each era to start the list because they dominated everyone they played against.
    I personally would rank Bobby Jones and Harry Vardon higher on the list, they were both the dominant players of their era and were not only great players but moved the needle in terms of popularizing the sport.

    Gary Player was great, but like Phil was never considered the best player in the world at any point in time, he always seemed to be playing 2nd fiddle to Jack or Arnie.

  6. Dlygrisse

    Sep 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Good list. I would look at it slightly different though, I view the GOAT as the players who dominated their era, the ones who where without a doubt the GOAT when they retired, or quit playing at a high level.

    Vardon
    Jones
    Hogan/Nelson/Sneed
    Nicklaus
    Tiger.

    Being that Hogan/Nelson/Sneed are 3 players, born the same year and all dominated for short periods during the same era and can’t rate any of them higher than 5.

    So I would go:
    1. Jack-Most majors, played at a high level for 20 years.
    2. Tiger-blah blah blah, we know what he has done, but unless he kicks it in gear for a 2nd run at greatness Jack wins.
    3. Jones-dominated the sport as much as anyone ever, if he could have sustained it past the age of 28 he could be higher.
    4. Vardon-The first truly great international player. Greatest of all time without question before Jones came along.
    5. Hogan-maybe the best ball striker ever, just doesn’t have enough career wins or majors to be any higher, although if it werent for the Grayhound bus……
    Sneed-dominated his era for 20 plus years, but played 2nd fiddle to Hogan and Nelson for 5 year stretches.
    Nelson-Played the best golf of all time for about 2 years.

    After this I would take any listed by the author, however you could add names like Locke, Seve, Thompson, Casper, Trevino, Floyd, Norman, Faldo, Young Tom Morris, or even Ray.

    • atiboy

      Dec 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Sorry, but Jones is #1, Jack #2
      Jones won 13 Majors between 1923-1930 in a seven year consecutive period. That is almost two majors per those consecutive years. Jack did not even come close to this in Jack’s first seven years on tour. Jack won his last major (18) at 46 yrs old at the Masters. Jones won the ONLY grand slam in Golf in 1930. Jones played only part-time and always as an amateur. Being an amateur, he was disqualified from the PGA tournament and since he had not yet created the Masters Tournament, he only played that once he had retired.

  7. Danny415

    Aug 8, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    This is a wonderful compilation of the all-time best. This is also a great start for those who like to debate.

  8. RB

    Jul 21, 2014 at 5:58 am

    Tom Watson is grossly underrated. 8 majors in really 2 different eras that featured Jack, Lee, Player, Faldo, Norman and even in his old age is still competing in majors, most notably the playoff at the Open in 2009. Should be top 5 imo.

    As for Tiger v Jack, no player has ever dominated like Tiger nor had a bigger impact on the games popularity, fitness, and earnings as he. Tiger also plays far fewer events each yr than most tour pros and has had several swing overhauls due to injury.

  9. Daniel gormally

    Jul 12, 2014 at 8:02 am

    This is a very American biased top ten list. I would agree historically the US has produced the better golfers, but certainly you would have to recognise the achievements of Ballesteros, who elevated the status of European golf and levelled the playing field in the Ryder cup, which up to then was essentially dominated by the US team.

  10. Barry Shanley

    May 11, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time, and it’s not even that close. Palmer is the most important player of all time for bringing the game to the masses with his dramatic flair at the dawn of the golf on television era. I do think Gene Sarazen should have finished higher because he won all 4 majors, hit the most famous shot in golf history, and at the same time was instrumental in the development of the sand wedge. And yes, I do think women should be included. The golf world should know of Patti Shook Boice of Michigan. She never turned pro because she didn’t play for money and certainly not for fame. She won the National Collegiate Championship in 1964 though her college, Valparaiso, didn’t even have a team, and won her state’s women’s open a record number of times and was named the Michigan Female Golfer of the Century. If you ever met her you’d never know…genuinely humble, sweet and polite…she’s the female version of Bobby Jones.

  11. Mr Tour

    Apr 22, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Your article should be the top ten greatest MALE golfers. There are some LPGA players that have better numbers… and figures!

  12. Paul

    Apr 13, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Isn’t about time you update this article? Tiger has won 79 official PGA Tour events. The field Jack player against was never as deep as todays field! They players come all over the world not just Europe. I strongly suggest you read this article ( http://golf.about.com/cs/historyofgolf/a/top5men.htm )on why Tiger is the best even if he never breaks Jacks record! At age 37 if he plays to only age 48 he’ll have 44 chances to best Jack. That in its-self says he is far better at this age than Jack. Miguel Jimenez is only down by 2 strokes in this latest Majors. Far too much importance given to Majors. All one needs to do is stay on the fairway & two putt. A few birdies on the par 5’s and you’ve got a win! This new 20 year old is showing as Tiger did any golfer having a good weekend can win a Major. Where are all the recent Pat Major winners? Oh, you say they got cut? What does that say about them??? No Tiger to inspire them, they might as well have stayed home, they are certainly past their prime!

  13. James Murray

    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:21 am

    I think Jones should be ahead of Hagen for sure. Plus I would replace the 10 pick with Sarazen.

  14. jim king

    Oct 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Hogan is number one. All these guys since him, study his game more than all other golfers combined. Even Jack changed
    his swing to be more Hoganlike

  15. Dennis Clark

    Aug 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    To all the readers of this article…the idea of it was to stimulate discussion. There are no right or wrong lists, and a “best ever” selection is very subjective. But it does refresh some peoples interest in golf history, an area I feel has been lost in modern golf. The lore of this great game has always been a part of its many charms, and I, for one, like to keep it alive. Thx, DC

  16. Mark

    Aug 5, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    If ‘Majors Won’ is part of the criteria – then you have to include those events which were regarded as the majors in their day. So for example – The North & South or The Western would count and Hagen’s total, for one, would be much higher.

    Also consider that outside the USA, The Masters is not considered a major – it’s an Invitational on a very much ‘made for TV’ course – not a championship.

