Roundup 2016: Year In Review Stories And A Few Thoughts

I've been taking in and enjoying the year-end golf summaries, mostly to shield myself from news that makes me want to have John Oliver's '16 tribute on a running loop. As is always the golf media custom, various writers emptied their notebooks and recalled moments that resonated long after they packed up their laptops. While taking in their thoughts I drew a few conclusions, which, if you'll indulge, I'll share before throwing a few good year-end links your way.

2016 lived up to its billing: a stellar-but-bloated schedule, plenty of sensational tournament venues and a continued refinement of course architectural tastes skewing toward the natural. But the sadness of Arnold Palmer's passing, which I'm not sure we got to completely take in quietly, just reinforced the sense that there is too much golf and it all went on way too long.

In spite of the pitiful WD's by Spieth, McIlroy and friends, The Olympics exceeded expectations while The Open Championship will go down as a classic (John Huggan and Dave Shedloski have put together a truncated oral history of Troon 2016).

For Golfweek's Alistair Tait, those were the two biggest takeaways in his eyes and he offers two anecdotes from each.

The women's side keeps producing young talent but now even Lydia Ko is showing signs of impatience that either could propel her to another level, or rapidly add her to a list of almost-legend status. This overall impatience by and for the youth to take center stage should be a more disconcerting sign for golf given how much damage it's done in tennis, but the desperation to ride some under 25-year-old coattails ignores that the average age of the men's major winners in 2016 was..34.

On a grander entertainment scale, fewer players and even fewer fans are clamoring for tournament officials to humiliate players via course setup to compensate for inadequacies in their own golf games. Woohoo! Yes, we still have too many green speed fiascos to mask the distance issue, but we also have fewer four-inch rough weeks and grind-it-out bogey-fests.

This increased clamoring for player-produced drama leads to a more positive energy when we tune in to watch golf. The effect has to seep down to the everyday game, no? 

Consider the incredible outrage over the USGA's difficult-to-rationalize handling of Dustin Johnson and how quickly the public response produced a local rule introduction that will restore some sanity (though it still won't slow down greens). A less cynical, more sensible golfing public should take a bow.

The sport saw minor inroads on the pace-of-play plague and with the greatest single roadblock to progress just a few hours from retirement (woohoo 2!), we may see real reform in 2017. I sense an overall shift in values for the sport: golf is no longer seen by its followers as a sport of inevitable punishment separated by bursts of fun.  It is now expected to be one that aspires to be a lifestyle activity that is fun, sensible and responsible to be part of. Progress!

Obviously this is generational and the infusion of many "millennial" values has meshed nicely with the "artisanal" trends that had already begun to reimagine design and experiential elements that inspire our passion for the sport. However, I can't help but think of 2016 without thinking of the incessant desperation the sport has shown in trying to appeal to a new generation while ignoring an aging demographic that loves the sport. In trying so pathetically to be cool to the kids the sport so often comes off as pathetic to the kids. If there's one thing we know about millennials, it's that we don't know what they really like. But they have shown a love for pursuits with soul, timelessness and some backbone. Golf should act more comfortable in its shoes.

Ultimately the genius of golf is that it can be played and loved by people of all generations. Probably never a huge audience, but one that spans generations. So perhaps the potential for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to duel one more time with a nice mix of young guns and veteran sticks joining the fight, a microcosm of this cross-generational meeting of minds will calm some of this desperation to get younger or die.

On that note...

If you need your memory refreshed, here are GolfChannel.com's newsmakers, with of course, that passing of Arnold Palmer in the top spot. We lost many others in '16 as Cliff Schrock notes at GolfDigest.com, but it was Palmer's death that will forever define the year.

Randall Mell steps back from the raw emotion of the initial coverage to consider what Palmer's passing means to the game. Brandel Chamblee also weighed in with this piece.

Jeff Babineau covered many topics in his year-end Golfweek.com thoughts, including Palmer's funeral. And GolfChannel.com's Mercer Baggs left the service feeling upbeat, thanks in part to the eulogy by Sam Saunders.

