fbpx
SportsPub

Steve Elkington Interview (SportsPub Golf Podcast)

Travis Fulton interviews 10-time PGA TOUR and 1995 PGA Championship winner Steve Elkington. You don’t want to miss Elk’s story about a $10,000 bet with Tom Watson. The two also talk about Elk’s two wins at The Players Championship, other Australian golfers, great ball strikers in today’s game, betting matches with Paul Azinger, Tom Watson and Tom Weiskopf, and much more. You don’t want to miss this one!

Full Transcript:

Travis Fulton:

Thank you for joining us. Sports Pub Media Golf Podcast, I’m your host, Travis Fulton, hope you’re having a great week as we round into form here, golf season across the country. Player’s Championship is behind us, got a little WGC action match play, we’ll get to that, and then of course this tournament that’s called The Masters, it’s going to happen again in April; Dustin Johnson, the defending champion. Joining me to talk about all things golf and share some incredible stories I’m sure, 10-time winner on the PGA tour, 17 times across the world, including two wins at a golf course that I know really well, it’s right down the street here in Ponte Vedra, he’s won the Player’s Championship twice at TPC Sawgrass, Steve Elkington. Elk, thanks for joining me.

Steve Elkington:

Thanks Travis. That Player’s Championship was an exciting ending, I think Justin Thomas may have almost played the perfect round of golf, with one really good bounce up 18, that did not ruin his day.

Travis Fulton:

Well, you’ve got to get a little luck. Every once and a while, you’ve got to hit a shot that’s like, “Oh no,” and then it pans out, and you win, that’s happened.

Steve Elkington:

Yeah, Freddie Couples, ’92 at The Masters, held up on Rage Creek, Tiger chipping on 16 against DeMarco, came back. Was that luck, or was that just Tiger, that one?

Travis Fulton:

I think that might’ve been Tiger.

Steve Elkington:

Yeah, I think so, I think you’re right. That’s right.

Travis Fulton:

You’ve got to get a bounce once and a while. I was thinking about you, because we’ve been working on doing this and I came on your show a couple weeks ago, and I was watching PGA National and there was another Aussie that was playing really well, and that was Matt Jones. He wins by five, no one made a run at him on Sunday, but he was pretty pure. That had to bring a smile to your face, to see another Aussie get back in the winner’s circle.

Steve Elkington:

I love Matt Jones, I’ve known him forever. You know, the place like PGA National is where Matt Jones won the Australian Open, and that’s the Australian Golf Club in Sydney, almost identical, hard golf course, lots of wind, water. Mate, I don’t even know why I didn’t pick Jonesy in my games last week, but he’s always sort of had a swing. I watched your swing sequence of Adam Scott, I actually think he has a better sort of through the ball move than Adam, Adam’s more powerful.

Steve Elkington:

I don’t know what holds players back, Jonesy is 40, he has three kids, maybe he’s a late bloomer, but he’s won the Australian Open twice, he won the Houston Open right here where I live. Last week, mate, I’m sure you know that that course is difficult, I was speaking to Jason Dufner and Pat Perez, they had some trouble at the bear trap, and Jonesy just made it look easy, he was hitting it center of the face. I listened to his interview, he said he was playing so well that he would be shocked if anyone beat him, and I think that’s a good sign.

Travis Fulton:

Absolutely. I tweeted that out, I said, “Look, Matt Jones has as good a golf swing as Adam Scott, am I wrong?” Then I’m watching these two swings, I’m like, “I think Matt Jones might be better,” and you tend to agree through the impact zone, it’s as good as it’s getting. You know what’s cool also, is he’s worked with Gary Barter in Australia for 25 years, they’ve worked together since he was 15, Matt is 40 now. That’s an incredible run, 25 years together, those guys getting it done.

Steve Elkington:

Yeah. I mean, when you look at Matt Jones’s swing, and you broke it down very well, it’s easy to analyze it because you’re like, “Okay, he looks good at setup, he sort of goes through the boxes on the way back, he’s real square with his left wrist and the club faces real nice at the top, it’s not upright, it’s not flat, he moves the body first on the way down and he catches that impact right where you’re supposed to.” The only real thing you see about Matt Jones’s swing is you see he leaves his left wrist uncocked all the way through the swing, and he has that long left arm going through and wraps around his neck. You could see him from a mile away if you knew his swing.

Travis Fulton:

Yeah, that’s a good point. I know you were a terrific ball striker as well, and still are, and I want to get to that here later on in the podcast, but I want to talk about the Tour now in Texas, your course in Houston. We’ve got WGC coming up in Austin, and then we go to Valero, and then Augusta. WGC is match play. You’ve played a lot of match play in your days, you like match play, or were you kind of more of a stroke play guy?

