August 13, 2018

That was a pretty entertaining Sunday at the PGA Championship, and it was probably the most exciting final round of a major this year. A few thoughts to close out this season’s majors:

Is there any doubt that Brooks Koepka is a killer, a true product of golf’s modern age? Not only can he hit it far, he can hit it straight. You see his performances at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and the PGA at Bellerive, and you have to wonder when folks are going to start giving him his due. Dustin Johnson may be rated as the #1 golfer in the world rankings at the present time, but if given a choice between DJ and Brooks, my money would have to be on the latter.

For one thing, DJ always seems to be able to trample the field at any given PGA Tour event whenever he’s in the mood – there’s no underestimating his talent. But he seems to lack the discipline and killer instinct to put it all together at majors. DJ is the personification of today’s professional golfer. He can hit it a country mile and he makes boatloads of cash. But you can’t help but wonder if that’s really all he’s about.

Koepka, on the other hand, is a steely-eyed version of the Old West gunman who comes into town, chip on his shoulder, looking for respect as a gunslinger. He’s got DJ’s length, but he seems able to discipline himself at the majors to handle the pressure that results from hitting it so long that you ought to be able to rack up birdies when the opportunities present themselves.

And it was amazing to watch he and Adam Scott, just two groups back from the Tiger Woods circus, fire away at pins tucked only yards from the edge. Both of them were virtually unflappable, and it was a marvel to watch them both handle the pressure of the last round of a major, especially with a charging Tiger in front of them.

He made some mistakes down the stretch, but there is little doubt that Justin Thomas is going to be collecting his own share of majors over the next few years. He’s got a beautiful swing and a game you just can’t help but love to watch. He’s almost as fearless as Koepka, but you could tell he got a little rattled at the pace of play when his playing partner Shane Lowry ran into difficulties on (I think) #14. Thomas, like Koepka, likes to get up there and hit the ball – a quality to be admired. But Thomas is still learning his craft and he ought to be a force over the next decade.

I wonder what’s wrong with Rory McIlroy? Not sure if it’s physical or mental, but he’s not the same golfer he was several years ago. Maybe he should have married Caroline Wozniacki after all.

Ditto Rickie Fowler. No one doubts the guy has game, but is what he has good enough to win a major? A big question that’s only going to get bigger with every major he doesn’t win.

I think Jordan Spieth is going to look back on this year as a growing year and an important one in his career. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him pick up at least two majors next year.

Which, of course, makes Tiger Woods’s opportunities to win another major all the more daunting. Sure, he showed an incredible amount of grit out there yesterday, but if you don’t win, who cares? He’s back to grinding with the best of them. And his irons were pure, no doubt about it. But he really doesn’t drive the ball well, and his putting is just OK. There were six putts yesterday that the old Tiger would have made without any problem. But that’s what being 42 years old will do to ya. The difference in your putting might be hundredths of a second here or there, but it’s that hundredth of a second that will result in a putt left just short or one to lip out.

And Tiger is going to be facing some incredible competition in the years he has left. Hard to believe, but as good as they are, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are still learning the ropes of playing professional golf at the highest level. They’re only going to get better. You’ve got Koepka and DJ and others who just aren’t going to be intimidated by Tiger, even when he’s putting on one of his legendary charges. They respect him, for sure, but unlike his peers of 10+ years ago, these players look forward to the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with him. They relish the attention, they welcome the crowds and the attention, and they just itching to go mano a mano down the stretch of a major. As I mentioned in my last post, as long as he stays healthy (and there’s no guarantee on that) Tiger’s gonna win some tournaments. But majors? I think he’s going to find that very difficult.

One final comment about Tiger: everyone is all kissy-ass about his comeback and slobbering over his play as it has evolved over these past few months. I get it, his comeback is a great story. But they’re all placing Tiger in the same bubble he was during his prime more than ten years ago. The guy is 42, and given his history of injury, he’s an old 42. No one I heard this week expressed anything like a cautionary note that what we’re seeing now is the twilight of Tiger’s career. They’re acting as if he’s capable of dominating like he used to, and that’s just not going to be the case. I agree he’s making a great run and that it’s fun to watch, but he’s one Achilles tendon, disc, or knee issue from saying riding off into the sunset for good. And I can see it happening: he gets revved up and starts making those big, violent swings. A little dose of reality from the media in Tiger’s case wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:41 | Comments (0)
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