Doug Ferguson uses up his notes that weren't technically newsworthy, just entertaining. And while this Wayne Gretzky item is the best, the theme here is Palmer and he included this one:

The day after the U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer drove his cart to the back entrance of his office in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

It had been a rough year. Palmer declined to a do his news conference or a TV interview at Bay Hill, instead taping an interview for the NBC telecast. For the first time, he did not hit a ceremonial tee shot at the start of the Masters the following month.

But he was sharp on this day. Dustin Johnson had won the U.S. Open, but only after playing the final seven holes not knowing if the USGA was going to penalize him one shot for his ball moving on the fifth green.

"What did you think of the Open?" Palmer said.

"Interesting," came the fence-sitting reply.

Palmer grinned and, as always, got straight to the point.

"The USGA really (messed) this one up, didn't they?" he said.

Beth Ann Baldry filed her favorite memories from a year on the road covering amateur and women's golf, with the NCAA's in Eugene still resonating strongly. For Mell, Se Ri Pak's emotional retirement cameo was the memory he won't soon forget.

Off the course, the equipment and business side proved fascinating, with more news soon on the way for 2017. David Dusek at Golfweek.com summed it up this way:

Where would you start in a year that included Jordan Spieth cracking the face of his driver on the eve of the Masters, Adidas announcing that it wants to sell TaylorMade, Adams and Ashworth and the USGA and R&A reporting that they don’t feel driving distance is a problem in professional golf?

Which brings us back to the proverbial question that inspired the start of this website 13 years ago and saw it morph into a blog 11 years ago. Will 2017 be the year anything is done? Probably not. But I'm encouraged enough by too many other big picture trends to never rule out some action. Shoot, we might even see a slow play penalty on the West Coast swing. Strap, it's going to be a wild year ahead.

Until then, Happy New Year,
Geoff

Peter Willett Finally Has Answers About Brother Danny

The brother of Masters Champion Danny Willett, who rose to fame thanks to his Masters final round Tweets, has finally got answers to the questions he's gotten on nearly every interview given.

Regarding "Did you ever think he could win The Masters?" Writing in The Telegraph:

2. Did you ever think he could win The Masters?


No – I never thought he’d win The Masters. I never thought he’d become a professional golfer. I thought he would end up selling plus-fours

 

Danny Willett Says He Hasn't Heard From "Old Queenie"

Michael Vaughn talks to Masters Champion Danny Willett, who has been off the golfing world's radar for nearly a month since winning Green Jacket.

Besides adding a little more perspective since the win, Willett tells The Telegraph about not wanting others to try on the jacket and who he's heard from. This might have dented his short term knighthood prospects...

“But there’s been lots of nice stuff. The Prime Minister sent me a letter which was cool. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer sent me letters and so did John Jacobs.”

Have you had one from Barack Obama? “No, I've not heard from the President of America yet - nor old Queenie. Still waiting for that one, bless her.”

Johnny On Cue: Jordan's Bent Left Elbow Needs Work

Unaware of a comment Jordan Spieth's instructor made a few years ago predicting analysts like Johnny Miller would criticize his pupil's swing, Johnny mentioned during a Players Championship conference call seeing more of the bent left elbow at impact in 2016.

John Strege with both Miller's critique and instructor Cameron McCormick's prescient prediction.

“He has a tendency with that bent left elbow to come down with the face open,” Miller said in a teleconference call in advance of the Players Championship next week. “He has been doing it quite a bit this year. He really did it [at the Masters]. That was an amazing miss in the water and an amazing fat shot in the water.

“I’m looking forward to seeing if he and his teacher address that bent left arm. It seems like it’s more bent at impact and after impact than last year. It will be interesting to see if we see a little swing change to eliminate that shot to the right.”

Legends Chime In On The Benefits Of Jordan's Masters Loss

Adam Schupak is reporting from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf kicking off Friday and talks to a nice spread of the champions in attendance.

But as always, it's Jack Nicklaus' thoughts on Jordan Spieth's Masters loss that are the most copy-and-paste worthy, including his assertion that the 2016 outcome might be good for Spieth. 

“What I mean by that is that he’s 22 years old. To win a Masters twice at 22 years old, that puts him right at the top of everything. He’s got a long future in front of him. He’s a very talented young man, he’s a nice young man, he’s very focused. Winning it twice might take away some of that focus is exactly what I said to you about if I had won the U.S. Open when I was an amateur in 1960, I might not have continued to work because I felt like I’d be scratching my head out here (spreading his arms far apart to signal he’d get a big head).”