    Tiger Woods’ ten year dominance has certainly saved the PGA Tour and televised golf but it has come at a price. Huge weekly pay cheques with scores near to twenty under isn’t fooling anyone and wasn’t that proved this year at Merion & MuIrfield, when you had to play ‘proper golf’ on real golf courses?

    Tiger will be admired but never loved the way Jack & Arnie were and are. The Tour and the young fellows appearing now, inspired by his exploits, will be forever thankful to him for helping grow The Tour to where it is today. But they want his scalp before he’s past his best. They are not intimidated by him the way the competition was at his peak – so it’s going to be very hard for Tiger to win any more majors.

    Another criteria you might want to consider – although somewhat subjective – is how did the players of the various eras rate their fellow competitors. In this way you would be including Trevino and Faldo.

    Thought provoking article though – but there can never be a best of all time only the best in their time.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Mark,

      Good points. I don’t thing the Western or North South ever held the “majors” tag even though they were HUGE tour events. They may be like the WGCs of their day. I disagree about the Masters, as just about every non-American who has won it, said they had dreamed of winning it all their lives. It is clearly a major. To your point about being the best of their time, I totally agree. Sports change so much that a “best ever” is all but impossible to determine. In their times, players like Young Tom Morris and Willie Anderson (3 consecutive US Opens) would be on any list. But thx for the good comments and interest

    • PhillipW

      Nov 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Yes , Tiger will never be loved as those white players, because he’s not white, and golf is a white sport, although the Chinese invented it.

  17. Dennis Clark

    Aug 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    In 1925, the two greats of the game played a 36 hole exhibition match; Hagen won 12 and 11. The consummate amateur and the consummate pro…Hagen was a genius at simply getting the ball in the hole. But I see your point, it could easily have gone the other way. Just my opinion.

    • Stephen

      Aug 11, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Jones was not prepared for the match. He was being pressured to turn pro and the loss helped him realize that staying amateur was the best thing for him and his family.

      Jones was 5-0 in majors with Hagen in the field.

      None of Hagen’s major titles had Jones in the field.

  18. Dave

    Aug 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Why is Hagen above Jones??! No way.

  19. Alex Jackson

    Aug 5, 2013 at 12:35 am

    It’s a shame for many reasons the car accident that nearly killed Ben Hogan, but I honestly can’t imagine how many majors he would have won if that never happened. He won with legs he had no business walking a golf course on and a left eye that couldn’t focus on the golf ball when putting. It’s hypothetical, but I feel pretty certain he’d have won 15 or more. Similar thing with Byron Nelson. He’s a man who dominated the game and then retired in his 20’s at his peak because he was more interested in buying and running a ranch than playing golf.

    I’d consider putting Sam Snead higher than 7, and dropping Walter Hagen. I’d put Bobby Jones at 4, Snead at 5 and Hagen at 6. If the ratings were on potential of what they could have done, I’d put Tiger at 1 and Hogan at 2.

    Lastly, I don’t think Tiger passing Jack in majors, if it happens, makes it a done deal that Tiger is the best. Jack finished 2nd in majors 19 times. I don’t know how many times Tiger has finished 2nd, but its nowhere close to Jack. Tiger may be a better closer with a lead, but Jack competed nearly every time he stepped foot on the course, even more than Tiger, which seems impossible.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      No question Nelson retired in his prime but he was 35. Jones was 28. But as you point out Nelson wanted a ranch and Jones was a lawyer. With purses as they were then, it was very difficult to make a living at playing golf.

    • JB

      Sep 4, 2013 at 5:33 am

      True, we will never know whether Hogan would have won more majors without the accident and I would put him slightly in front of Player just because of this.
      But we can be even more sure that Hagen would have improved on his count of 11 majors if he could have contested in 4 of them every year instead of in only 3- as the Masters did not exist during his time yet!
      Due to this fact, and due to Jeff’s above mentioned lack of THE major component in a true golfer’s game with Tiger, I would not only not drop Hagen but rank him at No2 above Tiger, followed by Hogan and Player- and treat Jones as a special case within those six greatest.

  20. Me nunya

    Aug 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Yeah, the only thing that argues Tiger for #1 over Jack is he held all 4 major trophies AND the scoring record relative to par in all of them simultaneously. Good luck topping that, anybody ever.

    I gotta go Byron Nelson #4 or even #3 IF you put Mr. Hogan in the top 5 (which you have to obviously) because Hogan never beat Byron head-up. Not once.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 4, 2013 at 8:50 am

      But…Nelson was gone before Hogan really broke through. Post accident Hogan was a superior player. Starting in 1948 he won 4 out of the next 5 US Opens, Nelson was incredible no question, but 5 majors keeps him down on my list; that’s his only “weak stat”. And because of his hemophilia, he played a LOT of golf in the war years. Great man, too one of the real gentlemen of the game!

  21. Dick

    Aug 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Bill Russel has 11 nba championships, but certainly is no Jordan even with 6 rings. Jack may have 18 majors, but he’s certainly no Tiger. I think it’s an insult to even compare him to Tiger (GOAT). In the end, what does it matter?

    • jeff

      Aug 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      The only way you could say that is you didnt see both play.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 4, 2013 at 11:34 am

      well not to change the topic, but I might think of Russell as above Jordan to be honest…In addition to the 11 rings, 55 straight and two national championships at San Francisco; he was the best defensive player who ever lived and defense wins championships. Overlooked because his paucity of scoring, which gets all the glory…

      • Alex Jackson

        Aug 5, 2013 at 12:57 am

        Russell played in a league with less teams and a game that had less young people pursuing the game, not to mention his obvious height and athleticism advantage. He also had a supporting cast of players that was far superior to any other teams. With confidence, I can say Russell would not average 30 rebounds per game in today’s game and obviously would not have the same height advantage (he’d actually be undersized as a centre).

