Earl's Recent Past Golf Blog's
June 7, 2019
Golf must be really tough. Just ask Martin Kaymer
Where has Martin Kaymer been for five years? Since winning the US Open at Pinehurst #2 by eight shots in 2014, he has not won on any tour since that time. He lost his PGA Tour card for the 2015/2016 season and has not regained status since. Since that time he has played between six to ten tournaments in America each year, while splitting his time playing in European PGA events. There have been some nagging physical problems, but since 2014, Martin has been a non-factor in professional golf until he showed up on the leaderboard at Jack Nicklaus's Memorial Tournament in Columbus, Ohio this past week. I thought he might have retired or had a career ending injury; he was that far off the radar.
Tournament golf is very difficult with success and failure sometimes depending on a lucky bounce or a failed putt that could launch or derail a career. Ultimately the real test is maintaining that degree of success throughout a sustained period of time. Here is a two time major winner, with Ryder Cup accomplishments in the prime of his career, working hard to regain his past glory. The reality is that most players in the top ten World Rankings today will not be there in two to three years. Only one player, Dustin Johnson, has been in the top ten end of the year world rankings since 2015. Greatness is defined in longevity. That's what makes players like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Michelson, Arnold Palmer, or Jim Furyk so outstanding. It only takes a small slip in one part of your game and you suddenly become average. Jordan Spieth's exceptional putting left him a couple of years ago, and the rest of his game could not make up the difference. The margin of error for great players is razor thin and maintaining that superiority requires hard work, a bit of luck and good health.
Last year on the PGA Tour there were 170 players that played in 20 or more PGA tournaments. 40 of those players didn't make enough money to qualify to play this year. That is almost a 25% failure rate. Many that didn't qualify were graduates of the Web.com tour, where 50 cards are awarded each year. Making it to the PGA Tour is hard enough, but staying there is even tougher. Many past winners and well-known names disappear each year. Names like Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Ricky Barnes, Rich Been, Angel Cabrera, Ben Curtis, Luke Donald, Bill Haas, Trevor Immelman, Geoff Ogilvy, and Kevin Stadler are a few names that are no longer a regular part of the PGA Tour.
If you watched the Memorial tournament this past week, you could see that Martin Kaymer is an exceptional ball striker. He is physically fit with an excellent golf swing. The reason that he was leading the tournament after three rounds was that he was having an exceptional putting week. At one point he had not missed one putt less than 15 feet! The PGA Tour statistics from 15 feet is 22% made; from 12 feet 30%; from 10 feet 38%, and 8 feet 49%. He was defying the odds and making everything. Martin's weak points have always been his short game and putting. When that was working, he was a world beater. Eventually, that short game and putting reverted to form and he slipped back to third. However it was an outstanding performance. Maybe this will help his confidence and that he found something with his putting that will last and make him relevant again.
Johnny Miller described tournament golf as walking a tightrope. It's very hard to stay steady and maintain your balance knowing you will eventually slip. Staying on the rope for a longtime and sustaining excellence is much harder that we realize. Just ask Martin Kaymer!
May 20, 2019
Brooks Koepka is the new prototype of the championship golfer
Brooks Koepka completed his victory of the 101st PGA Championship in less than stellar fashion. However, it should not be taken that he didn't earn or deserve to be holding the Wanamaker Trophy at the end of the tournament. The winning score was nine under par. Second place shot seven under and then third a distance three under par. Clearly he was the best player on what turned out to be a beast of a golf course. Now the winner of four major championships within a two year period, he is unmistakably the best player in golf and the model for future championship golfers.
Because of his length off the tee and pure strength digging shots out of punishing rough, he had a clear advantage over most of the field. Except for the Masters, the other three major championships typically feature similar requirements for accurate long driving between penal rough. Length and strength will be necessary attributes for future champions. Brooks Koepka is a finely tuned athlete at 6 foot tall and 186 lbs. He could easily play other sports that require strength, agility, and speed. He regularly bench presses 225 lbs. fifteen times in his typical pre-round workout! It is not surprising that Dustin Johnson, who finished second, also has exceptional strength and has an equally impressive workout routine. Many years ago only Gary Player was an advocate for strong muscles and a lean body for golf. Now, if you are a professional golfer and are not working out conscientiously with qualified help you are being left behind.
Brooks is definitely on a run with his fourth major victory in two years, but it is not that unusual. Rory McIlroy won four times in a three year span. Jordan Spieth won three in three years. Padrick Harrington got three wins in a six major stretch. Ben Hogan won six out of eight majors in his prime. The best dominant period of all is Tiger Woods record of seven wins in eleven championships. I don't think Brooks is through winning majors, but this also could be his peak.
Matt Wallace, Patrick Cantlay, and Jordan Spieth put up impressive hard fought numbers to finish in a distant third place tie. Spieth's performance was especially uplifting, because he hadn't finished in the top 20 in one tournament in 2019. There is no question that he will be back to major championship caliber soon, but from what I saw, he still has a lot to clean up. He was clearly outmanned on Saturday, when he was paired with Koepka. Poor driving and erratic iron play doomed his Saturday play. On Sunday, his round was a gritty display of determination coupled with exceptional putting. It was a big step forward, but you have to be able to drive it in the fairway when giving up distance to the likes of a Koepka or Johnson.
Bethpage Black showed its teeth the final two rounds, combining that with the New York crowds being their obnoxious noisy worst, it could be the most trying conditions to play under. Brooks showed moxie and guts of a champion to prevail. Golf will still require the soft touch of an artist, like Dave Stockton, with a wedge; the deft skill of a magician, like Ben Crenshaw, on the putting green; and the creativity, like Ben Hogan, of finely struck and shaped iron shots, but those that are performing will be more than likely be prototypes of the Brooks Koepka's body type and mental makeup; strong, fit, and fearless. Welcome to modern championship golf.