Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Patrick Reed. Of the four, one name sticks out, or at least it should. Earlier this month, the European Tour announced that Reed had joined his illustrious counterparts in being named an Honorary Lifetime member of the European Tour.
In practical terms, it is an award the means nothing. It does not provide an exemption to the tour, it does not guarantee starts in any tournaments and it does not bring with it any financial reward. You do get a rather shiny silver membership card and a photo op shaking the hand of Keith Pelley but beyond that nothing else.
In the grand scheme of things, it means little however to those who have been awarded honorary membership, it means a lot. The likes of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are all honorary members. All three giants of the European game alongside the vast majority of those with their names on the list. So why Reed and perhaps more importantly, why now?
It is an unwritten rule that if you are a European Tour member and you win a major, you will be awarded honorary membership. Reed has completed the task when it comes to winning a major. In addition to Reed recently receiving the honor, Franceso Molinari who claimed his first major just a few months after Reed received the honorary accolade. In the recent past one time major winners such as Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett have all received similar treatment. The one galling difference with each of these recent winners in comparison with Reed is the amount of golf that they have played in Europe. Stenson, Molinari, Willett and even Garcia have played extensively in Europe largely building careers here before stepping up to the PGA Tour.
Outside of the majors and world golf championships, Reed has competed in 16 European Tour events. Reed has built little in Europe and whilst he is a European Tour member which is something of an anomaly for a U.S.-based golfer of his ranking he has not always been overly concerned with his membership. In the past he has failed to play the minimum requirement of events and the events that he does turn up for tend to be the ones that are willing to pay for him to be there.
That he is now in the same company as the likes of Stenson, Molinari and Garcia (let alone the likes of Faldo, Seve and John Jacobs) is wrong. He has not established himself in the way that any of those named have, he has not competed long enough and he has never won an event in Europe. Quite why that is deserving of an honorary membership is something only the European Tour can truly explain, although I suspect that beyond the few soundbites that went along with the release of the news, we will hear little. It seems that Reed is simply being rewarded for keeping his membership up, and that is a sad indictment on the current state of the European Tour.
The European Tour is falling further and further behind the PGA Tour. It is rapidly becoming a two or even three-tier system with all the power lying at the top. That system has seen the advent of the Rolex Series events which cater for those at the top with sizeable prize funds and everything that goes along with it. This is in stark contrast to the relatively modest prizes on offer to those competing in last weeks Vic Open. It is no coincidence that there were no top players competing last week.
The big names have all of the power and they know it. What’s more, the Tour knows it. Sergio Garcia was not banned for his recent antics in Saudi, McIlroy trashed the Tour in the press at the start of the year because he could and he was safe in the knowledge that no one in Europe was going to do anything about it and now we have this, with the Tour bending over backwards to please someone who has supported the Tour in the way that a casual fan watches the Super Bowl but isn’t interested in much of what goes beforehand.
The difficulties that the European Tour finds itself in are further confirmed by recent announcements concerning the changes to the the Race to Dubai. Fewer players will now be eligible for the final events. As a result, whilst prize money is staying the same the share going to the winners will increase. The winner of the DP World Championship will pick up the biggest tournament winners check in golf, a cool $3 million. The Tour doing this is clearly an attempt at getting big names to play in these events. Big names, leads to happy sponsors and happy sponsors leads to more money which is great but the European Tour will never compete with the riches on offer Stateside. Changes to the prize structure, chasing money regardless of where it is coming from and the awarding of honorary membership to players who do not deserve it, simply leads to a dilution of the Tour as it is which will result it in become ever more secondary to the PGA Tour.
It may be that in 20 years’ time, Reed is a multiple winner on the European Tour, having regularly played events throughout the years. He may mean as much to the Tour as the likes of Monty and Seve or even Darren Clarke and Danny Willett however in the here and now, his honorary membership brings little honor for either he or the Tour and the question which goes beyond all of that, will the European Tour as we know it even be here in 20 years’ time?
An open letter to golf
I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.
It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.
On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.
This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.
As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.
I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.
When you are able to return in full, I will be here.
Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)
The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact
One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.
As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.
I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.
So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.
So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.
I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.
I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.
If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.
[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]
It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.
On Spec: Interview with Trevor Immelman, 2008 Masters champion
In this episode, host Ryan speaks with Trevor Immelman about his career, what it was like growing up around the game as a competitive amateur in South Africa, and what it’s like being a Masters champion.
Topics also include his experiences working with the design team at Nike Golf as well as his current “What’s in the Bag” which includes equipment from Titleist and the process he went through to get it dialed in.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
Paige Spiranac blasts golf culture: “A big boys club” that is “elitist, stuffy and exclusive”
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Patrick Reed’s winning WITB: 2020 WGC-Mexico Championship
Adam Scott’s winning WITB: 2020 Genesis Invitational
Sergio Garcia WITB 2020
On Spec: Fairway wood fittings | Adam Scott wins with 17-year-old irons
Today from the Forums: “Best 3-wood off the deck?”
Phil Mickelson WITB 2020
Viktor Hovland’s winning WITB 2020 Puerto Rico Open
Sungjae Im’s winning WITB: The Honda Classic
Byeong Hun An WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees, B2 SureFit setting) Shaft: Accra TZ5 M5...
Pat Perez WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open. Driver: PXG 0811X Gen 2 (9 degrees) Shaft: Aldila Rogue Black 130...
Adam Long WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the 2020 Players Championship. Driver: TaylorMade SIM Max (9 degrees) Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green...
WITB Time Machine: Ian Poulter WITB 2014
Equipment accurate as of Franklin Templeton Shootout (12/10/14). Driver: Titleist 915 D2 (9.5 degrees @ 10.25, D3 SureFit setting) Shaft:...
News2 weeks ago
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Bubba Watson WITB 2020
Equipment2 weeks ago
Today from the Forums: “3-hybrid or 7-wood?”
Equipment5 days ago
Building the perfect half set
Opinion & Analysis5 days ago
Behind the numbers: A road map for an 18 handicap to get down to a 9
Equipment2 days ago
Phase 1 vs. P7TW: An inside look at Tiger Woods’ TaylorMade irons
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Tommy Fleetwood WITB 2020
Tour Photo Galleries3 weeks ago
10 interesting photos from the 2020 Players Championship