Steve Elkington:

I never did any good in match play, except when I was a junior. I played tons of match play when I was growing up, but I don’t know why, but when I looked at the match play this week, and I think there’s going to be some exciting groups, there’s a couple of really nasty groups like the one that Justin Thomas is in with Kisner, and then you’ve got Bryson. Bryson could, because of this golf course and drop away holes, you can drive it on the greens, and he only gets penalized losing the hole, he may do something crazy this week, which I don’t know if he is, I’m just setting it up that way.

Steve Elkington:

I think to keep yourself in the game in match play, the great putters, the great chippers, you think of Kisner last year, he beat Matt Kuchar. Both of them are really good at the short game, this is a sort of a controlled golf course, but I’ve also, in my bracket, mate, I’ve picked a few bombers in my bracket as well.

Travis Fulton:

You pretty much have to in the modern game, don’t you now? These guys hitting it so far, I can only imagine you’re sitting there like, “Wait, what? He just hit that 335 yards, he’s hitting nine iron from 100.” Yeah, right. I want to ask you, you know Sports Pub is really big into the golf gambling space, which has really taken off, I do a show for them every week, it’s called Cash Out with the Coaches, and people love it, and I love it. I’m kind of a bit of a gambler myself, I like to wager on a win ticket and head-to-head matchups and things like that. Were you ever much of a gambler when you were on the course? Did you like to put money on side games, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday? I know there was a lot of stuff happening before the tournament on those days, were you ever into that much?

Steve Elkington:

I would say yes, and yes. We finished up being in those games. Particularly when we got into the majors, I remember going to Augusta when I started getting in The Masters regularly, from winning tournaments or being in the top 30, I finished up partnering with Greg Norman, who would always invite me to play with him at The Masters, a pretty good partner. I’d always find myself in a match with Tom Watson or Paul Azinger and Tom Watson, or Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson, and then all of the sudden the money’s up, it’s like $1,000 one downs.

Steve Elkington:

All of the sudden, I’m out on the golf course, Travis, and I’m way out of my element, I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, but what I really didn’t expect was having someone like Tom Watson standing over me hoping I’m going to miss a three-footer. That was unexpected, but we would play these big matches. I mean, there was some money changed hands, but what it did do for me and did do for everyone else, the reason they did play pretty high on these Augusta practice rounds was they wanted it to really mean something on a three or four-footer, get yourself in that game mode.

Steve Elkington:

I actually found myself, once I left that group and I was relieved of that and I got into the tournament, I was feeling better, more relaxed when I got up on the course and started playing, hitting these putts for basically my own score.

Travis Fulton:

I had Lenny Watkins on this podcast about a month ago, and that’s the exact same thing he said. He said, “It just kept us sharp. We would go harder on the bigger tournaments because it would get us in the moment, every shot mattered, there was a really important putt for some money that would never hurt anybody, but it was enough that,” like you said, Watson’s looking over you like, “You’re probably going to miss that putt.” I can only imagine, that had to really get the blood pumping, and then all of the sudden it’s Thursday, day one, you’re like, “I’m good, off we go.”

Steve Elkington:

I remember one year I made some money on one of those matches, and I got a check in my locker. I won’t tell you who it was from, but it doesn’t matter, it was Lenny Watkins’s partner Tom Watson, and in the memo of the check it had “set of McGregor 693 wood”, so it was like a payoff, he bought a set of woods from me. I wish I had enough money, I wouldn’t have cashed that check, Travis, because mate, that would look good on the wall today.

Steve Elkington:

I’ll tell you another one we used to play, The British Open or the Open Championship at Muirfield, when the course was so hard one year, the rough was three feet long, and we used to play this other game inside of our game which was $10,000 a man, no bogey. If you could play the whole day in your match and not make a bogey, you would get 10 grand from each player. The first hole at Muirfield was a par four, it was like 500 yards, everybody was out of the game except Tom Watson, he made par. We hawkeyed him all the way around, and he made it to the 18th hole with no bogeys, it was one of the best rounds I’ve ever seen played.

Steve Elkington:

I was like, “What do I do here? Do I pull against Tom Watson here? I’m going to lose $10,000.” Anyway, he pulled his drive and got this really bad bounce that went in one of those fairway traps, had to play it sideways, and then he hit a two iron onto the green, and he lipped out a 30-footer to take 10 grand each off us. Mate, I was so relieved, because-

Travis Fulton:

Wow.

Steve Elkington:

That was too much.

Travis Fulton:

So he made a bogey at the end?

Steve Elkington:

Yeah, he made bogey at the last, not to win the $10,000 no bogey.