        Jordan played against the best and dominated the best. His teams competed against some of the greatest players of all time. If he didn’t needlessly retire all those times, its possible the Bulls would have won 8 championships in a row or more. He took two years to play baseball in between their 3-peats and retired after the 98 season while still playing great basketball and eventually came back anyways in 2001 to play with the worlds worst basketball team, the Washington Wizards, and still almost took that team to the playoffs at 40 years of age. I also believe Jordan to be a much smarter defender than Russell.

        The best can’t simply be evaluated based on championships. One must take into account eras and competition. Basketball can’t be fairly compared, but golf can. Look at who Jack competed against (Palmer, Player, Watson, etc). Tiger? Els, Mickelson, Harrington.. This is also just my opinion, but golf will always remain a finesse game that relies on shot-making and making putts, whereas basketball is a game that will see players get better and better as players keep getting bigger and faster (LeBron James). You take a guy with athleticism and make him shoot 1,000 jump shots a day and he’ll likely figure out how to shoot. Last I checked, Jamie Sadlowski and Jason Zuback aren’t making headlines on the PGA Tour even though I’m sure they’ve put in hours on the putting green (having hit balls next to Zuback on the range a couple times, I can assure you that he does spend time practicing with clubs other than drivers, even though he did have at least a dozen drivers in his bag).

    • Alex Jackson

      Aug 5, 2013 at 12:42 am

      This is a very flawed comment. First of all, basketball is much different in comparing generations. 50, 60, and 70 year old basketball players don’t come back to the NBA to play with the young guys every now and then. Their basis for comparison among generations is very hypothetical. Older golfers do get the chance to play against the young guys. A few years ago, we even had a 59 year old golfer by the name of Tom Watson nearly win the Open championship. Tom has played a lot with Tiger and Jack, and he consistently says that Jack is the best. Bill Russell played against shorter opponents than he would see in today’s game. Tom Watson consistently beats the players of todays game and he’s in his 60’s.

  22. Dennis Clark

    Aug 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    That is correct; my error. Thanks for pointing that out.

  23. Rich

    Aug 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    How can anyone take this seriously when the writer thinks Ted Ray was part of the Great Triumvirate of early British golf? The Great Triumvirate was Vardon, Taylor and Braid, who won 6, 5, and 5, British Opens, respectively, while Ted Ray won only one.

    The starting point of an opinion piece should be to at least get the FACTS right.

  24. jeff

    Aug 3, 2013 at 10:34 am

    We will always debate these greats,but there is one thing separates Jack from Tiger. Jack like Phil of this generation understood what it means to respect the game and handle yourself with grace in defeat. If you use that as part of how you determine who was the best,we might not have Tiger in the top 5. Also when looking at their records Jacks top 5s in majors is just too much to overcome.

  25. Mike

    Aug 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Hi Dennis,

    I’m curious to hear by what rationale you put Jack ahead of Tiger and then Byron Nelson ahead of Tom Watson. Watson won 8 majors to Nelson’s 5 and quite clearly has the longevity thing by almost winning the Open at 59, while Nelson retired at 34 I think. Sure Nelson won 11 in a row and 18 in a season, but that was in 1945 and the fields had been severely weakened by WWII. Either way, apparently non-major achievements are sufficient to bring someone above someone else who has more majors. So to that end, what about these:

    Total dominance for an extended period. A 15 shot win in the US Open, a 12 shot win in the Masters. An 8 shot win in the PGA. Winning four majors in a row. 142 consecutive cuts. A 7 tournament win streak, a 6 tournament win streak, a 5 tournament win streak and 2 further instances of a 3 tournament win streak vs one streak of 3. 78 tournament wins vs 73. Youngest player to win the career slam, youngest player to win a second career slam, youngest player to win a third career slam. All of that is insufficient to bring Tiger up above Jack? How do you get there?

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 3, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Mike,

      Good points and as I said anyone has their list just as I have mine. But since you’ve asked: The Nelson vs. weak fields is mostly a myth. Both Snead and Hogan won several events and played a full or very part time schedule in 1945. 1945 cannot be diminished in any way. Tiger called it “one of the greatest feats in SPORTS”, not just golf. He also won 51 PGA Tour events in a very short time, playing against two of the best ever. As for Tiger vs jack, you are preaching to the choir. I mentioned in the article that I think 2000-2008 was the greatest golf ever played, but I cannot put those 8-9 dominant years ahead of 18 majors and 47 1st, 2nds, or 3rds in majors, just can’t do it right now. If we have this discussion in 5 years, and I have no doubt, TW will be on top of that list. Thx for your input, enjoyed your comments

  26. Martin

    Aug 3, 2013 at 6:26 am

    I generally agree with the list, I think the extra 4 majors and the 15 or so seconds in Majors define Jack as #1. Tiger’s record when he didn’t win isn’t even close and as the list says, Jack played against Trevino, Player, Casper Palmer and Miller.

    Most of those guys I never followed and the only guy I would be tempted to bump to #10 would be Seve. In Tournament golf he was a terribly flawed savant with the greatest imagination and fire maybe the game has ever seen. His revolutionalization of the Ryder Cup was transformational to modern golf and doesn’t get the recognition in North America it deserves. To many euro’s it’s THE competition.

  27. yo!

    Aug 2, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    i think people will nitpick and weigh certain criteria differently, but this is a well thought out and written article

  28. t120

    Aug 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    I don’t really want to argue with Dennis, because he has awesome posts….but…but…Tiger plays in a juiced up modern era (did I say that?) and the only thing separating people is mental. Can you imagine that? You take the best golfer the world has ever seen, and a mind of a person going for 1st and then a ball is introduced that changes the landscape, R&D depts at major mfg’s go crazy in pursuit of distance, and all of a sudden a guy that had a clear advantage making a mockery of par 5’s and courses (Augusta, anyone?) in general has the playing field leveled.

