2012 PGA Tour Preview: Part 1

What’s that you say?  Frankly, sir, I find your tone to be offensive.  Why, of course I realize that I’ve been talking about golf endlessly, but if I could implore you to check your handy, pocket sized PGA calendars, you’ll notice that the official start to the PGA Tour season is a scant two weeks away!

I swear to Golden Bear, I’m not making this up…

And, because I’ve got golf on the mind just about 24/7 these days, I’m going to make this a series.  How many parts?  WHO KNOWS?!!??!  The mysteries of the universe are simultaneously perplexing and aggravating, and since I figure I can squeeze out a thousand golf words like a carefree fart, why put a ceiling on my occasionally-coherent ramblings?  All I know is this upcoming PGA Tour season is looking like an absolute cracker, bubbling over with so many legit contenders and heralded prospects, it’d really be a disservice to try and condense it all into a single, comprehensive post.  So keep your heads on a swivel…quiz on Friday.

I’ll break into a bunch of arbitrary parts, since it’s easier to stay on topic that way and keep this thing digestible.  We’ll save the headliners for last, because I don’t think you’re following along anymore, will skip this sentence and read each of the posts hoping to hear about Tiger or Rory and then get salty (or will you?).

Still with me?  Good.

Today, I feel like having fun and my elbow hurts from swinging too much, so we’ll start with Ferarri golfers.  Before the meat of the post, lets define “Ferrari golfer.”  Well, kiddos, it’s a lame term that I made up for the golfers who can tear a course apart like it’s a pitch and putt, but when a single part isn’t operating at peak efficiency, the chances for a spectacularly fiery crash skyrocket…because some fucked up shit happens when something goes wrong at ludicrous speed.

Dustin Johnson

If this section is auto themed, might as well liberally apply the car analogies since, as you all know, I worship at the Church of Diesel and live my life a quarter mile at a time.  HAHAHA…whatever, I know you chuckled.

Anyways, Dustin Johnson plays golf like a Hemi-loaded Challenger.  Conventional golf architectural wisdom would state that a course plays at its hardest when it’s firm and fast, and since every Tour stop these days just HAS to play 7,500 yards under US Open conditions these days only on straight, generic courses that have no teeth whatsoever outside of long, thick rough and sheer distance.  And, much like a souped up muscle car, it’s going to be hard to beat the Diesel in a drag race.

Well…sometimes this happens when you drag race.  And when that happens on a golf course, next thing you know you’re doing this…

or this…

…and I’m not even bringing up that 2-iron at the British Open this year, but only because I can’t find an image of DJ looking embarrassed after hitting it.

But facts are facts, and even though Johnson has Forrest Gump’s short game and putting stroke, you can’t deny that he’s had his name on the trophy etcher’s short list three of the past seven majors.  And, if you’ve followed along with my golfy train of thought recently, you’d know that I’d scoff at those who consider his 147th ranked driving accuracy a shortcoming, considering he’s 3rd on Tour in GIR’s from off the fairway, 8th in “going for the green” (which measure attempts to reach par 5’s in two shots) and has shockingly strong accuracy metrics from every distance range.

Think about that last one for a second next time someone mentions fairways hit as a way to determine who’s a good driver…the Tour average putt left from an approach of 100-125 yards is 19″, of 75-100 yards is 14′ and from 50-75 yards is 9′.  The great thing about the PGA Tour is how comprehensive their ShotLink system is…you can actually find stats for putts made by distance.  From 9′ exactly, the category leader made 65% of his putts…from 15-25′, the leader made 22%.  Over 72 holes, that adds up, and Johnson is usually in those ranges while even other bombers are 15-30 yards behind him.  You can point at driving distance stats all you want, but when DJ is outdriving fellow bomber Nick Watney by 30-40 yards a hole at TPC Boston this year, you get the sense they don’t tell the story of how big of advantage Dustin Johnson’s distance really is.  He’s in a class less than a handful of players can relate to and is easily the most accomplished of that group.