Travis Fulton:

Oh wow. Watson, it kind of surprised me, because Lenny said the same things, he was all in on those big money games, and he also said Jack would participate too. He said Jack Nicklaus would like to get in there and mix it up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday as well.

Steve Elkington:

I never got to play with Jack Nicklaus in a practice round for money, but I played with Weiskopf, he’d mix it up. When Weiskopf was about 48, I had stayed with him and his wife out in Phoenix, and we went to Lockloma and opened a course together, so I got to know Weiskopf. When he came out back on tour to get ready to turn 50, he was like, “Elk, get a couple of ducks, and let’s go roll some ducks,” he used to say. He wanted me to go find a couple of guys he could beat, so he could get ready for the tour at 48.

Travis Fulton:

How good was Weiskopf? We hear about Jack and obviously Arnie and Gary, all the big three, but like Weiskopf, he was pretty special too, wasn’t he? He could really go.

Steve Elkington:

Weiskopf was one of the great swingers of all time. Jack Nicklaus never really got any credit for his swing, I mean he had a reverse C, he was very powerful. I don’t want to say he’s like Bryson, I mean Bryson doesn’t get a lot of credit for his swing, but he gets a lot of credit for his power. Jack was kind of the same, but Jack would always lay up. If he thought the odds were for him to lay up, hit a one iron off the tee or whatever, he might hit one iron all day. I remember Freddie Couples telling me a story one time, he was playing with Jack at Pebble Beach, and the first hole was a layup. Freddie hit driver up there, and Freddie said, “I’m just going to hit driver every hole,” and cutting corners, got on 18.

Steve Elkington:

By the end of the day, Jack’s just looking at Freddie like he’s an idiot, because he says, “I’m not going to hit a one iron, I’m just going to keep hitting driver,” but Jack methodically would play out to the right on 18 with a two iron and lay up in the course. I said, “What happened? What was the scores?” He goes, “Jack shot 67, I shot 77.”

Travis Fulton:

I think that’s one of the-

Steve Elkington:

He said, “But I’m not stop hitting driver.”

Travis Fulton:

I think that’s a good point. That’s one of the things even in today’s game, I’ll talk to amateurs and they’ll be like, “Man, these guys are just so aggressive,” I’m like, “They are at times, but they’re pretty conservative too.” Tiger was pretty conservative, he wasn’t an overly aggressive player, and I think to that point, he didn’t shoot a lot of course records, like really low rounds, he just shot a lot of really solid 67s and 68s when everybody else was kind of nudging up to 70 and 71. A lot of that was just the way that he was plotting himself around.

Travis Fulton:

Now at times, yeah, he would certainly be more aggressive, but I think Jack and Tiger were kind of the same way, in that they just were very methodical, and if anything, probably a bit conservative with their game plan.

Steve Elkington:

You’re right, exactly. I think Tiger perfectly copied Jack’s thinking. He won the Open Championship one year, Tiger, and he hit about three drivers for the week. He had show-off power when he wanted to, Tiger. I remember being at Pebble Beach when he was in the right rough at 260 from the green in the first cut, and flies a three wood three feet from the hole. He’d have all this massive show-off power, but when he played, he would play the odds. The odds are so important, as you know. You would even know what Tiger was going to do, you would start to think ahead.

Steve Elkington:

When he first came to Augusta and won in ’97 by 12, and he drove it over the bunker at 18 and all that, but then there he was two years ago when he won, he did it a whole different way. He was laying up, he was doing these different shots, so Tiger Woods has brains when it comes to golf. He knows when to go to the whip, and he knows when to lay it back.

Travis Fulton:

Talk about your swing a little bit, and how it came about. You were a bit into the golfing machine with Homer Kelly, and how that-

Steve Elkington:

Ben Doyle told me they had a golf machine, yeah.

Travis Fulton:

And Ben Doyle, right, he was kind of your teacher, but you had a beautiful swing, you were a terrific ball striker. When you watch today’s game, is there anybody that kind of reminds you of yourself, in the way that they go about it from a technique standpoint, and that beautiful, fluid swing, great ball striker, great trajectory all the way to the bag?

Steve Elkington:

It’s interesting, you don’t talk about rhythm much anymore. We used to distinctly remember that Tom Watson had a fast rhythm, so did Nick Price, so did Greg Norman. My rhythm was a little bit different, medium pace. Matt Jones has nice rhythm, and I think Payne Stewart had nice rhythm, and the thing about nice rhythm is it can cover up, Travis, some flaws in your swing. There were some other guys, Don Pooley, other guys that had maybe not technically perfect swings but could play golf really well, because their rhythm would kind of … You were going slow enough or fast enough in the right spot to cover it up.