So there's that. And this about the 12th hole mistaken line.

Noting that his heart went out to Spieth, Nicklaus continued, “I know that he knows he should never have hit the ball to the right of the bunker. I don’t care what kind of swing you put on it on 12, it just can’t happen."

Why Is Jordan Spieth's Loss Still Resonating?

I was minding my own business today but sporting a Masters-logoed hat, prompting an unexpected conversation about Jordan Spieth blowing the 2016 Masters. Little did this soul know that just hours before Gary Williams and I discussed how the topic won't go away.

Obviously anytime an elite player blows a chance to win a major, it's news. But the outpouring, concern and downright sympathy is kind of surprising since Spieth already owns one Green Jacket. Some of it speaks to his rise to a level beyond elite golfer and into global athletic icon.

Yet it seems like concern for his well-being following this Masters has reached Norman/Masters or Mickelson/USOpen levels of sadness for Spieth's plight. But as Gary and I discussed, he already has one and seems destined to contend there annually, making it hard to feel too much sadness.

Jim McCabe talked to players at Harbour Town who were having similar conversations about the final nine struggles and they were taking sides in a "should have" vs. "could have" won debate.

It will go down as a “should have” tournament, Geoff Ogilvy said. Even though it was three days later, Ogilvy was still processing the events of the final round of the 2016 Masters. He did not play this year, but he watched all of Saturday and Sunday and like any other fan, Ogilvy was stunned at what happened at the start of the back nine — a bogey at 10, a bogey at 11, then two balls in the water and a quadruple-bogey 7 at the 12th.

Ogilvy could interpret things differently than most fans because as a guy who plays at the top of the game he knew Spieth was struggling with his game. “I think he has to take that out (of the week), that I can lead a major by five with nine to play with not even remotely close to my best.”

But Ogilvy concedes that the bottom line for Spieth is this: “Because I got five in front, I should have finished it.”

Even Danny Willett's Instructor Thought The Masters Was Over

Granted, Mike Walker had an early flight the next day, had delayed his honeymoon to help Danny Willett prepare and couldn't do anything from home.

Still, as James Corrigan writes in a lengthy Telegraph piece, the instructor to Danny Willett (along with the legendary Pete Cowan) turned off the telly and prepared to sleep. That was after Jordan Spieth had birdied four holes in a row.

“I actually went to bed at 9.30pm when Jordan birdied nine to go five clear, thinking that was it,” Walker said. “But then an hour later my phone went mad. I turned on the TV and Spieth was just finishing off his [quadruple bogey] seven on the 12th. Danny was leading and I was like ‘wow’.”

What followed next is already enshrined in golfing folklore. “I had to have a few beers and then Liz [Walker’s wife] cracked open the Prosecco. Even after all that, I couldn’t get to sleep. So much stuff was going through my head. I didn’t hear the alarm. I spoke to Dan about 9am UK time, which was 4am over there and he was still going strong. We were both in a state of shock.”

The story goes on to look at how Walker and Cowan work with the clients they share and the lift this has given UK elite golfers like Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Jordan Spieth Did Not Cause Under Armour's Stock To Tank

Several stories (like this one) coupled Jordan Spieth's Masters loss with an analyst report as the cause of an early week plunge in Under Armour shares.

But the Baltimore Sun's Christopher Dinsmore says the plunge was all about a Morgan Stanley analysis that affirmed an "underweight" rating on the UA stock.

Morgan Stanley analyst Jay Sole, who follows Under Armour, reportedly issued a downbeat report this weekend that said he is worried about weakening demand for women's apparel and running shoes and affirmed his "underweight" rating on the company's stock.

He called Under Armour's growth in running shoes "unsustainable" and, coupled with slowing sales to women, will result in an earnings miss in the near future.

Under Armour reports first quarter results on April 21.

"We think a large part of the issue is UA is fully penetrated in its traditional sporting goods channel and perhaps more importantly, the industry is experiencing a slowdown," explained Sole, according to this report on Benzinga.