    Just think about it. I’m not a guy that’s going to be like “Tiger, tiger, tiger!!!”, because Jack does have 4 more trophy’s and thats the goal post, here. However, you have to understand that Tiger beat everyone’s a$$ on average without all the crazy equipment and juiced up balls, or UFC regimen workouts. He calculated everything, great course management, and had the raw natural power (like Daly did) to boom drives and stay a step ahead when he wanted to find 7th gear.

    He needs more credit for that, whether he stays in #2 or not.

    • Brian

      Oct 25, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Here’s two points about equipment.

      When square grooves were legal I only remember Tiger and Phil employing a full swing flop shot when just off the green. If those grooves benefitted the field more than the best, there would have been more than just two golfers using that shot. When they made square grooves illegal, both Woods and Mickelson stopped using that shot. So who did square grooves benefit most?

      The ball flies further and straighter now than prior to Tiger’s career. He benefits from the straighter ball more than an accurate driver like Vijay or Jack who was a very straight driver.

      • Dennis Clark

        Nov 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm

        Good points; I also believe that the 60 degree wedge changed the short game forever. Short siding is no longer a problem, fire at any pin, no worries. # 10 Augusta is a classic example. Left there with left pin was DEATH, now they go at it with less fear.

  29. Santiago Golf

    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    wheres moe norman. He is the only player in the world that could hit the ball straight. If only he could putt 🙁

  30. Bman

    Aug 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I can’t blame someone if they want to pick Jack as #1 over Tiger, but to do so with the simplistic reason being that 18>14, well that’s kind of silly to me. You have to look at all factors: Majors, regular tourney wins, domination factor, longevity, strength of field, and a few others. With ALL of those factored in, I have Tiger at #1 (and yes, I’m old enough to have watched Jack in his prime, but not Hogan).

    Tiger at #4??? I just don’t see any way to put him at 4 unless you’re related to Elin.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 2, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Remember Jack was 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a major championship 47 TIMES!!! He once went 16 straight years in the British with his lowest finish 6! And he won majors 24 years apart. Tiger will catch Jack IMO, and break every record out there, just not yet.

  31. william jackson

    Aug 2, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    No argument from me on Nicklaus at number 1 . But Jones down at 5 ? As you said he retired at 28 and there was no PGA major available to him. Also in an era where transatlantic travel was by ocean liner completing the old ” grand slam ” was a phenominal achievement . He was essentially a lawyer who played quite a bit of golf so his record must take into account these factors . Number 2 for Bobby , Hogan 3 , Woods 4 and Palmer ( just because he is Arnie ) at 5.

    Oh and I might rate Peter Thomson and Bobby Locke above Player

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Locke’s majors plus Thompson’s equal Players. Jones is somewhere on everyone’s list but the 7 great years (1923-1930)were preceded by 7 “lean years”. Not to diminish his brilliance, he may have been the best natural golfer ever! Good points, thx

    • Dave

      Aug 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm

      Woods at #5?!?!?!? All cred just went out window. Think jones should be 3 tho.

      • Dave

        Aug 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm

        Whoops… #4… Still think that’s crazy.

      • Jtriscott

        Aug 5, 2013 at 10:04 am

        All cred went out when he stated “just because hes Arnie”….

  32. WP

    Aug 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I am okay with your list. Jack and Tiger are clearly well removed from the rest of the field. I also tend to go with Jack based not only on the factors you listed but also the number of seconds and thirds at the big events. I have no problem with those that place Tiger at the top for the utter dominance of his prime alone and he is still young enough to remove all doubt over the coming years. I’m not sure I’d place Mickelson above Faldo or Ballesteros yet and he has a long way to go to surpass Watson.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ted Bishop on the U.S. Open setup, Phil Mickelson’s antics, his infamous Tweet and more (full interview, transcribed)

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Ted Bishop has seen highs and he has seen lows. As the 38th President of the PGA of America, he was the one of the leaders of the game and the industry of golf. He was at the pinnacle of the game, but one ill-advised tweet brought that crashing down. After calling Ian Poulter a “lil’ girl” on social media, Bishop was impeached from his office and stripped of all of his titles and honors. But he retained his dignity and his love for the game of golf. In this exclusive interview, Bishop opens up about his feelings on the PGA of America, the USGA, this year’s U.S. Open and the double standard that seems to exist in the upper echelons of the game

Read the full transcription below, or click here to listen on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

Michael Williams: So, you’re out in Indiana. What are you doing these days?

Ted Bishop: You know, I’m the General Manager of the Legends Golf Club, which is a 45-hole facility about 25 minutes out from downtown Indianapolis. And it’s a golf course that I’ve built. And that’s pretty much what I do seven days a week and loving every minute of it. It was great when the PGA thing was over with to really dive back into my operation. And the day to day aspect of public golf… I’ve never gotten tired of it in my 47 years of working on a golf course.

Michael Williams: So let’s get to it with the U.S. Open. You saw it just like I did. Great winner, Brooks Koepka. I think you had a lot of great players fighting for the championship as we came down to the wire, which is exactly what you want to see. And you have a repeat champion for the first time since Curtis Strange. Talk to me about how you felt about the players and the level of play and then we’ll switch to how you felt about the golf course and it’s set up.

Ted Bishop: Well I thought Koepka played great and he putted the ball so well on that back nine Michael. And I thought Paul Azinger had one of the classic quotes late in the round yesterday, where he said, “You can’t ride ball striking to the winner’s circle.” And that was certainly the case with Koepka. When you look at the biggest hole that he played, it was probably the bogey he had on number 11.

Michael Williams: Absolutely.

Ted Bishop: And a couple of par saves after that. So for him to have been injured and to have been out as long as he has been here in 2018, this is a great, great victory for him. We knew that DJ was going to be there. I mean, I think he’s clearly earned his right to be the number one player in the world. And he’s playing better, week in, week out than anybody else does. Obviously with the setup, there was a lot of controversy as to how good golf was and how entertaining the open was. But at least when I’m here at a public golf course, they kind of enjoy watching the greatest players in the world be challenged. And that was the case at certain times last week.

