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Opinion & Analysis

What If It’s Our Fault Golfers Fizzle?



As writers, we are often caught at the end of a golf season making excuses for our disproven theories shortly after the unexpected has happened. I had my fill after this year’s Masters. While Sergio was slipping on the Green Jacket I was sitting on my couch wondering how the hell he had pulled it off. Not two hours earlier I’d sat on that same couch and Tweeted that El Niño was finished as he gingerly approached his ball in the pine straw of Augusta’s 13th. Yet as many times as we’ve found ourselves in this situation, we have an obligation to try and provide some insight into how the future will unfold, even if it is a fruitless effort. The question is, what’s the impact of hoisting an unproven player on a pedestal?

In April of last year, not long after we writers were scrambling to determine if Jordan Spieth would spend the rest of his life in an underground bunker, Chuck Klosterman published his book entitled, But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Past As If It Were the Present. In his book, Klosterman examines times in the past when people were utterly wrong about convictions they knew to be fact. Klosterman points to things as foundational as our understanding of gravity. In the book, he quotes theoretical physicist, Brian Greene:

“For 200 years, Isaac Newton had gravity down. There was almost no change in our thinking until 1907. Then between 1907 and 1915, Einstein radically changes our understanding of gravity. No longer is gravity just a force, but a warping of space and time.”

What Klosterman doesn’t talk about is the impact being wrong has on the world around us. Most of the time it’s not a big deal, because we have to be wrong in order to fail, and we have to fail in order to innovate. I think about this often because as Klosterman writes, and I agree, “I’ve spent most of my life being wrong.” Here’s a tattered example that was almost as foundational to the golf world as gravity to Newton: Tiger Woods will break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. Sadly this idea is now little more than a fleeting ambition. And while it took the perception of gravity two centuries to be shaken, Tiger’s ambitions seem to dwindle in a matter of hours. Did we, the media, have an impact on where Tiger resides today? I think we have to assume it could be possible to some degree.

That’s the interesting thing about the past. We have as much time to observe and study it as we’d like, but the present is here, then it’s gone and is suddenly transformed and available for introspection.

Anthony Kim set fire to the tour in 2007-2008. In 2007 alone (his first full year on the PGA Tour), he made north of $1.5 million, had 10 top-25 finishes and four top-10s. In 2008, he won twice in five weeks (at Quail Hollow and Congressional). Kim was going to be the next guy that gave Tiger a run. They were both Nike athletes and Kim was known as a feel player, which was opposite of how Tiger approached the game. In a clinic the two hosted together, a patron asked Kim what he did to control distance with his wedges. “My answers are terrible if you guys are trying to learn something,” he said. The crowd laughed. “I just try and figure out how far I’m hitting them right before I go play,” he said. That’s a feel player if there ever was one.

Everybody knew Kim was the next big thing. And while there have been players we were right about — Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth — for each one that did what we expected, there are 30 guys we said would be the guy and they fizzled out.

What I’d like us to think about is this: what if we’re the reason they fizzle out? If we as writers are asked to speculate, then I have to do my best to try and take a different road here. Klosterman asks, “But what if we’re wrong?” I’m asking, “What if it’s our fault we’re wrong?”

Of all sports, golf is the most fickle. We could almost say it’s a game that rests on the laurels of our hormones. Here’s a personal example. A couple of weeks ago I was playing one of the city municipal courses here in San Antonio, Mission Del Lago. My tee time was at 8:08 a.m. on that Saturday and as usual, I went alone. After I checked in the starter paired me up with a twosome and off we went. Despite starting the round with a weak double-bogey at the first, I rallied to get back to even par by No. 7 with a couple birdies.

Of all sports, golf is the most fickle. We could almost say it’s a game that rests on the laurels of our hormones.

I managed a couple pars at Nos. 8 and 9 to make the turn in 36. But after a birdie at a par-3 12th, followed by another one at the par-5 15th, I was on my way to shoot the best round of my life. To that point, I’d managed to stay out of my own way, not thinking too much about the score and just playing shot to shot. Then it happened. “Hey man, you’re playing great! What are you, like one or two over?” my partners asked.

