I’ve learned a few lessons since taking on the Thrash Talk column at the start of the 2010 season. The one you guys have driven home the hardest is that Steve Stricker’s got a lot of defenders out there. I know because each time I call him boring, Señor Snooze, or drier than white bread, a commenter reminds me that I’m an idiot.
As I started looking at the field for this week’s Tour Championship, I realized that I’ve got a snap judgment of each guy in the field. Are they compelling, engaging, exciting? Do they move the needle? Say their name and is it goosebumps or yawns?
Put it all together and here you have it, the FedExCup Top 30, as they rack up in what I best describe as the “It” Index.
30. Retief Goosen (FedEx Rank: 17): The original robot, Goosen is the poster boy for bland golfers. Hey Retief, it’s a game! You can crack a smile once or twice a season.
29. Steve Stricker (FedEx Rank: 4): Well, I better duck for cover, but I just can’t get into Stricker’s game or persona. The choice between watching Señor Snooze finish off a slow and steady Sunday finale and mowing my lawn, and not only does the lawn win, but I might even break out the edger.
28. Jim Furyk (FedEx Rank: 11): Just typing his name makes me yawn. I swear, I’m really yawning as I type this.
27. Ben Crane (FedEx Rank: 22): If you got all the sports psychologists into a room and they created a Frankengolfer, it would be Crane. All that emotional stability, his refusal to look at the scoreboard, and that agonizingly slow play is simply too painful to watch.
26. Zach Johnson (FedEd Rank: 19): If this was a list of most boring major champs of the past decade, he’s contend for the top spot. Normally a guy gets bonus points for being active on Twitter, but even his tweets make him sound like a librarian (apologies to all the librarians out there).
25. Martin Laird (FedEx Rank: 9): Let me admit, I’m stumped. I don’t know a single thing about Mr. Laird. But I’m sure he’s a nice guy and a good golfer. Hopefully next year I’ve got more to say about him.
24. Ryan Palmer (FedEx Rank: 16): He’s got a famous golf name and looks like he could be a movie star, but no juices flow when he pops up on the leaderboard.
23. Geoff Ogilvy (FedEx Rank: 12): Seems to be the classic “my stuff don’t stink” guy. Whether that’s fair or not, too bad, that’s how he strikes me. One of the few I’ll actively root against.
22. Paul Casey (FedEx Rank: 5): How many years are we going to be stuck hearing about how great Casey is, only to watch him wilt time and time again? His game does nothing for me, and his whiny attitude is a complete turnoff.
21. Luke Donald (FedEx Rank: 7): I prefer my Brits to be flamboyant like Poulter, or smarmy (and hysterical) like Faldo. Donald’s just a little tame, a little plain Jane for my taste.
20. Kevin Na (FedEx Rank: 20): I keep wanting Na to break through because he seems to have a good presence and could be a hit with the fans. But at this point, he’s yet to do anything that comes to mind.
19. K.J. Choi (FedEx Rank: 23): Mr. Consistent, when you see Choi make a mistake, it’s time for a double take. But I’d be lying if I said I’ll be hooting and hollering on his behalf on the back nine Sunday.
18. Robert Allenby (FedEx Rank: 27): This guy wears an expression of being pissed off all the time, and I’d easily rank him among the few guys I’ll actively root against. He gets some points for his commitment to wearing pink in honor of his mom, but that’s the only redeeming element I can find on this grumpy son of a gun.
17. Bo Van Pelt (FedEx Rank: 30): He hangs on the fringe, yet you know he’s around. A gutsy guy who epitomizes the word grinder.
16. Jason Day (FedEx Rank: 6): Insane how this guy has flown under the radar this year. He’s among the youngest and most talented of the new stars. Sadly he looks like he’s been wearing Sergio’s hand-me-downs all season.
15. Tim Clark (FedEx Rank: 21): I like knowing every successful golfer isn’t built like Villegas or towering like Johnson. Clark doesn’t have much pizazz, but he’s a little guy who can play with the big boys. If only he’d ditch the broomstick putter, which knocks anyone down a few pegs on my list.
14. Nick Watney (FedEx Rank: 28): One of the young guns that still needs some seasoning. He proved in one classic meltdown at this year’s PGA Championship that we overestimate how easy it is to put away a big title. Of this new breed of guys though, he’s not one I’ll be glued to the TV to watch in the featured group on a Friday afternoon.
13. Kevin Streelman (FedEx Rank: 29): I’ve got a soft spot for Streelman because he looks separated at birth from a couple of brothers I grew up with. He’s got a fresh face and easygoing spirit that makes him easy to root for. But, more than anything, he looks just like my buddies, and I love breaking their balls about it.
