Welcome to another installment of SI Golf’s Fact or Fiction, just in time for a rare Wednesday-Saturday week on the PGA Tour (which we happened to cover in a recent edition).
As always, we hat tip our friends on the NFL side at SI as we post a series of topical statements for writers and editors to declare as “Fact” or “Fiction” along with a brief explanation. Responses may also be “Neutral” since there’s a lot of gray area in golf.
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University of Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap won as an amateur Sunday at the American Express. Given the depth of the PGA Tour, his win was more impressive than the last amateur win on Tour: Phil Mickelson’s in 1991.
FACT. Comparing eras is difficult and you’ll get many arguments on this topic. It certainly is not to disparage any other amateur who has won because the feat is tremendous. It’s fair to point out that Tiger Woods never contended in any of the pro events he played as an amateur. But fields are stronger today than they were in 1991. Mickelson beat Tom Purtzer and Bob Tway that day and Tway was a major champion. It was a huge accomplishment. But Dunlap’s win—including shooting 60—is more so.—Bob Harig
FICTION. Phil Mickelson was a two-time NCAA champ and U.S. Am winner before he won in Tucson, where the field included major winners Bob Tway, Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, Hubert Green, Mark Brooks, Fred Couples, Mark Calcavecchia and Hal Sutton. Dunlap, though also a U.S. Amateur champ, was more unknown. Shooting 60 is a big deal, which Dunlap accomplished in the third round, but Mickelson finished in the top 30 in Tucson the year before and also was a low amateur at the U.S. Open.—Alex Miceli
FACT. There’s much more depth today. Dunlap went head-to-head on Sunday with Sam Burns, a recent U.S. Ryder Cupper, and it was Burns who ultimately cracked late in the round. A stunning win that also feels like the arrival of yet another promising young star.—Jeff Ritter
NEUTRAL. Both were extremely impressive and obviously Mickelson went on to put together a legendary career. There is something to be said about the resources amateur golfers have access to these days. Dunlap and his peers are blossoming as world-class players faster than ever due to the TrackMan era, advancements in coaching, sports psychology, etc. Mickelson had a good old-fashioned swing coach, innate talent and some serious grit. This all begs the question: Is it easier or more difficult to get good at golf in the modern age?—Gabby Herzig
FACT. Call it recency bias, but Phil’s win was long before social media and even four years before Golf Channel went on the air. Dunlap shooting a Saturday 60, sleeping on the lead and gutting it out Sunday while blocking out the noise is as good as it gets.—John Schwarb
Dunlap was in the field on a sponsor exemption; the tournament’s executive director told Golfweek “I just think it’s important to give these decorated young players opportunities like this.” Every non-signature event on Tour should reserve one sponsor exemption for a top amateur.
FICTION. The purpose of sponsor invites is to allow a sponsor to enhance the field in the way it sees fit. Limiting them to a certain segment seems counter-productive and in some cases might be difficult. Better to let them make that choice on their own.—B.H.
FACT. The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes. If we are really interested in growing the game, then why not two spots?—A.M.
FACT. Do you think the Amex gets this much buzz coming out of the weekend if Burns wins? Amateurs add intrigue, and the mere possibility of a jackpot finish like Dunlap makes one spot worth reserving for them.—J.R.
FACT. Absolutely. The top amateurs are not only scary good, but extremely entertaining to watch due to their speed, creative shot-making and spirited personalities. The more the merrier, in my opinion.—G.H.
NEUTRAL. The exemptions belong to the sponsor and the Tour would never stipulate how they are used, but suggestions could be made. The invite is a no-brainer when a tournament is held where there’s a prominent college star.—J.S.
With her win at the LPGA season opener in Orlando, Lydia Ko is one point away from the LPGA Hall of Fame, which has an eligibility formula based on points for wins, major titles and awards such as player of the year. This is the best HOF system in sports.
FICTION. It’s awesome in a way, because the rules are laid out and you either meet the criteria or you don’t. But there are just 34 players in the LPGA Hall and meeting those criteria is increasingly difficult. For example, Laura Davies—who is in the World Golf Hall of Fame—is not in the LPGA Hall of Fame. And debating the merits pro and con of inclusion is one of the aspects that gives a Hall of Fame life. If Ochoa never gets that final point, is she really not a Hall of Famer?—B.H.
FICTION. This is the worst way possible. If the LPGA can’t find enough objective voters to decide who should be in the HOF, then they need to look harder. When you vote for a player to enter a Hall, it should not be just about where they finished or how many wins they recorded and an objective formula will not add in intangibles, which are critical.—A.M.
FICTION. Call me old-fashioned, but I enjoy controversy with my HOF systems (Lou Whitaker was screwed!). The LPGA system is airtight, mathematical and a complete snooze.—J.R.
FACT. The points system takes a lot of the subjectivity out of Hall of Fame berths. You can’t argue with trophies and statistics. I’m all for it.—G.H.
FACT. The combination of tourist-attraction HOFs, televised induction ceremonies and selection boards lead to conspiracy theories about questionable inductees. That’s nice for bar chats and clicks, but what’s wrong with rock-solid criteria with no arguments? LPGA Hall induction will get harder as the worldwide talent grows, but that only strengthens it.—J.S.