A week ago, the PGA Tour season – the one that started the same week Tom Brady played his first regular-season NFL game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last September – reached its unofficial midpoint.
Making the turn, so to speak.
Professional golf has thrived through the pandemic and with the hopefulness that has begun to sprout like spring flowers and pine pollen, even better days appear to be ahead.
Four major championships, the Olympics, the FedEx Cup playoffs with the Ryder Cup as an encore all are part of the second half of the show.
The refrain from the Masters song may be playing on a loop in your head these days and suddenly we know who Antoine Rozner is.
Before we get too far down the road, it’s worth a look at what has happened so far. There’s something to the notion of knowing where you’ve been to help you know where you’re going. Here’s a quick inventory of the season to this point:
OPPOSITES ATTRACT: Could there be two more different personalities than Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau?
DJ is uniquely cool, from the walk to the talk. DeChambeau is a creation of an entirely different kind, sparking with brains, bravado and bash.
They define the modern era with their power but what is undervalued is how good they are through the bag and, put simply, as golfers. They play a game that not everyone on tour does. Some guys operate from point to point, punching this button for that swing. Johnson and DeChambeau do more than that.
Consider this: It’s possible for each of them to win the same major twice in the same season. It’s a quirk of the times, for sure, but imagine winning two Masters in six months. It might happen which would mean more sandwiches for everyone, compliments of DJ.
THE SPIETH SHOW RETURNS: In terms of entertainment value, Jordan Spieth is golf’s version of Jamie Foxx, wildly versatile and magnetic.
Lost in the wilderness for too long, Spieth is back to being Jordan again, a walking fireworks show. The 61 he shot on Saturday in Phoenix was mesmerizing.
All that’s missing now is a victory. They already know his jacket size at Augusta National.
THE TABLOID STUFF: Golf isn’t immune from controversy and while it might not be material worthy of supermarket tabloids – as far as we know Harry and Meghan aren’t golfers – this season has had its moments.
Patrick Reed is Kanye West in soft spikes, at least in the way attention seems to come his way. Reed’s embedded ball issue at the Farmers Insurance Open – where physics, mud, super slo-mo video replay, sticking a finger in a hole and peering into a man’s soul – were all part of a good stew.
Justin Thomas wasn’t so fortunate after he said something to himself he should not have said and microphones caught it. Thomas has paid a steep penalty while saying and doing all the right things since and his victory at the Players Championship put the focus back on his golf.
Reed, as he can do, won the tournament and seemed totally unfazed by the storm around him.
MASHED POTATOES GUY IS BACK: Leave it to Florida to bring things closer to the old normal. At the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship thousands of spectators were on site, which was a good thing though it still felt a little too close for comfort at times.
Two scenes brought it home:
1. A group of grown men bellowing in unison like an off-key chorus after a DeChambeau tee shot, then chortling at their effort. (They were not the Fisherman’s Friends, which is a movie I heartily endorse if you haven’t seen it).
2. Seeing an overserved patron being escorted off the premises at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course despite the patient efforts of multiple law enforcement types who did their best to help him out. The offending patron no doubt regretted his choices quickly but there’s no denying how much better it is to have fans on site again.
AS THE RORY TURNS: Because he’s Rory McIlroy – he is one of the very best things about a game overstuffed with blessings – what he says and how he plays matters.
Pre-pandemic it seemed no one could beat him. Since then, meh.
He hasn’t been able to trust where the ball is going which is like not trusting the steering in a fast car. When he admitted that he got in trouble by chasing speed à la DeChambeau it was McIlroy at his transparent best, confessing what many players would deny.
He has gone to work with Pete Cowen now, which is a bit like hiring Stephen Spielberg to make a movie for you, so there is reason for optimism.
BONES, THE SEQUEL: Listening to Jim “Bones” Mackay on golf telecasts is enlightening.
Now John Wood, another former tour caddie, is making a good thing better. Like Mackay, Wood knows the game, the feelings, the moments and the players. The gift is being able to share the knowledge in a concise way and, like Mackay, Wood does that.
Good caddies tell us what we need to know. They excel at it.
SPEAKING OF BONES: Brooks Koepka’s latest knee issue, which involves a dislocated kneecap and ligament damage, is disheartening. Just when Koepka was back to being Koepka – his tournament-winning pitch-in at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is among the best shots this season – he’s back to posting pictures of his recovery.
Healthy, Koepka would be on the short list to top picks at Augusta a week from now. Instead, we’re left to wonder when we’ll see him again. He knows this but it’s worth a reminder – no one gets in trouble for coming back too late in their recovery.
TIGER: As we say in the south, bless his heart.
Top: Could there be any two more different personalities than Dustin Johnson (left) and Bryson DeChambeau?