“Well, I’m actually two under,” I replied as calmly as possible.

“No way! That’s awesome! You’re the best player I’ve ever played with,” the guy shot back.

Game over.

I proceeded to make a triple at No. 16, a double at No. 17, and another double at No. 18 to finish at five-over par on the day. It was the most crushing 77 I’ve ever shot in my life.

Now, I’m not blaming my partners for my dreadful finish. But the problem is that in golf, once you have an idea in your head, it’s incredibly hard to shake it. I guess that’s what separates the elite players from the really good players. But what if the impact we (the media) have on a player’s future is underrated? What if it’s not the money or the sudden influx of people wanting more and more of their time? If we’re trying to look at the present as the past, then we have to ask that question, what if our prediction is the reason they didn’t succeed to the degree we expected or predicted them to?

What if, after Spieth hit that ball in the water on No. 12 at last year’s Masters, nobody had said a word? What if it was just ignored like every shot Ian Woosnam has hit at Augusta for the past decade? Or what’s more, what if we hadn’t mentioned it at all after that Green Jacket Ceremony in Butler Cabin. Every time Jordan Spieth had to answer the question, “Do you feel like you’ve moved past the water ball on the 12th at Augusta?,” he was forced to relive the moment he lost his chance at winning back-to-back Green Jackets. All the frustration and angst, the panic he must have had to stifle as he walked off the 12th green.

What if it wasn’t a topic of discussion for a year? Would Spieth have hit it in the water again on Sunday this year? I don’t know. But it’s interesting to think about. It’s interesting to think about the futures we plan out for these players, if even in a vague sense, and the surmounting pressure that shadows those plans.

That’s a lot of pressure for a 23-year-old kid. I’d have buckled like a baby deer learning to walk.

What if we’d never dubbed Anthony Kim as the next great thing to take down El Tigre? Would he have made a stronger comeback after his thumb injury? This is the guy that, in his first Ryder Cup, in the first match on Friday, pummeled Sergio Garcia 5&4. I mean, he had a heavy burden on his shoulders when he was scheduled to come back. He was the it guy. That’s a lot of pressure for a 23-year-old kid. I’d have buckled like a baby deer learning to walk.

This concept of media creating what I’m going to dub as a reverse-self-fulfilling-prophecy is not unique to golf; it’s just that golf has proven to be the more fragile of the games. We see it each year with the NFL Draft. Quarterback “Y” is going to be the next Peyton Manning or Wide Receiver “X” is going to be the next Jerry Rice. And then someone like Tom Brady rides in on the white stallion of obscurity to become the greatest of all time. The major example that shoots this theory in the foot is Tiger Woods. But when we examine Tiger, we have to throw him out because he was raised in the spotlight. Hell, he was on The Mike Douglas Show in the same segment with Bob Hope at the age of two. Everything about him is an anomaly. Except that he, too, fell short of our expectations.

During television interviews, almost every professional golfer claims they don’t read about themselves or watch all that much golf at all. I buy it from the seasoned veterans, but not from the young guys. I’m not saying they’re lying, I’m just saying that I, as a writer, read every single comment on every article I write, and I think about each one. It affects me. And we’re talking small scale, like less than 1,000 comments on over 100 articles I’ve written. Imagine if, at the age of 23, you’re being dubbed as the player of a generation. It has to affect you. It’s just human nature.

John Rahm is a recent example. As of today, he’s exceeding expectations. But success in golf can enter stage right and exit stage left without so much as a passing nod. With a handful of top-10s, a win at Torrey Pines, a runner-up at the Match Play, and an excellent showing in his first Masters, we’ve built him up as the next great Spaniard. I hope he is, but what if we’re wrong?

