ANONY­MOUS PLAYER SUR­VEY

Bol­stered by the prom­ise of ab­so­lute anonymity, 30 lead­ing pro­fes­sion­als across the Euro­pean and PGA Tours of­fer their views on some of golf’s most press­ing is­sues.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - IN­TER­VIEW JOHN HUGGAN, BRIAN WACKER

Q1. Who will win the most ma­jors in their ca­reer: Dustin, Rory, Jor­dan or Ja­son Day?

At the time of ask­ing this, Dustin had one ma­jor to his name, aged 33. Rory McIl­roy had four at the age of 28, Jor­dan Spi­eth had two at age 23 and Ja­son Day had one, aged 29. To our anony­mous pros, it was a straight choice be­tween two men.

They said...

“When he’s ‘on’, Rory is the best player out there.” “Dustin. When he’s click­ing he’s the most tal­ented all-around player from that group.” “Rory. I think Dustin will win three more and Rory has a long ca­reer ahead of him.”

Q2. Are Keith Pel­ley’s mod­ernising golf ini­tia­tives on the right track, go­ing too far or not go­ing far enough?

Since tak­ing over as Euro­pean Tour CEO in 2015, Keith Pel­ley has wasted lit­tle time in­tro­duc­ing a se­ries of ini­tia­tives de­signed to broaden golf’s ap­peal, par­tic­u­larly among the younger gen­er­a­tions – think shot clocks, blar­ing mu­sic, the whole GolfSixes. The changes will keep com­ing too, be­cause Pel­ley’s view is that he’s in the “en­ter­tain­ment-con­tent busi­ness where golf is but our plat­form”. Our Euro­pean Tour pros fell into two camps...

They said...

“Some­thing had to be done. We were in a rut for too long.” “He’s do­ing fine. The game is stag­nant and we need to get golf out there in front of a big­ger au­di­ence.” “Way too far. The GolfSixes thing was just stupid; ev­ery­one was try­ing way too hard.”

Q3. What needs to hap­pen for you to play more golf in Europe?

This was asked of the PGA Tour stars, most of whom spend their whole year – bar the Open – play­ing PGA Tour cour­ses. We won­dered what it would take for them to fol­low the lead of Pa­trick Reed and ven­ture out into Europe from time to time. Their re­sponse was pre­dictably em­phatic...

Q4. How many times were you drug tested last sea­son?

Ac­cord­ing to the World Anti Dop­ing Agency, golf’s fight against drug use lags be­hind most other sports. In 2015, golf car­ried out the fewest num­ber of drugs tests of all ma­jor sports – just 417 – com­pared with foot­ball (32,362) and ath­let­ics (30,308). The re­sults sug­gest a tale of two tours...

They said...

“Only at the Olympics – a urine test. We should be blood-test­ing too.” “Urine tests are point­less. They can’t even tell you what beer we drank the night be­fore.” “Four times. But none of mine was pos­i­tive.”

They said...

“Three or four times. It’s con­sis­tent year to year.” “Four times, and al­ways when you just took a piss. You’re there for­ever.” “Twice. It’s al­ways after a low score.” “I think three or four. You can see them com­ing from a mile away too.”

Q5. You’re play­ing a Ry­der Cup four­somes you have to win. Who do you want as your play­ing part­ner?

The Ry­der Cup is head­ing to Con­ti­nen­tal Europe for just the sec­ond time in its his­tory. So in anticipation, we asked the pros on both sides the same ques­tion…

Q6. Who’s the great­est player of all time?

Be­tween them, Jack Nick­laus and Tiger Woods have amassed 223 pro­fes­sional wins and 32 ma­jor vic­to­ries, plus enough other as­sorted ac­co­lades to fill a large mu­seum. Some point to the fact that Jack won more ma­jors as ev­i­dence of his su­pe­ri­or­ity, oth­ers to the fact that Woods won his in a more com­pet­i­tive era. The an­swer from both sides of the Pond was pre­dictably split...

They said...

“Jack Nick­laus. The amount of ma­jors he has and the sec­ond­place fin­ishes, 19, is ridicu­lous. Tiger has done a lot but you can’t ar­gue with Jack’s record.” “Any­one from this gen­er­a­tion will say Tiger. No one’s ever been so dom­i­nant.” “Jack Nick­laus. He won 18 ma­jors, the record speaks for it­self.” “Tiger Woods. The skill, ath­leti­cism, tal­ent. He was the whole pack­age.” “Tiger’s peak was bet­ter than Jack’s and he im­pacted the game more from a pop­u­lar­ity stand­point.” “Jack’s num­bers are amaz­ing. 18 ma­jors and 19 sec­onds. That’s just un­be­liev­able.”