Michael Williams: They say that Shinnecock is a second shot golf course but it’s not really a second shot golf course, it’s a third shot golf course because you’re going to hit some shots that hit that green and you’re going to hit a lot that don’t. So, it’s all about your ability to persevere and be creative on the greens and around them, making sure that that three goes from four to five and not to six, seven or eight.

But the controversy really started on Saturday. In your opinion, did they lose the course?

Ted Bishop: You know Michael, I thought the most telling interview that I saw the entire weekend on the course set up was the one that FOX did yesterday with Patrick Reed when his round was finished. And they asked him about the Saturday setup and he said, “You know, I really didn’t have a problem with it.” He said, “There were two pins on 13 and 15 that were maybe two yards out of place and it made a completely different situation on the putting greens.” But he said, “Other than that, I didn’t have any issues with it.” And that’s his personality. He’s the guy that rolls with the flow and doesn’t make any excuses. Now obviously, there were a lot of players that were very critical. I was just reading an article before this phone call. Some quotes from Steve Stricker, for example. And Strick’s usually a guy that doesn’t say anything bad about anything and he was very critical of about the set up. But I think the biggest controversy would be the fact that the players in the morning on Saturday were probably a different golf course than the players in the afternoon were. And that’s just sometimes in golf, the way that it goes.

But I for one, like I said before, I like to see these guys challenged and the US Open always kind of borders somewhat on the unfair side. I remember very vividly the 1974 US Open at Winged Foot and watching Hale Irwin slugging out there. I think he was … Correct me if I’m wrong or if you know, maybe he was seven over par at Winged Foot. So it’s just … That’s just what the US Open is. And it’s different than the other majors. And I personally found it entertaining.

Michael Williams: I did too. If you had been in charge of that championship, would you have done anything different throughout the four days? In terms of course set up.

Ted Bishop: Well, you know that’s a difficult question. My youngest daughter is a PGA member and she’s at St Andrews Golf Club, which is not far from Shinnecock. It’s the oldest club in the United States. And I was talking to her Saturday night, just about the weather that they had to experience in that part of the country and she was saying to me that their greens at St Andrews were as hard and fast as she can ever remember them in the 15 years that she’s been there. So hard that you could actually … You could hear the ball land on the green from the fairway. And so obviously, Shinnecock was harder and faster than some place like that would’ve been in that area.

Michael Williams: Right.

Ted Bishop: And you know, I guess maybe you would have watered … In retrospect, you might have watered more on Friday night if you would have known that conditions were going to get that out of hand. You know, that part of this is so complicated and sophisticated. I say complicated, really in a lot of ways it’s easier Michael, because you got these moisture meters. And you can go out and you can actually test your soils at any point during the morning hours. You can anticipate what your evaporation rate’s going to be based on the wind. And you can do some things differently.

I think Mike Davis said he kind of got off guard on Saturday and I’m sure that if he had some things to do over again, he would’ve done it. But then he made the corrections, I felt like on Sunday. And pins were far more reasonable, the golf course was softer and there were no issues.

Michael Williams: Yeah and you got Tommy Fleetwood shooting a 63. Does that mean there’s an overcorrection?

Ted Bishop: Oh I don’t know about that. I just think the weather got out of hand. And that’s the one element that you can’t ever control. And I know Mike has taken a lot of criticism and he continues to take it. I did an interview with a radio station in Charlotte on Saturday, and they were asking me the difference between Kerry Haigh, who sets up the PGA Championships and Mike Davis who obviously does the USGA. And Kerry is not a risk taker; you can almost go to the bank every year no matter where the PGA’s played, that the winner score is going to be 8 to 12 under par. His philosophy is he wants to see good shots rewarded and there’s a little bit of risk and reward, but he never gets over the top. Mike on the other hand, I would call a risk taker. And that starts really with some of the sites that he selects. And you can point to Chambers Bay and Erin Hills as two that would be that case. Certainly, he made it that way with Shinnecock. But you know, they are different personalities and their philosophies are different. And I’m going to stand up for Mike Davis and I’m going to say that one’s not necessarily right and one’s not necessarily wrong.

I always felt part of golf was being able to adapt to the conditions, no matter what they are. And Tom Watson had a great quote that he said that golf was not meant to be a fair game. And that’s just kind of the way it is… I think that’s always interesting Michael, about the U.S. Open, the tour players are so conditioned to play with the same type of playing conditions week in and week out.

Michael Williams: Yep.

Ted Bishop: I mean, the PGA Championship is not much different than a tour event. Obviously, the Open Championship is going to be different. The U.S. Open is going to be different. The rest of them … Even the Masters, is a, what I would call a PGA Tour set up. So these guys are so conditioned to play the same way week in and week out, when they get a curve ball thrown their way sometimes they don’t react well.

Michael Williams: You’ve already addressed the fact that what happens at the U.S. Open never happens at the PGA Championship. Who is the constituency of Mike Davis? Who is he trying to please? If so many people are displeased, why isn’t he held accountable? Why doesn’t somebody else get a crack at doing that?

Ted Bishop: Well, I think his constituency would be the USGA Executive Committee, possibly.

Michael Williams: So as long as they’re pleased, he’s good to go?

Ted Bishop: Yeah.

Michael Williams: Okay.

Ted Bishop: Exactly. And, they own that championship. I know it’s the United States Open, but you and I don’t own it. The USGA does. So, it’s really their prerogative, and Mike’s the guy that they’ve entrusted that core setup year in and year out to, so it’s their baby to do with what they want to.

Michael Williams: Again, I’m with you. I love what Mike Davis does. I love the fact that you get one tournament a year that’s half Masters and half NASCAR. You’ve got speed and performance, and you’ve also got crashes in Turn 2.

Besides the winner and the course, the story was, Phil Mickelson. I’m going to ask you this as a three-parter. What do you think of what he did, what do you think of his explanation for why he did it, and if it was your sole decision to make, would he have been disqualified?

Ted Bishop: Well, I think that had Phil kept his mouth shut after the round and really not exposed what had happened he would have been OK. Under rule 14-5, I mean, he clearly struck a ball in motion, so that’s a two shot penalty.

