Opinion & Analysis
Why it’s still too early to judge Rickie Fowler for his lack of wins
Bryson DeChambeau is basking in his victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a win which saw him rise to fifth in the official world golf rankings. Amongst the praise DeChambeau has received, a post on social media last from Golf Channel’s Will Gray brought to attention the 25-year-old’s incredible run of form — while also highlighting Rickie Fowler’s lack of wins on the PGA Tour.
Bryson DeChambeau now has 4 wins in his last 12 PGA Tour starts, which equals Rickie Fowler's career trophy haul in 214 PGAT starts.
— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) November 4, 2018
Once golf’s golden boy, Fowler has failed to claim a victory on the PGA Tour in over 18 months, and as the Californian approaches his 30th birthday, there is a sense that people are beginning to lose faith in Fowler.
Fowler ended his week in Vegas with an excellent round of eight-under par which saw him claim a T4 finish, and the American has now recorded five successive top-20 finishes on the PGA Tour dating back to early August. However, rightly or wrongly, Fowler has been labelled as a man who can’t close out tournaments. While previously there was a monkey on his back in regards to major championships, his winless streak stretching back to the 2017 Honda Classic has now brought to everyone’s attention his lack of overall victories.
The post from Gray took me back to a Cobra commercial that aired three years ago which involved Rickie Fowler and Greg Norman discussing their desire to “be the best.”
Just like Fowler, Norman is considered an underachiever in the game. You probably don’t need to be reminded about Norman’s major tally of two, regarded as a severely disappointing return for a man of his talent. But his total of 20 PGA Tour victories combined with his 331 weeks sitting atop the world golf rankings is enough to show that the Australian had an illustrious career.
Before Norman’s 30th birthday, the Australian had yet to capture a major championship. The current world number one, Justin Rose, has nine victories on the PGA Tour, but only broke through to win his first when he was 29, and his only major success so far came at the age of 32. While Phil Mickelson’s first of his five major triumphs also arrived at the age of 33.
For Fowler, he has plenty of time to change the narrative of his career. Amongst the new generation of prodigious young winners such as Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and now Bryson DeChambeau, the likes of Norman, Mickelson and Rose prove that there is still the opportunity for late bloomers to go down as golfing greats.
The growing negative judgement that has begun to wrap itself around Fowler may be the American’s biggest hurdle to overcome. It wasn’t that long ago that Dustin Johnson was being branded as a major championship choke artist by some, before he changed the narrative with a brilliant display at Oakmont to win his maiden major title.
Fowler has far less scar tissue to deal with than Johnson did, particularly at major championships. While it’s convenient for some to conclude that as he approaches his 30th year he has failed to live up to both the hype and promise that was displayed when he first broke onto the Tour, history suggests that the Californian still has plenty of time to create his legacy in the sport.
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Opinion & Analysis
The Wedge Guy: Are you making the game too hard?
In earlier posts, I’ve put forth the notion that most of us are playing golf courses that are much, much tougher on us than the weekly PGA Tour courses are on those elite players. This game is supposed to be fun and reasonably fair, so please hear me out…it might change the way you think of the “forward tees.”
This topic was stimulated by a conversation our golf committee had this past week regarding the course setup for our fall member-guest tournament, punctuated by the “whining” we heard from the tour players as they challenged a very tough Oak Hill Country Club in the PGA Championship.
The “third nail” was a statistic I saw a day or two ago that in a recent PGA Tour season – for the entire season — Dustin Johnson only hit one approach shot on a par-4 hole with more than a 7-iron! Imagine that — going a whole season (or even nine holes) without hitting more than a 7-iron to a par-4 hole.
Now, back to the conversation in the golf committee meeting about having all players in the member-guest play our regular white tees. These are my tees of choice because at my distance profile, they present a variety of approach shot challenges. For perspective, I’ll share that at 71 years old, I still average about 245-250 off the tee, and a “stock” 7-iron shot is 145-148 (I still play the Hogan blades I designed in 2015, and that is a 33-degree club).
Of our three par-5s, one is an honest three-shot challenge, one is often reachable with a 4-wood or 3-iron if I choose to challenge the water bordering the green on the right, and the other one plays straight into the prevailing wind, so reaching it with a 4-wood is a rare occurrence. The par-3s present me with an 8-iron to wedge, two 6- or 7-iron shots, and a full 3-iron or 4-wood. Of the remaining 11 par four holes, I’ll typically hit four to five wedges, and run through the entire set of irons for the others.
