Another year is upon us and we asked a team of Compleat Golfer influencers to discuss the next 12 months. This is what they had to say …
The influencers this year consisted of Gary Lemke (Compleat Golfer editor), Wade Pretorius (Compleat Golfer digital editor), Dale Hayes (commentator and businessman) and Christopher Bentley (CEO, Royal Johannesburg and Kensington).
We went down this road in 2019. Will Tiger Woods add to his Major tally of 15 in 2020?
GL: I said no and have never been so stoked to be proved wrong. But, another year older, more wear and tear, I can’t see lightning striking twice.
WP: I also said no last year with the proviso that The Masters was his best bet. It’s incredibly hard to defend the Green Jacket so I will stick with my 2018 answer and say he will not be adding to his Major haul.
DH: No, I don’t think so. He’s getting older, plus he can’t practise as hard as the younger players.
CB: Coming off a year in which Woods proved he could still win Majors, I have to say absolutely, why not? But I don’t believe he’s got enough to catch Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will play an exhibition tennis match in South Africa in February. If you could have two golfers in a matchplay exhibition in this country, who would they be?
GL: Tiger Woods and AN Other. Having said that, Tiger vs Rory, provided they played competitively and not a contrived Tiger vs Phil ‘The Match’.
WP: A battle of the biceps between Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson would be great but nothing would draw out a crowd like Rory vs Rickie. Mic them up and play it somewhere central like Royal Johannesburg and Kensington so fans can flock there (note: Tiger was ruled out because there’s no chance of getting him to play in SA again).
DH: I would like to see Koepka and McIlroy.
CB: The first thought that comes to mind is who are the most passionate and exciting Ryder Cup players to watch? Maybe Patrick Reed vs Ian Poulter? That would be pretty cool. We could also wind back the years and have two of the best ball strikers of all time in Nick Price vs Jose Maria Olazabal going head to head. The options offer endless entertainment, but it’s all about what would draw a big golfing crowd.
Name one change you think would increase enjoyment when watching golf on TV.
GL: With technology changing so rapidly, there are already so many good things for the TV viewer. But I’d attach a microphone to the caddies. It could make for some fascinating interaction. F1 does it brilliantly with conversations between mechanics and drivers.
WP: I enjoy how the European Tour has added in-game player interviews. It doesn’t work in rugby but it does add tremendous value in golf. I also like Thomas Bjorn’s commentary. Take that to the PGA Tour and we would have an even better product. Imagine getting Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott or Jim Furyk in the booth for 30 minutes as they describe Justin Thomas or Dustin Johnson’s game.
DH: Get rid of the continuity announcer on the American broadcast. He’s the voice we hear when their channels go to ad breaks.
CB: I think we have all been waiting for the day when broadcasters will let you watch any player in real time, at any point in any round, from their opening tee shot to their last putt on 18.
Are there any rule changes that came into effect in 2019 that either make no sense to you, or that you are unable to get used to?
GL: Putting with the flagstick in doesn’t feel right. I know it’s optional but for me it takes away the visual thrill of sinking that monster putt, and the closer ones feel like it’s cheating.
WP: A year later and people are still caught dropping the ball from shoulder height. The knee-high drop still looks ridiculous.
DH: Although I understand and like the idea of leaving the pin in, it is still strange to see it happening. I like the new rules because they do speed up play and I’d like to see more changes that do the same and also simplify
CB: Dropping from the knee! I don’t really understand it. What’s the advantage of dropping it from shoulder height? It’s actually probably a disadvantage, so why can’t you still do that? You should be able to drop it from shoulder or knee.
What is the most ‘under the radar/off the beaten track’ course you came across in South Africa in 2019?
GL: If you get lost on the Garden Route and are near Mossel Bay, stop off at Boggomsbaai Golf Club. Oil and sand greens, plenty of bump-and-run required and the wind blows. The 19th hole will be the longest hole you play all year.
WP: Umdoni Park Golf Club on the KZN South Coast [left]. It’s a wonderful layout that takes full advantage of the elevation changes and panoramic sea views. The vibe at the club makes you feel right at home and here’s a pro tip: make sure you stay for the fish and chips at the 19th as you do a spot of whale-watching.
DH: Although it’s a course I’ve played many times, I had not been there for 12 or so years until November and while it’s not in South Africa it’s accessible for South Africans. The Royal Swazi Sun Golf Course is funky and fun to play. It’s not a long golf course but it’s tricky with clever doglegs and narrow fairways. The tees make it special and most greens have wonderful backdrops. The mountain views also add to the experience.
CB: I unfortunately only travelled internationally in 2019, but a couple of years ago I played at Millvale Golf Estate, a private retreat in the middle of nowhere in North West Province. It is sublime. However, it is not accessible to the public.
Should The Players Championship be added to the men’s Major calendar, to make it five, the same number as there are for the women?
GL: Go for it. A wonderful week that always has a strong field and big crowds. And that 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass … it’s worthy of Major status. If you must, drop The PGA Championship to accommodate The Players.
WP: No, you can’t tinker with history. The real question is whether The PGA Championship should finally be taken abroad to places like Japan and Korea in a bid to unlock the true global potential of the game. If you were simply looking to balance the numbers, the women’s tally should be reduced to four.
DH: Absolutely not. If a Major is added it should not be played in the US. Asia should be the next venue!
CB: The Players is a superb event, but I don’t see it as a Major. I’m a bit of a purist and think the tradition of the four Majors should remain.
If you could wave a magic wand and ‘create’ a new Major, what would be your vision for it?
GL: I’ve just touched on the iconic 17th at TPC Sawgrass. In terms of a ‘fantasy’ new Major, I’d have it with 18 par threes and make it tough for the pros. The world has sped up, so give the TV viewers something different and a ‘shorter’ version of the existing Majors.
WP: Possibly the toughest question because I’m a traditionalist when it comes to most aspects of the game. My idea for the new Major would be a 36-hole strokeplay event where the top 64 qualify for the matchplay knockout phase.
DH: A world matchplay event in Asia with the top 128 golfers in the rankings teeing it up in the first four rounds of 18 holes. Then, when eight players are left, three days of 36-hole matches.
CB: I would love to see a men’s and women’s combined matchplay Major. An elite field of the world’s top 50 men
and women going head to head would be very interesting.