Golf Channel analysts dish on the PGA, Kiawah, Tiger, etc.
The Golf Channel released highlights of a media conference call Friday with analysts Frank Nobilo and Brandel Chamblee about next weekís PGA Championship on Kiawah Island.
The call included discussion about the course setup at The Ocean Course, thoughts on Tiger Woodsí chances next week, the current state of Phil Mickelsonís game, Keegan Bradleyís chances of defending his 2011 PGA Championship, their opinions on the anchored putter debate and finally, parity in golf, with 16 major winners in the last 16 major championships.
MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody for hanging on the line. Appreciate it. We are going to be previewing the 2012 PGA Championship with Golf Channel analysts Brandel Chamblee and Frank Nobilo today.
As our viewers of Golf Channel come to expect this whole week coming up, and weíll begin on Monday, weíll provide the most news, analysis and highlights and player interviews on television through our signature show, which we call Live From the PGA Championship.
There are a lot of story lines heading into the last major of 2012 and Frank and Brandel are on the line, happy to share some of their thoughts and opinions with you today. Matter of fact, Frank just recently returned from a visit to the Ocean Course and he has got some interesting thoughts on the setup and the unique challenges that will face the players this coming week.
We can also get into some other hot topics, like long putters or parity in golf or Tigerís last chance to win a major in 2012.
Frank, Iím going to ask you to get us started. Tell us about your visit to the course and what you see as the top stories going into the week and then weíll open it up for Brandel.
FRANK NOBILO: Thanks, Dan. Looking forward to it. I was there on Monday and Tuesday. And I played the first two UBS Warburg Cups, so Iíve played the golf course; Iíve seen it. Iíve actually seen it mature.
And one of the biggest changes which will be talked about is the fairways. The fairways have Seashore paspalum, but the greens for the first time in a major championship have a hybrid of paspalum, itís always OC03, which stands for Ocean Course. Itís sort of looks a little like bermuda, but itís actually fantastic.
So itís new to the guys and the green speeds will be similar to Lytham because itís a links course. Thereís a lot of debate on whether it is a links course, but links is basically land by the sea. Thatís really the biggest similarity between the British links and American links, because with the exception of about three holes, the ball is going to have to be flown through the air.
And when I talked to The PGA of America boys, they said that the course will play just over 7,600 yards. They do have the potential like Whistling Straits to make the course play they could have it 8,000 yards if they wanted to.
And that being said, it has very generous fairways, so Iím expecting to see something similar to what we did see at Whistling Straits where it was Martin Kaymer, Bubba Watson, Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson, even though they did not really have a lot of experience in that situation, the course really did legislate to power. Unless a shorter hitter has an absolute dream day, I just really think that they are just giving away way too much, because itís a big golf course.
And you know, there will be a lot of discussion with the sandy areas. Thereís no bunkers there, but The PGA of America, this is their third event they have run there: The Ryder Cup in Ď91, 2007 Senior PGA, and obviously now. In previous events, they only ever had sandy areas. So this is not just a knee jerk reaction to Whistling Straits. This is something they started all the way back in The Ryder Cup in 1991.
MODERATOR: Brandel, whatís on your mind?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Well, I think golf has gotten a lot less predictable in the last couple of years, for sure, with the debacle that Tiger went through in 2009, late 2009, 2010. Itís opened the game up to a lot of different players, and when you consider just how open the game is now, and then you tie into that the unpredictability of this golf course.
And Iíve also played the golf course a few times, not in competition but Iíve been up there on a few golf trips; and Iím looking forward to Frankís hole previews, even though Iíve played it a few times.
Iím not as familiar with it as some of the other major championship venues, but what I remember is typical of a Pete Dye golf course is itís very intimidating. And it is towards the finish, extremely difficult.
So the combination of the intimidating look of it, just the demands of it towards the finish, the pressure of PGA Championship, a Major Championship, combined with the possibility of some severe weather, and you put all of that together, and thereís a likelihood, and not to bring up a sore spot for Mark Calcavecchia, but thereís a likelihood that we are going to see a meltdown similar to what we saw in the 1991 PGA Championship.
