“Fore” Questions from the Travelers Championship
1. Is Dustin Johnson a Hall of Fame lock?
Some may argue no because he only has one major, a U.S. Open. But 21 wins puts him above greats like Hale Irwin, Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw, Ernie Els, Tom Kite and Fred Couples. He is also just three wins away from matching Gary Player’s PGA Tour win total. So yes, DJ is a Hall of Famer if he were to retire today. But there are a lot more wins in Johnson’s future and likely at least one more major.
Johnson’s win was reassuring to see. The former world number 1 had just one top-5 finish and zero wins in the last year prior to this week’s Travelers Championship. He was able to find his putting this week which has been a letdown for the better part of the season. Now at number 3 in the world, he will look to get his top ranking back from Rory McIlroy as the summer progresses.
2. How concerned is the PGA Tour with the Virus?
On a scale of 1-10, probably about a 13. Commissioner Jay Monahan put extra measures in place on Wednesday to ensure more testing and increased safety for players and caddies, including immediate testing before and after charter flights. But the damage was done with Cameron Champ’s positive test and the withdrawal of Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, and others. Jason Day was concerned he may have had it and played by himself on Saturday, but later tests showed he didn’t have the virus.
There will be more positive tests and withdrawals in the weeks to come. You can count on it. The hope is that it doesn’t spread out of control to the point where the Tour has to consider cancelling play again. It will be interesting to see if The Memorial Tournament moves forward with their plans as the first tournament to allow fans onto the golf course. That may need to be adjusted.
3. Why did Fox lose the U.S. Open?
One of the more surprising stories over the weekend that went unnoticed was Fox giving up its rights to USGA golf tournaments, including the U.S. Open. The honor was given back to NBC who aired the U.S. Open from 1995 until 2014. NBC will immediately take over and air the Championship at Winged Foot in September.
There was no comment on the reasoning for the separation, but many have been unimpressed with Fox’s coverage of the Championship and NBC has only gained more popularity since its merger with The Golf Channel and its addition of David Feherty as an on-course reporter. The first two rounds will move back to ESPN as it did the last time the U.S. Open was on NBC. Yes, that likely means a return of Chris Berman on-air. Get ready for your golf-football analogies again.
4. Who is the Most Underrated Player on Tour right now?
Brendon Todd was quietly going for his third victory of the season, something most every fan did not even know. Unfortunately, Todd melted down on the back-9 and scored a triple bogey on 12 to drop him out of contention. Runner-up Kevin Streelman, another quiet player, has put together a great resume over his career with three wins and an abundance of top-10 finishes.
My vote would probably be Marc Leishman. The 16th ranked player in the world has five PGA Tour wins and over 25 top-5 finishes worldwide. He lost in a playoff at the 2015 Open Championship to Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen and is a permanent fixture on leaderboards nearly every week. Yet he doesn’t get mentioned by many experts when talking about the best players to win a major. He already has a win and three top-5s this season and no one should be surprised if he wins a major this season.
Three Foods For Thought
1. Will Gordon’s Great Story
Will Gordon got a special opportunity and made the best of it. The rookie had to finish in the top-3 to secure his PGA Tour card for the 2020 season. Wouldn’t you know it, he finished in a tie for 3rd with Mackenzie Hughes. Gordon will play this weekend at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. It’s a great story for a kid who dreamed his whole life of getting to the top. Now he just has to hold onto it.
2. NBC is now the king of Golf
Following Fox’s exit from the U.S. Open, NBC will now have rights to the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, the Ryder Cup, The Players Championship, the World Golf Championships, and the PGA Tour playoffs. That tops CBS who has the rights to the Masters and PGA Championship. The best part is with them sharing coverage with ESPN at the U.S. Open is they get the marketing that they missed out while on Fox. Sorry, but no one really watches Fox Sports 1. As much as ESPN ticks me off sometime, they are still the kings when it comes to marketing a sport.
3. Phil Mickelson Can Still Play with the Young Guys
How about that? The man is 50 years old but showed no signs of it this weekend. While Phil had a disappointing weekend and finished T24, he still showed he could contend. He led after 54 holes and really was on the first page of the leaderboard all weekend until the back 9 on Sunday where he collapsed. Still, the Champions Tour is still a long way away for Lefty. He still has some more wins in his future on the PGA Tour.
Two Picks for the Rocket Mortgage Classic
Eventually, he’s going to break through. Six straight tournaments now he’s had a chance to win on the back-9 on Sunday and has finished in the top-10 in each event. If you keep knocking on the door, eventually it’s going to open for you.
Finished T13 here a year ago and is coming off two Top-15 finishes the last couple weeks. Hovland is on that list of young stars along with Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff ready to break out. Expect Hovland to contend on Sunday next week.
One Final Word
Welcome back, Dustin Johnson.