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Golf's Most Overrated and Underrated

Tired of hearing your buddies say Tiger vs. Phil is a rivalry for the ages and that Bubba Watson is the definition of clutch? Our list of Golf's Most Overrated/Underrated will set 'em straight.


Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson
Getty Images
Phil and Tiger at 2012 U.S. Open.

Overrated: Phil vs. Tiger
Golf pundits make a lot of the bad blood between them. But bad blood alone does not a rivalry make. Head-to-head clashes down the stretch in big events -- that's what's required. And on those terms, Phil and Tiger offer very little. Of course, there was their pairing at the 2004 Ryder Cup, which went about as well as Tim Herron in a Speedo. But a great rivalry? More like two greats who just don't get along.

Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino
Trevino and Nicklaus at 1972 U.S. Open, won by Nicklaus.

Underrated: Nicklaus vs. Trevino
Nicklaus vs. Watson furnished more famous highlights. Nicklaus vs. Palmer supplied more storylines. But when it came to beating Jack when it really mattered, neither Tom nor Arnie surpassed Trevino, who snatched four majors from the Bear's jaws, twice when they competed head-to-head. "You can get the Man sometimes," Trevino once said. "But you can't get him most of the time." It's a measure of their rivalry that the Merry Mex came close to proving himself wrong.

Overrated: Golf in the Kingdom
Sure, it gave us Shivas Irons, a memorable mystic emerging from the mists. But mostly what we're talking about here is long-winded, New Age drivel -- faux-spirituality masquerading as something deep. No wonder it gave rise to an unwatchable movie. It began as a largely unreadable book.

Underrated: A Course Called Ireland
"A search for a country, a pint and the next tee." So reads the subtitle of Tom Coyne's fine work. True to that promise, in vivid and often very funny writing, he introduces us to all three.


Bubba Watson
Getty Images
Bubba at 2012 Thailand Golf Championship

Overrated: Bubba Watson
Public perception: Creative closer who won the Masters with a steely pitching wedge from the pine straw. Reality: Twitchy nervous-wreck who missed a yawning fairway on the first hole of the playoff at Augusta, but lucked out to be left with a gaping opening the trees. A better barometer of Bubba under pressure: His single's play in the 2012 Ryder Cup.

Billy Casper
Jerry Cooke/SI
Billy Casper

Underrated: Billy Casper
Aside from Jack, Tiger and Seve at their best, if you really needed someone to make a putt, that someone would be Casper, whose 25-footer to pull even with Palmer in a playoff at the '66 U.S. Open is just one instance of his all-around clutch play. The man won 51 times on Tour, in the age of "The Big Three" (Nicklaus, Palmer and Player), and captured more career Ryder Cup points than any American in history.


Torrey Pines
Larry Lambrecht
The third hole at the Torrey Pines South, a Jones' redesign.

Overrated: Rees Jones
They call him "The Open Doctor." But look at the results of some recent surgeries. Suspect scalpel work on the 18th at Bethpage Black. A botched operation (Phil Mickelson even said so) at Torrey Pines. And don't forget Cog Hill, which Tour pros roundly dissed (and which the Tour abandoned) after Jones redesigned it. Maybe we should call him Dr. Death instead.

Southern Dunes
The 16th hole at Southern Dunes.

Underrated: Brian Curley
If you've played Southern Dunes in Arizona or the Plantation in Palm Springs, you've been treated to the artistry of Brian Curley and his design partner, Lee Schmidt. But unless you've teed it up a lot in China, where the duo do most of their work these days, you've missed out on stunners like Stone Forest (pictured above), which is almost worth a trip halfway around the world.

Overrated: Caddyshack
It's a very funny film, so it's got that going for it. But it isn't a golf movie. It's a cinematic send-up of class divides, with Bill Murray doing hilarious ad-lib and a candy bar starring as a floating turd.

Underrated: Pat and Mike
Ok. It's not a golf movie either. It's an (Oscar-nominated) romantic comedy set partly on a golf course. But it's got Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, which alone makes it better than pretty much any golf movie ever made.

Overrated: The Green Jacket
Yes, a Masters win is the triumph of all triumphs. But the garment that comes with it is so gaudy that a carnival barker would refuse to put it on. Not that the winner has to worry. After a year, the jacket has to stay in their locker at the club.

Heath Slocum
Heath Slocum at the 2004 Chrysler Classic.

Underrated: The Conquistadore's Helmet
Is that Russell Crowe in Gladiator? Or Kirk Douglas in Spartacus? Wait. No. It's Heath Slocum, winner of the 2004 Chrysler Classic of Tucson, donning the coolest-looking prize in golf. How underrated is the metal headwear? So much so that the tournament it starred in is now defunct.

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