Steve Elkington:

Going back to the golf machine, I loved to study the machine, because it gave me sort of a diagnostic tool. I don’t use it and where it freaks everybody out to look at it, I just learned it as a whole. When I listen to someone like you, I can go, “Hm, I think he’s right there,” or, “He’s not right.” I use it to look at swings and diagnose them, and say, “Okay, what’s missing here?”

Travis Fulton:

I think of today’s ball strikers, like I’m really impressed with Morikawa, like he’s just such lasers with his iron game, and he’s got that little flat lead wrist and gets the club down, and just matches it up beautifully at the bottom. I like Hovland too. These two guys, I watch them, they’re really good off the tee, they’re really good into the greens, and yes, Hovland struggles a little bit with his short game, yes, Morikawa struggles a little bit with his putter, but if you’re good from tee to green and you do that exceptionally well, you have staying power on the PGA Tour, because you’re going to have some good weeks. Is that accurate?

Steve Elkington:

Yeah, for sure. Morikawa, he has that golfing DNA, as you noted. You noted how Morikawa hits his fade, I did my fade a little different, I had a cupped left wrist and I had an open stance, so I played more of a push with more leaning impact. I did it a different way, but I was able to control the ball from left to right as well, as you noted there. Then you’ve got power players like Justin Thomas, who I like his swing, I enjoy watching Thomas. We went through such an era with our games, we went through Jimmy Ballard, where I’d go out of the screen, Travis, on the way back and cover it like Curtis Strange and Hal Sutton. That wasn’t for me at the time, and then we went to Mac O’Grady and a bunch of guys that really wanted their left arm on the shoulder plane back here, and Justin Thomas now is way up.

Steve Elkington:

I’ve always implied that it’s great if you can swing the way you want to, and just have all the rules that go with that to get your desired flight.

Travis Fulton:

Everybody kind of does it a little differently. It’s interesting with you, the little extended lead wrist and then the shaft lean, and that’s the way that you hit your fade. It’s really easy to get going down barking up the wrong tree, I would imagine, all the stuff that’s available to you. All of the sudden, you get lost, and then pretty soon you can’t find it again, and then this is what you do. I want to ask you about another Aussie, taking you back in your day, and that was Greg Norman, who is a little bit older than you, what, seven, eight years perhaps older than you right now?

Steve Elkington:

Yep. Yeah, he is, yeah.

Travis Fulton:

Talk about your relationship with Greg when you were back and you guys were playing, and just how good of a driver of the ball Greg Norman was.

Steve Elkington:

He was like the longest driver on our tour, and the straightest. I mean, think about the most accurate, when you think of someone like Cal Peete, or in our tour, Jim Furyk, and then you think of the longest like Bryson DeChambeau, well then you put together the Jim Furyk and Bryson together, that was Greg Norman.

Travis Fulton:

Wow.

Steve Elkington:

The straightest and the longest. Greg, he sort of ruined his swing at the end of his career. I say “ruined it”, he got shorter and crossed the line a little bit, and he shortened it, but in his day when he wound it up, he had that real Jack Nicklaus takeaway with the club off the ground, almost like Matt Jones, and then he would set those legs on the downswing first, and then he would just whip it with the hands and arms and come up underneath it. He was just able to keep that face in the zone a long time. He wasn’t a great short iron player, but he was a great putter and he was a great chipper, and a great driver.

Travis Fulton:

Yeah. Did he like to mix it up a little bit in the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday games, or was he kind of over on his own?

Steve Elkington:

Definitely mix it up, yeah, definitely.

Travis Fulton:

Really? Okay.

Steve Elkington:

He was always the one that had the most toys and the most cash, so we were always wanting to mix it up-

Travis Fulton:

That’s great.

Steve Elkington:

With him, because he had stuff available to mix it up with.

Travis Fulton:

That was my next question, is like, whose cash just meant a little bit more? Like it didn’t matter if it was five bucks, “Give me that five bucks,” because I would imagine Greg had to be on that shortlist, winning five from him.

Steve Elkington:

Lenny was hard to beat, Lenny hated losing. You had him on this podcast, you probably sensed it, he would do anything to fight you off for five, for sure. Trevino, I was in a couple matches with Trevino, when he was down he would talk in the middle of your swing, he didn’t care, he didn’t want to lose. We had some fun with all that.

Travis Fulton:

I told Lenny, I’m going to say something to you, and tell me if this is accurate, I said, “I don’t know if I would want to play with you guys back in the day, because when I was growing up, I was little, just getting into the game when I was watching you guys in your heyday, you, Hale Irwin, Raymond Floyd, you guys would’ve just scared the dog lickings out of me. You guys just looked intense, competitive, and probably downright mean when it came down to it, in particularly on these Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday games.” Is that accurate? Who am I missing on that list?