Throughout his career, Mark Calcavecchia was known as a player who could close the deal; who could shoot some unbelievably low scores. And if he were sitting here right now, he would probably say it was the worst shot that he ever hit in pressure.
Talked to Lanny Watkins this morning, and he said, and again, Lanny Watkins is a guy who could close the deal and known for his mental strength. He said after a couple of days at The Ryder Cup on Sunday, he had never felt so mentally exhausted as he felt that week.
So itís a combination of a lot of things all coming to coalesce for one week. So it should be very exciting to watch.
MEDIA QUESTION: Letís go right to it there with Tiger. How do you guys both see Tiger fitting that golf course and the PGA?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Go right ahead, Frank. Youíre more familiar with the golf course.
FRANK NOBILO: A lot is going to depend on the breeze, first of all. At least this golf course gives him a little bit of leeway and itís a big golf course.
If you look where heís won this year, even though it has not obviously been his best year in the major championships, heís at least been able to contend. But if you go back to some of our preview shows at the start of the year, I donít think any of us really thought the first three venues of the year were going to suit him.
Obviously Augusta he still struggled to come to grips with the changes, but thatís been tightened up and taken away some of his advantage.
Olympic, really, was too constraining for him.
And Lytham he tried to do what he did at Hoylake. He was there on Tuesday and while I was filming at the time but the club pros followed him around, I know itís only a practice day, but he could at least leave is out, the driver, now and again. Some holes are 60 yards wide. But the big thing there is the five par 5s. If you can hit the ball 300 yards plus, or actually if you can hit the ball 320 yards, there are a couple with a little downslope that you can catch that, and you can be going in with driver and an iron and other people canít reach.
So I assume we give him a better chance, but you could even see another outsider, too. And again, this is a similar golf course to Whistling Straits. And I agree with the Brandel, I donít care how experienced you are; the last four or five holes, when you turn around at 14 and go back to the clubhouse, the wheels can easily come off.
But, that being said, heís still the only one with three wins. The good thing is that heís been able to prepare, and heís gone there to look at the venue, and that will help him. But I give him a better shot at this than I do the previous three.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: We all watch it, itís a different Tiger Woods that we are watching. Yes, heís the only player on the PGA Tour thatís won three times. When Tiger Woods had made his swing changes in 1998 and 1999, he won eight times. That was obvious evidence that the swing changes were cemented.
In 2003, 2004, he was making swing changes; in 2005, he obviously won the Masters. But he won six times. More obvious evidence that the swing changes were cemented.
You would say three wins, heís on the way to perhaps winning five, six times, and maybe he will. But unlike Ď99 and unlike 2005, heís struggling with his scoring clubs. Heís very unpredictable with his scoring clubs.
Watching him play today, watching him play yesterday, and 50 to 125 yards, heís towards the bottom of this field, 78 players. And heís towards the bottom of the field for the year on the PGA Tour. Thereís so much emphasis on getting the right number at a Pete Dye golf course. Thereís not a whole lot of recovery, with the exception of Hilton Head where that golf course favors certain players.
But no other Pete Dye golf course that I can think of really favors any particular type of player. It just favors a guy that week who is spot on in numbers and who is comfortable, and Tiger Woods has never been comfortable on Pete Dye golf courses.
I just donít think itís a really good match for Tiger Woods.
MEDIA QUESTION: If the wind blows there, is there a possibility of this maybe being one of the hardest majors ever? Is there a possibility of a massacre at Winged Foot kind of thing, or is that over the top?
FRANK NOBILO: No, I donít think itís over the top. The problem is itís American links. And what I say by that is, itís played on links land, but itís played it gets 90, 100 degrees.So you canít have bent or fescue. Thereís only three greens that allow you to run the ball up.
