Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.
Should U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker pair Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka together when the Americans face the Europeans at Whistling Straits next month?
Purk's take: No, no and hell, no. Please, Captain Stricker, shut the door on this notion and lock it up tight. Call Hal Sutton, who paired Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the 2004 Ryder Cup. Ask him what an unmitigated disaster it was and how it adversely affected the rest of the team throughout the weekend. Go ahead, ask Captain Hal if he’s still living it down and hold the phone away from your ear.
Even disregarding the optics and the potential team disruption, Koepka and DeChambeau just don’t go together style-wise. Their golf games are too much alike, although, to be fair, no one’s game resembles DeChambeau’s. Each of them needs a steady, reliable partner in four-ball, giving them permission to set off the bombs. As for foursomes, let’s just say that BDC just needs to rest during those sessions.
But don’t put them together, under any circumstances. In fact, seat them at opposite ends of the table at the gala dinner. Just to be safe.
Hawk's take: Hey, why not? If the two brutes are serious about shelving their feud for the sake of the team, there’s no reason not to think they can buddy up and form a dangerous partnership in a fourball match. What honest golf fan could dare miss such reality-TV theater? It’s not about the size of the viewing audience, however, but the importance of the Yanks getting off to a good start on home turf, and perhaps sending a message to the Euros: we are one big, happy family.
Of course, the naysayers will call Koepka-DeChambeau a huge mistake, not unlike Hal Sutton’s decision to pair Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for both Friday sessions in 2004. That was then, this is now — and it’s not like either Tiger or Phil shredded the Europeans when they played with other partners. Stricker probably won’t make the leap, but Brooksie and the Brawny Brainiac are well worth a shot in the best-ball format. If they lose, maybe we’ll see a fistfight behind the 18th green.
Do you buy Rory McIlroy’s assessment that he played too much golf this year?
Hawk's take: Yes, but only because 32 starts in 14 ½ months is a lot of work for a guy with several zillion dollars in the bank and a 1-year-old in his arms. McIlroy’s daughter actually turns 1 next week, but daddy is already tired, and more to the point, quite frustrated with another mediocre season that has dropped him to 18th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
In all seriousness, McIlragged is not an excuse maker. He seems to second-guess his decisions far more often than other top-tier players, a trait that dates back to when he first turned pro. Is that a sign of weakness? Does that qualify as a lack of confidence? The Northern Irishman’s mental toughness is not where it needs to be, especially if he plans on becoming the worldbeater he once was. When you’re young and dumb and wondrously talented, victories fall off trees. When you’re relatively new to fatherhood, blessed with an abundance of wealth and all the happiness money can’t buy, you need to find reasons to make yourself better.
Yes, daddy is tired. Tired of playing like baby poop.
Purk's take: Peter Oosterhuis – former European Tour star, Ryder Cup stalwart and longtime CBS announcer – told me he once played 49 tournaments in a single calendar year in the 1970s – all over the globe. “There was no money in those days and I needed to play every week I could,” said the Englishman.
These days, if you play half that number, people start talking burnout. Rory McIlroy has raised his hand in the affirmative. After this week’s BMW Championship, if he advances to the Tour Championship and competes in the Ryder Cup, he will have played in 34 events in 15 months. He says he’s fried.
We live in an era in which stars play in as few events as they can get away with. Most of today’s stars tee it up in around 20 PGA Tour events, give or take one or two. The pressure of elite professional golf, granted, is high. But it’s golf, for chrissake. NFL players play 16 games, plus playoffs. In a row. And we won’t even talk about basketball and baseball.
McIlroy became a new father this year, which might be coloring his thoughts. Newborns come equipped with a middle-of-the-night button that can go off when you least expect it. McIlroy might need more sleep. He might need to play in fewer tournaments. However, what he’s really needs is to play better. Bad golf will wear you out.