Steve Elkington:

I forgot about Raymond. Raymond and I won the Shark Shootout together out in Sherwood, and I think Raymond would’ve bet against me in the match, and I was his partner.

Travis Fulton:

That’s great.

Steve Elkington:

I remember a story, I was there, I wasn’t even on tour yet, and Lenny Watkins had just won the Tournament of Champions at Lacosta, and then he went over to the desert and shot like … No. He might’ve won LA first, and then one or the other, he won both back-to-back. Bob Hope at about 25-under went to Riviera, won in 25-under, this would’ve been about ’85 or ’86. He came to Houston to work with Claude Harmon Sr. at Lochinvar and he was getting ready to take a week off, and Claude Harmon drove around with Lenny Watkins, when Dick Harmon of course was still alive, and it was even before Butch was the pro at Lochinvar. I was out there watching this guy Lenny Watkins, and he was hitting the ball unreal.

Steve Elkington:

You had to lean sideways to see the flag, because he was literally hitting the flag every hole. If you ever watch tape of him of that year winning in LA, I mean he hit it like this about six times on Sunday with six irons. After all those days, we were at lunch and Lenny said, “What’d you see, Mr. Harmon? What do you think I need to work on?” Claude Harmon said something like, “Lenny, I’ve got I think three things that you need to work on.” Lenny leaned in, he said, “The first one is, when you go to the golf course, you need to make sure that you have your clubs with you, that’s number one.”

Steve Elkington:

“The second one,” he says, “You need to change the way you go to the bank each week, because someone might be following you,” that was number two. Number three, I don’t even remember what number three, it wasn’t as cute as one and two, but it was like, “You don’t have anything to work on, get out of here.” I think he finished leading money winner that year on tour, it was just incredible. I was like, “I can’t play on tour with these guys,” it was so intimidating, as you just said. I got on tour in ’87, I’m looking down the range at these guys, and I’m like, “What am I doing here?”

Travis Fulton:

There’s so much there to think about and chew on, as a young player like yourself trying to find your way, but then also just what Lenny was going through, maybe feeling the need like, “Man, maybe I’m missing something, I need to be doing something different,” and then a coach saying, “Look, just protect your DNA and go.” It takes me into this conversation with Rory, who felt the need that all of the sudden he needed to go after more distance, and now he’s worked him into a tough situation where his iron game is really struggling. That one really baffled me, Elk, is Rory being so candid about feeling the need to chase more distance because of the influence of Bryson DeChambeau. Did it hit you the same way?

Steve Elkington:

Yeah. Of course I follow you, and I listen to a lot of things, and you probably listen to things I say too, but I was really surprised at Bay Hill when Rory hit two balls in the water on Sunday at Bay Hill on number six. Of course, we saw what Bryson did the day before, carried it across, and I just felt like Jack Nicklaus or Tiger wouldn’t have tried to hit two balls across that far like Rory did. I said, “Why is he doing that?” I was telling my son, I said, “Why does he think he needs to do that? He could probably hit a two iron off the tee or a three wood out to the right, and have another three iron and knock it on the green.”

Steve Elkington:

Now, as you’ve noted, he’s going to Pete Cowan. Is it really a swing problem he has here, or is it a confidence problem, or is it an, “I’ve been beat up a lot on Sundays,” problem? I don’t know, what do you think? Is it a Sunday problem? Is it confidence? I mean, he certainly is one of the gifted players we have on tour, and you and I could sit there and watch his swing and say, “Yes, at times he shifts it a little bit too far from the inside on the way down.” However, he knows how to aim it, he’s done that his whole life.

Travis Fulton:

I was a little critical of Rory about a month ago, I felt like he was turning a lot of 70, 71 rounds into 73s and 74s, like there just wasn’t a lot of fight there, like he wasn’t grinding like you see players do, and professionals to me are the best at. You watch like a Jordan Spieth, it looks like he’s shooting 74, and he posts two-under, it’s like, “How did he just do that? That was amazing, he hit it everywhere.” For Rory, I just felt like there was no fight there.

Travis Fulton:

I think it’s more mental with Rory, in my opinion at this point. Yeah, there’s some things unraveled, but you’re not reinventing the wheel with Rory. Pete knows that, like it’s just, “Let’s get a couple things back in line,” and I just think he needs to be kind of reinforced a little bit, like, “Look, your good is good enough.” He’s already one of the best players in the world, you don’t need 20 yards to go chasing this and that, like just reestablish your own identity that we grew accustomed to loving in Rory McIlroy when he was winning major championships. Then I think he builds his confidence, and off he goes.

