- Why, in 2018, could we not watch the final round of the RBC Heritage live? Is John Rahm underrated? Did Kelly Kraft get screwed? When will Tiger play next?
Every week, SI.com's Daniel Rapaport will be answering four of the biggest questions from the week in golf. To submit questions for the following week's column, simply tweet at @Daniel_Rapaport or @SI_Golf.
I woke up Sunday morning to the news that the final-round tee times at the RBC Heritage had been moved up four hours to get the round in before a forecasted storm rolled in. I tried to find somewhere to watch the action live, but neither Golf Channel nor CBS made the broadcast available, and I didn't want to watch on tape-delay after I already knew who won. Why, in 2018, does something like this still happen?
It's a terrific question, and you weren't the only one frustrated by the coverage (or lack thereof) on Sunday morning. The practical answer to your question is that moving a broadcast up four hours on a network schedule isn't really feasible. There are other programs scheduled and those programs' advertisements are already paid for, plus I'm sure the networks have some sort of agreement with the PGA Tour that regulates when and what coverage they can show in the case of a weather delay or push-up.
What was particularly frustrating, however, was not being able to stream the coverage on the Golf Channel app, CBS/CBS sports app or PGA Tour Live. Golf Channel and CBS surely know that hardcore golf fans are going to check on the tournament while it's happening live. Expecting fans to purposefully avoid the internet/social media on a Sunday is idealistic at best and woefully out-of-touch-naive at worst. At least throw the people who pay for PGA Tour Live—by all accounts, these are the Tour's biggest and most financially committed fans—a bone by tossing the live stream up on that platform.
I did not pay nearly as close attention to the broadcast on Sunday because I already knew what was going to happen—there was no suspense with Si Woo Kim missed all those putts down the stretch, no surprise when Satoshi Kodaira drained a 25-footer for a life-changing victory.
By not showing the tournament live on any platform, the networks and the Tour did the fans and themselves a disservice. The fans couldn't watch final-round drama play out live, and the broadcast of Sunday's final round was rendered meaningless, which surely killed ratings. I understand that this wasn't one person's or even one organization's decision, and that there are a bunch of contractual restrictions that limit flexibility when something like this does happen. But it's 2018, and there's no excuse for denying your fans access. The networks and the Tour should realize that people were upset—nay, indignant—this weekend, and they should do whatever it takes to assure it doesn't happen again.
Jon Rahm won his fifth professional event this week at the Open de Espana on the European Tour. He's now got five wins and 17 top 5s in just 43 starts as a professional. He's the No. 4 player in the world and a perennial contender on the PGA Tour, but is Rahm somewhat underrated by American golf fans?
The wins and the top 5s are mighty impressive, but the first thing that jumps out to me is that Rahm has only made 45 career professional starts. It feels like he's been a factor on Tour for a while now, so to see that he's only played the equivalent of two full seasons is definitely surprising.
Moving on. I don't think "underrated" is the right word. The golf world fully understands how good Rahm is, how well his game travels and his competitive spirit. He's come back from a 54-hole deficit in four of his five professional wins, which demonstrates an ability to summon his best stuff when he needs to.
Still, when we think of this new wave of 20-somethings, Rahm isn't one of the first guys to come to mind. Perhaps that's because he's Spanish, and American golf fans naturally tend to gravitate toward Americans. But Rahm is about as Americanized as a European-born player can be; he played four years at Arizona State, a university that provides a quintessential American college experience. He plays the majority of his golf on the PGA Tour. He talks to his ball in English, which he speaks with perfectly fluency.
So why is he not spoken of in the same sentence as the likes of Spieth, Thomas and McIlroy? Two reasons come to mind. First, he hasn't had a major championship breakthrough, nor has he won any of the biggest events on American soil. Before his t-4th finish at this year's Masters, Rahm's finishes in majors were as follows: t23, t59, t27, CUT, t44, t58. Because guys like Spieth and Thomas and McIlroy have had such success in majors at such a young age, winning a few tour events before your 25th birthday is no longer enough to be considered a megastar. You have to get it done in the majors, and he hasn't just yet, though Augusta was a good start.
The second reason is his...fiery...demeanor on the course. Rahm has very high expectations for himself and he's rather demonstrative when he doesn't meet those expectations. He tends to pout, yell less-than-kind things to himself and occasionally takes out his anger on a club or his golf bag. Announcers frequently comment on this, which affects his reputation with fans.
So I don't think Rahm is "underrated." A better word would be underappreciated. I personally don't have an issue with Rahm's on-course antics—as long as he's not damaging his equipment or the golf course, there's nothing wrong with being upset with yourself, and I think his passion is part of what makes him great—but his wear-it-on-your-sleeve style of play is always going to rub some people the wrong way.
The Kelly Kraft incident was pretty rare and funny in retrospect, but did he get screwed by not getting to re-play the shot?
For those of you who missed it, the situation this question is referring to happened on Friday at the RBC Heritage. Kraft's tee shot on a par 3 struck a bird that was in-flight and his ball ended up in a water hazard. Kraft claims the ball was headed for the center of the green (no video of the shot has surfaced, so there's no way to corroborate that claim), but he ended up making double bogey and missed the cut by one. His group called over a rules official to see if he could replay the shot, but he couldn't because a bird is not a man-made obstruction.
Was it unlucky? Of course. But it's such a rare occurrence that it's a waste of time to consider making a rule change. What would that rule look like, anyways? Would you get a re-do if a bird flew over your head during your swing, or would the ball have to physically strike a bird in order to warrant a re-tee?
Look how Kraft himself dealt with it. If there was anyone to be truly incensed, it would be him, as he probably lost something like $30,000 by hitting the bird.
Oh well. On to the next. Nothing more, nothing less. Just an unfortunate happenstance, but at least the bird wasn't injured!
Tiger officially committed to the U.S. Open this week, but his schedule up until the year's second major remains unclear. Where do you expect him to play between now and Shinnecock?
Let's first take a look at the schedule of tournaments between now and the U.S. Open:
Valero Texas Open
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Wells Fargo Championship
THE PLAYERS Championship
AT&T Byron Nelson
Fort Worth Invitational
the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
FedEx St. Jude Classic
Cross off the Valero Texas Open, because that tournament is this week and Tiger isn't in the field. The Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which employs a two-man team format, has drawn rave reviews from players who appreciate the change-of-pace, but it's hard to imagine Tiger teaming up with someone for a tournament like that at this stage of his career.
The Players is a lock if he's healthy—it's the fifth biggest tournament of the year—and I also think he'll give it a go at the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow. It's a major championship-level golf course, and he probably won't want to enter TPC Sawgrass without having played a competitive round since Augusta.
After the Players, he'll likely skip the two Texas events because he always has in recent years. Tiger hasn't played the Nelson since 2005 and hasn't played the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial since 1997. On the other hand, he's played the Memorial every year he's been healthy enough. It's hosted by Jack Nicklaus, a man Tiger has deep respect for, and the host venue of Muirfield Village routinely attracts an elite field. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's won the event five times.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic is an interesting proposition, because that tournament will become a World Golf Championship next year when it replaces the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. It's reasonable to think Tiger might want to get a good look at the venue before it becomes a WGC, but I can't see him playing in each of the two weeks immediately preceeding a major.
In conclusion, my guess for TW's upcoming schedule: Wells Fargo, The Players, the Memorial and the U.S. Open.