So for example when the wind blows at an Open Championship, you can always go to ground. But a Pete Dye golf course, so many greens are built up that they have to be flown. And, of course, if that wind was to get 30 mile an hour plus, the greens seem to be the same, so thatís not the issue. But if you miss some of these greens, the ball doesnít just finish off the green by a couple of yards. It could be repelled 15 or 20 yards, and then youíre chipping downbreeze.
You could easily get a run of bogeys. You could get on a bogey train there with 30 mile an hour wind that youíll never get off, and then you still have to finish out the golf course with 17 and 18.
I know Johnny was saying, the wind blowing, this could be the hardest course in America. You might say thatís a little hyperbole there, but when the wind blows on an American coastal course when you canít go to ground, itís very difficult.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: You said the fairways, some of them are 50, 60 yards wide, left and right, when you do get to the rough, whatís the rough look like?
FRANK NOBILO: Itís not that bad. You know, the sandy areas, for example, obviously thatís natural and itís beach sand so whether itís a green side, or what would look like a bunker, itís beach sand. But there are areas where thereís some sweet grass and that sticks, and thatís sort of random, even some of the bunkering they leave the sweet grass around it, which gives it a nice look.
Itís a little bit of a lottery where you finish up, but as you were saying, Pete Dye courses are visually very intimidating, and often, the best line is actually where it looks like the trouble is.
And thatís why I think the guys that go there early and actually do a little bit of work beforehand, you start to figure out some of the optical illusions. But to answer your question, the rough is not that bad. Probably Ernie Els or Tiger Woods, two of the best players Iíve ever seen out of the rough, they could probably get a 4 iron out of there.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: My two centsí worth if we would see a massacre at Winged Foot swipe of situation, The PGA of America sets this up. They are golf professionals and there are club professionals in this event. They are cognizant of setting up a golf course that is tough, but fair. Thatís what they are known for. You almost never hear complaints from the players with regard to how The PGA of America sets a golf course up.
So having played this golf course a few times and having watched it on TV, I was fearful of the same thing Johnny Miller was; that if the wind blows, we are going to see carnage.
But then, I arrest those thoughts with the thought that PGA of America is running it, and I think they will do a great job. And it already sounds like per Frankís descriptions, that they have given up generous landing areas so that guys get a little off kilter, they have got some recovery room.
MEDIA QUESTION: Wanted thoughts from both of you on the curious case of Phil Mickelson this year. The great, great round at Pebble, followed by pretty much mediocrity for most of the year, and a real seeming indifference in the majors. Just want to get your thoughts, got some theories on why Phil just has not really fired this year?
FRANK NOBILO: Yeah, Phil is not one to give excuses. But if you look, his weight has gone up and down and I know heís a spokesperson for Enbrel, but as a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer myself, I really think that if you look at his schedule and listen to where heís been: Heís gone to France for a holiday with him and Amy, thereís been more time away from the game this year than ever before. And you know, physically, he just doesnít look 100 percent.
Obviously his game is not sharp. It doesnít look like heís been able to put the time in that he would have liked. I have heard a lot of people say that thatís actually given him the leeway.
But the problem with any form of rheumatoid arthritis, itís not like you feel bad; you can feel good for two days, you can feel good for three days. Itís just hard to get feeling good for four days or five days, which is what is needed to play golf at the highest level for one week.
If you at look at how inconsistent heís been during the course of the year, if I was to have a stab in the dark, and if I asked him the question, I think he would deny it, but actually it sort of looks like it fits the mold of someone thatís actually suffering with the disease.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Yeah, I think Phil Mickelson is reluctant to be completely transparent because it opens himself up to a lot of different questions that he probably wouldnít want to answer. So we are left to fill in the blanks somewhat.
And just looking at the effects of arthritis on your body, and perhaps half of this attributable to arthritis and half of it is attributable to the fact that heís now into his 40s quite a bit. But his clubhead speed over the last three or four years has gone from 120 miles an hour to 119 to 118, and this year, to 116 miles an hour.
And four miles an hour doesnít sound like a lot, but thatís 12, 15 yards off of the tee, which is cumulative throughout a round. And itís just, you know, the clichť: Youíre losing a little bit off your fastball, is applicable here.