Travis Fulton:

I feel like he was kind of reaching, he’s kind of lost his identity, Elk, and he was kind of like, “Okay, maybe I should go for more distance, or maybe I should …” When you start doing that, then your confidence just goes away, and the fight’s gone. I think that’s, in my opinion on the outside looking in, I’m not in the camp, that’s how I saw it with Rory. I think he’ll be back, and there’s no question there. You’re not reinventing anything with Rory, it’s just getting the wheels turning again, and off he goes. It leads me to Bryson, who’s generated all this buzz.

Travis Fulton:

It’s pretty crazy what he’s done, I think to the psyche to a lot of players, feeling the need, “Man, I need to go out and I’ve got to get 20 more yards,” or do you? CT Pan, yeah, you probably need to get a few more yards, Rory, I don’t know. Bryson, the impact, it’s incredible, isn’t it?

Steve Elkington:

Yeah. You mentioned that I studied the golf machine, that’s what I learned from that for 10 years with Ben Doyle just studying it. I can explain how Bryson gets all his power, and that’s great. Bryson actually came to me at The LA Open and asked me a few questions, just because he just wanted to hash it out a little bit with someone else that knows about it, but certainly Bryson is in everybody’s heads. Dustin Johnson came out and said, “Look, I’m not chasing distance, I hit it plenty far,” and that was the end of that conversation with him.

Steve Elkington:

One of the things about Dustin Johnson, everybody thinks he’s stupid or he’s dumb or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he’s really smart in my opinion, because it’s so easy for him to just block out all the noise, and he just says, “Oh, I haven’t thought about The Masters menu,” or, “No, I haven’t really thought about that. Thanks for asking, but I haven’t thought about it.” To me, it’s unreal. Now, to answer your question, would Hale Erwin go for more distance if he was on tour, would Tom Kite, would all these other guys do that? I still think there’s room, Travis, on tour for accuracy with irons, like Morikawa.

Steve Elkington:

I think Russell Knox is leading greens in reg at about 71 or 2%, normally about 70% leads for the year, so if I was on tour right now, I’d be going for that 70% in greens in reg and I’d just take what crumbs are leftover, mate. That’s where I’d be thinking.

Travis Fulton:

You are who you are, like you have to go out and play your game. I think you can incrementally get more distance, it’s never too late, it’s certainly better to do it when you’re younger. Like this generation that’s going to come out here in the next 10 years are going to be longer, Will Zalatoris can bunt it out there 310 and just barely even take a pass at it. They’re going to get longer as they come out, it’s just really interesting right now, the guys that are in the heat of the battle feeling that need to have to change something up. Jordan Spieth lost three years of his career in his prime, lost three years chasing distance, that’s sad really, at the end of the day.

Travis Fulton:

Because I love Jordan Spieth, golf loves him, they need him, and now he’s kind of worked his way back, but all of this was after more power, and it didn’t pay off.

Steve Elkington:

You finish up ruining your smaller swing when you go for distance off the tee. Rory said it last week I think or two weeks ago, that he went for a ton of distance off the tee, and it finished up affecting his wedge swing, or fixing his seven iron swing. It goes back to what we were talking about 10 minutes ago, did he need a ton of distance at Player’s to win? No, he doesn’t need it. Does he need it at Kiawah Island? Probably not. Does he need more at Augusta? Probably not.

Steve Elkington:

If you sat down with one of these players, and we’re outside obviously looking in, would Raymond Floyd change anything? The question would have to be asked, “How many events on tour do you think you’re still in the game without doing anything?” I would say most, so you don’t need a ton of distance at Augusta, because everybody can reach everything around there, so you want accuracy. This is a conversation that’ll be never ending, but certainly Bryson has bent the bar, mate, he has heated up the iron bar and he has bent it over his knee, and he’s got everybody looking at him.

Steve Elkington:

He’s done it everywhere, he’s done it with his wedges. He’s not a great wedge player. Imagine hitting your sand iron with a six iron shaft, people keep saying he’s got all of this short game, and he doesn’t have a great short game, they say he’s got a pretty good wedge game, but the stats say … I don’t know, I’ll be interested to hear what your take is, he’s a pretty good little chipper and a great putter.

Travis Fulton:

I think he’s great, he’s obviously great off the tee, he’s chewing people up off the tee, and he’s a great putter. I think those are the two things he’s great at, and those are two things to be really great at.

Steve Elkington:

Like Greg Norman’s strengths.

