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Playoffs for the FedExCup: Thank you Mr. Finchem

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Dear Mr. Finchem,

Haven’t seen you or heard from you for a while. Hope you are enjoying your Labor Day weekend as much as I am.

Look, I know that you and I have had our ups and downs. I wanted you to stand up to Tiger Woods and find a way to get him to support the tour that has supported him by playing more than a baker’s dozen tournaments each year. I wanted you to protect the integrity of the game by instituting mandatory testing for performance enhancing drugs. I begged you to take the moral high ground with regard to the admission of women at Augusta. No response on any of these small requests.

Yes, we have had our disagreements.

But the key to any relationship is being able to admit when you’re wrong. And when it comes to the FedExCup playoffs, I was wrong. For years, I made fun of your attempt to create playoff atmosphere in an individual sport. You pointed to the success of NASCAR and the success of their playoff, “Chase for the (fill-in sponsor name) Cup,” and you cobbled together a similar system. I had a lot of fun at your expense for a long time, but I wasn’t the only one.

With its combination of points and elimination rounds, the system was harder to understand than the PA system in the New York subway. And while the system produced winners like Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and gave them a $10 million tax liability that they didn’t need, the whole process lacked gravitas. It seemed utterly commercial and unworthy of the word playoff.

But this year it has been different. A combination of factors have conspired to create a situation where the best players in the world are participating in every event and are playing their best. The venues have been superb and the play has been stellar.

Last week we witnessed the resurrection of Nick Watney’s season and Sergio Garcia’s career at Bethpage. And this week? Well Mr. Finchem, this week produced an event that couldn’t have been better if it had been held with a major title at stake. I mean, the back nine on Sunday kinda looked like a group of race cars heading for a finish line.

The top 10 included winner and World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the once and future king Tiger Woods, 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and Dustin Johnson, who is two goofy rounds away from being a multiple major winner. What we got on Sunday was something that recent majors haven’t been able produce; a leaderboard dominated by the best players in the world.

Woods, who perfected the modern air game, had a ringside seat to watch the current practitioners of the game take it to the next level. Woods is no longer the longest guy in every field that he plays; in fact, he is just getting used to the fact that the days are over where he was playing at par-68 when everyone else was playing the same course at par-72. But with four straight rounds in the 60s and a third place finish at 18-under par on a challenging TPC Boston track, Woods is honing his sword in preparation for a return to the throne.

But McIlroy was a sight to behold, Mr. Finchem. The boy wonder is now becoming the Man of Steel. He has virtually no weaknesses in his game, and in a week like this one where he is first in driving distance and first in putting it would be hard to imagine how he could lose. And he does it with a Gaelic charm that is irresistible to men and women, young and old. He is only limited by his ambition, and you have given him four tournaments in a row that he definitely wants to win.

Mr. Finchem, I want to put the past behind us. The FedExCup is a rip-roaring, four-star, cancel-the-tee-time-so-you-can-stay-home-to-watch success. And you did it, Mr. Finchem. I’m not just happy for you; I’m happy for us. Call me. We should have lunch.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Brody

    Sep 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Great article, Michael!

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On Spec

On Spec: Dr. Paul Wood, Ping Golf’s VP of Engineering

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Host Ryan Barath talks all things design and innovation with VP of Engineering at Ping Golf, Dr. Paul Wood.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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19th Hole

GolfWRXers Vote: Best U.S. Open venue showdown – Quarter-finals

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@neilhartmantv

There were no major shocks in round one of our GolfWRXers vote for best U.S. Open venue, but five-time host Olympic Club was a casualty, losing out to Pinehurst in what was our most competitive match-up. The west coast venue was defeated by a margin of 63% to 37%, in a round which saw the majority of match-ups prove comfortable for the heavy hitters. 

Here is a look at how WRXers voted during round one.

Game 1: Pebble Beach (90%) vs Torrey Pines South (10%)

Game 2: Winged Foot (81%) vs Oakland Hills (19%)

Game 3: Baltusrol (73%) vs Chambers Bay (27%)

Game 4: Pinehurst Resort No.2 (63%) vs Olympic Club (37%)

Game 5: Oakmont (74%) vs Bethpage Black (26%)

Game 6: Southern Hills (76%) vs Olympia Fields (24%)

Game 7: Merion (90%) vs Erin Hills (10%)

Game 8: Shinnecock (86%) vs Congressional (14%)

Now we’re onto the quarter-finals, with some tasty match-ups. We’ll leave voting open for 48 hours. At that time, we’ll determine the winners and lock in our semi-finalists.

Get voting!

*Years hosted, winners and avg. winning score from 1950 onwards*

QF 1

Pebble Beach

  • Years Hosted: 1972, 1982, 1992, 2000, 2010, 2019
  • Winners: Nicklaus (+2), Watson (-6), Kite (-3), Woods (-12), McDowell (E), Woodland (-13)
  • Avg. winning score: -5.33

Winged Foot GC

  • Years Hosted: 1959, 1974, 1984, 2006
  • Winners: Casper (+2), Irwin (+7), Zoeller (-7), Ogilvy (+5)
  • Avg. winning score: +1.75

QF 1

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QF 2

Baltusrol GC

  • Years Hosted: 1954, 1967, 1980, 1993
  • Winners: Furgol (+4), Nicklaus (-5), Nicklaus (-8), Janzen (-8)
  • Avg. winning score: -4.25

Pinehurst Resort (No 2.)

  • Years Hosted: 1995, 2005, 2014
  • Winners: Stewart (-1), Campbell (E), Kaymer (-9)
  • Avg. winning score: -3.33

QF2

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QF 3

Oakmont CC

  • Years Hosted: 1953, 1962, 1973, 1983, 1994, 2007, 2016
  • Winners: Hogan (-5), Nicklaus (-1), Miller (-5), Nelson (-4), Els (-5), Cabrera (+5), Johnson (-4)
  • Avg. winning score: -2.71

Southern Hils CC

  • Years Hosted: 1958, 1977, 2001
  • Winners: Bolt (+3), Green (-2), Goosen (-4)
  • Avg. winning score: -1

QF 3

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QF 4

Merion GC

  • Years Hosted: 1950, 1971, 1981, 2013
  • Winners: Hogan (+7), Trevino (E), Graham (-7), Rose (+1)
  • Avg. winning score: (+0.25)

Shinnecock Hills GC

  • Years Hosted: 1986, 1995, 2004, 2018
  • Winners: Floyd (-1), Pavin (E), Goosen (-4), Koepka (+1)
  • Avg. winning score: -1

QF 4

View Results

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Opinion & Analysis

Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

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Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

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