Koepka and DJ – The Bland “Iron Byron” Golf Twins

With this weekend’s snooze-fest called the PGA Championship, I believe it is now safe to say that professional golf’s television ratings are in a world of trouble.

As Brooks Koepka started the final day with an unheard-of seven shot lead on Sunday at the Bethpage State Park – Black golf course, it would have taken an epic collapse (think “Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters”) to prevent him from winning his fourth major championship over the past two years.

Koepka bogeyed four holes in a row on the back nine on Sunday and, for a few minutes, saw his lead trimmed to one shot, but his closest competitor and close friend, Dustin Johnson, gave up two shots on the final three holes to hand the title to Koepka.

Though Koepka’s training buddy, Dustin Johnson, applied some minimal pressure on Sunday, DJ seems to have trouble closing the deal in golf’s majors.

With Koepka now winning 50% of the past eight golf majors, Dustin Johnson is now the owner of the “Second Place Slam” as he has finished in the runner-up spot in the past four marquis golf events.

These two guys spend time in the weight room together, on the driving range together, and are off-the-course friends, too. 

Sadly, both of these golfers share a bad habit of chewing tobacco, and, grossly, expectorating the stuff while the cameras are on them. Ugh.

They are both notoriously bland to watch and rarely provide golf fans any emotion while playing.  As New York golf fans shouted “DJ! DJ! DJ!”, Dustin Johnson rarely acknowledged the hearty support from the crowd.

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka admitted that he heard the DJ cheers and used it as motivation to snap-out of his bogey streak on the back nine. 

Koepka, whose arrogance/confidence makes him equally as boring to watch as Dustin Johnson, admitted that he plays best when he feels slighted in some manner.  Whether the issue (fans shouting a competitor’s name around him, for example) or something he keeps mentally filed away, Koepka apparently needs something to poke the bear and motivate himself.

“There’s always a chip,” Koepka said. “I think every great athlete has a chip.”

For Dustin Johnson, though, it looked like the fans’ adulation actually made him more nervous.  With the winds blowing 15-20 mph for the first time in the four-day PGA Championship on Sunday, Dustin Johnson briefly moved to 3-under par for the day before stumbling with two bogeys coming down the stretch. 

Koepka won the tournament by just two shots.  Ouch.

As a golf fan, I was hoping that Dustin Johnson would embrace the support from the boisterous patrons and rally into a most improbable victory.  Unfortunately, DJ continues to finish near the top but still has just one major championship (the 2016 US Open).

The CBS announcers called Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson the “Smash Brothers” as both golfers are known for their extremely long drives off the tee.  When professional golfers’ tee shots travel well over 300 yards and find the fairway, most golf courses are being reduced to pitch-and-putt games for guys like these.

No one will convince me that Koepka and DJ would necessarily outdrive players from past generations without the benefit of recent equipment changes which have reduced the amount of hook or slice spin from the face of the golf club onto golf balls which, themselves, are engineered to go straighter and fly longer. 

Golf has utilized a uniquely designed machine called “Iron Byron” for many years in order to replicate the golf swing and test golf clubs and golf balls.   

With the recent success of long-bomb specialists such as Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, the USGA and the PGA Tour should dial back or limit the technological advantages afforded to professional golfers and increase the punishment for missing the fairways.

Absent any scaling-back of golf equipment advances, then the first place to start would be to end fairways at 300 yards and increase the amount of rough the further the ball travels down (and off) the fairway.   

If golf doesn’t punish this generation of long-bombers soon, then golf might want to roll-out Iron Byron at June’s US Open to give Koepka and Johnson a run for the championship! 

At least that might be more interesting to watch!

Sweep-the-SwampCast! May 17, 2019

Welcome back to SwampSwami’s “Sweep-the-SwampCast!” podcast for this week!

Golf’s PGA Championship has moved from August into May and is underway this weekend at Bethpage State Park “Black” Golf Course located outside of New York City. We’ll talk about the tournament and see if Brooks Koepka will hold onto the lead this weekend.

We’ll also talk about the amazing Golden State Warriors of the NBA, college basketball recruiting, the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and take a peek at Saturday’s Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

To listen, please click on the button above. Better yet, subscribe to this and all of our podcasts via Apple Podcasts. It’s FREE – try it today!

The biggest winner on Sunday? Golf!

Wow, what a weekend of golf!  Seriously.  The PGA Championship, the final major of the 2018 men’s golf season, has now ended but not without injecting some much needed pizzazz back into the game.

Tiger Woods?  You betcha.

The television ratings?  Even more so!

Nearly lost in the Tiger Woods final round frenzy in St. Louis was the relatively quiet and steady play of the eventual winner, Brooks Koepka.

All he has done this summer is win two of the last three major tournaments!  Koepka’s 2018 Wannamaker Trophy for Sunday’s win should fit nicely between his two consecutive wins at the US Open in 2017 and 2018.

