When it comes to golf analysts, Brandel Chamblee is the real deal
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- I'm a Keynesian when it comes to economics. I'm a Jobsian on technology issues. Theologically, I bounce between Paulism and Ringoism. But when it comes to golf, I adhere to Chambleeism. That is to say, I hang on every word uttered by Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee, a one-time PGA Tour pro who now makes his living parsing the golf swing, the body language and, for all I know, the purloined trash of Tiger Woods.
Let me say at the outset that I am not, myself, a golf analyst, although I impersonate one in Golf.com videos and PGA Tour Confidentials. A real golf analyst studies swing videos and knows which players are putting while blindfolded in preparation for the Masters. I'm more of a second-string know-it-all. I'm the guy who spends a day with David Feherty and comes back with the breathtaking news that he's a nutter.
Chamblee, however, is the real deal. I think of him as "the Paul Krugman of golf" because he's provocative, witty, historically informed, technically cogent and possessed of a self-assurance bordering on arrogance. If there were a Nobel Prize for golf commentary -- and there should be -- I'd nominate Chamblee, and I'd support my nomination with video from Thursday evening's Golf Channel recap of the PGA Championship.
Let's set the scene. We have a doglegged desk and, as a backdrop, the Tudor clubhouse of Oak Hill Country Club. Seated behind the desk are, from left to right, anchor Rich Lerner, lead analyst Brandel Chamblee, and skeptical fellow analyst Frank Nobilo.
Chamblee, prompted by Lerner, is floating a theory regarding Tiger's inconsistent putting -- specifically, Woods's recurring complaint, at majors, that he can't adjust to changes in green speed. To make his case, Chamblee summons a video of Tiger's putting stroke shot from behind at ground level. Using a telestrator, he draws a red line to show the putter head's relation to the ball at address. Then, as we watch the stroke in slow-motion, he shows how the putter drifts away from Tiger's toes during the transition from backstroke to forward stroke, causing him to strike the ball toward the heel.
Chamblee's conclusion, presented with the élan of a forensic specialist, is that Tiger's missed putts are not due to green conditions; they're garden-variety mis-hits. And since most of Tiger's bad putting days have come on weekends at majors, Chamblee punctuates his analysis with this blunt assessment. "It shows that Tiger is not immune to pressure."
Is he done with Woods? Hardly. Chamblee now brandishes statistics showing that Vintage Tiger used to lead the Tour in birdies and pars from the rough, while Tiger 5.0 is an also-ran in that category. Chamblee seems to blame it on swing guru Sean Foley's coaching, which has Tiger swinging more around his body than before. A flatter swing, you see, is less effective than an upright swing when extricating a ball buried in bluegrass.
Wow! Just that easily, Chamblee has introduced a Universal Theory of Why Tiger No Longer Wins Majors as Readily As He Wins WGC championships. It's because Tiger chokes with the putter and has lost his incredible advantage from deep rough.
Is Chamblee right? I think so, but you might as well ask if Krugman is "right" on the demerits of fiscal austerity or Weiner is "right" about the joys of Twittercam sex. Chamblee's hypotheses are not provable, and Tiger's fans can dismiss them as the rantings of a defeated rival or the necessary by-product of the TV ratings game. But no one can fairly charge Chamblee with insincerity, and no one working the analysis con can match him for research and preparation.
Personally, although I like Chamblee's microanalysis, it's his macro analysis that made me a believer. Chambleeism postulates that most tour pros have been seduced by a siren called "The Perfect Swing." Consequently, they spend hours every week poring over videos and obsessing about the position of various body parts at different stages of the swing. That causes them to pay less attention to golf's best teacher: the flight of the ball.
I think he's absolutely right about that, and that's why I count myself a member of "Team Brandel" -- a term coined, a moment ago, by my SI colleague and ace analyst, Alan Shipnuck. So the next time you see me babbling into a microphone from some Scottish meadow, take it as a given that I'm parroting the opinions of the desk-bound Brandel Chamblee.
But please, don't tell Johnny or Sir Nick.