Michael Williams: Right. That’s physics, so you can’t argue with physics. He hit a ball that’s moving. Done.

Ted Bishop: Yeah. Can’t argue with that. Honestly, the great thing about the rules of golf, you always have the opportunity to use the rules to your advantage. That’s not cheating. That’s just knowing the rules book and using them to your advantage.

Michael Williams: Right.

Ted Bishop: At that point, when he did that, I would say that he succeeded in using the rules to his advantage. When he went to the media scrum afterwards, and basically admitted what his intent was, now all of the sudden, that really kind of falls under a different rule, Rule 1-2, which is another situation that could have very easily have resulted in a disqualification.

Michael Williams: Now, what is it he said specifically that takes it from a 14-5 consideration to 1-2?

Ted Bishop: Well, he indicated what his intentions were, to stop the ball before it went off the putting green and rolled down into a place that he very conceivably might not have had a shot. It was his intent, if he wouldn’t have divulged what his intent was, if he would have just said, “Hey, I clearly struck a ball in motion. I did what I did, and that was it”, and not taken it any further than that, then it would have been pretty clear-cut that it was a two shot penalty. But when he expressed his intent to breach the rules, then that’s where the disqualification would have come into play.

I talked with a guy that’s on the PGA of America Rules Committee, and watched a couple of people talk about it this morning in preparation for this story, and I think that’s about as clear and concise as you can make it. The question then goes to the USGA, well, then why did you not go ahead and disqualify him because he clearly indicated what his intentions were? That stuff happens. I remember being at the Masters when Roy McIlroy took that practice swing (2009). I was on the Rules Committee in the bunker that year, and there was a lot of talk that he should be disqualified. I know Kerry Haigh privately said, hey, if this would have been the PGA Championship we would have DQ’d him, but they elected not to at Augusta, and the USGA elected not to DQ Phil. Again, that’s what the committee does. They make those types of decisions, and the rest of us debate them.

Michael Williams: Okay. A lot of this discussion going forward is going to be about one of my favorite subjects, which is hypocrisy. I think hypocrisy ruins the world, among other things. Let’s go there a little bit. So, it’s not Phil Mickelson that does this, it’s Pat Perez. Is he DQ’d?

Ted Bishop: That’s a great subjective question. I would say that he might have been DQ’d. I would also say this, I know Phil well, as well as I guess I could have in the position that I was in. I like him, but I also think that sometimes there’s nothing that he doesn’t do without an agenda. I think that clearly what he did on Saturday was basically his way of really trying to show up the USGA for what he felt like was not a good course setup.

Michael Williams: You know the other thing that he did, it hasn’t been talked about at all, but I thought really served as a frame of reference for what he did on 13, was the putt he made on 14. Because he hits the green on 14, and instead of going right at the hole, he went, what, six feet to the right of it and up the bank, and tried to bring it in from above the hole back down to it and into the backdoor. He hits that putt, and then like turns to Beef Johnson, and is sort of like laughing and giving that Phil Mickelson smirk. To me, that’s like, okay, this is how you feel. You are saying and giving a clear statement that this course is unplayable, and I’m going to show you just how unplayable it is by hitting into the windmill on number 14 and trying to get it into the hole. Did you see that too?

Ted Bishop: Yeah. I can’t argue with any of that. Then, of course, you had the Twitter tirade that my friend Ian Poulter went through on Saturday night where he said some very derogatory things about Mike Davis and the USGA. I guess the difference between those two styles is that maybe Phil’s was a little bit more discrete than what Poulter’s was. But, I think there were a lot of negative reactions by players to what went on on Saturday, and how they displayed that certainly was different.

Michael Williams: So, it’s been my contention that what Phil Mickelson did will probably not dent his reputation among his fans. But within the people who are the guardians of the game golf, those people who wear green jackets, and pins, and crests, and things like that, I think it has taken an irreversible hit. What do you think?

Ted Bishop: Well, you know Michael, here’s what I would say. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are, in a lot of ways, are bullet proof for any of their actions. I mean, their fan base is loyal, and supportive, and that’s really kind of the interesting thing about this sport, is the fact that people just have a tendency to turn their head or overlook some things that happen that maybe aren’t really in the best interest of the game, and really doesn’t seem to tarnish them much going forward. I mean, Phil’s had other things that have come up in his career. I mean, the insider trading situation is one. If that was Pat Perez, would that have been handled differently? So, you know, I’ve always laughed about golf; for a sport that hangs its hat on ethics, and etiquette, and ideals, I do think that there is a lot of hypocrisy from time to time in the sport.

Michael Williams: Let’s go a little deeper into your tenure as President. I think most people know the situation where there was a series of tweets between you and Ian Poulter. In one of them, you made a comment that ultimately was determined to be sexist and damaging to the reputation of the PGA, and the golf industry in general. In a very short period of time between one tweet and a consideration of this action, it led to your removal as the President of the PGA. What’s your recollection of the timeline of that event? How do you look at it now?

Ted Bishop: Well, I mean, just the factual part of it was this. It took place on October 23, 2014. It was less than a month after the Ryder Cup, and I was working the Faldo Junior Series at the Greenbrier with Nick Faldo.

Michael Williams: And we were there at the Greenbrier at the same time.

Ted Bishop: Oh, no kidding?

Michael Williams: Yeah, we were there. I was doing a fundraiser for St. Jude’s and Faldo was the guest of honor. I was there that night.

Ted Bishop: Wow. You should have saved me. But at any rate, it was the last night that I was there. We were going to go out to Nick’s for a quick reception. He has a house there at the Greenbrier, and then we were going to go back and have dinner with the kids that night. I was looking at Geoff Shackelford’s blog, actually, and I had seen where Ian Poulter had released his new book called No Limits, and he had been very critical of Nick Faldo and Tom Watson both, actually. Watson is a Ryder Cup Captain, and it struck a nerve. It’s no excuse on my part, but it was really kind of the last straw in the aftermath of that 2014 Ryder Cup, so as you said, I called Poulter out on Twitter and Facebook, and referred to him as a little girl. The PGA and other people took offense to that remark. And actually, within 18 hours after my stupid remarks on social media, I was removed from office with 29 days left to go in my tenure.

