2018 PGA Tour slate has very few holes, seemingly more hits than in past years
The 2018 PGA Tour schedule has the chance to be one of the best in years
In sports, as is true in entertainment industries as well, you are only generally as strong as your weakest performance. MLB and the NFL can only be as good on the whole as the Braves-Padres and Browns-Colts games allow them to be. This is true of golf, too, but in golf there is more variance in how events can play out.
There have been five tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule so far in 2018. The weakest event, on paper going in, was probably the CareerBuilder Challenge. And then the No. 2 player in the world went out and won in a playoff. This is what I mean by variance. When the Browns and Colts play, you're getting the Browns and Colts. In golf, where at least one star plays pretty much every week, you could theoretically get 40 straight weeks of elite winners.
This is more or less what has happened in 2018. It happened to start off 2017, as well. Of the first nine events of 2017 and the first five of 2018 (so 14 total), 11 were won by either Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day and Jon Rahm.
The next two weeks are an embarrassment of riches for golf enthusiasts. Spieth, Johnson, Day, Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach, followed by a Riviera week that includes Johnson, Spieth McIlroy, Thomas, Matsuyama, Tiger Woods and likely Sergio Garcia and Mickelson. Whoooo boy!
We don't get a break anytime soon, either. After those two weeks, the Honda Classic is up next where Fowler is the defending champ. That's followed by the WGC-Mexico Championship, the Valspar Championship (McIlroy and possibly Spieth or Woods), the Arnold Palmer Invitational (always superb) and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
There isn't anything groundbreaking about this year's schedule like there will be next year when The Players Championship moves back to March, but it has simply seemed like a really fabulous stretch at the highest level. And don't even get me going on the European Tour side.
I've thought about why this is, and while I'm not totally sure, I think you can make the argument that the best players in the sport have never been this intriguing, congenial or thoughtful (or better). So not only do you get big-name winners but you also get fascinating personalities winning a lot.
I'm only 32, so I don't have a lot of experience with yesteryear. And I'm sure Ben Hogan was fascinating. I'm sure Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman were all engaging and compelling figures. But this many playing at this level? It's at least a conversation.
What this has led to is a confluence of world-class narratives on this calendar year that have made every week must-see television. Seriously -- every week! The Nos. 1, 2 and 10 players in the world won in the first 29 days of the year, and the No. 7 player in the world nearly made it four top-10 golfers in 35 days on Sunday at the Phoenix Open. So don't blink. The Masters is going to be here before we know it, but the lead into that premier event on the PGA Tour schedule is about as good as it's ever been.
Other random observations about the 2017-18 PGA Tour season thus far.
- The Phoenix Open is like the Zurich Classic. I don't need it every week, but for what it is, it's pretty great.
- I know this is more likely to happen in the future, but it would be cool to be able to choose which group you want to follow during early coverage on PGA Tour Live. If you want to follow Tiger for all 18 holes, you should be able to do that. If you don't, you should have that option as well. This is the competitive advantage golf has when it comes to viewership -- the event takes place in multiple locations at the same time. I realize the logistics would be a nightmare, but if you can somehow work them out, you've got gold.
- I'm low-key more intrigued by stories like Chez Reavie's (he was a standard-bearer at the Phoenix Open as a kid and went to school at Arizona State) than I am by, for example, Day or Rahm winning. That's not a blanket statement, and I'm in way deeper than most, but it's worth noting.
- I've said this many times before, but there should be a better way to rank wins. For example, if you shoot a 64 on a Sunday that is six strokes better than the field to take down Fowler, Rahm and Mickelson (what Gary Woodland did last week), that should be worth one-and-a-half trophies instead of just one. There is a formula out there that could take field quality, tournament prestige, strokes gained, players in contention and level of drama at the end as its inputs and spit us out some revealing numbers.
It seems silly that we continue to have to compare, say, Jonathan Byrd's five PGA Tour wins and say he has more than Rickie Fowler at four when the level of opponent and quality of event clearly favors Fowler. This is as Inside Baseball as it gets, I understand, but hey, it's 2018. SpaceX is trying to send people to Mars, so we should be able to figure out a weighted tournament number.
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