Michael Greller On The 2016 Masters Loss

Jordan Spieth looper Michael Greller took to Facebook to thank people for the sympathy messages and to reiterate that he and his man will be better off for the 2016 Masters. It's worth a read just to see a caddie put together such lucid thoughts in writing.

The best way to read this is by clicking on the link, then click on each image of the posting.

 

 

A Few Final Masters Reads, Photos And Videos

Instead of a bunch of random posts, some random items to put a bow on the gift that was the 80th Masters...

--Danny Willett went to bed about 6 and got up soon after and went for a jog around 9:30 am Monday. Oh, and Buford T. Justice and friends were called out to the house due to a noisy party the night before. Tim Rosaforte with a few Morning Drive notes on the winner.

--According to this Irish Mirror story, Sir Alex Ferguson was among the revelers waking up the neighbors. This ESPN staff item says Ferguson gave Willett great advice, but Ferguson bet on Jordan Spieth.

--Willett ten percenter Chubby Chandler tells RTE Sport many things about his client, including Chubby's view that Willett can play just about any course, wants to be world No. 1, has a bad back on occasion that slowed his progression to a major title and works hard in the gym.

--Willett's Sunday conversation with Todd Lewis of Golf Channel:

--Darren Clarke is feeling a lot better about his team after Masters week.

--Marty Hackel and Alex Holmes with the best and worst player fashion.

--Scott Michaux found the Masters unforgettable in many ways and issues his annual post-toonamint Birdies, Pars and Bogeys.

--Some tremendous images from Golf Digest's team, including J.D. Cuban, Dom Furore, Nick Laham, and Donald Miralle.

And nice catch by Joel Beall to see that Nissan heard about Jim Nantz pressing Smylie Kaufman in Hardinesque fashion on his 2008 Murano and offering a new model free.

Masters Ratings: CBS Down A Bit, And Those Live From #'s...

SportsMediaWatch.com reports an 8.5 overnight rating for CBS's Sunday Masters 2016 coverage, down 12% from last year (9.6) and up 9% from 2014 (7.8).

While it's the fourth-lowest for final round coverage of the past two decades, there was no Tiger and as Matt Yoder suggests at Awful Announcing the decline isn't that significant.

A more eye-opening set of numbers involves Golf Channel's Live From coverage leading up to the CBS weekend telecast. As already noted, the weekday Live From coverage nearly doubled ESPN, and the weekend numbers were shockingly good.

Saturday's Golf Channel numbers went like this in terms of average number of viewers, starting with the 8-9 am ET Morning Drive (156k avg.), followed by the Live From 9-10 am ET window and ending with the 2-3 pm ET window looking like this: 334k, 616k, 768k, 947k, 1.091m, 1.118m.

Sunday's numbers were just as strong in average viewers, starting with Morning Drive at 8 am with a 151k average, followed by Live From at 9 am to 2 pm with hourly averages looking like this: 280k, 288k, 597k, 879k, 1.037m.

Sunday's Life From following the CBS telecast drew a 294,000 average audience, showing once again how much viewers value the lead-in coverage over recaps, even when the lead-in coverage is on a different network.

Numbers were not available for CBS Sports Network's Masters On The Range coverage.

Spieth Reads: Some Of The Reactions To His 2016 Masters

I'm battling some balky wi-fi at 34,000 feet, but got to read some of the reporting and commentary related to Jordan Spieth's 2016 Masters meltdown.

Brian Wacker at PGATour.com with a full rundown of the day for Spiethphiles and includes some post-green jacket ceremony color, including this:

A short while later, Spieth emerged from the Champions' Locker Room and onto the balcony that wraps around the front of the building before turning the corner to go down the stairs, toward the nearby parking lot and into the awaiting silver Mercedes SUV courtesy car, but not before offering one, final thought that best summed up what he was feeling.

“They just told me I can’t take my Green Jacket with me,” said Spieth, hoping the attempt at humor would dull the pain.

Phil Casey quotes Nick Faldo, who offered his condolensces to Spieth on the way to the parking lot, and who says Spieth will be scarred by the day.

"What happened to Jordan it was so sudden, just bam. It was 10 minutes of golf. That's the harshness of it."

