Opinion and entertainment: Golf needs more Patrick Reeds

By John FeinsteinJanuary 21, 2015, 6:49 pm

Ten months ago, after winning the World Golf Championship event at Doral, Patrick Reed told the media that he believed he was one of the top five players in the world. Reed based that comment on the fact that he had won three PGA Tour events in seven months. 

He wasn't ranked anywhere near the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking, but Reed knew – as does everyone else in golf – that the OWGR is often inaccurate since it is stretched over a two-year period. Reed hadn't even been an exempt player at the start of 2013. 

The reaction to Reed in the locker room and the media room was almost identical: How dare he! One might have thought Reed had told a group of kindergartners there is no Santa Claus, or had said the Ryder Cup was just an exhibition. 

For the next few months, every time Reed missed a cut or had a bad day, someone would inevitably comment: "Top-five player, huh?" 

Of course, Reed went on to be one of the few bright spots for the U.S. Ryder Cup team last September and then won for a fourth time at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions two weeks ago. He is now the No. 15 player in the world, according to the OWGR. According to many others, he's got the potential, at age 24, to be a no-doubt top-five player in the near future. 

But seriously, folks – who cares? What matters is that Reed said something interesting, something worthy of discussion, something that got the attention of a lot of people. Golf is full of players who tell us when they win that they hit the ball well, made a few putts and are thankful to all the sponsors and their "team." (Everyone has a "team" nowadays, right?)

What the sport needs is more Patrick Reeds. For that matter, it needs more of Phil Mickelson stunning everyone in the room with the comments he made post-Ryder Cup. Oh sure, you can argue that Mickelson had the time and place wrong and you can also argue that he attacked Tom Watson because he was upset about being benched on Saturday. Even so, it was a lot more interesting than hearing, "Well, they just made a few more putts than we did." 

And, for better or worse, depending on your point of view, Mickelson's comments led to an intense argument about what's wrong with Ryder Cup golf in the U.S. Maybe the much-ballyhooed task force will come back and report that the U.S. needs to make more putts. Or maybe it will suggest a grass-roots effort to help young American golfers care about the Ryder Cup as much as European golfers do. The point is to have the dialogue. 

Dialogue is always better than a monologue. Or monotone. 

Twenty-one years ago, the PGA Tour, in its infinite wisdom, decided to bring in a media consultant to coach those who had just made it through Q-School for the first time on how to deal with the media. The consultant's message was pretty much the same as Crash Davis' famous speech to Nuke Laloosh in “Bull Durham”: Never criticize the Tour or anyone on the Tour. Always thank sponsors and volunteers. Talk about your family and be thankful to everyone around you. 

David Feherty was in the room that day, having gone through Q-School that fall because he wanted to play the U.S. tour fulltime. Fortunately, Feherty was sound asleep in the back of the room while the consultant droned on. Imagine if he had been awake and had somehow taken her advice to heart. The world would have been a very different place. 

I was also in the room that day, at the invitation of John Morris, who had just come on-board as the Tour's director of communication. He was horrified by what he was hearing from the consultant. He asked me if I would be willing to, in effect, give the opposition response. Happily, I told him. 

The first thing I said was, "I would urge you to ignore almost everything you heard in the last hour." I had no problem with thanking people, but I suggested that honesty was usually a good idea. Listening to questions before answering was a good idea. Lying was a bad idea – which would mean often not listening to your agent. 

A lot of the players in that room became friends of mine, Feherty included – although he slept through my part of the program, too. Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker were there that day and, although they've always said the right things, they are also capable of expressing opinions worth hearing in the right setting. 

The Tour, ever image conscious, would much prefer the media consultant's way of doing things. Actually, that's bad for golf because what the sport needs desperately are fresh personalities. As electric as Tiger Woods was on the golf course during his dominant period, he was a Crash Davis-devotee off it. Mickelson is unpredictable, which is good, and Rory McIlroy can light up a room. 

To some degree, stars don't need to be interesting – their golf speaks for itself and people are going to want to talk about them and write about them, regardless. It's better for any sport to have stars who are accessible and interesting – tennis was a lot more popular when John McEnroe was the world's best player wasn't it? – but not a necessity. 

What golf needs is more guys like Reed, who may not yet be stars, but who say things that get people's attention. That means when Reed gets to the Masters having said that the majors are the place where he most needs to improve, people will want to track his performance – and his post-round comments. 

Humor isn't a bad thing, either, although it seems to be frowned upon in the media consultant's handbook. Ten years ago, Jay Haas was given an award by the Golf Writers Association of America for being cooperative and helpful with the media. (An award also won by Stricker and Furyk, no doubt thanks to my coaching all those years ago). In accepting, Haas said, "I guess this should be called the, 'Curtis blew us off so we'll go talk to Jay,' award." 

Haas was referencing his close friend, Curtis Strange, who did, on occasion, stalk away from the media after a bad round. The next morning Strange called Haas: "I heard you killed me last night," he said, trying to suppress a laugh. 

"Only because I love you," Haas said. 

Strange understood. So did everyone in the room. Haas was using humor and exaggeration to make a point. Reed might have exaggerated at Doral last year. But he was making a point – one worth hearing. The more of that in golf, the merrier. For all of us.

Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

Getty Images

Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry