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.

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Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead

By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 10:45 pm

Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.

With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.

All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.

“This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”

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Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.

“It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.

Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.

“Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”

Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

“My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”

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Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 10:12 pm

We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.

Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.

If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.

It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.

Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:


My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”

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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”