Bryson’s long-lasting vibes, Lowry’s Ryder Cup rattle
VSevery week discover the unfiltered opinions of our editors and editors as they analyze the hottest topics in sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week we discuss Bryson DeChambeau’s long driving experience, Justin Thomas’ caddy change, and who should be a broadcaster on the course.
1. Bryson DeChambeau sent a charge into the long drive world last week when he qualified for the last 8 of the long drive world championship in Mesquite, Nevada. What did you take away from his performance?
Sean Zak, Editor-in-Chief (@sean_zak): That it was such a healthy week as Bryson has had it in a long time. He’s been beaten up a bit over the past few months by things out of his control, and other things he’s definitely self-inflicted on himself. This week in Nevada seemed like the best week of its year. Smiles everywhere. Praise all around. At least that’s what it seemed from a distance. James Colgan captured it pretty well for GOLF.com.
Josh Sens, Editor-in-Chief: Exactly. What is striking is not that he has come so far. It was how comfortable he looked and how welcomed he was. On the Tour, he often seems to work so hard to be accepted. Last week he was like one of those quirky characters finding a home on Misfit Toys Island.
Michael Bamberger, editor-in-chief: Well said, Josh. An outsider finding his comfort zone, a long ball hitter finding others with whom he can play, and who can play with him.
James Colgan, Associate Editor (@ jamescolgan26): It’s very kind of you, Sean! It was hard to leave Mesquite without thinking a bit about the version of Bryson I saw. It was so delighted to be there, so happy to engage with everyone he met, so grateful for the time and experience. The big guy gets a ton of heat publicly (a lot totally justified), but man the long drive was a breath of fresh air, I’m not sure he realized he needed it.
2. DeChambeau’s appearance was far reaching, drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers to the YouTube live stream of the event. Was DeChambeau’s immediate impact on the long-haul scene more, less, or about as impactful as you anticipated? And what long term effect do you think his success / support could have on a sport that is in desperate need of a boost?
Zak: About as punchy as I expected. Forgive me for sitting there on the fence, but we knew he would make a splash. We knew people would tune in to see it. Its impact could be felt later if, for example, Golf Channel dives again into television rights. Or another supplier. If Bryson comes to Long Drive every now and then, it might not have lasting effects for this corner of the golf world.
Sense : It’s a Catch-22. Sport needs a TV deal and sponsors to attract viewers. But to lock in that TV deal and those sponsors, he needs the help of a big draw like DeChambeau. If this was just a one-off case for Bryson, I don’t see how that would have a lasting impact. If he makes more regular appearances, another story. But even then, the question I would ask is, has anything in the market fundamentally changed? Long-drive had a contract with television and he lost it. Why did this happen? Has anything changed that would make the next TV deal more enduring, the sponsorships more enduring, whether Bryson is in the mix or not? I have no idea.
Bamberger: The chicks dig the long ball, at least says the advertisement in the less sensitive moments. Guys too. It has always been like this. DeChambeau is something of an outlaw, or at least walking towards his own drummer. There is a crowd for that. And it’s a circus act, not at all derogatory. Circus acts are at the heart of the American experience.
Colgan: Considering long distance world championships Just had a week in the golf space, I would say yes Bryson’s performance was pretty punchy. But the path to legitimacy is no clearer today than it was last Sunday. There are difficult questions about how to make sport self-sufficient, let alone profitable, that remain unanswered. But I think the hope of many in the sport (including Bryson), is that his performance can spark interest in the rest of the professional game.
3. What have you learned in recent days about long business trips that you didn’t know a week ago?
Zak: That the direction of the wind really, really matters. Of course, that was always going to matter for distance, but it matters more than anything for spin rates on balls hit with a ball speed of 220 mph. Definitely an oversight for me!
Sense : The wind, of course. But also the variables of the grid itself. Like golf courses, they all play differently, with some slot machines performing better than others. It’s not just about bombing it. It is also about the nuances of the game on the ground.
Bamberger: This size matters.
Colgan: I’ve learned that the long haul as a sport is supported by a (mostly) benevolent group of die-hards, including much of the current population of gamers. I have also learned that more than anything, they are tired of being a golf sideshow. They want to be recognized as more than an entertainment product. A bonus: The Mexican food at the gas station in Mesquite, Nevada is not only trustworthy, but also delicious.
