Joy as a golf writer is when you can ask the question "How?" more often than any other. How did Rickie Fowler dominate The Honda Classic? How did he survive four bogeys and a double in the final round? How did he hit that shot from the trees at No. 8?
Asking "how" allows one to be puzzled by the wonder of the world’s best. It is a more innocent question. It is equal parts inquisitive and unassuming. It’s the fun question.
Anymore, however, the question "Why?" is coming up more than it should.
- Why was Tyrrell Hatton consistently mad at the grass last weekend?
- Why is Jason Day seemingly always sick?
- Why is Tiger Woods hiding from the obvious realities of his back?
Those questions come with a tone. It is as much a judgment of the person as it is a search for the truth. And, most times, the answer is really hard to get. Why? Because the individuals don’t want to answer them, or won’t admit there is something worth answering.
Is it time for an honesty intervention?
In a rare example of transparency last weekend at The Honda Classic, Ryan Palmer came clean about the efforts to improve his putting. Mired outside of the top 200 in strokes gained putting, Palmer was missing three-footers with such regularity that he missed four of five cuts before arriving in Florida. He knew he couldn’t putt but was plugging along trying to fight through the unfixable.
“I was having some issues for a month,” he told PGA Tour Radio after his Friday round at The Honda Classic gave him a share of the lead. “Something inside of me, some anxiety kicked in. My short putting was disastrous.”
All well and good to admit to a problem, but how did he address it? He didn’t.
“Mike Chisum, my manager and good friend, made the call for me,” he said. “I didn’t know he did and he told me ‘I called [Dave Stockton Sr. and Dave Stockton Jr.] and you have a meeting tomorrow.’”
Palmer’s inner circle literally staged a putting intervention. He knew there was an issue, but it took somebody other than the player to address the problem. It was a candid, somewhat stunning revelation from Palmer, who has always been an open book.
“We spent three days [together] and made a putter switch (to the TaylorMade Spider), and now I am looking at the hole from four feet in. I am more free and more confident.”
Palmer knew he couldn’t putt, but hadn’t addressed it for whatever reason.
Fans and media want answers from players on the toughest questions, but if the players themselves don’t want to search for those answers, where do they come from?
That brings it all back to Tiger Woods. Last week was dominated by the unfair dissection of Pat Perez’s comments about Woods’ inability to be competitive. He didn’t say anything wrong, and he didn’t say anything with malice. His only sin was being the first player, Tiger included, to really say it.
The hot-take society does not reward transparency or honesty. It allows players to hide from the truth and build an army of excuses, spokespeople and double talk. As it festers more, it only hurts all parties involved.
Perhaps last week offered hope that the truth does indeed set you free.
The Other Winner
Each week during the season, I will offer up one player who, while not winning, escaped unnoticed with a big finish.
Billy Horschel – He hasn’t won since his FedEx Cup explosion in 2014, but Sunday provided his second top-four finish of the PGA Tour season and reason for optimism for folks who want to see an outspoken player do well. He took the rowdy crowds of the Bear Trap to task and questioned the decorum of the fans.
Golf has plenty of talent, but lacks enough voices. Billy Ho has never been shy about sharing an opinion, but he has to have the game in order to supply the megaphone. The combination on the weekend at Honda was a good start.