There’s no way to curtail analysts making predictions, even bold predictions. And what fun would that be anyway? However, I think it’s fair to assess what the second- and third-order effects are of making predictions about players. It’s fair to wonder if the constant media feed claiming this player will be a star and that player will achieve “X” can have a negative impact. What if we’re constantly creating false positives?

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website,, or on Amazon.



  1. Marnix

    May 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    No, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle does not apply to golf: observing (or writing about) the sport does NOT influence it.

    • 8thehardway

      May 10, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      The Heisenberg principle asserts a limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle can be measured (like speed and momentum) so no, it doesn’t apply here.

      The OBSERVER EFFECT, on the other hand measures systems, one derivation of which is the Hawthorne Effect, in which people modified their behavior in response their awareness of being observed and analogous to that, Reflexivity can be seen any time acts, things, or people are held up and commented upon or otherwise set apart for consideration.

  2. 8thehardway

    May 9, 2017 at 5:50 am

    I really liked your article – tantalizing examples best pondered over a few pints in a warm pub on a cold night, your own round perhaps the best of the lot for illustrative purposes providing you were there to evaluate alternate lines of reasoning. I’d enjoy a follow-up article that examined your state(s) of mind pre- and post praise, as a friend and I experience a similar ‘pedestal effect’. With me it’s just my putting but my friend is a scratch recreational golfer who will play the first hole from the middle tees if there’s an audience.

    Regarding your thesis statement, I’ll hazard it seems you are positing the literary equivalent of the Observer Effect in physics – changes that the act of observation will make on the phenomenon being observed. While the players mentioned aren’t available to comment, let me adopt the Null hypothesis and suggest that if it’s reasonable to assume that growing up Spieth and Kim experienced tons of praise and expectation from multiple sources, either they liked it, learned to handle it or weren’t bothered by it since it didn’t keep them from turning pro; the real question then becomes ‘What differentiates the effects of positive media speculation pre- and post-tour?’

    Thanks for a great article.

    • Adam Crawford

      May 9, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      Man, I wish I could have had this conversation with you before I wrote the article. You put it better than I did. The Observer Effect is a perfect explanation of what I was trying to get at, I just didn’t have the foresight to explore it. Maybe there is a follow up to be written. Thanks!

      • 8thehardway

        May 10, 2017 at 7:11 pm

        Definitely, and I’m looking forward to it.

  3. Dave R

    May 6, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    What ?

  4. John

    May 4, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    i wish people would stop the personal attacks. It happens in just about every article. Ok, so you don’t agree with an opinion piece, fine, stick to the topic instead of name calling and denigrating the author, someone you don’t even know. It’s really tiresome.
    Nice article, Adam, thoughtful and well written.

    • Adam Crawford

      May 4, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks, I don’t understand it either. But hey, it’s the age we live in.

    • H

      May 5, 2017 at 2:10 am

      Actually. It’s the other way around. If you don’t want the flak, don’t invite it. Don’t post your own opinion on a public forum like this that allows for other opinions. If you can’t handle other people’s opinions of your own opinions, then you should just not do it in the first place, be quiet and keep it to yourself, and don’t be so full of it.

      • Adam Crawford

        May 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

        It’s not about “flak”. I love debating with someone of a different opinion, but debates aren’t supposed to be personal. They are supposed to be a presentation of opinions on a topic, not the person who holds that opinion on said topic. I welcone the opinions of those who disagree with whatever stance I take in my writing, that’s the point. I wouldn’t have written this piece had I expected everyone to agree with it, that defeats the entire purpose of me asking the question I did. But when the debate gets away from the topic and into the personal, it stops being a debate over a topic and also stops being productive. And it’s especially unproductive when the comments get personal while we’re discussing Golf. It’s getting into a personal argument with someone over their favorite color. What good does that do anyone? But, to each their own, I guess.

