In this week’s edition, we celebrate a new college event, defend a Ryder Cup captain and question a new club-length rule.
A full cup. The inaugural Jackson T. Stephens Cup will give some of the country’s top collegiate golfers a chance to play some of the country’s top courses, including next week’s host, The Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas (followed by venerable Seminole Golf Club next year). But for Warren Stephens, the son of the late Augusta National chairman Jack Stephens, it’s a personal tribute.
The 54-hole event begins Monday and will include some of the nation’s best teams, including the fourth-ranked men’s team from Florida State and women’s team from South Carolina. The field will also include players from some of the nation’s military colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“My dad graduated from the Naval Academy. Those young men and women are not having a normal college experience, they are literally preparing to defend our country,” Warren Stephens said. “Having HBCU players in the field, I can’t think of anything that would make my dad prouder, to expose these athletes to a first-class college golf event is what we’re trying to accomplishment.”
This space is normally reserved for PGA Tour comings and goings, but Jack Stephens used to remind his son how the entire game is connected.
“I hope he’d be happy about it. He used to talk to me about amateur golf and say you can’t have a good pro game without a good amateur game, which is totally true,” Warren Stephens said.
Fast start. Robert Streb became just the second player in the ShotLink era to start a Tour round by going 7 under through six holes Thursday at the CJ Cup and he posted his career-best round (61) on his way to the first-round lead. But it was the famously understated 34-year-old’s response to that record start that was so on-brand.
“It was going really well. Obviously hit a few close and the putts were going in. I've never had a start like that, so it was kind of fun,” he deadpanned.
To put “kind of fun” in context, he made 49 feet of putts through his first six holes, including two outside of 10 feet (a 12-footer at No. 3 for eagle and a 17-footer at the fourth), hit five of five fairways and all six greens in regulation. So, yeah, “kind of fun.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Ending the blame game. The whispers were inevitable. His picks were wrong. His pairings were flawed. He wasn’t prepared.
It’s the preordained life of a losing Ryder Cup captain and Padraig Harrington likely isn’t spending much time scrolling social media following his team’s historic loss last month at Whistling Straits, but, as is normally the case, the criticism doesn’t match up with reality.
“When you look back on it, America just holed so many more putts than we did and got momentum early,” Rory McIlroy said. “I certainly couldn't sit here and criticize anything that Padraig did. It was on the players to play better golf and hole putts and we didn't do that.”
There’s always more to the story when the Ryder Cup is involved, but as McIlroy correctly pointed out, there is plenty of blame to go around for the Europeans.
A lengthy discussion. The distance debate has been building for years and news this week that the USGA/R&A have put a cap on club length (46 inches) was no surprise (well, no surprise to anyone not named Phil Mickelson). But it was a ready reminder that a storm is brewing.
The Tour quickly moved to adopt the local rule beginning Jan. 1, which is where things might become complicated. From the USGA/R&A’s outlook, this is about making the game sustainable. But for the Tour, their model, their business, is entertainment and fans aren’t flocking to tournaments to watch a putting contest.
Bryson DeChambeau made a monsoon of headlines this year and many of those stories were driven by how far he hits the golf ball and how he’s threatening to redefine the game.
The Tour is onboard, for now, largely because, as they stated in their press release, “a very small number of players either have used or are currently using clubs greater than 46 [inches],” but when/if the new rules start to impact the product, that cooperation is bound to be tested.
Tweet of the week:
It was no surprise that Mickelson pushed back on the new club length rule considering his penchant to experiment with equipment, but a quick factcheck and his tweet unravels.
“I don't think it will make a world of difference, but I was in all those meetings when we discussed it for quite a while and I think the majority of players are on board with it,” said McIlroy, a member of the Player Advisory Council last season and the policy board this season.