By Peter Schmidt
It is common golf etiquette that one player never roots against or jeers on another player. In a game that prides itself on its gentlemanly nature, a sign of negative disapproval is seen as a lack of integrity and honor. It is because of this that golfers shake hands, tell each other “nice shot” even while competing against one another, and wait their turn politely.
However, this is 2012. We, as a race, love to pick sides and cheer for and against our favorite teams and athletes. Sometimes this can be difficult with the PGA Tour because there are always so many fresh faces and it is so difficult to differentiate many of the players. In order to remedy this situation, I would like to present you with who you should and shouldn’t be cheering for this year at the Masters and for the remainder of the PGA season. I left out some of the more obvious players like Tiger, Phil, and Rory because I am sure even the casual golf fan has developed an opinion on these guys. I will split it up into three categories to help you pick which type of player is right for you: The John Daly’s, The Rocco Mediate’s, and the Payne Stewart’s.
The John Daly’s
These are the kind of guys who play the sport with reckless disregard. They are so villainous that they may have an alcoholic drink named after them someday. They are out to earn championships and will cut throats to do so. If you are looking for the bad guys, here they are.
Dustin Johnson. The towering power hitter just does not care what you think about him. He tees it up and is hoping to hurt the ball. He has had a few encounters with greatness (2010 US Open where he choked, 2010 PGA where he cheated, and 2011 British Open), but has yet to reach the pinnacle of his golfing career. He is the gunslinger out to cash checks. He oozes arrogance and although he is not playing at the Masters this weekend, he will surely have an impact on the tour. Plus, he is sponsored by Taylor Made’s Rocket Ballz, which just sounds devious (or childish).
Sergio Garcia. The suave and sophisticated ladies man from Spain used to be the heir-apparent to the golfing throne. Now he has placed himself among the ranks of golfers who will do anything to win a major. He too has shown great signs of arrogance, constantly getting called out for being caught up in himself on the course. Although he has never won a major, do not count this guy out this year. His game is looking mature and he might have actually figured out how to putt.
Ian Poulter. The baddest of bad. This dude is the anti-gentleman when it comes to golf. His clothes are loud, his hair is goofy, and his remarks are outrageous. Poulter does not care about other golfers feelings and is doing his best to bring home glory for the crown. He has been fined frequently for improper play and inappropriate behavior on the course. He even claimed that if the USA beat England in soccer during the 2010 World Cup, he would play the British Open butt naked.
The come-from-behind underdogs out there who just would like their names etched in glory forever. These are almost always a fan favorite. However, it’s not always easy to know who exactly is a Cinderella Story.
Freddy “Boom Boom” Couples. When you are ripe age of Fred Couples, playing in another Masters is typically a ceremonial ordeal that is painful for most to watch. However, Boom Boom makes a habit of always being in the chase. A Couples victory would be like if Michael Jordan came out of retirement right now and won an NBA title. Everyone would love to see it, but it is highly unlikely. Additionally, just look at the way Freddy carries himself; he has one of the most old-school versions of swagger anyone could imagine.
The Molinari Brothers. Francesco and Eduardo are two players who have burst onto the scene in recent years to the delight of many European golf enthusiasts. Both of them are two of the highest regarded players on the European and PGA Tour by their peers. They are known to be emotional and leave it all out on the course. They have a heartwarming story of rising to the top together as brothers. Although they have been in the story a few times at majors, they have yet to really make a major dent. They have the ability to do so. I am thinking it is just a matter of time.
Matt Kuchar. The former amateur star has now grown into a fantastic player on tour, and is showing everyone that being a good guy can pay dividends. Somehow, he always gets some of the toughest pairings whenever playing in a major, but always manages to gut out a solid round. He too has yet to win a major, but has always managed to linger around at the top of the leaderboard. He has the pedigree and the game, but now just needs a little bit of luck.
Johnson Wagner. Wagner is relatively new to the scene, yet he still has some impressive chops. He has one tour win this season already and stands near the top of the FedEx Cup rankings. However, no one knows who he is. He has the game and a fantastic mustache, but still gets no recognition. Look for that to be reconciled once he makes a splash at one of the majors this year.
The Payne Stewart
If you are not yet familiar with the story of Payne Stewart, you should be. One of the most highly regarded golfers in the history of the sport, he was said to be a true ambassador of the sport. A gentleman, fierce competitor, and champion, Payne really set the gold standard for modern-day golf. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but his tradition of excellence is carried on by many who still love the game like he did. If you do not cheer for these guys, you probably do not have a soul, or you hate golf.
Ben Crane. A very naturally gifted golfer who picked up the game at the age of five from his grandpa. Crane really understands what it means to be a golfer. He is frequently complimented on his style of play and has the ability to win, just has not made it happen on the big stage yet. He also is known as one of the major jokesters of the golf world and has a series of hilarious YouTube videos, plus an appearance as a member of a current boy band. It is not all fun and games for Crane though: he already has his own charitable foundation and has Farmers Insurance pledging money in accordance with the number of hits his YouTube videos receive.
Zach Johnson. A Masters Champion and experience tour champion, Zach is the kind of guy you would want to play a round of golf with. Well known for his cordiality, he has a Midwestern attitude that he has carried with him since birth. He wasn’t even the best player on his college golf team at small Drake University, but just kept working hard and became better and better. A true testament to resilience, Johnson should be poised to make some noise on tour this year.
Bubba Watson. If you like golf, you need to cheer for Bubba. The All-American kid from the south has the best demeanor on tour. He plays to have a good time and wins tournaments while doing so. He has NEVER had a lesson because that would make golf seem like a job to him. If he could, I bet he would even play barefoot. The man is a gentleman and has a remarkably positive attitude. He is everyone’s favorite to play with. People love to watch him because he is willing to take risks (and often achieves them). Also, he is just plain cool; he is known to pull practical jokes on other golfers, make outlandish purchases (he bought a replica of the Dukes of Hazard General Lee), and treat his fans like gold.
I hope this guide helps you all find your way through the leaderboard and determine who you want to win and who you want to lose. The one thing you need to remember is the former motto of the PGA Tour: “These Guys are Good”. All of the players out there have the potential to win, so you need to know who to root for.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.