“JACK NICK­LAUS IS THE GREAT­EST CHAM­PION, BUT TIGER WOODS WAS THE BEST PLAYER.”

Q7. The R&A and USGA’s claims that driv­ing dis­tance isn’t in­creas­ing: truth or bull­shit?

In Fe­bru­ary this year, in a joint state­ment, the R&A and USGA re­vealed that, ac­cord­ing to their data, driv­ing dis­tances had shown only a “min­i­mal in­crease” on the ma­jor tours be­tween 2003 and 2015. We sus­pected the anony­mous pros would an­swer like so…

They said...

“That’s 101 per cent bull­shit.” “Peo­ple are hit­ting it 360. Come on.” “Bull­shit. Just look at the num­bers.” “It’s bull­shit. The ball is go­ing far­ther than it did 15 years ago.” “Truth. The driv­ing dis­tance if you look at the num­bers hasn’t re­ally gone up.”

Q8. Would you rather hit ev­ery drive 350 yards, hit ev­ery green in reg­u­la­tion or hole ev­ery putt in­side 10 feet?

Does the age-old adage of drive for show and putt for dough still stand up in the mod­ern game, among the new breed of mod­ern pro­fes­sion­als? And what about the bit in-be­tween? We re­ceived a rather re­sound­ing re­sponse...

They said...

“Hole ev­ery putt. I’d make a lot more money.” “If I holed ev­ery 10-footer I’d win ev­ery ma­jor and ev­ery tour­na­ment I play in.” “Hol­ing ev­ery putt is where the money is.” “I’ll take my chances with 350-yard drives in the mod­ern game.” “You can tidy up a lot of shit on the greens.”

Q9. We can guar­an­tee that you win a ma­jor cham­pi­onship. But in or­der to do so an anony­mous ran­dom player would have to miss ev­ery cut in their en­tire ca­reer. Would you take the deal?

The prom­ise of com­plete and ut­ter anonymity al­lowed our shad­owy pros to open up with­out fear of judge­ment or con­dem­na­tion. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t judge or condemn them, how­ever...

They said...

“Ab­so­lutely. To hell with the other guy.” “Yeah, for sure. Out here it’s all about me. I don’t give a shit about any­one else.” “Yeah. Sorry to who­ever it is who’s go­ing to miss ev­ery cut, but I’m tak­ing it.” “Yeah, I would. I mean is there any­one who wouldn’t take that deal?”

Q10. You’re stranded on a desert is­land with one other golfer. Who would you want it to be?

We were just cu­ri­ous. The main replies were pre­dictable and odd...

They said...

“Paige Spi­ranac… for very ob­vi­ous rea­sons.” “San­dra Gal. I mean, have you seen her?” “I’d say Dar­ren Clarke. He’d be good com­pany and he’d have a few tales to tell.” “Boo Week­ley. He knows how to fish so I think we could sur­vive out there.”

Q11. If ab­so­lutely no spon­sor­ship money was in­volved, which equip­ment brand would you want to play?

Just be­cause a player plays a cer­tain equip­ment brand doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean they would be his pre­ferred choice – a large num­ber of ze­roes on a pay cheque can often in­flu­ence their de­ci­sion. When we took money out of the equa­tion, they replied…

They said...

“Tay­lorMade have the best tech­nol­ogy and the best re­search.” “Mizuno make the best irons – by far.” “Ev­ery­one is switch­ing to Tay­lorMade so they must be good.”

Q12. Which golf ball would you play if no spon­sor­ship money was in­volved?

The ball mar­ket has long been dom­i­nated on the two tours by one brand. When we took money out of the equa­tion, that brand still dom­i­nated...

They said...

“Easy. Titleist is the best ball.” “The new Tay­lorMade’s the best I’ve hit.” “Titleist. It’s the best ball out there.” “I wouldn’t change my Z-Star for ev­ery dol­lar in the world.”

Q13. You’re blind­folded and asked to hit all the ma­jor brands’ golf balls. Could you hon­estly tell the dif­fer­ence?

While Ques­tion 12 told us which ball most pro­fes­sional golfers pre­fer to play, this ques­tion made us won­der how much they re­ally know...

They said...

“I could tell on the short game. But I’m not sure I could on full shots.” “For sure. It’s that ob­vi­ous from one ball to an­other es­pe­cially with a putter. I can just feel it o… the face.” “Some feel clunky and tough, oth­ers are softer and mal­leable.” “Yes. You can feel the di…er­ence es­pe­cially with woods.” “A few I could, es­pe­cially the ones that are harder. The Nike ball was click­ier.” “I could iden­tify the re­ally crap ones – with cheaper balls, you can re­ally tell.”

