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Opinion & Analysis

Top 10: The Tour’s must-see tournaments

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This is the time of year when I sneak out of my hole, see my shadow, and get a serious case of Spring Fever.  As a viewer, I simply can’t wait to see the calendar flip from winter to spring; from March to April; from the Puerto Rico Open to the Masters.  I am sure that I am not the only one to go on “Masters Watch” as we enter the Florida Swing phase of the PGA Tour calendar. Although I enjoy many of the Texas tournaments — heck with Fantasy Golf I love all tournaments! — there isn’t really a “can’t-miss” tournament coming up until April rolls around.

This anticipation for the first major of the year got me thinking: what tournaments do I plan my calendar around?  Do I have to see every swing in, say, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship?  The Players Championship?  The Playoffs for the FedExCup? Come to think of it, what is my favorite, must-watch, can’t miss tournament every year?  Well, that’s easy…but what is second?  It’s not as obvious as you think. With all of that said, I present to you my “Top-10 list of Must Watch Golf Tournaments.”  This list is the order I would set if I were prioritizing my DVR list on January 1st.  I encourage your feedback to say where I’m crazy, what I got right and what you would switch around. So, without further adieu, here we go.

(Writer’s note: I would typically go No. 10 down to No. 1 to build the suspense. But, since there can simply be no drama about what is No. 1, I would rather front load the list. The drama appears right after No. 1. Let the debate begin!)

1. The Masters

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Come on? What else could possibly be here? I believe that what makes a tournament like the Masters a “must-see” is a combination of elements: First, it has a familiarity where the conditions, sights and sounds are consistent year after year.  I would go so far as to say that I know the back nine at Augusta National as well as I know my home course here in Southern California.  This is true despite the fact that I have never stepped foot in the state of Georgia, let alone the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. I don’t just watch the telecast, I study it. One more thing: yes, I know there are courses that are deemed “more exclusive” than Augusta National, an example being Cypress Point.  But, if you gave me a choice of playing any course anywhere in the world, there is no doubt whatsoever that Augusta National is my choice.  And no, there’s not even a close second.

2. The Ryder Cup

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Every two years we are treated with what always seems to be simply riveting television. There is nothing like seeing the cheering, screaming, fist-pumping, high-fiving, crowd chanting ole! ole! ole!, and all of the craziness (like Cigar Guy) that comes along with the Ryder Cup. Every other year, we see some poor, unsuspecting pro get put into a position of turning into an unlikely goat, while others suddenly rise to hero status. This is a place where legends are made — and all for no purse. No moohlah; just pride of country and the chance to have their name associated on a teeny, tiny little trophy; which just may be the most recognizable cup in all of golf.  As a side-note: I am sometimes struck at how important it seems to be for Europe to beat the U.S. and show that they are just as good, if not better than the Americans. It has the feeling of one of those “one-way” rivalries where one side thinks there is a rivalry while the other side is unaware that it even exists (see: Trailblazers vs. Lakers or Devil Rays vs. Yankees or Cardinals vs. Cowboys). Up to now, I do not believe the Americans have shown the same level of reciprocal intensity towards Europe. But, after watching the European surge and subsequent collapse by the U.S. in 2012, I suspect that will change for good next time ’round.

3. The U.S. Open

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Arguably the toughest conditions combined with what I believe is year-in, year-out the best field in all of golf, the U.S. Open has it all. There have been times where the conditions have almost cruelly brutal, but you know what?  “The rain falls on the just and unjust,” so fair or unfair, it is the same for everyone out there. It’s refreshing to watch the pros struggle to break par. My feeling is that at the highest level of tournament golf, the winner should be the one who breaks par. How cool is it when 2-under wins a major?  Whoever enters the weekend with the most fortitude takes the whole shebang. It’s also great to see guys begin to carve out there legacies by competing on the toughest stage in golf.  And it’s only getting better as over just the past three years we have seen some of the new breed of dominant players — Rory McIlroy , Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson have all captured the title of U.S. Open Champion with more majors likely to come between them.

4. The British Open

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What do you get when you combine soccer chants, the Road Hole, backward shots hit off of stone walls, bunkers so deep that you have to hit backwards to get out and wind-blown conditions that don’t even look fun on the best of days? My biggest gripe with this event is that the coverage, due to restrictions created by the physics of the Earth, happens just too early for me to actually watch. As a DVR guy, I try to record my shows, black out the news, and then watch when I get home. The problem with the Open Championship is that the event is so big, blocking out the news is nearly impossible! But, nothing diminishes the drama of the event and it’s clear that this is the title coveted by probably the most golfers in the world.

5. Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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As mentioned above in the Masters, I am a firm believer that what makes for great golf viewing is familiarity with famous holes on famous courses. There is no course that features more familiar holes to the avid golf viewer than Pebble Beach, with the lone exception of Augusta National. Who among us is not familiar with the 18th at Pebble?  Or the par-3 17th?  Heck, I would go so far as to say that we know the FRONT of Pebble Beach better than we know the front of Augusta National simply because many of us raised on golf viewing ever even saw the front nine at Augusta until about a decade ago when the coverage expanded. In 2012, I finally got the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing Pebble Beach for the first time: it actually felt like I was playing it again.

