Golf

Mandel’s Musings: Brooks Koepka, Symbol of Golf’s Evolution is Blowing Away the U.S. Open Field

Koepka is showing why he is now the most imperious player in major golf with an explosive marriage of power, finesse and ice-cool emotions

by Scott Mandel

Evolution is inevitable. Who uttered that particular piece of brilliance?

I did.

But, really, evolution, as the primary driver of societal and athletic advancement, is inevitable and shows up in every facet of our lives, with the possible exception of the “natural selection” process for the current resident in the American White House.

Charles Darwin would have gone to town on that one, but if he were alive today, he would look at Brooks Koepka and note just how correct his theories of natural selection, in the 19th century, truly were.

Koepka, the product of Florida State University who is built like a linebacker, represents the new wave of golfer on the international scene. Koepka is 6’0″, 215 pounds of pure muscle. He hits the golf ball off the tee 340 yards away, or about 20-50 yards further than the average professional golfer. Koepka is also a self-described “gym rat,” working out with the weights and machines several times per week.

Keopka has become the epitome of the evolution of the sport that once was dominated by a bunch of 165 pound genteel men with plaid pants and cute golf caps. He has brought weight-training into the sport while combining his enormous strength with meticulous technique in his golf swing and all the modern advances of golf technology.

Brooks Koepka: force of nature.
Koepka is making The Black Course look easy

Koepka, who tied for second at The Masters last month, credits his ability to stay on an even keel as one of his best attributes.

This combination has created a veritable monster of the Midway on the most difficult golf courses in the world. This week, Keopka is blowing away the field at the U.S. Open, one of the four major tournaments of the year. Playing on one of the most difficult courses in the country, the Bethpage, N.Y. Black Course, Koepka shot a 63 (yes, a 63!) and a 65 on his first two days.

“It’s massive,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how difficult it is and how you have to let things roll off your back, laugh about it and move on. This game tests your patience, for sure.”

Playing alongside Keopka during the first two rounds of this event was one Tiger Woods, once the heir apparent to Jack Nicklaus as the greatest golfer the world had ever seen but now, at age 43, and several back and knee surgeries into his great career, is merely one of the best golfers in the world. He is probably still a top ten performer and on some weeks, such as last month’s Masters, Woods seems capable of summoning his old talent and beating the field of youngsters on this tour, as he did in gaining his fifth green jacket. But, Woods was unable to sustain it at this major, missing the cut.

It was strange seeing Woods and Keopka, the past and the future of the sport, standing side by side during this tournament’s opening two rounds. One looked fresh and muscular and eager while the other looked like he wanted to be elsewhere.

Perhaps, when Woods watched Koepka tee off from 18 holes each of the days they were paired together, with Koepka drilling the golf ball further than Tiger ever did, it contributed to the veteran’s sense of ill-feeling It was also strange seeing Keopka out-drive Woods off the tee by 40 yards.

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Tiger Woods, not a small man, looks much smaller in comparison to Koepka

But, that’s evolution for you. It’s also age vs. youth.

For further comparisons sake, Nicklaus, considered the greatest golfer in the sports’ history and the winner of 18 Majors, three more than Woods, was also one of the tours longest hitters off the tee, at 5’10”, 190 pounds.

Jack, in his prime, was measured by IBM in 1968, along with other top golfers from that era for their distance off the tee. IBM recorded driving distance data at 11 PGA Tour events. The top 10 players, 51 years ago, averaged 270.2 yards, the average was 264.0 yards and Nicklaus led the Tour at 276.0 yards. Adding 35 yards for increased speed, hotter driver and better ball, IBM estimates Nicklaus would’ve averaged 311.0 last season

Brooks Koepka (right) stamped his authority on the US PGA as Tiger Woods toiled.
Woods said he wasn’t feeling well this week. Koepka said he feels great

Evolution. It’s not just the human body that has gotten bigger and stronger, it’s the equipment and training techniques that have made today’s athlete capable of so much more than those of prior generations.

But, the combination of all of those things with Brooks Koepka’s talent and strong will is how a new champion of golf is being crowned, right here in Bethpage, New York.

Mandel’s Musings: Spring Fever – Tiger Woods and The Masters, NBA Playoffs, Baseball in Full Swing

by Scott Mandel

This is what spring is supposed to feel like. It’s not just the longer days, the warmer temperatures, and the rosier outlooks.

No, it can’t be spring without first checking out the azaleas in Augusta, Georgia, where there is also a little golf tournament being played called The Masters. Or, paying attention to the real NBA season, aka, the playoffs. And, as idyllic a season as spring can be, the most idyllic of sports, baseball, is now in full swing.

One of the rights of spring remains checking out the leader board among those azaleas in Georgia, where globally-branded golf names appear from April 11 – April 14. One of those brands is named, Tiger Woods.

No athlete in any sport has been as polarizing over the past 20 years than Woods, yet, his comeback into the upper echelon of the sport is being met with levels of appreciation, if not affection, for his evolving story of what his fans hope will be redemption. The fun part for observers is the experiencing of his trials and tribulations in real time. We don’t know if history will be made in Augusta this weekend or not, but, it’s an emotional roller-coaster to watch it play out in front of our very eyes.

What makes his play even more compelling is knowing there remain many Woods’ haters. People who will never forgive his past mistakes nor his treatment of his fans and the media. So, like the political landscape across the world, there are vastly different points of view about this athlete which draws the most casual of golf fans to his events.

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Tiger Woods seems to be enjoying his job, finally


From notorious cheating husband to the incurrence of several career-threatening surgeries on his back and knees, Woods’ playing career was all but left for dead. The sport places such tremendous torque on backs and knees with every swing that nobody believed Woods, at age 43, could ever approach his former talent, let alone his ability to win tournaments, especially major tournaments, on the PGA tour after what his body and mind have been through over the past 10 years.

However, Woods currently finds himself, today, with the onset of the third round, one stroke back of the Masters lead with most of the nation of golf fans and, now, those casual fans of the sport, rooting hard for him to pick up his fourth Masters green jacket and first win in a major in over a decade.

At the same time, post-season playoffs are beginning this week in two major North American sports. The NBA and the NHL. This is the part of each sports’ seasons that actually matters. After interminably long, 82-game regular season schedules which began in October of last year, we finally have competition in which the participants actually care about winning at all costs.

Not to be forgotten or outdone, baseball season is blissfully in full swing, too, allowing it, in spring of 2019, to once more become the national pastime of the U.S., while football, driven by gambling, huge television contracts, and concussions, tries to sort itself out during its off-season.

But, it is on this day, on this weekend when we focus on the drama of watching Tiger Woods. An often surly human being/athlete, never fan-friendly or media-friendly, we suddenly care about his appearance on the Masters leaderboard. We care about the tremendous theater his skills on a golf course can create on a pretty weekend in April. We care so much so that it even keeps us sitting in front of our televisions on a warm, bright Saturday and Sunday instead of leaving our homes this weekend to enjoy a sunny day in the spring.

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The Masters in Augusta is lined with beautiful azaleas





















Masters azaleas surround the beautiful golf course in Augusta, Georgia