Distance is NOT overrated.  Dustin Johnson is 4th in birdie average despite being the ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIRST ranked putter (going by putts gained).  If you want to know why he isn’t ranked higher scoring, well, take a look at his short game stats.  Actually, don’t…they’re horrible.

DJ’s going to be around all year because he can make a 7,500 yard course a pitch and putt.  I know I already said that, but it’s just absurd…and for as much shit as I give him about his short game, it’s only because his wedges and putter are the ONLY things stopping him from complete domination.  Well, that and a baker’s dozen extra IQ points on a major Sunday.

Rory McIlroy

Rors is whom I’m referring to when I say “Ferrari golf.”  He’s the total package…the lines of his swing are the perfect marriage of vintage and modern, classic performance.  His wonderful tempo, balance and overall gracefulness of his swing belie its ferocious power, capable of tearing the most difficult courses in the world to shreds.  The sound and flight of his shots are just breathtaking to behold, making the fact that he’s 22 years old all the more remarkable.

And yet…

There’s a vapidness to McIlroy’s game that makes the comparison to the ultimate ego-boosting car all the more apt.  For all it’s beauty and sheer breathtakery, harnessing that type of power can have an incredibly profound impact on the brain in a variety of ways, things we see seeping out of Rory already, just praying he can avoid.

First comes the inflated ego…we’ve seen that with his willful dive-in-the-deep-end foray into the disgusting world of paparazzi strewn tabloidia and the gross “Wozzilroy” nickname he and that tennis chick “came up with all on their own.”  Really, it’s a totally unique nickname…they were seriously the first ever to think of combining your names in a catchy way…it’s like throwing chum into a piranha tank.

You know what?  Fine…let the kid get his dick wet.  Who am I to say that a kid with all the money anyone could ever want and a world of access at his fingertips that I could only dream of can’t enjoy the ride?  But ego rarely manifests itself in only one aspect and when you’ve proven you can obliterate courses that make mortals out of golf gods, it only makes sense you’d feel invincible.  But invincible enough to get it over the deep face of a fairway bunker with a 4-iron when a layup still gives you a birdie chance with a 3-stroke lead and 16.5 holes left?  Invincible enough to avoid hooking a drive into the cabins at Augusta for a 7 and then four putting the next hole?  Invincible enough to absorb hitting off of a fucking tree root on THURSDAY of the PGA, when you’re good enough to chip out and still save par (and even then…it was THUSDAY)?

And that’s what’s plagued the McIlroy experience thus far.  He’ll throw up three 66’s…and a 75.  He’ll go four under over six holes…and then double bogey.  There’s no doubt that Rory has a lot of Tiger in his game, that much even a total golf newb could see, but he’s got some Phil in him too.  And since Phil gives us lessons on the beauty of conservative play in a “don’t try this at home…now who wants to see me hit some dingers” every round he’s played for the past decade, you’d hope Rory would’ve learned the importance of course management.  Hell, FIGJAM would be the first to tell you he’d probably have a half dozen or so majors by now if he had learned just to play it safe once in awhile, because when you’re as good as those two, you’re going to get birdies.

All that said…Rory gets his Green Jacket this year.

Adam Scott

Everything I said about Rory applies here too, only with more of a reserved, classical air.  If Rory is a Ferrari, Adam Scott is Cadillac CTSV.  His swing just oozes classic American golf style (despite the fact he’s Australian), and his performance at the Bridgestone this year was like watching a Formula-1 driver open up on Nurburging in that commercial.  It’s hard to pick nits with a car like this, and really, the only thing we have to criticize here is the 143rd ranked putting stroke’s gas mileage.

So what’s the problem?

Well, we’ve seen the earlier, slate-gray boring, shitty editions and have dismissed it so thoroughly that the model was almost completely removed from the genre’s consciousness, and yet, out of the blue a simple tweak turns a  plodder into a thoroughbred.  That was Scott’s Masters and second half of 2011 and he heads into 2012 looking like the blue-chipper we thought he’d be.  A decade of fine tuning and honing with intermittent stagnation suddenly found what was seemingly missing all those years, and even though they’re both fantastic examples in their respective industries, both Scott and the Caddy still have something to prove.

