I love watching golf in prime time, so I really enjoy the two-week Hawaii swing that starts with the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui, followed by the Sony Open in Oahu.
The Sentry is one of my favorites as the tournament has all the tournament winners from the previous year playing on one of the most beautiful venues of the year – Kapalua.
The course plays very well on TV and as it ends each day when it’s dark in California you can feel transported to the island as the event unfolds.
This year while enjoying the event – even my wife was into the playoff between eventual winner Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele – I started thinking about what this year might hold for all of us golf fans.
Here are my random thoughts on the upcoming season.
*It will be a big year for golf in Northern California. Not only do we have the AT&T February 6-9 on the Monterey Peninsula and the Safeway Open in the fall at the Silverado Resort in Napa, but we a major – The PGA – May 14-17 at Harding Park in San Francisco.
*The AT&T will always be a popular event if the weather is nice, as winter in that area is often the best time of year to visit. I have spent many a February day in a short sleeves and shorts while cruising Pebble Beach and watching some golf. One concern I have about the tournament is that it is becoming too corporate and is losing some star power. I will always make the trip down for the tournament, but I am concerned about the general public not wanting to see a CEO of a Fortune 500 company playing in lieu of a celebrity. I know golf tournaments are all about sponsorship and the Monterey Peninsula is a wonderful organization that does great things, but please don’t forget about what made this tournament great.
*I have written about this year the last few years, but please try to make the Safeway Open one of your weekend plans for the year. These people know how-to put-on fan friendly event and it’s affordable. Can’t wait to see this year’s concert lineup and the field figures to continue to get better and better. There’s a lot to do in the fall, but this is a must-see event.
*It will be interesting to see how the Barracuda Championships will play at Old Greenwood in Truckee. Up against a WGC event as usual, it should still draw a decent field to one of my favorite courses. It’s walk-able and should be spectator friendly. I may make a trip up this year.
*Harding Park will be a great test of golf for the PGA. It will be interesting to see the course set-up on a track that already demands accuracy off the tee. Shrink the fairways, grow the rough, make the greens quick, and this will be a fun one for the best players in the world.
*The PGA will be the second major of the season following the Masters. The U.S. Open is set for June 18-21 at Winged Foot and The (British) Open Championship is July 16-19 at Royal St. George’s in England.
*In addition to the major tournaments, don’t forget the Olympics are taking place this year with golf set for July 30-August 2. Will be interesting to see who takes part for the United States. Which country will Rory play for?
*So, who wins the majors this year? I must go with Tiger Woods taking the Masters – a horse for a course if there ever has been one; Xander Schauffele in the PGA; Brooks Koepka in the U.S. Open again; and Rory McIlroy at The Open.
*Schauffele is going to be the next big popular player on the Tour. There’s plenty to like about this kid starting with his game, but he’s bigger than that. In the final round at the Sentry, he went into the rough to help try to find the lost ball of Justin Thomas. That alone tells you about the character of the person. That was not little rough and there he was on the final hole of regulation trying to help find a competitor’s ball. Pure class. I was already a fan and now even more so.
*What about Patrick Reed? Honestly, I like the kid. Not a fan of some of things he has done, but what a lightning rod for the sport. He’s got as good as game as any on the Tour and just needs to hold it together mentally to go big. I can understand the people that don’t like him, but yelling “cheater” as he puts in the playoff in Hawaii was uncalled for and classless. The heckling he received during the Presidents Cup was different it seemed to fuel him throughout the event. At least he hasn’t stiffed his caddy.
*I don’t think it will happen this year, but I would love to see Rickie Fowler win a major. This guy is nothing but great for golf and has grown into arguably the most likable guy – both with the fans and they players – on the Tour. He just seems to get in his own way when he is in contention but look out if he puts together four rounds in a major. I think his game translates to any course and his putting always will make him a threat.
*What golf needs this year: Jordan Spieth to make a comeback and win a tournament this year; Tiger to play more events – face it, he moves the needle and a rivalry with any of the top players, especially Koepka, would be monstrous; Rory to continue to be big time. He started as a brash youngster from the other side of the pond but has grown into one of the most well liked and respected players in the game; One final run at glory from Phil Mickelson – who wouldn’t want to see that; Finally, not having Joe Buck call a golf tournament. The only thing worse would be having the Monday Night Football do golf.
By Dennis Miller