Now, let’s contrast that with many of the guys I play with. From the forward gold tees, some of them are playing what effectively amounts to six to eight par 5s (three shots to get home) and a par 6, and they rarely get an approach shot with less than a 6- or 7-iron. So, respectful to their strength profiles, they are playing a course that is brutally longer than anything the PGA Tour players ever see.
Add to that the fact that most of us do not play courses with fairways anywhere near as consistent and smooth as those on the PGA Tour, so our typical lie is much different from the tour players. Our sand texture varies from hole to hole, as opposed to “PGA Tour sand” that these guys see week in and week out.
So, I’ll give you this thought and challenge about what tees you should play to make the game more interesting and still challenging. Think about the course you play most often and process it hole by hole from the green backward. Which tees should you play to give yourself the following challenges?
- At least one reachable par 5, and the others requiring no more than a wedge or 9-iron third shot.
- Par-3 approaches with one short iron or wedge, one long iron, hybrid or fairway wood, and two that present you with a 6- to 8-iron approach.
- Of the par 4s, an assortment that gives you several wedges and short iron approaches and no more than two that put a longer club than a 5-iron in your hands.
My bet is that almost all of you will find yourselves needing to move up at least one set of tees, if not two, in order to play the course like this. But wouldn’t golf be more fun if you had a reasonable chance to have a birdie putt on most holes if you hit two good shots? And if you weren’t wearing out your fairway woods and hybrids all the way around?
Just food for thought, so share yours…
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Opinion & Analysis
2023 Charles Schwab Betting Tips: Fan favorite ready to dominate at Colonial
It is doubtful that even the most optimistic golf fan could have envisaged the field at Colonial this week.
In an era where elevated events secure the very best players, the undecorated Charles Schwab Challenge sees the re-appearance of both runners-up at Oak Hill. Scottie Scheffler’s impressive last round push once again secured his place at the top of the rankings, whilst Viktor Hovland seeks to avenge an unfortunate 16th hole, where his dreams of a first major were dashed by one single shot.
Colonial favours no ‘type’ of player other than one that is currently strong with approach play and can take advantage of finding these small greens. In that regard, the old-fashioned ‘greens-in-regulation’ stat becomes more important than usual, offering better chances of putting – after all, finding the short stuff but three-putting from 65 feet means little compared to landing the ball 20-odd feet from the pin and making half of them.
With such a strong representation from the world’s top 20 players, it is tough to find any long-shots that might compete. In that regard, I’ll play it light (as I have at the Dutch Open) and just watch re-runs of the 16th at the PGA at the ad breaks.
Clear favourite Scottie Scheffler trumps the man I consider his biggest rival in Viktor Hovland in a few ways. The 26-year-old was far less bothered about his second place last week, having re-ignited after a poor third round, and has last year’s runner-up finish to boost his chance. That he should have beaten Sam Burns is neither here nor there considering his two wins and numerous placings since, and he comes here leading the 12-week stats for greens and in a top five position for putting average. At 4/1 though, he is very hard to be with.
Hovland may well suffer a post-major hangover whilst all my Spieth bullets are lined up for Royal Liverpool in July, leaving our Mexico Open hero, Tony Finau, to take the main stage.
After four wins in 44 starts, the affable 33-year-old has long since shred his reputation of ‘not doing it’ with the start of his winning streak being at the 2021 Northern Trust where he beat Cam Smith in a play-off with Rahm in third, and a host of major contenders further behind. Flying finishes then saw the 33-year-old finish runner-up to Rahm here, and to Rory McIlroy in Canada, before beating lesser field by three shots at the 3M, Patrick Cantlay et al by five at the Rocket Mortgage and a Houston Open field containing Sheffler and Sam Burns by an easy four strokes last November.
It was hard to be too disapointed with 2023 after nine consective cuts, including top 10 finishes at Kapalua and Torrey Pines, and his victory over the then world number one, Jon Rahm, in Mexico was richly deserved.
For the eighth time this year, Finau ranked top-15 for tee-to-green, all off solid iron play, and I’ll ignore his last two being that he’s never taken to Quail Hollow and the finish just outside the top-20 is perfectly acceptable, while he never figured at Oak Hill, compiling some of his worst figures for a while.