Michael Williams: Stunning. With 29 days left to go, amazing. Amazing.

Ted Bishop: Yeah. I mean, I will say this, and I’ve said this 100 times, it was a very poor choice of words on my part, very stupid for the media training that I had had. I’m not going to apologize for standing up for two guys that I felt like were being unduly criticized, particularly in Tom’s case, as a Ryder Cup Captain being criticized by an opposing player. I really, I don’t make apologies for that, I just wish I would have chosen my words better. What I did was, it was stupid. I mean, I make no excuses. There’s a lot of ways I could have said it, but to use the term little girl, I just never even began to think of it from a sexist viewpoint, but it is what it is, and I was done.

Michael Williams: It was funny because you had been on my show not long before and we talked about the fact that your tenure was almost over, and I asked you about the practice of the U.S. presidents leaving a note in the office of the incoming President, for their eyes only.

Ted Bishop: I remember that. That was a great question.

Michael Williams: As you look back on it now, although it wasn’t a timely exit, what would you have put on your note in your desk for the incoming president?

Ted Bishop: I mean well, my mindset has totally changed since then. Another thing that was kind of interesting, obviously, in preparation for my outgoing speech at the annual meeting in Indianapolis, we were at the Grand … I’ll back up. A week before this all happened I was at the Grand Slam in Bermuda and we were having what really would be our final executive committee meeting with Kerry Haigh, Darrell Crall, Pete Bevacqua, Derek Sprague and Paul Levy and myself. I asked the PGA to kind of summarize my two years; I said, “Could you give me a timeline of just the things that happened in my two years which what kind of really put into play my remarks at the annual meeting?”

And, they came back about a week later and they gave me a five-page, single spaced document of all the things that happened in ’13 and ’14. And, there were a lot of really positive things that we did as an association, that we did for the game. I think we elevated the stature of the PGA of America and the golf community. And unfortunately, even to this day I feel like my stupidity on social media wiped out a lot of that work. They always say to any kind of a leader, “How will your legacy be defined?” And, I think had it not been for that minute and a half of really dumb, irresponsible action on social media, my legacy in golf probably would be a hell of a lot different than what it is today.

Michael Williams: I applaud you for being a man and stand up and taking responsibility for your actions. But again, the rails that we’re riding this train on for this part of the conversation is hypocrisy. You didn’t use any of The Forbidden Seven. You didn’t say anything that you could have been fined for by the FCC. You called the guy a little girl. But, when you looked around the room at the people who were judging you, do you think that there was any one person around there who hadn’t at some time said to a playing partner when they hit a putt short, “You gotta hit it Nancy.” Or, “Hit it again, Shirley.”

Ted Bishop: No, there’s no question about it, and we had situations in my two years as the president where we actually had past presidents and we had board members that we kind of had to sanction. And when I say sanction, I mean, I felt like we did it in a very responsible and gentle way. We brought the people in, we said, “Look, you can’t be saying this. You can’t be doing this. You represent the largest working sports organization in the world.” And, I think that was a bitter pill for me, the way that my whole thing went down. Some of that didn’t happen. That being said, again, I’ll make no excuses. I’m the guy at the top of the ladder and I’ve got to set an example for everyone within the association. And, I should have done that, but I would say that certainly there were other disciplinary cases and there have been since that weren’t quite handled the same as mine.

Michael Williams: When you look now and you see the things that are said by athletes, by entertainers, and I’m going to go there, even by the President of the United States about women, seemingly without consequence, it’s hard not to be bitter, Isn’t it?

Ted Bishop: Yeah, but I just never wanted to be that guy. That’s why I just try to come back and really throw myself into my family and my business and just try to move on and not get caught up with that. That was one of the reasons that I wrote the book. I wanted to try to educate people on your responsibilities with social media and I’ve spoken on this topic. And, I guess that was really to this day, that’s my biggest disappointment, Michael, with the PGA of America.

I could have been a poster child for all those things. I think I could have helped with a golf professionals, but I could have helped people in general doing a lot of the things that I’m doing now. So, when it was all said and done I thought, “You know what? That is what I’m going to do. I’ll just take matters into my own hands and try to do that.” And, that’s kind of been my message and what I kind of stand for now. “Hey! Learn from my mistakes.”

Michael Williams: There’s a recent incident, again, most of our readers and listeners know about it and I know you know about it too, where Paul Levy, the current president of the PGA, was arrested last week on a DUI, driving under the influence. A statement of apology and contrition was made, but I have heard no word on any disciplinary action. And I say this noting that Paul Levy is a friend of mine. I really, really like that guy. But, isn’t it a double standard?

Ted Bishop: I think that’s for other people to judge and I’m not going to comment on Levy’s arrest. I think the PGA of America’s been pretty clear at this point that they stand behind him and they’re going to continue to do that. The way they’ve not messaged Paul’s situation to the membership compared again to the way my whole thing was handled, is kind of curious. But, I don’t know. Maybe they feel that my remarks were so insensitive and so violating to the diversity and inclusion principles that they have really made their platform over since 2014. Maybe that’s a bigger issue to them than the DUI. I don’t know, you’d have to ask somebody from the PGA of America.

Michael Williams: Yeah, I fully intend to. Thanks, and I’ll keep you posted on that. What’s your relationship with the PGA, professionally and personally right now?