12. Jeff Overton (FedEx Rank: 24): He’d easily have fallen into the snooze category in June, but his tantrum at the Greenbrier showed some passion. Sure he looked like a sore loser, but who hasn’t watched a putt knocked off line by a bumpy green and didn’t react that way? I love the emotion and he’s one I’ll be keeping an eye.
11. Justin Rose (FedEx Rank: 13): Can’t believe it’s been so long since Rose stormed onto the stage as a teen phenom. He was the original Rory McIlroy, but never did much with it. Fun to see a guy who’s stuck with it and is finally living up to the hype.
10. Hunter Mahan (FedEx Rank: 15): Love his “cool” look, mainly because he seems like he’d be a pretty laid back guy. Toss in that he’s going to marry a Cowboys cheerleader and he gets plenty of pimp points.
9. Charley Hoffman (FedEx Rank: 3): Funny what turns you into a fan, but during last year’s Barclay’s, I rode a Path train between New York and New Jersey with Hoffman. The guy just oozes cool, and the way he rocks that goofy haircut and trashy (literally) sponsor makes him OK in my book. Plus, anyone who’s boys with Luke Wilson has to rock.
8. Ernie Els (FedEx Rank: 8): The Big Easy has grown on me the past couple years. He’s become more outspoken and I can watch him swing all day long. The fact he’ll still rock the pleated pants reminds me that he’s a classic and classy veteran who still shows flashes of brilliance. And did I mention, I can watch that long flowing swing all day long?
7. Camilo Villegas (FedEx Rank: 25): Here’s a golfer who could push beyond the world of golf fans. He’s got the charisma and the look to stand apart. Add his spider move on the greens and he’s got a “thing,” much like Chi Chi had his “sword dance.” Villegas needs a breakthrough year on the course and has shown flashes of brilliance. He’s just the kind of personality the PGA Tour can build around for years to come.
6. Ryan Moore (FedEx Rank: 26): Remember the guy who was way too cool for school? To me, that’s Moore. All the press about turning his back on sponsors and charting his own course was cool, but enough already. Give me a break with the skater attitude and the street shoes. You might call him “being his own man” but I’d say he needs to look in the mirror, put on a pair of pants that fit properly, and decide if he wants to be a slob or class it up and stick with the throwback Bobby Jones look. What I’ll say for Moore though, is he’s damn interesting and certainly makes you take notice. Give me that any day over some of the others on this list.
5. Dustin Johnson (FedEx Rank: 2): I listed DJ at the start of the year as one to watch this season and sure enough he’s been the most compelling member of the PGA Tour not named Tiger Woods. His meltdown at Pebble Beach was heart wrenching. His monumental blunder at the PGA stamped him as the new Roberto De Vicenzo. On top of his mind boggling length, Johnson has awesome game around the greens. But the more time he’s spending in front of the cameras, the more I think he’s not the sharpest groove in the bag. Am I mistaking “laid back” and “easy going” for “having the IQ of a gap wedge?” Time will tell. Regardless, he’s one of the few worth setting the DVR for.
4. Adam Scott (FedEx Rank: 14): Let’s admit it, you’d love to be Adam Scott for a weekend. The dude is rich, good looking, and has some of the best endorsement deals in golf. He’s the Greg Norman of this generation and whether the titles pile up or not, he’s a real stud on and off the course.
3. Matt Kuchar (FedEx Rank: 1): Here’s a guy who knows he plays golf for a living (you listening, Allenby?). That same ear-to-ear grin that melted our hearts when a fresh-faced Kuchar burst onto the scene as an amateur still burns bright.
2. Phil Mickelson (FedEx Rank: 10): Mickelson’s long been my favorite player. He’s got the bold, daring attitude that makes him one of the few guys I’ll watch through an entire 18 holes on a Thursday. Every swing can be spectacular or disastrous and that’s thrilling, if not painfully frustrating. The payoff is when he makes back to back eagles on the way to the green jacket. But Phil falls from the top spot because his interviews feel too put-on these days, and his Eddie Haskell act can be a bit much. No doubt in my mind, however, that he’s the most exciting player on the course no matter if he’s leading or trying to avoid finishing DFL.
1. Bubba Watson (FedEx Rank: 18): The King of It, Bubba has jumped to the top of the list this year. He’s adventurous on the course, hits the ball a mile, and his playoff decision at the PGA was dumber than dumb, but man was it fun! Anyone who can dance with Ellen, prepare for the Ryder Cup by playing Celtic Manor on a video game, and isn’t afraid to cry like a baby after winning proves that a golfer can have a rich, compelling personality. Add his awesomely playful Twitter persona and his candid interviews whenever there’s a microphone in his face and Bubba takes the cake when it comes to having “It.”