In this week’s edition, Old Tom Watson turns back the clock, the PGA Tour remains mired in an antiquated anti-doping policy, and Muirfield finally catches up with the times.
Timeless Tom. Nearly seven decades in, Tom Watson’s ability to hit the golf ball is still a source of inspiration and on Thursday at the U.S. Senior Open he proved, again, why his unique brand of flawless ball-striking is so compelling.
Watson recorded three birdies and a pair of bogeys for a 1-under 69 to become just the third player in championship history to shoot his age.
It’s been a decade since Watson finished in the top 10 at a PGA Tour event and five years since he seriously contended on the PGA Tour Champions, but when the stars align and the body cooperates he is still one of the most entertaining players to ever swing a 2-iron.
Tweet of the week:
We did an informal survey a few years back asking Tour players who they would want to watch hit golf balls on the range. Watson was a frequent answer and time hasn’t changed that fact.
Near-miss nirvana. It’s often easy to forget that a leaderboard is filled with stories, not just winners and losers.
Zack Sucher’s finish last week at the Travelers Championship is a perfect example of this. Although Sucher finished four strokes behind champion Chez Reavie, the runner-up showing was very much life changing for the 32-year-old journeyman.
Prior to last week’s finish, Sucher had earned about $143,000 in 14 events on the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour, but his Sunday haul in Hartford, Connecticut was worth $633,000. In the world of multi-million dollar contracts and outrageous purses, that might not seem like much but for Sucher it was worth celebrating.
“I can’t even wrap my head around it, to be honest. Two months ago, we had two credit cards wrapped up. We talked about taking out loans on our house,” Sucher told a Barstool Sports podcast.
We tend to dehumanize professional athletes and forget that they are real people with real problems. Sucher didn’t win the Travelers Championship, but his finish was a victory nonetheless.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
A return, a request. Robert Garrigus returned to work last week at the Wichita Open on the Korn Ferry Tour, following a three-month suspension for violating the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy.
In a statement issued in March, Garrigus said he tested positive for marijuana and he became the first player suspended by the Tour for using a “drug of abuse.”
Garrigus – who was tied for the lead after Round 1 at this week’s Utah Championship – failed the test following “a long period of sobriety” and said he would “take this time away from golf to be with my family and work on regaining my sobriety.”
But this isn’t about Garrigus’ ongoing battle with his own demons; it’s about a policy that many find antiquated and in desperate need of an update. Eleven states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, including California, where Garrigus most likely took the drug test he would eventually fail (three of the four Tour events he’s played this year are in California).
This is not a Tour-specific issue. Nearly every professional sports league is struggling with how to classify marijuana use, but that doesn’t mean the circuit should sit on the sidelines. Creating a modern answer to a complicated question should be the goal, not business as usual.
Honourable ending. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers has finally ended it’s male-only membership policy. It only took 275 years.
Muirfield announced on Thursday that it had extended invitations to 12 women to join the club. In 2016, the club voted to continue its all-male policy and was removed from the Open Championship rotation. This time, 80 percent of the membership voted to change the policy.
Time moves slowly at places like Muirfield and some will still lament that it took more than 2 ½ centuries for the club to open its membership doors to women. That’s fair. But it’s also fair to acknowledge that the club finally got it right.
Making do in the Motor City. It’s been a decade since the PGA Tour made its last cameo in the Detroit area and when the Buick Open bolted in 2009 the concern was that big-time golf had outgrown the Motor City.
That notion changed this week with the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic and organizers should be applauded for their effort to woo a respectable field. The event is being played on a classic Donald Ross-designed layout (Detroit Golf Club) and the event’s location on the calendar midway between the third major (U.S. Open) and the final major (Open Championship) wasn’t terrible. But the results were less than perfect.
This week’s field features just three players from the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking – Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler, whose endorsement deal with Rocket Mortgage can’t be overlooked in this context.
The month between the U.S. Open and Open Championship was always going to be a quiet time for top players and given this year’s condensed schedule that’s understandable. What’s also understandable is that Tour golf may have returned to Detroit, but it’s probably not what officials envisioned.