Ted Bishop: I’ve tried to get as involved as I possibly can in my own section, the Indiana PGA. I’ve actually hosted and MC’ed our last few section awards ceremonies in the Spring, which I’ve enjoyed. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at some section meetings. I’ve led something that I think is critical to the future of the game right now and that was a junior pace of play pilot program that we had called Project 215 where we’re trying to get juniors to play nine holes in two hours and 15 minutes because I think the slow pace of play at the junior golf level is one of the things that’s killing the sport right now. That’s where I’ve really chosen to get involved with. One of the things that happened to me when I was impeached was that they took away my right to vote, they took away basically my right to be involved in any governance at the PGA of America level. So, I’m a guy that kind of has to rely on the local aspect of the PGA in my life right now. And again, that’s okay because selfishly, Michael, that’s kind of what influences my own little world each and every day and I’m done with the rest of it. However, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to work for MorningRead.com, which is a daily digital golf newsletter that Alex Miceli started and that’s kept me in touch with the game and I love to write and I felt that it kind of kept me relevant to a degree.

Michael Williams: As always Ted, thanks so much for your time and most of all for your honesty. In today’s world that’s pretty tough to come by.

Ted Bishop: I always love talking to you and I remember very well that first meeting we had down at the PGA show and I’m glad to call you a friend.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Travelers Championship

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The Travelers Championship gets underway this week. Unlike some events after a major championship, we will be treated to an excellent field. Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Brooks Koepka will all be in action at TPC River Highlands this week in what is without a doubt the most stacked field in this event’s history.

Unlike last week at Shinnecock Hills, TPC River Highlands is a short course, measuring just 6,841 yards. It should mean that all different types of players will have the opportunity to excel here. The par-70 includes 12 par-4 holes, eight of which measure between 400-450 yards. Those are birdie holes for this generation of players. Expect to see a lot of positional play off the tee with players then relying on their short irons to get the ball close.

Last year, Jordan Spieth defeated Daniel Berger in a sudden-death playoff with a stroke of genius from the greenside bunker.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Thomas 12/1
  • Rory McIlroy 12/1
  • Brooks Koepka 12/1
  • Jordan Spieth 14/1
  • Patrick Reed 16/1
  • Jason Day 18/1
  • Paul Casey 18/1

With just one missed cut in his last nine events, Webb Simpson (25/1, DK Price $9,100) gets the call to continue his excellent 2018. Simpson bounced back from his missed cut at the Fort Worth Invitational to deliver a top-10 finish at the U.S. Open last week. Simpson had a dismal Thursday. He looked set to miss the cut at Shinnecock Hills, but he performed excellently over his final three rounds. One of the most encouraging signs was his iron play over the weekend. Simpson gained over 5.5 strokes with his approach play over his last two rounds, which should bode well for this week’s challenge.

TPC River Highlands is a course that Simpson has played well in years past. He has recorded two top-10 finishes in his last three starts at the Connecticut event, and his form this year is better than it was in that period. Over his previous 12 rounds, Simpson ranks 13th for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Strokes Gained-Short Game, 17th for Strokes Gained-Putting and second for Strokes Gained-Total. All parts of Simpson’s game are in form right now, and on a course where he’s enjoyed success in the past, he should play well again this week. I don’t particularly like his outright price of 25/1, but as a DraftKings play at a salary of $9,100, Simpson is a rock-solid choice.

Another man who is enjoying a terrific 2018 is Bubba Watson (33/1, DK Price $8,800). Watson has won twice already this year, and although he has cooled off lately, he should be full of confidence heading to a track he adores. Watson has won this championship twice in his career and has missed the cut on just one occasion, which came last year when by all accounts he was struggling with his health.

Don’t read too much into his missed cut last week at the U.S. Open. It’s an event Watson doesn’t enjoy, and he’s now missed four of his last five cuts at the tournament. When he missed the cut at the U.S. Open in 2015, he won this championship the very next week, and there’s every chance he could do the same this week. Watson is sixth in Ball Striking over his past 24 rounds, and his record at Pete Dye-designed courses is excellent. Watson ranks 10th for Strokes Gained-Total on Pete Dye courses over his last 50 rounds, while his Strokes Gained-Total at TPC River Highlands over the past five years is better than anyone else. I expect Watson to bounce back from last week’s missed cut, and he looks an excellent price to do just that.

Emiliano Grillo (55/1, DK Price $7,700) may also have missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but TPC River Highlands is a course that is tailor made for the Argentine’s game. Grillo is first in Ball Striking and seventh in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his previous 24 rounds on courses measuring less than 7,200 yards. Over the same period on Pete Dye-designed courses, the Argentine ranks second in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green.

Grillo finished T43 on his first appearance here last year, although it would have been much better had it not been for a miserable week on the greens. Grillo was 13th that week for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. With the way he is hitting it at the moment, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him improve on that effort this week. Over his previous 24 rounds, Grillo sits eighth in ball striking, sixth for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, sixth for Strokes Gained-Putting and second for Strokes Gained-Total. At a top price of 55/1 and a DraftKings salary of just $7,700, the Argentine is well worth siding with this week.

Lastly, I’ll take Aaron Baddeley (160/1, DK Price $7,000) at a knockdown price to play well this week. Judging by his last two outings, the Australian’s game is slowly coming around. Notably, his irons look very good all of a sudden. Over his previous two events, Baddeley has gained over eight strokes with his approach shots, which is excellent. Baddeley has also played well at the Travelers in the past, recording a top-5 finish here in 2014. He has made the cut at this event in three of his last four attempts. With such a low price tag and his iron game nice and sharp, I’ll happily take a punt on Baddeley this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Webb Simpson 25/1, DK Price $9,100
  • Bubba Watson 33/1, DK Price $8,800
  • Emiliano Grillo 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Aaron Baddeley 160/1, DK Price $7,000
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Podcasts

The 19th Hole: “It was chaos” behind-the-scenes at the 2018 U.S. Open, says Shane Bacon

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Fox Sports anchor Shane Bacon gives a behind-the-scenes look at the unforgettable 118th U.S. Open on The 19th Hole with host Michael Williams. Also, former PGA President Ted Bishop gives his take on the difference between USGA and PGA Championship course setup, Phil’s Faux Pas, and the apparent double standard in how the game disciplines its own on and off the course.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole

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