Phil loves swinging it hard, hitting it hard, carrying bunkers, and I think heís had to adjust a little bit, to Frankís point, to his body changing, his body not being quite as quick. His putter is better this year, but everything else is just a little bit off, and thatís certainly been evident the last four events where heís WDíd at Memorial, tied for 65th at the U.S., and then missed cut, missed the cut.
Itís a big question mark. And when you add to that that heís seventh on The Ryder Cup list, these next two weeks are huge for Phil. And as we speak, heís making a little bit of a run at Bridgestone, but where heís at right now, I know if heís outside the top eight, Davis Love, obviously, wants Phil Mickelson on that team, but heís going to really handcuff Davis Love a little bit.
MEDIA QUESTION: You make good points about the physical part and maybe the arthritis coming into effect. The other thing Iím curious about with Phil is how much more do you think that Phil has to play for? Obviously the majors are still a big deal to him, but you know, heís got a lot of other things in his life, and Iím just curious how long do you think that he can stay motivated into his 40s, given what heís accomplished, and whatís left to accomplish?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Well, I know that he speaks quite often about trying to complete the career Grand Slam. With the U.S. Open next year at Merion, but two years away from going to Pinehurst, the place where heís had some success; I know that he still believes heís got a chance to win the U.S. Open at 42 years old, and the success that weíve seen; Ray Floyd won the U.S. Open in his 40s, and so many players have had success recently in their 40s.
You would like to think heís still got a another three or four years to compete in major championships, and where thatís where I think thinks interest is keenest, obviously.
Iím with you: Heís won 40 times; heís in the Hall of Fame. How much more does he have to prove to anybody? I think beyond just trying for his own personal goal of winning the career Grand Slam, I think thatís pretty much all that would move the meter in Philís world.
FRANK NOBILO: I think youíre right on the money there, the fact that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, most people would say prematurely, because like most people, you should be at least in your 50s. But more holidays in Europe, more time away from competitive golf; that really does lead itself to either health and/or motivation.
MEDIA QUESTION: Can you talk about Keegan Bradley and his emergence on the PGA Tour over the course of the last year?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Keegan, if you look at his results this year, you would say heís having a bit of a lackluster year, but heís a volcano waiting to erupt. He leads the PGA Tour in the all around statistic. I mean, nobody through the bag is better than this guy. Heís capable of, you know, prodigious tee shots. Heís not afraid to take chances and heís second in the bounceback statistic; itís a statistic that I love to look at for a lot of different reasons. To me it says how mean a guy is, how determined he is, how focused he is when heís dealing with adversity.
I really think this guy has the makings of going on and being a multiple major championship winner. And when you start to look forward to the golf course next week, then you look at somebody who is in complete control of their game and every facet of it, mentally, physically, and has not been taxed thus far in the year in any sort of traumatic way, and you look at a guy like Keegan Bradley; and also, just outside The Ryder Cup at ninth on the list, heís got a lot to play for.
And through thus far at the Bridgestone, he has putted better than anybody at the golf Tournament. So all signs are pointing towards a heck of a finish to 2012 for Keegan Bradley from my perspective.
FRANK NOBILO: I think the other thing you have to add in there, this is his second full season on the regular Tour. Last year, he was at venues he was going to for the first time. So he had tremendous success for someone that was not exposed to all of the venues. You could sort of argue a sophomore slump, but heís still learning to see what his body can take, how many weeks in a row, trying to find the perfect schedule.
If you go back to the start of the year at Riviera, there were five or six weeks where he was playing some marvelous golf where it looked like he was going to win. And maybe he did too many things at the end of last year and ran out a bit of team after that and recharging the batteries now.
Yeah, everybody predicts really good things for Keegan Bradley. His attitude; heís got that X factor that you always look for in a player; the fact that he does already have a major, thatís always precursor to success because no oneís ever going to ask him that question.