Travis Fulton:

Yeah, I was just going to say, he’s a lot like Greg Norman. He’s long and he’s pretty damn straight, and it’s not like he’s spraying all over the place. Now, he’s certainly, everybody has those moments where you do, we saw it at Augusta, where in November he was pretty erratic there, but his strengths were his driver and his putter. I see the PGA Tour, you’ve got to be long enough for sure, certainly a little more helps, but you’d better be good in the approach game, you’d better be good in strokes and approach,

Travis Fulton:

Give me a ball striker, and then from there give me someone who can have good weeks putting. You can’t be a dog, you’ve got to have some good weeks putting, that’s kind of how I see it in today’s game. It’s interesting, I want to ask you about this. The short game is important, we know that, but when I look at the models and the statistics in how tournaments play out, strokes gained around the green is always towards the bottom. It’s like iron game, approach game, some distance, putting is right there, and then it’s like around the green. Is that how it was back in your day? Was that a similar type of model, or was it the short game you felt like had more value?

Steve Elkington:

Well, it’s a very interesting conversation. Short game matters a lot to Jordan Spieth, he’s very good at it. Does it matter all the time? I mean, strokes gained is another pet peeve of mine, which strokes gained doesn’t know where you missed it, so it only knows that you missed a green and you chipped. Strokes gained is important for tour players to look how they stack up against one another, but it’s terrible for taking all strokes games for betting, because let’s face it, you and I could be playing a tournament, and I could be above the whole every part, and I’ve got no chance of making it, and you could be right below the hole, and you’d show up as a ton better at strokes gained than me, and it may not be that way, so that’s one thing.

Steve Elkington:

When I think of short game, Travis, I think of the short game from about inside of 100, for me, because that’s really where it’s dangerous. Lenny Watkins was good in there, Tom Kite was the best, no one could even touch … Raymond Floyd, and of course the most important thing is, where are you when you miss the green? Because sometimes you can’t do anything, and does that weigh in with Tiger? Was Tiger a great short game guy because he always had room to play and never left himself no room, because he was such a strategy player? Or Jack, Jack was a terrible chipper and got lessons in the middle of his career from Phil Rogers, saved his whole career, but you’d never see Jack where he couldn’t do something. I’m not even sure I answered your question there, mate, but it’s very important to whom and when.

Travis Fulton:

We know it’s important, it’s just interesting to think about it, because I don’t think strokes gained tells you the whole story as well. I tend to agree that it’s important and it does help you stack up to other players for sure, and it gives you a picture, but to your point, when you miss a green, where are you missing it, and what are you leaving yourself with? Because we know the probability of getting it up and down, a little more green to work with, versus someone who’s stymied themself short side of themself, they don’t have that probability. There’s more to the story than that, for sure.

Steve Elkington:

Let me give you a more extreme example. You and I play, you hit 18 greens in reg all above the hole, and I hit no greens in reg just short every hole, and I’m a great chipper, and I chip up to an inch and tap in. I might beat you on the putting game that day by 10 strokes, I don’t know, and does that really give you the true picture of strokes gained putting? Probably not, you might’ve hit it on the green in two on par fives and you beat me for the day. There’s a deeper level that you have to understand.

Steve Elkington:

It’s easy to get on social and say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about with strokes gained,” but strokes gained doesn’t know where you are on the course.

Travis Fulton:

It’s such a fascinating game, you can get it done a lot of different ways. Your era, just listening to you talk about these players, Greg Norman was such a terrific driver of the ball, and then you had Lenny and his iron game, and Kite and his wedge game, and Crenshaw and his putter, like you’ve got to be great at something, don’t you? I mean, you have to have something that you’re great at, like Spieth is great around the greens, Dustin’s great off the tee, Morikawa is great with the … Like there’s got to be something you can hang your hat on, like, “I’m great at this,” and really use that as your launching pad, if you will, on tour.

Steve Elkington:

Trevino said, “God didn’t give everyone everything,” and he said, “Thank God they took chipping away from Jack Nicklaus.” Trevino also said he was born too early, because he said, “If I would’ve had hybrids, I would’ve won The Masters five times, because I couldn’t hit my three iron on the green like Jack,” so nobody gets everything. For me personally, I wasn’t a great chipper of the ball. We were at 55 degrees back then, 60 didn’t come around for a little bit there, but when I did work on my chipping quite a bit and I was able to get comfortable with what I was doing, mate, I could go at it a lot more with my irons, knowing that if I did miss in certain spots … We went through a period on tour, Travis, where there was quite a bit of rough around the greens just week to week.

