The best new rule and who can win the Sony: Bamberger’s 7 best things in golf right now

January 9, 2019

Every week GOLF senior writer Michael Bamberger identifies — and ranks — the absolute, undeniably, very best things in golf right now.

7. Best Chance for a Record-Old Winner

This is the best chance all year for Sam Snead to be knocked off his pedestal as the Oldest Winner on Tour. Snead won at Greensboro at age 52 in 1965. This week, at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Davis Love, who is 54, and Vijay Singh, 55, are in the field. The Waialae Country Club course is short and its Bermuda greens are flat and slow (by typical Tour standards). All you have to do to win there is play good golf from start to finish. Nothing crazy. Play the wind, play to positions, choose your spots. It’s all about guile. There’s no PGA Tour stat for guile, but these guys have it.

6. Best Names in the Monday Qualifier

These names were all on the tee sheet for the Monday qualifier for the Sony Open: Ted Purdy, Billy Hurley, Mac O’Grady, Matt Every — and Tadd Fujikawa. The first four are all former Tour winners. (O’Grady, a noted and singular golf instructor, is 67 and the results show no card for him.) Fujikawa is the first openly gay male professional golfer. None made it. There’s more going on each Monday than we realize. A kid named Brent Grant, co-medalist at the Monday qualifier, is playing in his first Tour event this week as a pro. I can tell you one thing about him for sure: he’s good enough to dream.

Vijay Singh waves to the crowd at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Vijay Singh waves to the crowd at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Getty Images

5. Best Golfy Comment at Dental Office

I settled into the chair. The hygienist put on Golf Channel. Out came the tools of her trade.

She said, “Working on a new book?”
“Yes,” I said. “About Tiger’s comeback.”
“Oh, that’ll be interesting,” she said. (Well that’s the goal, anyway.) “Now do you have to get his permission before you do that?”
“No, actually you don’t,” I said.
“Is that because of our rights to free speech and all that?” she asked.
Exactly!

4. Best Example of the Finchem Effect

To be any sort of sports commissioner, you have to be, among other things, a politician and a diplomat. Jay Monahan’s predecessor as PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, was a master of the euphemism. “Step-away” for suspension, for instance. Monahan offered a beauty from Maui and we repeat it here because it will have lasting repercussions. He was talking to reporters about legal gambling on Tour events while play is underway: “The reason we would do it is because we think gaming leads to more engagement.” In other words, legal gambling will mean more money for the Tour. If the Tour can bring in gambling and keep the players clean, more power to it. But it won’t be easy.

3. Best New Rule

Nobody’s talking about it but the best new rule is the elimination of the penalty if you accidentally step on or kick your ball while searching for it. You just put it back. Rule 7.4, if you want the exact language.

2. Best News for Golf Writers

Padraig Harrington being named Ryder Cup captain. Possibly the best golf talker since Lee Trevino. So smart, insightful, funny, original, and not just when he has a mic under his chin. At the 2005 Masters, I caddied for a Scotsman in the field, Stuart Wilson, the reigning British Amateur champion. He sought Harrington’s autograph, for his mother. “You’re her favorite player,” Stuart told him. Paddy said, “Wouldn’t that be you?”

1. The Best Thing in Your Mailbox this Week

The new-and-improved GOLF magazine. Bigger, brighter, stronger. New day, fresh start.

Michael Bamberger may be reached at [email protected]