6. The Players Championship

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You have no idea how close I came to putting this one spot behind. I’m not saying that The Players Championship is ahead of the PGA Championship in importance. But ask yourself, “Which event is simply more fun to watch?”  With the sheer drama of watching the pros deposit ball after ball into the water that surrounds the Island Green, The Players is must-see TV at its best. Then, just to twist the knife, Pete Dye created No. 18, and we get to see our heroes face two of the most intimidating shots in golf; a true test of fire.

7. PGA Championship

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Come on, admit it: you are with me on this. There is something about the 4th major that just doesn’t feel as “major” as the majors, you know what I mean?  It is a great event for stat-filling and when counting career majors for the pros. Yes, it still gets a spot on this top 10 list by virtue of being a major, but I have always felt that this one just seems to lack the personality and character that each of the other majors inherently possess.

8. Northern Trust (LA) Open

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Hogan’s Alley — The Northern Trust Open has one of the longest-standing tour event on the PGA schedule.  This is another famed track where many of the holes have a personality all their own, like the par-3 6th featuring the signature bunker square in the middle of a severely-sloped green and the drivable par-4 tenth hole. Who among us is not familiar with the sweeping vistas showing the famed clubhouse sitting high on the hill visible from every hole on the course.  This course is a true test; so true that Tiger here won there and gave up trying. It took John Merrick’s gritty performance to pull off the victory this year.

9. The Presidents Cup

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This is the poor man’s version of the Ryder Cup occurring in the every-other year format on the year when the Ryder Cup is NOT taking place.  The difference is that this time it’s the U.S. versus the World, umm, minus Europe. Okay.  The format is similar to the Ryder Cup and always fun to watch. It lacks the same must-win atmosphere but it’s certainly worth watching anytime you get the world’s best going head-to-head purely for pride of country (or in this case pride of country vs. pride against the other guys’ country!). How can you not tune in?

10. WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship

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Okay, there is a chance, albeit slight, that this tournament makes the list simply because it just wrapped up as I type. But, in it’s defense: it is a break from tradition. As I was watching the Accenture Match Play get snowed out on day 1, it got me to thinking how I love this quirky tournament!  Match play is flat-out fun to watch simply because it always seems to break away from what I am used to seeing as “normal golf.”   I find that I can settle into the drama of each match while watching how pros respond to pressure-filled situations.  If it’s not the rash of wild upsets that occur every year, like seeing Rory and Tiger get knocked out by guys I couldn’t find with a hard-copy of Wikipedia, then it’s just the sight of seeing things I never see like snow-covered cacti.  Whatever it is, I love the Accenture Match Play and am always sure to set my DVR to watch every stroke they show.

Like the list? Disagree with Chris’ choices? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Chris Hibler is an avid golfer, writer and golf gear junkie. If he's not practicing his game with his kids, he's scouring the GolfWRX classifieds looking for a score.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Florence Turner

    Mar 4, 2013 at 5:23 am

    I’ve been following some of those tournaments on live television but I never really had a chance to watch the action in first hand. I love golf. It is a game of skills and talents. Hope I can watch the pros play live someday.

  2. LL

    Mar 3, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    This is an awesome article! I’ve been watching golf on TV for years and have been really afraid to actually try it myself. My only real “golf” experience was with an ex-boyfriend years ago where I was left to drag a rickety golf bag around all day in sweltering 100 degree heat at Burbank golf course ;-(( Meh…Years later, I finally got up the nerve to take my 1st then 2nd golf lesson and I’m loving it!! This “What to watch” article is helpful to newbies like me who need guidance on what Tourneys to TiVo/Watch. Thank You!!!!

  3. Chris

    Feb 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Northern Trust Open over The Memorial? My sister could put a better list together.

    • Chris

      Feb 28, 2013 at 8:59 am

      That was a little bit playful banter but…The Pebble Beach Pro Am is awful, altho it’s played on Pebble so I watch it. For me — all 4 majors and the Ryder Cup are 1-5. The Masters is not only the best golf event of the year, it’s arguably up there with The Superbowl and The World Series and The Stanley Cup for all of sport. And Chris, what’s the justification of The Northern Trust over The Memorial? The course and feild are better at Jack’s event no?

  4. Joe C

    Feb 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    1 – The Masters
    2 – British Open
    3 – The Players
    4 – Pebble Beach pro am
    5 – Quail Hollow
    6 – Harbor Town
    7/8 – US Open/PGA depending on the courses
    9 – Colonial
    10 – Phoenix

  5. LaterOn61

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I have thought Pebble to be one of the worst events of the year. I am also not a fan of the British and the PGA is when I am chasing the sun on the course myself.