        • H

          May 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm

          Do you not understand the concept of conceit? That’s what you represent. You are conceited. Full of it. If you have to explain the fact “I wouldn’t have written this piece had I expected everyone to agree with it, that defeats the entire purpose of me asking the question I did” is a stereotypical phrase from somebody who doesn’t understand how pompous, conceited and full of it that comes across. Obviously. Take a look in the mirror. You honestly want to take credit for the demise of the players because of what you said? Seriously? Rather than give credit to the fact that there are other, perhaps personal, and perhaps not so personal mitigating factors in the players’ drop off in performances?

          • Adam Crawford

            May 5, 2017 at 12:28 pm

            Okay, so I guess there is the lack of clarification in the original article. I didn’t feel as though I assumed it was anything I wrote in particular that has caused the demise of anyone. Obviously I’m not writing features for SI or ESPN so I don’t expect that it’s “my fault” in particular. Simply that what if the media pressure causes more harm than people realize. But maybe you’re right, my ego is too big for any points I make to be deserving of consideration.

            • H

              May 5, 2017 at 10:34 pm

              You’re so disingenuous, you are the epitome of it. Grow up

  5. Adam Crawford

    May 3, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    I think I understand where you’re going with that. Are you saying that fizzling is a symptom of a culture that has produced less mentally tough players? Or are you saying that as a culture the political correctness (I’m assuming that’s what PC is used as here) has produced, or cultivated, a culture that’s can’t handle pressure? Just seeking clarification.

  6. alfriday

    May 3, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    There is a fundamental difference between 1) This is how gravity works (Newton vs. Einstein) and 2) I think X will be the next great golfer. In
    #2, you are speculating about the future. We cannot “know” the future. It is hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

    Writers are almost always going to be wrong if they continue to speculate. In my opinion they should not be trying to do that. There is a big difference between “Kim has the potential to be the next great player” and “Kim will be the next great player.”

  7. H

    May 3, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Adam, you give yourself way too much credit and pat yourself on the back too much for writing such drivel.
    Back in the day, the media was just as noisy and much more in the face of the players as they would all go hang out and drink together in the same restaurant and bar after the rounds, and prod each other with comments and snide remarks and make deals about what gets printed and what doesn’t. The players would stick knives in each other day in and day out with the same type or running commentary and derogatory remarks to knock each other off. Now they’re all wrapped up in a cocoon to be allowed to retreat to their hotel rooms and drive away in sponsor’s cars so they don’t even have to see competitors at the hotel lounge to deal with all the hoopla and ribbing.
    So, Adam, you’re way too naive and immature, and think way too highly of yourself.

    • Adam Crawford

      May 3, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      While I don’t disagree that writers (myself included) often give themselves too much credit, I do feel like you took quite the cynical viewpoint of this particular piece. I’m simply asking the question of whether or not our constant “predictions” are necessary.

      • H

        May 4, 2017 at 12:45 pm

        Well, if that is how you feel Adam, whether your constant megaphone-like commentary is necessary or not –
        You could just shut up and stop writing, can’t you. As simple as that. You can just go away and be quiet. How about that. Might actually work. Yeah.

        • Tal

          May 4, 2017 at 6:18 pm

          What happened to you, H? Someone hurt you. Who hurt you?

    • gvogelsang

      May 3, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      This comment is spot on.

  8. Jack

    May 3, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Pressure is part of sports and life. People find all kinds of ways to pressurize themselves whether you help them or not.

    • Adam Crawford

      May 3, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      I would agree with that 100%. But where do those pressures come from? They don’t happen in a vacuum.

      • TCJ

        May 4, 2017 at 11:11 am

        They certainly don’t come from anyone writing for GolfWRX!

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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the 2023 Valero Texas Open



Forget the $1.5 million due to the winner. The real prize at the end of this week’s Texas Open will be that last-minute invite to the 87th Masters starting on April 6th.

That payout is also nothing compared to the $3.5 million that Sam Burns copped when winning last night’s World Match Play, or the obvious prestige of what is to come. That has to affect the field this week, and we even lose local hero Jordan Spieth, veteran of seven outings around the San Antonio Oaks course.