In this week’s field he is top-10 for all of ball-striking, approaches and tee-to-green, whilst he brings vital course form to the table with seven cuts that include a runner-up in 2019 and fourth last season. Comp form is good, with four improving top-25s at a similar track in River Highlands, whilst his Texas form works out nicely with an easy win at the Houston Open.
For his last six appearances Big Tone averages just about fifth for off-the-tee, has three outings of 16th or better for iron play and averages better than 20th for tee-to-green.
Having been well away from the pressures of last week, Finau can make it a nap hand of wins inside 50 outings.
Respect to the likes of Sungjae Im and Russell Henley, but they plod rather than kick-on in contention, and I’m not sure that will work with such a top end. Instead I’ll take a chance with Brian Harman, a player for whom we can rule out half the events in a season and jump on when conditions are right.
Now 36, it’s easy to forget what the Sea Island resident does on the course, but the last two seasons have been impressive enough to have him well inside the top-50, and assurances of playing in all four majors.
2022 saw the diminutive former US Amateur run up two second place finishes at Mayakoba and Hilton Head, a track facing similar conditions to this week’s. To bolster his claims he finished third at the American Express and the higher-class St.Jude, confirming his top-10s at the Valspar, Wells Fargo, Travelers and The Open to be no fluke.
Of that lot, Copperhead links us nicely to Sam Burns, back-to-back winner of the Valspar and defending champ this week, whilst his eighth place at River Highlands was the lefty’s fifth top-10 in his last eight outings around the Connecticut track.
Harman tends to repeat form at tracks, so note his streak of cuts here from 2014 to 2021, and his three top-10 finishes. As for his miss last year, he fought back from an opening 77 to record 11 shots better in his second round.
The missed cuts at Quail and Oak Hill were by no means horrendous, if probably expected, and concentrate on the positive figures he records from being accurate. Harman finds something here, and could easily repeat his effort at Harbour Town in April when landing his first top-10 of the season.
Finally, have a shekel or two on Carson Young, a steadily progressive 28-year-old that has worked his way through the ranks via wins on the South America and Korn Ferry tours.
Now settling down after a rough start to his rookie year, he led the Honda Classic after the first round, and followed a week later leading the Puerto Rico Open until halfway, eventually finishing in third.
Results have been mixed but his last six efforts have seen missed cuts followed by top-20s at the Heritage, Mexico and Byron Nelson, all performances that have seen him in the top echelons for accuracy and green-finding.
This may be a tough ask on debut, but he’s coming off Tuesday’s impressive five-shot victory at US Open qualifying in Dallas, making nine 3’s in a row and thrashing the likes of Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, making the prices for top-10 and top-20 very attractive.
- Tony Finau – WIN
- Brian Harman – WIN/T5
- Carson Young – WIN/T5
- Carson Young – Top-20
Opinion & Analysis
The best bets for the 2023 KLM Dutch Open
It could have been an awful lot worse.
After a thrilling PGA Championship, we could have expected the quality threshold to drop a fair bit on both sides of the pond. Instead, at Colonial, we will be treated to the sight of the new world number one Scottie Scheffler; the man who maybe should have won his first major last week, Viktor Hovland; local hero Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau. That’s not to mention the rest of the world’s top-20.
The KLM Dutch Open can’t boast such a field, but the very top of the market contains the defending champion, Victor Perez, an excellent 12th at Oak Hill, and equally in-form Adrian Meronk, winner in Italy two starts ago and 40th last week in his second consectutive US major.
Once a highlight of the European Tour – think Seve, Langer, Monty, Miguel and Westwood – we have now lost the much-loved tight tracks that called for guile, replaced by Bernardus Golf, a newish, not-quite-formed, not links-not-parkland, course and a field, the like of which we see every single week.
In the end, does it matter? The job is to identify the winner, and even though the last two winners have done the job in contrasting styles, there are some very obvious clues about the top of the board at both the 2022 and ’23 runnings.
Inaugural Bernardus champ, Kristoffer Broberg, came into the event off some slight promise. After long-term loss of form and injury, he snuck into notice at the Scandinavian Mixed, but it was the tournament after his emotional victory that catches the eye.
The Swede has only one other top-10 finish in over 30 outings since winning here, that coming at the Alfred Dunhill Links, where he shared a ninth place with Matti Schmid, the German he beat into second place in the Netherlands.
