Sports

Golf: The Biggest Golfing Mysteries of 2016 – Answered

Will Phil Mickelson win the US Open? Will Lydia Ko stay focused? Will Danny Lee finally gain a sense of humour? Greg Bruce offers some thoughts on 2016 and some half-assed predictions.

With a new financial crisis and nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula both imminent, we turn our attention now to golf.

As 2016 kicks off, far too many of my colleagues in the golfing press are focused on world number one Jordan Spieth, who looks and moves almost exactly like a cardboard box. “Can he win this? Can he win that? Make no mistake”… On and on the golfing press pants after 21-year-old Spieth, desperate to call him the new Tiger, in spite of the fact he is probably a virgin.

Jordan Spieth with Danny Lee on the first hole during the Final Round of the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson in Irving, Texas.  (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Jordan Spieth with Danny Lee on the first hole during the Final Round of the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

What we, as New Zealanders, should be most concerned about in 2016 is not the men’s world number one but the men’s world number 45, our own Danny Lee, and his ongoing practical joke battle with world number five Rickie Fowler.

Lee got his start in practical joking as an 18-year-old in 2008 when he told airport staff he had a bomb in his luggage. Not discouraged by the fact airport staff said they had heard the same joke millions of times, he has apparently tried to develop himself into the court jester of the PGA Tour. “Danny’s a little prankster,” Rickie Fowler told the golf media recently.

Fowler, who looks like Leo DiCaprio’s dirty cousin, has refused to let this slide, and a lighthearted back-and-forth has commenced, in which there has been not a shred of evidence that Lee’s sense of humour has advanced since 2008.

Where Fowler’s pranks have involved mid-level frat boy hijinks like blocking off Lee’s tournament parking space with cones and tape, and surreptitiously attaching a “Rickie Fowler” name tag to Lee’s bag, Lee’s returned fire appears to have centred around putting some rope and cones on Fowler’s car.

(Instagram/ZachKleinWSB)

(Instagram/ZachKleinWSB)

It’s possible that this last act was some incredible surrealist statement beyond our ken, but sadly it looks more like Danny’s long years of pranking have advanced his sense of humour not at all. Looking at that meaningless arrangement of rope and cones, I just felt sad and alone.

Can Danny Lee make the world’s top ten in 2016? Can he win a major? Can he come up with a good joke? No, probably not. He’s one of the shortest hitters on the PGA Tour, in a game where courses are longer than ever, and while his short game last year was solid, he continues to rank absolute last in lols per attempt.

Lydia Ko with the Rolex Player of the Year trophy following the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 22, 2015 in Naples, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Lydia Ko with the Rolex Player of the Year trophy. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Danny Lee’s slide from world-beating teen prodigy to probable host of Danny Lee’s World Top 50 Wacky Funtime Pranktime is so far from the reality of Lydia Ko, our country’s best-ever golfer, that it almost seems wrong to mention them in the same article. But is it? Our Lydia is on top of the world but we New Zealanders know better than to just accept that. Being on top of the world just means that it is our right and in fact our duty to doubt her back to reality. In this, I am happy to be your proxy.

Her career has had an unsustainable upward progression and last year she became unquestionably the best female player in the world. Now what? That motivation is gone. What’s her new motivation? So few 18-year-olds reach the top of the world in any sport that research is not yet able to say whether the 18-year-old brain is able to deal with that achievement. Our Lydia will become the research.

Eighteeen, it should be remembered, is the age when Danny Lee, then a child prodigy himself, first turned to practical jokes.

The golfing press and fan sites alike have expressed plenty of early season interest in Lydia’s ongoing battle with bland South Korean Inbee Park. But as battles go, it’s a terrible one, miles from Tiger and Phil’s famed hatred. It’s a battle comprised mostly of effusive compliments and hugs. Lydia’s main battle is with herself and with the fuzzy grass of the never-ending fairways that can drive you mad if you look at them too long, as she undoubtedly has. Golf, more than any other sport, will tear down talent that is not of sound mind. In seven years time, will we be awestruck by the greatest golfer of all time or will we look on, bemused, as our girlfriends and boyfriends show us Instagrams of Our Lydia TP’ing Lexi Thompson’s car?

The only remaining big questions of 2016: Can Phil Mickelson win the US Open and complete his career grand slam? Can the US win the Ryder Cup? Can I write an upcoming column about how my obsession with, or even just my possession of, Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf for the Amiga 500, said everything about who I was as a 12 year old, and who I would become?

The answer in each case is probably not.


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