The  29-year-old has, of course, an enviable record at Augusta with a win and four top-three finishes, so it’s no surprise he takes a break to prepare for the big one, after seven events since the start of February to prepare for the big one.

That all leaves world number 17 Tyrrell Hatton as clear favourite with his closest challengers (according to the market) being Hideki Matsuyama (#21) Si-Woo Kim (#39) and Corey Conners (#40). Behind there is a host of likely candidates that rank just off that vital top-50, with the likes of Rickie Fowler looking to continue his comeback and qualify for next week’s Masters after being a regular for 10 years straight until 2021.

The course itself ranked in the top third for overall difficulty last season and requires a solid overall game, favouring neither bombers or plodders. All styles have a chance here this week, and many of the past challengers confirm that view.

2016 champion and three-time runner-up Charley Hoffman said, “Tee to green is very visual, shapes with the trees and it’s a tough driving golf course,” whilst 2019 winner and three-time Masters top-10, Corey Conners summed up the test.

“Basically took care of the holes that you need to take care of, the par 5s, and No. 5, a short par 4, I was able to make birdie,” he said. “Other than that, just kept it pretty simple. There’s a few pins that are close to some slopes, so played a little safer on some shots, but struck it really well. So just tried to keep it simple and scored well.”

Wind is the main defence here, and therefore it’s no surprise that all the last four winners show form at the likes of Bay Hill, Waialae, Mayakoba, Hilton Head, and, in the case of Spieth, Conners and Kevin Chappell, at Augusta.

J.J Spaun

Since moving to its current slot just before the Masters, nobody has defended the Texas Open title, but it looks as if J.J Spaun is ready to strike again after an encouraging display at the Match Play last weekend.

After making his way through the grades, winning on the PGA Tour Canada and the tour, a misdiagnosis of his diabetes stalled the 32-year-old, and he dropped from just outside of the world’s top 100 to a place closer to 500th. However, in the second half of 2021, he ran up to Grayson Sigg at the Albertsons Boise Open before a top-10 in Bermuda settled the drop.

2022 was another year of progress as he took in four top-30 finishes early in the year – at La Quinta and, more relevantly, at Pebble Beach, Honda and Valspar – before a two-shot victory here. The final half was equally decent with one missed-cut in 10 outings, with top-15 finishes at the Shriners and (again relevant for comp course fans) at Mayakoba and at Sea Island. On top, he led the better-class St. Jude field for every one of the first three rounds before a final round collapse.

The new year has been mixed, with Spaun making the weekend in only half his eight starts. However, those 50 percent take in a fifth place at Kapalua (in second place going into Sunday) and 12th at the Sony, where again he was in the final group for the last round.

Again the 33rd finish at Riviera disguises that he was in the top-10 going into payday and he bounced back again with comfortable victories over Matt Fitzpatrick, Sahith Theegala and Min Woo Lee at Austin last week to head his talented group.

With a solid tee-to-green required this week, be encouraged that he ranked fifth at both his first two efforts this year in Hawaii, whilst his short game has seen him in the top-22 for scrambling in six of his last eight recorded starts.

Coming into this event last year, the Scottsdale resident had three midfield finishes mixed with missed weekends, something very similar to his lead in here this week.

Aaron Rai

Perhaps inspired by Matt Wallace’s victory in the Dominican Republic last week, Aaron Rai can continue a great run for British golfers following Wallace, David Skinns on the KFT and Georgia Hall’s very nearly come-from-behind effort at the LPGA Drive On Championship.

The 28-year-old stormed to the front rank in Europe after gaining automatic qualification from the Challenge Tour after three wins before the end of July 2017, before beating Matt Fitzpatrick in Hong Kong and Tommy Fleetwood in a play-off for the Scottish Open.

Hopefully that Boise Open is of some relevance, as Rai finished alongside Spaun as runners-up in 2021, letting a one-shot lead slip on Sunday, but still gaining his tour card.