Koepka, whose buff looks are more in keeping with that of a clean-up hitter for your favorite major league baseball team, “kept-ka” (ha ha) pounding his drives down the middle of the fairway and leaving relatively easy shots into the greens at Bellerive Country Club all weekend long.  Impressively, he continued putting golf’s pedal to the metal even while that guy named Tiger Woods was doing his best impression of Jack Nicklaus during the final round of the 1986 Masters.

The crowds in St. Louis were enthusiastic and huge, and those legions of fans pulling for Woods were every bit as loud and supportive as Jack’s pack during his miraculous victory in Augusta 32 years ago.  Tiger’s iron play was spectacular as he drilled one shot after another within a few feet of the pin as the Missouri winds temporarily laid down for the Sunday afternoon showdown.

Tiger Woods has still never won a major golf tournament when trailing at the start of a final round, but Sunday’s sizzling 64 and eventual second place finish was certainly his best effort in the past ten years.  Woods whipped the crowd into a frenzy as he put together a charge on Sunday afternoon that Arnold Palmer would have been proud of.

Like Palmer, Woods was erratic off the tee most of the day.  In fact, he was 0-for-Front Nine in hitting the fairways.  But when you only need ten putts to navigate the first nine holes, good things will happen as Tiger cobbled together an opening three-under par 32 to close-in on the leader with nine more to go.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s final round leader continued playing as if he might have been wearing a set of Bose noise-cancelling earbuds.  Brooks Koepka never backed down as he blasted howitzers off the tee and dropped short irons into the greens all day to finish with a not-too-shabby 66 to earn his two-shot victory.

Woods delivered enough of the drama and excitement to juice the fans watching on television, too.  CBS Sports’ television ratings for Sunday’s final round were up nearly 70% from last year’s same event and posted a sterling 6.1 overnight mark.

Koepka’s win brought him nearly $2 million in prize money as he has likely locked-up “Player of the Year” honors for 2018 with two major wins this season.

Tiger Woods’ stellar play in the past month at the British Open and PGA Championship should earn him a Captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup team in September.

And, with Woods on the Ryder Cup team, NBC is now salivating about having a US golf contingent featuring golf’s newest young heroes like Koepka and one very stealthy Tiger on the loose who appears to be hungry to bag a few victories on the golf course again.

At least for this summer, golf is back!

 

 

 

PGA Championship Preview – Let’s pick a surprise winner!

On the eve of the final PGA Championship ever to be held in the hot summer month of August at the Bellerive Country Club near St. Louis, let’s take a look to the past and consider some of the previous champions of golf’s final major tournament of 2018.  The men’s golf tour will move this championship back to the month of May beginning in 2019 to avoid competing for viewers with the NFL’s August preseason schedule.

Some of the greatest names in golf history have won this title.  The best golfer in modern history, Jack Nicklaus, has five wins to hold the record for this event.  Tiger Woods has won the PGA Championship four times, while Hall-of-Famers Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Nick Price (who won the 1992 PGA Championship on this course), and current star Rory McIlroy have won it twice apiece.

The victorious golfer will attempt to hoist the extremely heavy Wannamaker Trophy (it weighs a whopping 44 pounds!) after vanquishing a field of 143 other golfers this weekend.

For most of the sports world, the focus will be (of course) on Tiger Woods and his quest to return to the winner’s circle again.  Woods has played quite well this season, but he must string four solid rounds together to win this major.

Fan favorite Phil Mickelson (the 2005 PGA champ) is also in the field and could thrill us with his always-entertaining shot-making skills.  This assumes that Lefty can keep his tee shots in play this weekend.

While the majority of golf writers and fans will focus on the current list of leading players such as Dustin Johnson and the returning champion, Justin Thomas, the PGA Championship has spawned a few “Who Dat?” winners over its 100-year history, too.

Remember Y.E.Yang?  In 2008, he hit that terrific final shot on the 18th hole to vanquish Tiger Woods.  Five years earlier, an unheralded Shaun Micheel grabbed the Wannamaker in 2003 with a spectacular iron shot within a few feet of the final hole to snag his one and, to this point, only PGA Tour win.

The year before in 2002, it was Rich Beem who found himself in the winner’s circle by holding off a late-charging (you guessed it) Tiger Woods.

More recently, 2011’s winner was Keegan Bradley, who became one of only three golfers to win a major championship in his first attempt.  Unfortunately, Bradley’s anchored “belly” putter has been banned a few years ago, and his career has stalled ever since.

So while the announcers will tout the likes of Jordan Spieth, Ricky Fowler, and Jason Day, I’ll roll out a few overlooked golfers who might be fun to watch this weekend if they could, somehow, prevail to win their first major championship:

Pat Perez – 30,000 to 1   Known for his hot temper, Perez truly is a hot and cold player who might get on a four day roll.  Then again, maybe not.

Whee Kim – 20,000 to 1  This young man is playing great golf this summer and has come close to victory a few times.  Plus, his name is really fun to say!

Brandt Snedeker – 15,000 to 1   Tom Watson’s foil in those American Express commercials has struggled in recent years.  He would be a crowd favorite Sunday.

