Tour Confidential: Colonial, U.S. Women’s Open and diabolical greens
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss the play at Colonial Country Club, this week’s U.S. Women’s Open diabolical greens and more.
1. As it turns out, Scottie Scheffler’s “slump” lasted all of nine holes. One week after missing the cut at the PGA Championship, where he shot a back-nine 40 during his second round, Scheffler nearly won his fifth event of the season on Sunday, losing to Sam Burns in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge. What is it about Scheffler’s game, or headspace, that has made him such a consistent/reliable performer, and on such a variety of courses?
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): He’s got all the shots, obviously. But he’s also got golf in perspective. At this point, at least, for all the expectations around him, he’s not putting excess pressure on himself. He’s got enough killer instinct to dominate without being the kind of guy who defines himself by golf. That’s how it comes across anyway. His third round at Colonial was, dare I say, Woodsian. He was all over the place and still didn’t make a bogey until the 17th.
Alan Bastable, executive editor (@alan_bastable): As you’d expect, there are no real weaknesses in Scheffler’s game, statistically speaking, anyway. But one of the big keys to his success is that he rarely misses greens, hitting about 72 percent of them in regulation, which is third best on Tour. That takes a lot of pressure off his short game and instead lets him focus on jarring birdie putts. I also think the importance of Ted Scott’s role can’t be overstated. Scheffler and Scott share much in common: hard workers, family men, devout Christians, and each has a ton of respect for the other. The relationship just works, and I think it’s no coincidence that Scheffler’s run started soon after Scott took his bag.
Nick Piastowski, senior editor (@nickpia): He’s an easy-going, aw-shucks’er who hates — hates — to lose. So ice and fire. That’s tough to beat.
2. Colonial Country Club, the storied Schwab venue and a mighty mite at “only” 7,200 yards from the tips, held its own once again this week, with just zero players finishing the tournament double digits under par. Does the PGA Tour need more courses like Colonial — where accuracy trumps brawn — on the schedule, or would the players not have it?
Sens: The Tour could use more great designs as part of its regular rota. Great designs make for more interesting golf. If a few players gripe, so be it. It is, to use the parlance of the corporations that rule all professional sports, a better product.
Bastable: The lack of diversity in Tour setups is stunning. You would think the world’s best players would demand more interesting slate of tests, but sadly they seem content with bomb-and-gouging. Rory McIlroy summed up that sentiment last year when he said: “A lot of the golf courses we play are uniform and you get the same conditions each and every week, and players like that. I like that. I like that you don’t have to come and spend three or four days at a golf course learning it every week, and if you’re playing week to week, to have setups like this is a good thing.” Colonial, like Harbour Town, is such a breath of fresh air on the calendar, mostly because players can’t smash it into submission. So … yeah, I’d love to see more courses of its ilk in the mix.
Piastowski: More please! If you believe the players, most of them like the tracks that test the entire game, too. Though I can’t imagine after next week the mental shape of those who go Southern Hills-Colonial-Muirfield Village.
3. The U.S. Women’s Open tees off this week at Pine Needles in North Carolina. Among the storylines to watch are the return of Nelly Korda and the defense of Yuka Saso. (We’ll tackle Michelle Wie West separately below.) What are you most looking forward to seeing play out?
Sens: Lydia Ko. Always Lydia Ko. The coolest professional golfer in the world.
Bastable: I’m excited to see Pine Needles in action. The Donald Ross gem has long taken a backseat to its storied Sandhills neighbor, Pinehurst, so it will be fun to see it in the spotlight. Pine Needles devotees will tell you it’s every bit as fun as any of Pinehurst’s offerings, No. 2 included.
Piastowski: Nelly. Let’s hope she’s good to go. She’s a star, the budding rivalry with Jin Young Ko is fantastic, and she’s must-watch golf. It’s great she’s back.
4. On to Wie West. This week, she told Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols that she plans to play the U.S. Women’s Open, then step away from the LPGA Tour. How would you sum up Wie West’s legacy?
Sens: I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said a million times before. There’s of course a woulda, coulda, shoulda element to her story. And yet, in the ways that matter most, she did.
Bastable: It’s easy to get fixated on the fact that she didn’t live up to the immense expectations that were placed on her, but what should never be forgotten is how much attention and excitement she brought to the game when she was literally just a kid. At 10, she played in the U.S. Women’s Am Public Links; at 12, she played in an LPGA event; at 14, she came a stroke shy of making the cut at a PGA Tour event, thanks to a second-round 68 (yes, at 14!!) That week sticks with me. It was truly captivating; I vividly remember being glued to the telecast not wanting to miss a single shot of hers. What a talent.
Piastowski: She’s a star. And will continue to be; according to our story this week, she’s not leaving the game; she’s just not playing it. That tells me something. She’s making an impact on the game. Not many can say that.
5. A high school tournament in Iowa drew headlines last week for a diabolical pin position on the 18th green that had players putting their golf balls past the hole and off the green. What’s the wickedest pin, green or hole setup you’ve come across?
Sens: All four of the par-3s at Whistling Straits have some intimidating pins. The back right location on the 7th, out by the bluffs, still gives me cold sweats.
Bastable: There’s a nine-hole muni par-3 course near my New Jersey home. The 7th hole plays all of about 90 yards, but it’s an uphill shot to a tiny blind green that pitches hard from left to right. Play it mid-summer when the green is crusty and it’s virtually impossible to hold. Pars feels like eagles.
Piastowski: Stone Meadows Golf Club in the Poconos, which I wrote about last fall. Every green was a postage stamp!
6. Film critic Mark Ellis shared with our Josh Sens a ranking of the six best golf movies of all time. Help us out with another ranking: What, in your mind, is the best golf scene in a non-golf film?
Sens: The airhorn scene in Jackass, and it’s not even close.
Bastable: C’mon now, nothing tops Goldfinger (with Oddjob on the bag!) trying to cheat his way to victory against 007.
Piastowski: NERD ALERT! But the best golf scene in a non-golf movie HAS to be when, in the first Hobbit movie, Gandalf explains how golf was invented. You can watch it here!