It’s hard to argue against the view that everything since has been very one-paced, but on the pick of his form he has to be of interest here this week, particularly after a strong showing at Sawgrass.

2022 saw Aaron Two-gloves finish top-20 at Mikey, Houston, Canada, Shriners and Houston on the PGA Tour, and when dropped to the DPWT, he finished in the top echelons of the Italian and Irish Opens.

Rai hasn’t set the world alight in 2023 but was just outside the top-20 after round one at the Sony, led the Farmers field after the first round, was a never-nearer 29th at the Genesis, fifth after round one at Bay Hill and went into the final round at Sawgrass in the top five.

It’s going to be about putting it all together the same week, and he comes here after an encouraging top-30 here last year when two rounds of 74 and 73 spoilt the first and third rounds that saw him twice in the top seven.

In an interview after his first round 67 last season, Rai admitted it was useful to know the course:

” I think putting together how the course is on the Tuesday and having in mind how the course is going to change and I think that’s where it’s very good asking questions and speaking to people who have been here for a long time. So those are the most important things for me.”

Over the last three months, Rai ranks top-10 for driving accuracy, 11th for ball-striking, 10th for greens, and top-20 for tee-to-green at all of Riviera, Pebble Beach and Sawgrass. Perfectly able to find the short stuff in the wind, it’s clear that the flat stick is the one thing holding him back, but any improvement allied to those sharp stats will see him right there on Sunday.

Kevin Chappell

Although always tempted by the younger, unexposed brigade, I’ll finish this week with two stalwarts.

First up is former top-class major contender Kevin Chappell, who was put up at 90/1 for the Corales last week, did nothing wrong and is now a much bigger price!

Formally 23rd in the world, the 36-year-old has dropped to outside the top 600 but has dropped hints over the last three weeks that he may be approaching the play that won the Texas Open, run-up at Sawgrass, and finish top-10 in four majors.

Since his body broke down in 2018, golf has been a struggle, and he has not recorded a top 10 since the CIMB in October of that year. However, after missing nine of his last 10 cuts, the Californian resident has improved to 29th at Palm Beach Gardens (round positions 84/48/50/29) and 15th at Puerto Rico (47/54/33/15).

Strokes gained were positive throughout at the Honda, and he ended up almost repeating his 2022 effort at the Corales, finishing one place worse, in 16th place.

Given his efforts also at the Honda (13th), here (18th) and Barbasol (21st) in the recent past, we need to heed any nudge that Chappell has made his way back.

Now on a run of 16/15/29 it appears that the four-time major top-ten player is over his near career-ending surgery, and he returns to San Antonio after a career record that reads one win, one runner-up, fourth, 15th and 18th.

With nine of his last 12 rounds being 70 or under, and none worse than 72, quotes in triple figures border on the insulting.

Kevin Streelman 

We don’t see many teenage ‘Kevin’s these days, so there is no shock in finding the final selection is in his 40s.

Rather like his namesake, Streels has been in the doldrums, and whilst his return to form is not as obvious as Chappell’s, it’s worth jumping on the positive parts of his resumé from the past 14 months or so, again returning to a favoured track.

Another with back-form that gives him a serious shout – top-three finishes at the Farmers, Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, Bay Hill and Harbour Town – he also backs it up with consistent form at Summerlin, home of the Shriners (amongst other titles), an event won twice by 2013 Texas champ, Martin Laird.

While the 44-year-old has dropped well outside the world’s top-100, it’s noteworthy that he can still post top finishes and has recorded nine top-10 finishes over the last couple of years, including second-places at Bay Hill and River Highlands and a third at Silverado.

2021 saw several top-15s that incorporate Bay Hill (again), Wyndham, Match Play and at top-20 finishes at three of the four majors, whilst last season found him posting runner-up at the Barbasol, seventh at Valspar, and top-20s at Shriners, Honda and here, at the Texas Open.

Suddenly the results look far better than at first glance and many of his final figures tend to hide some decent play.