Steve Elkington:

They do it in stretches on tour now, they’ll set up the greens queue, they’ll say, “We’re going to do two inches of rough, we’re going to do it at every course across the whole tour.” It was a little different, for example we might go to LA and it might be four inches, and then we might go to New Orleans and it might be five inches, and then we might go to TPC and there was none, and I kind of enjoyed that difference. Hilton Head one year, I remember it was seven inches, so if you did hit a screaming five iron at the pin, it was just going to barely go off the green. Now, what could you do from up there?

Steve Elkington:

There was a bunch of different setups, and I kind of enjoyed that. It’s changed now, they’re going for TV, they’re going for looks, they’re going for a lot of that.

Travis Fulton:

Yeah, those are good points, there’s not much rough anymore. You look at it, every once and a while you’ll get some rough, and you’ll see the ball nestling down a little bit more, but at PGA National, the ball to me looked like it was pretty well perched up. Sawgrass had a little bit more than usual, but nothing crazy. I would think this week, we’re probably not going to see much at WGC, they’re going to want scoring, they’re going to want action, birdies and eagles and let them go for it. It’s interesting.

Steve Elkington:

Who do you have this week, mate? Because my pick is psycho who I got winning the tournament.

Travis Fulton:

All right, that’s what I wanted to finish up with here, I’m going to share with you my bracket, all right? Here’s who I’ve got in the final four, I’ve got Hatton versus Bryson and Spieth versus Rahm, those are my four.

Steve Elkington:

Mate, we’ve got one close. I got Kokrak taking out Bryson over in that one on the left side.

Travis Fulton:

Love it.

Steve Elkington:

Kokrak’s been putting out of his mind, and I actually had Kokrak beating Ancer. I think Ancer is due for a good week, very straight hitter, falls into that mold of Kisner . I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying this is how I did it. In the bottom one there, I think I had Ryan Palmer coming out of that bottom group, the Texan, putts good, drives it good, mate, and we both had Jordan Spieth. I think Jordan Spieth is the worse person to play in match play.

Travis Fulton:

I agree.

Steve Elkington:

Particularly when his game is almost good, because he can make it from anywhere on every green, and if he misses a green, he’s going to chip it in or close, and it’s just a nightmare to play.

Travis Fulton:

He’s back, I think he’s back. It’s good to see him back, he’s keeping it in front of him, his iron game’s picked up again, and I agree, man, he gets that putter going. He’ll wear you out.

Steve Elkington:

Who do you have winning it, do you have Spieth too?

Travis Fulton:

Nope, so I’ve got Rahm beating Spieth, and I’ve got Bryson beating Hatton, and then I went with John Rahm, and here’s why. I think he’s just been kind of turning the wheels, seventh, 10th, the putter’s been a little chilly for him. Last week he picked it up, or his last outing at Player’s, putter was a little bit better, so I think he kind of builds on that and has a really good putting week. That’s what he’s missing, he needs a good putting week, and I think this is the week.

Steve Elkington:

I think you’re right about Rahm. I’d like to see Rahm, he’s got that knob, that volume where it’s like really intense like a Spaniard, but then it’s too much, where I saw him at Player’s almost break the putter over his head while he was walking down the fairway like Woody Austin. That’s too much, he’s got to back that off just a little bit and just relax a little bit. Like I told you there, I have Spieth going all the way.

Travis Fulton:

Okay, cool.

Steve Elkington:

I think it’s going to be a runaway train this week for him.

Travis Fulton:

I love it. Well, golf would love it if Jordan Spieth won.

Steve Elkington:

Mate, I would be remiss without U of H, the Houston Cougars in the March Madness Sweet 16 to play Syracuse on Saturday, I had to drop that in there too.

Travis Fulton:

I love it, March Madness has delivered this year, unbelievable tournament, upsets, close games, Houston is playing well. I grew up in the northwest, so I actually grew up probably 35 minutes from Spokane, Washington, so Gonzaga has always been … This could be the year they do it, I think they’ve got the best team, they’ve just got to put it together.

Steve Elkington:

Not a bad bus to jump on there, mate.

Travis Fulton:

No, not at all. Elk, I could talk to you for the rest of the day, but I know you’re busy, and we’ve got to do this again. I appreciate you doing the Sports Pub Podcast here, and let’s see who wins the Dell.

Steve Elkington:

I’m going to post my bracket this afternoon, or I think it’s going to be posted about now, so let’s see how we do.

Travis Fulton:

Okay, sounds good. Steve, thanks, I appreciate it.

Steve Elkington:

Thank you.

Travis Fulton:

Okay, take care.

Whistling Straits Course - 2020 Ryder Cup
2021 Ryder Cup
Course & Location:
Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, WI
Ryder Cup 2020 Logo

Recent Articles

Weekly Free Picks