Fast-forward a year, and the defending champion, Perez, has his most notable victory at the 2019 Links, whilst his defeated play-off rival Ryan Fox also won at the same pro-am three years later.
The link (sorry) is very clear. Bernardus continues the theme adopted by designer Kyle Phillips. Responsible for the likes of Kingsbarns, Dundonald Links (home of the Scottish Open 2017), Yas Links (current host of the Abu Dhabi Championship) and the former home of this event, Hilversumsche Golf Club, it’s a surprise he did not have a hand in Rinkven Golf Club in Belgium, where Fox, Meronk and Marcel Schneider – all within two shots of Perez around here – finished in second, sixth and seventh at the Soudal Open a year previous.
Last season, Fox showed that coming off the PGA was not much of a hardship, but despite the nagging feeling that 6/1 coupled is actually a bit of value, I’ll just about ignore the jollies with the other side of the brain thinking this comes too quickly.
Others to catch the eye across the two events include Aaron Cockerill, Thomas’s Detry and Pieters, and my favourite of all for the week, Alexander Bjork, for whom a victory is very much overdue.
The Swede catches in the eye in more ways than just his 2023 form, but that has plenty to recommend him.
Bjork’s runner-up at Al Hamra in April saw him just in front of Meronk, with earlier Ras champion Fox a couple of shots ahead of Marcus Helligkilde (prominent for three rounds of the Dutch Open in 2021), Perez and Matt Jordan, a frustrating player but with a top five finish at the Links.
That was to be the third of nine successive cuts that include top five finishes in Italy (winner – Meronk – top 10 finish for Perez) and in Belgium, where on each occasion he put up some of the best stats in the field for irons and putting.
After ticking that off, look at his sixth place finish at what might as well be called Broberg’s Scandi Mixed, tied-third at the 2022 Hero Open – won by 2022 Soudal Open champion Sam Horsfield – and his seventh place here last season, when never out of the top 10.
The figures may prompt a negative comment about distance off the tee, but he has plenty of form in the desert (20/28 at Yas Links) where second shot control is more important, as well as in Himmerland, where iron players dominated. Find anything else? nah, me neither.
After a tough week, it was tempting to leave Bjork as a one-and-done but the designer-led theme leads me to Shubhankar Sharma, a player that would look to suit the old-style Dutch Open but improved from a debut 27th here to 14th last season, the best effort coming after three consecutive missed-cuts.
Best efforts over the years are all on the tighter, tree-lined courses of Malaysia, Joburg and Wentworth, but amongst those are a further two outings at a Phillips course – runner-up and seventh in Abu Dhabi – the former when a shot behind Pieters (two top 10 finishes here) and tied with Rafa Cabrera-Bello, winner of the 2017 Scottish Open.
Recent results appear worse than they are, lying inside the top-25 at halfway in Korea and 18th after round one of the Soudal in Belgium.
Scott Jamieson was tempting after a solid run of results and past results in the desert, but, for the last pick, I’ll row in again on still-progressive Clement Sordet.
The 30-year-old Frenchman went into the Soudal Open a popular fancy after a pair of top-10 finishes in Korea and Italy, but blew his chance with an opening 77 before rallying with a second-round six-under 65. That effort confirmed he was still striking the ball well and continued his top-20 figures for approaches and tee-to-green.
With the added advantage of length, Sordet very much reminds me of the likes of Meronk, and it may be that he just needs that slice of luck to get over the line in this company.
It appears that punters are asked to forgive quite a lot when looking away from the top of the market, and whilst the likes Helligkilde, Pepperrell, Mansell et al will understandably have their fans, I’ll keep it very light this week.
- Alexander Bjork
- Shubhankar Sharma
- Clement Sordet
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Nov 8, 2018 at 1:56 pm
Fowler — nice person, treat people with respoect, loves his family, loved by the fans and media, rich, beautiful loving fiance. He is about as big a winner as you can have in my book.
Gianni = Bum Blaster?
Nov 7, 2018 at 6:00 am
Or is he a que er with a fat girlfriend?
Nov 6, 2018 at 8:18 am
I think that you are grasping at straws here. Greg Norman didn’t play against a field as deep with talent as Rickie faces week in and week out. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and yes, Bryson DeChambeau are some of the reasons that Rickie will have a tough time winning more than one major, if he wins that.
Nov 6, 2018 at 11:36 pm
Lame article…Fowler is eminently more successful in his profession than the “writer” of this snarky article is.