I think at the age of, what is it, 26 now, heís just developing. As Brandel was just saying, there are parts of his game that are getting better, but at the moment, itís just not equating to wins.
MEDIA QUESTION: (Inaudible). Curious with the wind at Kiawah, does the PGA have to be a bit sharper this year in the setup than they would normally?
FRANK NOBILO: We have already made by having the type of grass they are putting on the greens, the Seashore paspalum, the first thing I look at, just like Royal Lytham and St. Annes is the speed of the greens. Brandel was talking about a little earlier with The PGA of America, they are well this is not their first rodeo. So they are aware of whatís happened there in the past events that they have run.
Obviously they cannot legislate to Mother Nature, if it really does kick up a storm, and thereís a potential for a hurricane that doesnít look like itís going to hit. You can move a hole location just a couple of feet on one of those greens and you can conceivably change the scoring by you do that to two hole locations, you can easily add a couple of shots to the average score, just because of these greens are built up. Sometimes itís just softening of some hole locations.
That being said, if it happens on the first two days, then one thing that could happen, which is a little bit like Lytham and St. Annes, could be a luck of the draw factor, because itís a two tee start and Lytham was only a one tee start. So the one thing, I donít think anyone really likes, but itís part of the sport, is if you get it to blow one afternoon on the Thursday or Friday and youíre on the wrong side of the draw, then that could be the difference between you being in contention on Sunday and not.
I think the winning score really is irrelevant. Itís just how fair itís going to be. And the way itís set up at the moment, they have done a very good job of trying to get it fair, but fair does not always mean easy.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: From an interest standpoint, there are so many compelling aspects of this golf Tournament besides the fact that itís a major championship; the fact that itís played on links land. As Frank was talking about at the start of this call, links land, where you have to play the ball in the air, is enough to drive Tour players crazy with some of the intimidating looks of shots; thatís another aspect that will drive the players crazy.
You put all of that together, the players like to have control and they like to be in control, and they are going to feel like they are out of control.
There is all of there is the nebulous for catastrophe next week. I mean, just it could give us something we have never seen before. It could give us something we have never seen before next week, and that alone is compelling, with all of the different story The Ryder Cup and Tiger Woods and Europe and Luke Donald and Lee Westwood; you put those in the mix, itís going to be a great watch.
MODERATOR: Do you want to talk about the putter issue thatís going on right now?
FRANK NOBILO: We have a big show about that next week. I donít know if itís the Wednesday show or Wednesday night, yeah, thatís the big thing, on anchor putters.
Nobody sits on the fence with them. Thatís the thing, there are players that use a short one that think they should be banned forever and some guys that use a short putter that donít think it really makes any difference. There are long guys that used it that think they should be banned, a bit like Ernie Els, even though he uses one he thinks it should be banned and other guys saying they could nearly take someone to court over it.
When you look at the Rules of Golf, you just wonder all of those years ago, when they put behind the definition of a stroke, I donít think they realized that they probably would have needed to add verbiage, which means that it canít touch your body in two different places.
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Yeah, you know, my since is that itís going to be ruled illegal, and that youíll have the ... the players will have quite a bit of time to find an alternative method; too much time, in my opinion.
There is precedent; the USGA has spoken to it; the R&A has spoken to the precedent, that allows them to take something that had not previously been outlawed, and outlaw it.
So there are some that say that since itís been legal, itís preposterous to think that they can turn around and make it illegal. Itís not. The USGA and the R&A, I think when the long putter came out, they looked at it as a last ditch effort to keep people that are kind of irrelevant in the game, in the game. They didnít look at it, ever, being a first choice option that would make people at the highest level, better.
And now clearly, they are seeing some one third of the players at the British Open putting with a long putter; one third of the players in the professional ranks putted with a long putter.
So clearly, itís an advantage, and in my opinion, it should be banned. It allows so many of the potential pitfalls of putting to be negated that itís not golf at all in its truest sense at the highest level. It takes a lot of the skill out and the nerve out.