    I love Phoenix, Match Play, Bay Hill, and the FedEx playoff tourney outside Boston.

  6. Nathan W

    Feb 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    I really don’t see why Pheonix is not on the list.

    • Nathan W

      Feb 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Going with the list the writer used, I would definitely take off the Presidents cup. Pebble beach is only a shoe in because of the course and the PGA because its a Major (imo it’s not up there with the other 3). You throw in Pheonix, Tour Championship, and/or Firestone. Those are better Tournaments imo. Doral is a great course,but they don’t draw a good field.

  7. Clown

    Feb 26, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Here’s a list from a European perspective:

    1. Ryder Cup
    2. British Open
    3. Masters
    4. US Open
    5. British PGA
    6. PGA Championship
    7. The Players
    8. WGC Matchplay
    9. Euro Matchplay
    10. Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
    11. Scottish Open
    12. Waste Management Phoenix Open

  8. Chris Hibler

    Feb 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Tim + Marcus- agree with you on the Waste(d) Management Open (like nickname, too!). I love the energy there.

    Good lists and great feedback! Keep ‘me coming!

  9. Marcus Dyer

    Feb 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    1. The Masters (Bubba’s SW, Rory’s collapse etc)
    2. Ryder Cup (guaranteed to have most of the best in the game)
    3. US Open (Nice to see some big numbers, makes you feel good)
    4. British Open (Windy, Rainy, colder…perfect)
    5. The Players (Tough Field, 17 for nerves)
    6. PGA Championship (Tought field & conditions)
    7. Presidents Cup (cool, but not ryder cup level)
    8. Firestone
    9. Memorial
    10. Wasted Managment Open

  10. Tim

    Feb 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I agree about Pebble Beach. Unless the US Open is held there it is one tournament I hardly ever watch anymore. Memorial is high on my list, but I am more along the lines of the Europeans and rate The Open higher right behind the Masters. I love match play but agree that once the top seeds are gone it is hard to watch. I like the Phoenix one due #16 and #17. The PGA may slip depending on venue.

    1. Masters
    2. British Open
    3. US Open
    4. Ryder Cup
    5. PGA Championship
    6. The Players Championship
    7. Memorial
    8. Firestone
    9. Presidents Cup
    10. Phoenix

  11. JASON

    Feb 26, 2013 at 11:29 am

    The Ryder Cup is definitely there as a top 10 tournament, but since it’s only held every other year, i didn’t list it for 2013. I agree it would be the 2nd tournament behind the Masters in 2014 though.

  12. JASON

    Feb 26, 2013 at 9:07 am

    No offense, but this list is dreadful. Hardly anyone cares about watching Pebble Beach and being subjected to Chris Berman’s swing. The WGC Match play may have some 1st and 2nd day hype, but after all the top seeds get knocked off no one really cares. The Northern Trust makes this list but Memorial, Players, and Quail Hollow don’t? Those fields are twice as good as the Northern Trust and fall right smack dab in the heart of the season.

    1. Masters
    2. US Open
    3. PGA Championship
    4. British Open
    5. The Players Championship
    6. Memorial
    7. Presidents Cup
    8. Memorial
    9. Firestone
    10. Doral

    • JASON

      Feb 26, 2013 at 9:08 am

      ^^^^meant to put Quail Hollow @ 8

      • Zak Kozuchowski

        Feb 26, 2013 at 9:30 am

        The Players Championship is ranked No. 6 by Chris.

        • JASON

          Feb 26, 2013 at 11:31 am

          I’m an idiot as i somehow completely glossed over it. I suppose i was still in shock he had Pebble Beach at #5!

    • rikks

      Feb 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

      umm ryder cup jason? not to easy to construct a list that everyone likes, but i thought it was an excellent read

    • Chris Hibler

      Feb 26, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Jason – no Ryder Cup??? That’s tough to swallow. Firestone is solid.

    • JK

      Feb 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      The list isn’t that “dreadful.” I suppose he doesn’t like memorial as much as you, but who likes it so much that they put it twice? Just kidding.

      It seems obvious to me that the four majors would be on any “top 10 watch” list for golf. Maybe a list of the non-majors to watch would be more valuable? I agree memorial, quail hollow, firestone, and doral are all better than Pebble, Riviera, and Accenture, though.

  13. JK

    Feb 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Pebble Beach and the President’s Cup don’t belong on the list. The Northern Trust Open probably shouldn’t be on the list. The Accenture Match Play has been a bust each of the last two years. I find it odd that this list comes out right after Pebble, Riviera, and Accenture have JUST been played. For me, Bay Hill is always exciting and usually comes down to that last great hole over water. Memorial is usually good to watching. The John Deere is interesting for the mind-blowing numbers they’re shooting, even if the field isn’t always great. The St. Jude has been good for the last few years since Garrigus blew up on the 18th–great closing hole there. I’d take all of those over Pebble, Riviera, or Accenture in any given year.

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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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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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