Since October ’22, Streelman was in 10th at the halfway point at the Sanderson, sixth going into Sunday at the RSM, 14th after round one at Riviera and made his way from 85th after day one at the Valspar to lie top-20 after the third round.

He’ll pick and choose his events but he’s still got fire in his belly, posting his best iron play for a while at Innisbrook last time out, and he’s back at a course that he’s played eight times, racking up every cut, an average position of around 21st and posting last three years finishes of 18/6/8.

Recommended Bets: 

  • J.J Spaun WIN
  • Aaron Rai WIN/TOP-5
  • Kevin Chappell – WIN/TOP-5
  • Kevin Streelman – WIN/TOP-5
  • Kevin Streelman – Top-20
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Opinion & Analysis

2023 PGA Championship: Interview with Jeff Corcoran, GCS



As ticket-holders exit their shuttles and enter the main gate to Oak Hill Country Club this May, their eyes will be attracted to so many sights. The 100-year old, Tudor-style clubhouse, designed by Thompson, Holmes, and Converse (of New Tammany Hall fame in New York City) catches and holds many glances. The market boardwalk will feature emporia of food, drink, and memories, all featuring the designs and flair of marketing teams. It’s a lot to take in.

Most attendees won’t enter the clubhouse, and their time along the merchandise promenade will be restricted to acquisition of souvenirs and sustenance. The majority of their time will be spent in the rough, adjacent to tees, greens, and fairways. Their eyes will roll across the hills of Pittsford’s jewel, but they might be forgiven if they don’t consider exactly how the course and surrounds came to reach this pinnacle of preparation.

Fortunately for them, we’ve tracked down the gentleman who knows more about Oak Hill’s preparation than any other. Mr. Jeff Corcoran is the Manager of Golf Courses and Grounds at the venerated New York state club.

GolfWRX: We’ve introduced you already in your current role. Please tell us how you met golf and golf course maintenance, and what the a-ha moment was that this would be your career.
Corcoran: I started playing golf when I was about 9 years old, a friend and his father took me golfing, and I was hooked. I started playing every chance that I could get and that eventually lead me to a job when I was 13 years working on a public golf course in my hometown of Groton, NY called Stonehedges Golf Course. Working on the golf course was an end to a means, as it allowed me the opportunity to play a significant amount of free golf. I enjoyed working at the golf course so much, that I eventually figured out that I could go to college to study Turfgrass Management. I pursued that endeavor and eventually my way to SUNY Cobleskill and then Penn State University.
GolfWRX: Please trace your career path, from your first job in the industry to your current one.
Corcoran: As stated above my first job in the industry was working at Stonehedges Golf Course as a teenager. While I was in college I worked at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course at Cornell University, and eventually made my way to Oak Hill Country Club as an intern in 1994. I graduated from Penn State in ’95 and I came back to Oak Hill to work the ’95 Ryder Cup and soon after was made a 2nd assistant. While I was at Oak Hill I was fortunate enough to meet my mentor, Paul B. Latshaw, and I became his first assistant until I left to take my first superintendent position in 2000. My first superintendent position was at The Weston Golf Club which is located just outside of Boston. I was there until 2003, when I was asked to interview for my current position at Oak Hill, as Paul Latshaw had moved on to Muirfield Village. I have been at Oak Hill ever since, and in way or another have been a part of every championship held at Oak Hill since that ’95 Ryder Cup.
GolfWRX: The 2023 PGA Championship will be the 4th at Oak Hill’s East course, but it will be unlike the previous three. How did the course play, from your acquired knowledge, for those first three championships?
Corcoran: I can’t really speak to the 1980 Championship; however, I have a considerable knowledge of how the East Course played for the ’03 and ’13 PGA Championships. In ’03 the East Course went through a renovation performed by Tom Fazio/Tom Marzolf, where all of the bunkers were renovated and relocated to areas where they would affect playability of the professional golfer. Additionally, a considerable amount of length was added to the East Course prior to the ’03 Championship. The Fazio/Marzolf renovation had a significant impact on the playability of the East Course, and it proved difficult to the tour professional of the time. Ten years later in ’13 we held the championship again, and the course was essentially the same as it was in ’03. We didn’t really add any length or adjust any bunkers, however the tour professionals’ game had adjusted and improved significantly in that same 10-year period. In 2013, we had significant rainfall during the week, which softened the golf course, and the scoring for the event reflected the softer, easier conditions.
GolfWRX: Andrew Green’s 2019 restoration returned much of the course to its architectural roots. What will stand out most for those who have attended or competed in prior championships?
Corcoran: If I were to venture a guess that the most noticeable aspect for many individuals will be the reduction in the amount of trees on the East Course. We have been reducing the amount of trees on the East Course for 20+ years, however during the renovation we hit a point where the value of the tree removal hit a critical point where the vistas and views throughout the East Course were impacted in a way that allowed much more enjoyment of the property and its features. For the competitors, I believe they will also notice the severity of the Andrew’s bunker style combined with the ability to take the pin position out to the extremities of the greens. There will be many more pin locations in 2023 that will have a very close proximity to the hazards.
GolfWRX: Speaking of restorations, how was the Oak Hill grounds crew involved in the East Course’s return to its legacy?
Corcoran: The grounds crew was involved in every aspect of the renovation and worked directly with Andrew Green and LaBar Golf Renovations to ensure the product that was produced on the East Course was representative of Oak Hill and the legacy of the East Course.