FRANK NOBILO: Just to add to that, the problem is, is that technology, for want of a better word, really, itís graduated to the point now where when you try and grab hold of it and you go, oh, this is too much, everybody assumes that youíre taking something away from the game.
But we have forgot all of the things that have been added and more have been added over the last 40 or 50 years than any other time or period in the game; and itís crept up, because obviously fear of lawsuits, going back to the swing groove issue, itís one thing over the other; itís a knock on effect, and at no stage has the line been drawn in the sand.
I remember 1976, the USGA thought they had the golf ball under control. You can go back to Bobby Jones era, the 20s, where they thought technology was taking over. And the problem is, we continue to add to the game. Golf is a bit like baseball; it was just such a pure bat and ballgame, and look where itís come now; itís a bit more like motor racing, and the problem now is when you threaten to take something away, itís a huge thing.
The problem is, you canít keep making golf courses longer. The cost, even for the amateur, right, the cost of the memberships; because every time you add a couple hundred yards to a golf course, the members have to pay for that and they donít really enjoy it. So, the knock on effect.
And the anchored putter is just one of those things that it looks like it might be a situation where we can push something back in the right direction; where I say we, everybody involved in the game.
But really itís an example of how many things happened to get to this particular point. I donít think anybody when the game was invented ever thought that this was going to be considered a stroke.
MEDIA QUESTION: I just wanted to throw this at you. Does winning a major championship still mean as much as it once did? And I ask that, when you have 16 different guys winning the last 16 majors, itís almost like boxing when you have world champions and 14 different weight classes and different sizes; do you need to win two or three now to be special, or can you still win one and feel special?
BRANDEL CHAMBLEE: Thatís a great question and the answer is, no, winning a Major Championship is not what it used to be. It used to bring about a financial windfall that friends of mine who have won major championships liken to winning the lottery.
But if youíre in this game now, at all, and anywhere on the Money List, youíre making deep seven figures incomes. So itís not the financial windfall that it used to be. Everybody in this game is at the highest level, ridiculously rich.
Iím looking at Luke Donald on the screen here, and heís made $25 million in the last two years without winning a Major Championship, and probably three times off of the golf course; thatís the kind of money that major champions will, well, not that kind of money; but I mean, stupid money is the kind of money that major champions hoped to make.
From an historical standpoint, it still has the same meaning. And we still, when Shawn Micheel walks by, the first thing you think about is the 7 iron he hit to the final green winning the PGA Championship. And when today ham I will son walks by, the first thing you think about is that guy has held the Claret Jug.
From an historical standpoint, absolutely, it still carries the cachť. But there is not such a big dividing line between the haves and the have nots from a financial aspect anymore on the Tour.
FRANK NOBILO: I would actually say itís more now; the fact of winning a major championship, because if you go back to just the 50s, 60s, majors were not the big deal. The Grand Slam was not really considered the big deal.
Nicklaus really helped try and popularize major championships. Obviously thatís what Tiger Woods is chasing right now. And guys realize that it is their meal ticket. People look at Adam Scott not winning, itís cost him about $20 million. Obviously thereís the right person winning the right major; that certainly helps.
But the reason why, to use your boxing analogy, you mention boxers can use different weighted gloves and different types of shoes and head protectors, you name it, whatever, and taking on the opponent early in a fight, then you would have all of these different outcomes.
The thing is, thereís so many players now that can afford to play full time. That was never the case before. Guys that get in there, thereís 30, 40 clubs to choose from, utility clubs, different types of sand irons. People can really start to work out whatís best for them. And it used to be just purely a game of skill, thatís all it was.
Thereís a lot of science into it now and thatís also contributing to this fact of, if we have Tiger Woods dominating the game first of all, and a huge explosion of the game by the manufacturers, because the best players in the world are not playing the clubs that are designed for them; they are playing the clubs that are designed for the average recreational player and have become salesmen for that.
Consequently, you do have sort of a lot of major championships being won by different players. But that doesnít diminish the value of the major championship. It just shows you exactly whatís going on.
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