Matt Kuchar – 8,000 to 1  Same goes for Koooooch!  Most golf fans would shed a tear of joy if Matt finally claims his first major this weekend.

Bryson deChambeau – 7,500 to 1  Love him or not, Bryson is one tough hombre.  If Mr. Physics gets on a roll, he could slide-rule the field after 72 holes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s your caddie? David Toms & team win US Senior Open

Just before the start of last week’s US Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, David Toms was missing a key part of his golf game prior to stepping up to the first tee.  His caddie.

His long-time caddie, Scott Gneiser, was unable to take the golf bag as a precaution after suffering chest pains.  Who could he get to caddie for him on short notice?

None other than his son, Carter Toms!  Carter, who plays college golf for his Dad’s alma mater at LSU, volunteered to loop for his Dad during the first two rounds of one of the biggest events of the year for golfers age 50 and over.

David Toms, now 51 and a winner of 13 PGA tournaments including a major at the 2001 PGA Championship, had been playing well this season in his second year on the senior circuit, but he was still looking for his first win on either tour in seven years.

According to Dad, son Carter Toms was quite jazzed about carrying the golf bag during the opening rounds of the US Senior Open:

“He was pretty nervous about it the first few holes, he was walking out in front of me, all jacked up. But it was fun, it was really neat. Even if I hadn’t won the tournament it would have been a fun story just to be able to have him caddying for me and it ended up being part of a great script.”

After the first two rounds, the father/son duo was perched at one-over par on the difficult mountainside layout.  Now it was time for Carter Toms to tag-out to his Dad’s experienced golf caddie.

Scott Gneiser, who began looping for David Toms in 1999, has been a steadying influence on the bag and was cleared by the doctors to work the weekend.

As the field at the US Senior Open struggled to break par, Toms and his experienced bag man, Gneiser, negotiated a bogey-free 4-under par 66 on Saturday to set-up Sunday’s clutch finish.

Paired with easy-going golfer Jerry Kelly in the final group, Toms relied heavily on his experienced caddie again to help steady his nerves.

”When we have to make a big decision or hit a big shot, he doesn’t get excited,” says Toms, a proud Louisiana native. ”He stays calm enough to keep me calm.”

As most of the other golfers struggled down the stretch Sunday, David Toms sank a long putt for birdie at the par-3 16th hole, rolled in a tricky downhill 20-footer for par at 17, and navigated a par on the closing hole to secure a one shot victory over three other golfers.

Team Toms tallied $720,000 for the victory.  Now comes the hard part.

How will David Toms pay his two caddies after claiming this major championship and first win overall since 2011?

Answer:  Quite well, thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

Moving the PGA Championship to May makes perfect $en$e

Golf’s final major championship is moving from the dog days of summer and into the middle of May in two years.  Earlier this week, the PGA announced that its annual men’s golf championship (which will begin on Thursday in Charlotte, NC) will be shifted away from the second week of August and into May beginning in 2019.  To accomplish this, the tour will shift “The Players’ Championship” in Florida from May back to a March date.

This move makes a lot of sense in many ways.  The August heat removes a lot of terrific golf course venues in both the South and Midwest regions from consideration as late summer temperatures average into the 90’s.  In 2007’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, the August temperatures soared above 100 degrees to scorch the fans and the players alike.  Since then, the PGA has sought venues generally north of the Mason-Dixon Line (New Jersey and Wisconsin the past two years, for example).

Let’s face it.  By August, many golf fans are also turning their attention toward the start of the NFL preseason and/or the stretch run of the Major League Baseball season.  Plus, many families are scrambling to squeeze a little more summer vacation in August prior to the start of another school year.  And don’t forget, college football is right around the corner in about three weeks, too.  Golf?  Most sports fans aren’t thinking about golf or likely care about watching another golf championship being played in the middle of August.

The numbers prove it.  That’s the real reason why the PGA is wise to make this move.  Money talks, and the PGA’s ratings have been sinking faster than the stock price of former retail giant, Sears, the past few years.

Calling golf’s television ratings dismal is being nice.  Disastrous is more like it.  The final round television ratings for this year’s US Open in June (won by a bland relative newcomer, Brooks Koepka) were the second lowest ever, slightly ahead of the 2014 snooze fest won by another android-like golfer named Martin Kaymer.  Sure, Koepka and Kaymer played great golf and deserved to win their respective US Open trophies, but both players could use a shot-in-the-arm of Arnold Palmer charisma or Phil Mickelson’s enthusiasm by at least acknowledging the fans’ appreciation when sinking a putt or hitting a great shot.

With Tiger Woods’ potential return to the game fading fast, Phil closing in on eligibility to play on the Champions Tour, and a surplus of personality-devoid robo-golfers taking the stage, televised golf is in trouble.  By moving one of its four premier events to the middle of spring when the only real competition is the NBA’s never-ending playoffs, the PGA Tour has made a smart business decision.  The television ratings in May should, hopefully, top those in August.

Next up – time to end the PGA’s golf season (FedEx Cup) by early September and, like other major sports, simply go away for a few months to give both the fans and players a chance to get some R&R.