Q14. You’re out for din­ner. Which player’s least likely to pick up the tab?

You can tell a lot about a man’s char­ac­ter by his will­ing­ness to take care of the bill at the end of a meal. The man most likely to pay, they told us, was ei­ther Rickie Fowler or Dar­ren Clarke – the lat­ter “clearly has more money than sense”. What we re­ally wanted to know, though, was who is least likely to pay the bill? In all hon­esty, we weren’t very sur­prised that it turned out to be...

Q15. The 16th at TPC Scotts­dale: does golf need more of this or is one al­ready too many?

The par-3 16th hole on the Sta­dium Course is golf’s party hole, flanked on all sides by 20,000 rowdy Amer­i­cans work­ing them­selves into a foam­ing frenzy. To grow the game’s ap­peal, we asked: does golf need more of this? They replied as fol­lows…

Q16. If you could only play one course for the rest of your days, where are you play­ing?

There were, at the last count, 34,011 golf cour­ses on the planet. When we asked the pro­fes­sion­als to pick a favourite, they replied…

Q17. Will Rory win the Mas­ters and com­plete a ca­reer grand slam?

Stand­ing on the edge of the ca­reer grand slam since his PGA Cham­pi­onship win in 2014, com­plet­ing the set with the Mas­ters seemed a case of when and not if for Rory McIl­roy. But the longer things go on, the more doubts be­gin to creep in. How­ever, his col­leagues are in no doubt here. They an­swered...

Q18. What one thing would you change about golf – and why?

The topic of con­ver­sa­tion in club­houses the world over, when we opened it up to the ex­alted pro­fes­sion­als they said...

They said...

“14 holes is enough.” “We need shot penal­ties. Money doesn’t mat­ter to most guys.” “Dis­tance – it’s pa­thetic the way shot­mak­ing has gone out of the game.” “It’s ob­vi­ous the ball goes way too far.”

Q19. Tokyo 2020: big goal, nice if it hap­pens or couldn’t care less?

In the run-up to the Rio Olympics of 2016, a steady stream of big names dropped out, cit­ing the Zika Virus, sched­ul­ing is­sues or just that, in all hon­esty, Olympic golf just didn’t chart high on their list of pri­or­i­ties. When Justin Rose ac­tu­ally won gold in Rio, per­cep­tions of Olympic golf ap­peared to be chang­ing. Or did they?

They said...

“Huge goal. It looked re­ally cool on TV.” “It’s a waste of time. Any ‘legacy’ has al­ready dis­ap­peared.” “Golf is sim­ply not an Olympic sport.” “Guys who didn’t go will go next time.” “I’m fo­cused on play­ing well in ma­jors.”

Q20. Who would you least like to face in a street fight – and why?

We were just won­der­ing...

They said...

“Ernie would break you in two.” “From the sto­ries I’ve heard, if Ernie gets a cou­ple of pops in him you def­i­nitely don’t want to get into a fight with him.” “Look at how big Ernie is and how big his mitts are!” “Ernie’s a big guy. And Vi­jay. He seems like he would fight dirty.” “Dustin looks like he’s from a rough part of town.”

Q21. Your drive’s fly­ing off to­wards the gal­leries. Are you shout­ing fore? And if not, why not?

Fi­nally, we won­dered where the mod­ern pro stands on the an­cient tra­di­tion of cry­ing “fore!” when a shot goes awry. Put it this way, you’re safer watch­ing the Euro­pean Tour than the PGA...

They said...

“Those who don’t shout should be li­able to get sued.” “There’s a dis­claimer on the ticket, so some guys don’t shout.” “Those who don’t shout are nearly al­ways stupid Amer­i­cans.”

They said...

“I’ll point. They’re not go­ing to hear you 300 yards away.” “I for­get to yell most of the times and just end up point­ing.” “Not usu­ally. It’s not like they’re go­ing to hear you. I might point or some­thing.”

“Fewer events over here, a shorter sea­son. It’d be nice if it was closer too.” “Purses are good enough now but it would take job se­cu­rity over here first.” “Not gonna hap­pen. We play for more money over here and there’s no FedEx Cup points and it’s eas­ier travel. Un­less they start do­ing that it’s not hap­pen­ing.” “It would have to be closer so when the At­lantic Ocean shrinks maybe I will.” “Noth­ing. There’s too much money at stake over here.” “Bet­ter food. Closer to home. And an in­vi­ta­tion.”

HE’S GONE TOO FAR – 10% HE’S NOT GONE FAR ENOUGH – 0%

RORY MCIL­ROY 77%

DUSTIN JOHN­SON 23%

HE’S ON RIGHT TRACK 90%

TIGER 42% JACK 58%

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