Tour Confidential: What do we make of Michael Block’s rollercoaster ride?
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 Michael Block’s rollercoaster, Rose Zhang turning pro, travel hacks and more.
The world’s favorite club pro, Michael Block, was the talk of the PGA Championship, but he didn’t fare as well this past week, when he received a sponsor’s exemption into the Charles Schwab Challenge and finished in last place (81-74). Are you surprised he struggled as much as he did? And how much blame could be put on mental fatigue after a taxing 10 or so days?
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): Anything other than a letdown would have been surprising, given the altitude he’d been flying at. Block is obviously a fine player, but something cosmic was at work at Oak Hill last week. The beauty of it was that he recognized it as it was happening. He knew how rare it was, and that it wasn’t likely to repeat.
Jessica Marksbury (@jess_marksbury): Not surprised. We know that major weeks are a grind like no other for the guys in contention, and Block arguably received more attention than the winner, Brooks Koepka. He earned it, but it takes a while to adjust to that kind of constant adulation. The brain drain must be immense. I’m glad he bounced back with a more respectable second round at Colonial, and I expect we’ll see a much more refreshed — and prepared — Block at the upcoming RBC Canadian Open.
Sean Zak, senior writer (@sean_zak): The 81 was pretty stunning, but life and golf comes at you fast. Block didn’t do himself any favors playing just one practice round and doing dozens of interviews in the lead up. But I also don’t blame him. Every second since we’ve gotten to know him he has acknowledged that he knew this would be the best time of his golfing life. So why not do exactly what you want to do?
Block also caught some criticism for comments he said on Bob Menery’s podcast. “What I would shoot from where Rory hits it would be stupid,” he said. “I think I’d be one of the best players in the world. Hands down. … My iron game, wedge game, around the greens and my putting is world class.” Was it fair to catch heat for this one?
Sens: Ha. Yeah. And if were 7-foot-4, I’d rule the paint. Sure, the comment came off as a bit tone-deaf, but even as he was being hailed as a man of the people last week, you could tell Block had some jock swagger to him. And that’s how jocks talk. More power to him for being confident in himself. If I were a buddy of his, I’d give him grief over beers about his cockiness. That’s what’s called for. A friendly ribbing. Not any kind of harsh rebuke.
Marksbury: It was a little off-putting, especially because the golf world initially embraced him for his charming humility and everyman-relatability. This arrogance of this comment is pretty extreme. But I’m inclined to agree with Josh, and give him a pass. He was clearly riding high off the PGA performance, and found it hard to suppress those alpha vibes.
Zak: I don’t care at all. Why? Because what golfer has ever played the best golf of their life and not gotten a little over-confident? You and me included! Unlike most people, I listened to the entire 30-minute interview, in which Menery did as many radio hosts do: he coaxed some cockiness out of Block. And it resulted in 30 seconds shared ‘round the world. The other 29:30 show Block as we always knew him: gracious, humble, etc.
LIV Golf, which already has a broadcast agreement with the CW, announced it will start offering an additional viewing option via a PPV broadcast on YouTube for $3/day in the U.S. Is it odd this comes in the middle of the season (and CW agreement), and what should we read into it?
Sens: I see it as LIV looking to draft off Koepka’s PGA Championship win. Whether you think that victory does anything to validate LIV’s product or not, it makes reasonable business sense to try to capitalize on the moment. I suppose there’s some reputational risk, as it won’t look great if the PPV option generates nothing but crickets. But then, I suppose LIV could also create some dummy viewer accounts to inflate the numbers…the conspiratorial mind begins to wander…
Marksbury: Given the recent hiccups on the CW, maybe this is just a move to ensure that LIV’s contingent of fans has an outlet to ensure they can watch the whole thing. And as James pointed out in his column on the development, you can’t deny YouTube’s reach, and LIV’s previous success on the platform, especially on the international level.
Zak: LIV is spreading its reach, I suppose. But the biggest news in LIV broadcasts is their reluctance to share their ratings recently, as reported by GOLF.com’s James Colgan. The proof has been in the pudding with LIV ratings thus far: they haven’t been great. So if the pudding tastes kinda bitter, why not pursue another revenue source? I just don’t know how valuable it can really be.
Stanford sophomore Rose Zhang won her second straight NCAA DI Women’s Individual Championship — becoming the first woman to win multiple DI golf titles — and picked up her 12th career win in the process, breaking the school record held by Tiger Woods, Maverick McNealy and Patrick Rodgers. (Zhang has played two seasons to their three.) Now she’s set to make her pro debut at this week’s Mizuho Americas Open. While we won’t ask you to predict her future on the LPGA, we will ask you this: Where does she rank among the best collegiate golfers ever?
Sens: Where her achievement ranks, I’m not sure. But it’s the most dominant run by a college player I can think of since Ryan Moore won pretty much everything on the amateur circuit in 2004. It will be interesting to see whether she can carry over that success to professional events. Look at the names listed in the question: collegiate dominance is clearly no guarantee.
Marksbury: Remarkable. Incredible. Unprecedented in the women’s game! I can’t name someone to top her. Zhang deserves all the accolades. No doubt she’s turning pro because she ran out of things to accomplish in college. As Josh pointed out, amateur dominance doesn’t automatically translate to professional success, but something tells me that Zhang will have some serious staying power on the LPGA circuit, and it will be fun to watch.
Zak: She’s probably top 5 best college players ever? Every decade or so we see a player win 10 or more times in college, but Zhang has a major trump card with those two NCAA titles. Her career falls short of Phil Mickelson’s at ASU — 16 wins, three NCAAs — but if she hung around for another year she probably would have matched him.
Happy Memorial Day weekend — also known as one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. As savvy golf writers scooting to tournaments and destinations, you know the travel game well. Quick, what’s your go-to travel hack?
Sens: This isn’t high science, but I’d say leave the sticks at home, especially if it’s a quick getaway. Most courses these days have high-quality rentals that cost no more than the average airline baggage fee. And even if you do wind up spending a little extra, you’ll save yourself a ton of potential headache.
Marksbury: With two young kids, I’m not traveling as much as I once did. But I admit, when I do, I obsess over airfare. I love a deal! I once read that Tuesdays and Saturday mornings are the best times to snag a discount. I have no legitimate confirmation of this, but anecdotally, I’ve found this to be generally true! Just make sure you start looking well ahead of time. The closer you are to your travel date, the less this little hack seems to work.
Zak: Invest in a good golf travel bag and put everything you need for a trip in there. With a 50 lb. limit, your set of clubs probably leaves about 25 pounds of room for clothes, shoes, etc. That’ll keep you from needing to check another bag, which can always ruin part a trip if it doesn’t arrive on time.