The stats might not say it, but the long putter is working for the Aussie and he has a confidence with it, and the stroke he’s had to adjust to, that’s worlds apart from the shaky, jittery jabbing we were used to with his conventional method.  Yea, he ranked 143rd in putting in 2011, but it was an improvement…and the Adam Scott of old wouldn’t have drained all those clutch putts in the Masters or closed out the Bridgestone like a python, a’la Tiger during the Haney years.

Scott’s always been handcuffed to Tiger Woods because their swings looked so similar and were both students of Butch Harmon, so it’s interesting to see how Scott’s swing has evolved in comparison.  While Tiger’s swing issues have been well documented, and criticized, it was only until recently that he stopped winning tournaments.  On the other hand…have you ever heard a bad word about Adam Scott’s swing?  Ever?  Even though he stopped working with Butch, his swing is very similar under Brad Malone as it has always been…it’s like we’re seeing the old Tiger Woods swing refined yet mellowed.

It’s interesting that Scott hasn’t won more, but a) it’s hard as fuck to win a lot on the PGA Tour, and b) he’s always been kind of a pussy.  He doesn’t have that burning fire that Tiger has or the rollicking gambling swagger of Phil or Rory, but the Adam Scott of 2011 had a much different, much more subtle type of assertiveness.  Almost like he knows he’s drastically better than you and is getting bored and wants to get it over with.  That was him at Bridgestone…330 drive, 180 to 10-feet, ALL FUCKING DAY.  Bridgestone, as a golf tournament, is a sprint, and in 2011 Scott was Usain Bolt looking over his shoulder.

Oh yea…he’s got a famous caddy too.  You may have heard of him…Stevie Williams.  He’s what you’d get if Andrew Dice Clay thought he was Dwight Eisenhower and could read a green.

In 2012, Scott wins either the Players or Quail Hollow, top 10’s at either the US Open or PGA and takes home a couple smaller events.

Charl Schwartzel

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my dude, Charl.  There are no weaknesses here…this dude is 100% legit.  His swing is so good, so technically sound and pairs so well with his excellent short game and putting, that, while you may not know his name, he’s one of the top players in the world.

If there’s a common thread amongst all these guys, it’s that they all make the game look easy.  Whether it’s DJ’s mindblowing distance or Rory and Adam Scott’s perfection, you don’t see these guys straining or struggling with these tricked up courses, and Charl is no different.  There’s a definite South African style to golf much like there is an American or British or continental European or Australian, and Charl (much like Gary Player, Ernie Els, Nick Price, Reteif Goosen and Louis Oosthuizen) has those perfect geometric angles wonderfully aligned…very precise, much like the technique of a classical pianist.

Charl will make some noise and hopefully win a tournament now that he’ll be playing more here in the US, but that transition to playing over here is a tough one and there might be a few speed bumps.  Regardless, Charl’s got another major in his future…he’s too comprehensively good and too young not to.  The next Ernie.

More later…thanks, if you made it this far.  I’m proud of you, ponyboy.

  • cabbage

    All tour members probably breathed a sigh of relief yesterday now that it would seem that the World’s Greatest Golfer will not be joining the tour this year.

  • cabbage
  • arkbadger

    All tour members probably breathed a sigh of relief yesterday now that it would seem that the World’s Greatest Golfer will not be joining the tour this year.

    I was out of the office all day yesterday, what did I miss?

  • spencer096

    I was out of the office all day yesterday, what did I miss?

    kim jong il, he of the 38-under and five holes in one in his first round of golf ever, who never pooped in his life, who thought that giant rabbits would cure north korea’s hunger problems (and then later ate all 12 giant rabbits at a feast he held for himself), died.

  • cabbage

    Of course, being kim jong il, he may decide to play the tour anyway. After Casey Martin, I’m guessing the would let a dead person use a cart. Not that he would need one, it just might cut down on the number of flies.

  • arkbadger

    well, I found a pretty sorry way to ruin that, sorry Cabbage.