GolfWRX: Tell us a bit about the re-invention of the fifth hole. What sort of hole did it replace, and how does it join itself to the course’s Donald Ross roots?

Corcoran: Andrew always indicated that he wasn’t designing anything on the East Course, that we was just taking what Donald Ross had designed and was tweaking it. With regard to our current 5th hole, Andrew drew inspiration from the original 6th hole, which was a classic Donald Ross heavily bunkered par-3. We fortunately had a considerable amount of pictures of this hole, and Andrew utilized them during his design phase. Additionally, Andrew made more than one visit over to our West Course and looked at our 4th hole, which is also a classic heavy bunkered par-3. The difference between our original 6th hole and the new 5th hole that Andrew produced is the location, and this is where the brilliance of Andrew Green came into play. Andrew tucked the new 5th green into the northwest corner of the property and it looks as though it has been there since day #1. To be able to achieve that immediate impact and value, really demonstrated his true genius.
GolfWRX: What will the final two months of preparation (April-May) demand from you and your staff?
Corcoran: I think that Mother Nature will hold the answers to the last 2 month of preparation, however it will be demanding and difficult. I anticipate that the my staff will work a considerable amount of hours, and we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the playing conditions for the PGA Championship are exemplary.
GolfWRX: The weather for the championship week is anyone’s guess. A cold front came arrived in Tulsa last year, for the 2022 playing at Southern Hills. Ironically, Rochester’s temperatures that weekend were the warmer ones! How does your game plan change for unseasonable (both colder and warmer) weather and temperatures?

Corcoran: Our game plan doesn’t really change at all based upon the temperature. There are inherent agronomic aspects that need to happen to be successful, and some of that depends on the temperature and some of it doesn’t. Our focus is to plan for those aspects that we can control, and have a plan to react to any variables that are throw at us as we prepare.

GolfWRX: What question haven’t I asked, that you would love to answer? Please ask it and answer it. Thank you for your time.

Corcoran: “What is the most important aspect of your job as you prepare for the 2023 PGA Championship?”
The most important aspect of my job is building, taking care of, and facilitating our team that comprises golf course maintenance staff at Oak Hill. Without those individuals the championship doesn’t happen, and they will work a tremendous amount of time to ensure that golf course is ready for a spring championship. I am very proud of our team members, and I am extremely excited that their product will get the opportunity to shine on the world stage.
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The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?



I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.

What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.

I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.

Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.

It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.

Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.

The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.

But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.

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