4. Shane Lowry’s lingering frustration with the Ryder Cup boiled over last week when, in an interview with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, he criticized the USA team for pissing off crowds at inappropriate times and complaining about putts. not conceded. A merit for the oxen of Lowry?
Zak: I do not think so. The reasons Shane Lowry is extremely excited at The Ryder Cup are the same reasons that raise the stakes, involve pressure and increase antagonism. You cannot have one without the other. There’s always a line between what’s right and what’s unfair, but if Lowry really had a problem, he could have solved it on the spot. Better than a few days later, across the pond, looking forward to 2023.
Sense : It depends on what really happened. Of course, anger, antagonism, and partisan crowds are all part of The Ryder Cup. But Lowry’s main beef wasn’t about the usual stuff. It was his perception that Patrick Cantlay was turning the crowds against him like he was trying to putt. I don’t know if it really happened. If that was the case, Lowry had every right to be irritated – so much so that he should have approached it immediately with Cantlay. As for non-conceded putts, it’s the bush league to complain about in the Ryder Cup and everywhere else. Anyone who complains about a putt not conceded is oblivious to the irony. If you really think it’s a guaranteed mark, then what’s the problem? Shut up and hit him.
Colgan: It’s always a little easier to complain after receiving a bombardment. I didn’t notice anyone crossing a line from my couch in New York City, which isn’t to say it didn’t happen, only if it did, it wasn’t obvious. Still, I love Lowry as a Ryder Cup hooker for the Euro – he played that role well last week.
Bamberger: Uh. A few American players were exaggerated. From what I saw from Cantlay, he was not among them. NEVER comment on someone who does not give you a putt. It’s like complaining about your Christmas stocking. If you get anything other than a three pack of socks, consider yourself lucky. If you don’t get anything, there is a reason.
5. After four years of pounding the fairways for NBC Sports and Golf Channel, Jim “Bones” Mackay returns to caddy, picking up the bag for world number 6 Justin Thomas. Does it surprise you to see Bones join the ranks on a loop, and what impact can a veteran caddy like him have on a well-established player like Thomas?
Zak: No wonder at all. Bones is a caddy in essence, even when reporting for NBC. Thomas could be the best player of his generation, so how can he pass up? Bones is in great shape and can add to his own legacy with a player he knows well. As for JT, he already had a veteran caddy. Bones is another big one. The real winners are the viewers who can hear their conversations on the show. Bones has always been good at it.
Sense : No surprise, for all the reasons Sean gave. As for the perks, will it get better footage, better reads? It seems unlikely. But that can only change JT’s mindset, and in golf, as we all know, it can make all the difference in the world.
Colgan: Certainly not a surprise, but a major disappointment for those of us who have grown to love his insight every week. He was really the closest thing to the professional game of a Tony Romo type analyst. I will miss him in this role.
Bamberger: His work on television was very good and getting better and better. Mackay knows the game deeply, understands the intricacies of lying, wind and humor. All the things that made him good on TV make him a beloved shopping cart for Thomas. Hope things are going well with Thomas’ ex-caddy Jimmy Johnson. A gruff exterior and a generous interior. He did the job calmly and professionally. I never saw him even near the center of the stage.
6. Mackay will continue to work certain shifts for NBC / Golf Channel when his schedule permits, but his departure will likely require a replacement. Who would like to see taking the reins as a current analyst?
Zak: I hate to graft myself so simply out of thomas thoughts, but Colt Knost is really the right answer, it seems. Man is constantly connected to the modern Tour. He puts things clearly and injects humor at the appropriate times. After a week of listening to the SkySports show and enjoying the banter among the hosts, analysts and reporters on the course, I would love to see more on NBC Airways. Knost would be my first hire.
Sense : Humor would do good, that’s for sure. Hope Larry David is ready for the gig.
Colgan: Foal! And also presumably Bones’ body double John Wood will see more action.
Bamberger: Colin Montgomerie. As a warm-up for a cabin concert. One of the funniest and most insightful people in golf.