Ian O'Connor at ESPN.com with some behind-the-scenes sights and sounds along with what Spieth's loss deprived the 22-year-old of in the eyes of history.

Spieth was going to become the youngest player in the Masters era to have claimed three majors. He was going to become the game's first back-to-back, wire-to-wire major winner. He was going to win a second Masters in his third appearance after it took Tiger Woods seven appearances to win his second, and after it took Jack Nicklaus and Palmer six appearances to win their second.

At 22, Spieth was going to match the number of green jackets won by Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson. He was going to join Woods, Nicklaus and Faldo as the only players to win two consecutive Masters, and he was going to become the first Masters champion since World War II to have overcome at least three double-bogeys.

Gary Williams and I discussed on Morning Drive how it's not quite as awful as some may think if Spieth can put the week into the proper perspective. After he's snapped a few clubs over the knee and dragged his golf bag tied to the wing of his jet ride home.

Ryan Lavner at GolfChannel.com with some of the range scenes where it was apparent Spieth was battling something early in a day where he arrived three hours before his tee time.

Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com notes the many parallels with the 1996 Masters.

Michael Bamberger on the shame and shock of it all.

Yes, all this is far, far easier said than done. But he’s the best golfer in the world and all he needed to do was this: hood that 9-iron a hair, to give his ball a better chance of holding its line through the wind and, most significantly, take the water out of play. That’s the first rule on 12, as Spieth well knows. Even if he made a bogey from the back bunker, or a three-putt bogey for that matter, he still had the two par-5s left, and he’s likely to play them in one or two under.

What Jordan Spieth did was a shocker and it will be discussed for the rest of his life. If he wins seven career majors, the obits will say he might have had an eighth. If he wins 17, the same. What he needs to do now, of course, is win that third one quickly. Here comes the broken record: easier said than done.

First World Files: The Technology Gap At Augusta National

I'm feeling even better about the case made in today's Golf World about the increasingly problematic technology gap at Augusta National after running into some fine first-time patrons at the airport.

The inability to access cell phones during the Masters is indeed the firstidiest of first world problems, but as I explain, the dearth of information available to patrons is a glaring problem given (A) an increasingly connected world (B) only manual scoreboards and no standard bearers, and (C) the mission statement of Bobby Jones to provide an optimum spectating experience.

The feedback in two very fun random chats with four people, all first time Masters attendees, was the same: everything lived up to expectations until Sunday afternoon when trying to follow the tournament as the outcome unfolded. The speed of the scoreboards and rapid removal of group scores without updating what a player made, proved the only disappointment for the folks I spoke to. 

Anyway, check out the column if you are inclined to hear about the problems of those who got to be in the grounds for another spectacular Masters.

ShackHouse Episode 4: 2016 Masters In Review

Episode 4 of ShackHouse is live and we cover all things Masters, from the Spieth 12th hole, to Danny Willett to sandwiches to Protracer to oh so much more.
 The show is now on Stitcher!

The Soundcloud page for those so inclined.

The iTunes link to this week's show

The iTunes link to the show page.

A link to the
Callaway Community mentioned where you can interact, learn, get sneak previews and more.

Danny Willett's specs, touched on in the opening.

Our friends at Harry's, who are offering a great promo code mentioned in the show, as is MeUndies. Check them out.

A big thank you for all of the input and support so far and for currently making ShackHouse #2 on iTunes Sports podcast ranking!

Is There Any Chance Willett's Win Is Remembered More?

We know from experience that history remembers the major collapses more than the winners. Even Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion and legend of the modern game is rarely remembered for his impeccable final round 67 twenty years ago when Greg Norman posted 78.

Not that Danny Willett will care today as he wears the green jacket, is reunited with his family and finally gets the respect he deserves after two years of world class golf.

Is there any chance in time that this will ever be remembered for anything but Spieth's 12th hole collapse?

I actually feel there is a glimmer of hope, assuming Willett keeps up the great play and Spieth is able to put in perspective a week that had him clearly the dominant leaderboard figure even with a B- ball-striking game, and continue his elite play. But in a strange way, if the rest of his year is a wipeout because of the 12th hole antics, the perception of this Masters could change even more.

Either way, a great week of entertaining moments and drama, summed nicely here by the Masters.com video team: