By George Moore
SafeTees Pouch, Inc.
Brandel Chamblee, the somewhat disheveled analyst on the Golf Channel, is probably a very nice guy.
But when he starts giving his opinions and analyses, guys in the clubhouse start throwing their cans of Bud Lite at the TV.
Name a topic and Chamblee has an opinion. What’s more, he’s the smartest guy in the room. Ask him.
But don’t ask Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and a bunch of other pros.
Chamblee’s credentials? He’s a former professional golfer himself, with one PGA Tour victory under his belt (the oft-forgotten Greater Vancouver Open in 1998).
He became a golfing authority after losing his PGA Tour card in 2003, and ever since, he’s been driving people nuts.
Swatting a Tiger
Chamblee’s most infuriating moments come when he ruffles feathers.
In 2013, for example, he and Tiger Woods got into it. Chamblee wrote that Woods’ grade for the 2013 season should be an ‘F’ for being “a little cavalier with the rules.”
Tiger and his agent weren’t happy, of course, and there were whispers of legal action against Chamblee. The usually calm and collected Tiger said, “All I am going to say is that I know I am going forward. But then, I don’t know what the Golf Channel is going to do or not.”
What did the Golf Channel do? It’s a fair guess that they gave Chamblee an “A.”
(A year earlier, Mike McCarley, the Golf Channel’s president, had told the New York Times that Chamblee is “able to paint these word pictures that just make you think. His Texas homespun slang is what makes it interesting. But what he’s saying at his heart is smart and very well thought out.”)
Fast-forward to this past May. Chamblee stirred up more trouble. It was Brooks Koepka’s turn on the grill.
On a podcast, Chamblee put Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy in Tiger’s orbit, but left out Koepka, ranked No. 3 in the world. Koepka found out and retweeted Chamblee’s comments with a photo of him, complete with Photoshopped clown nose.
Never one to let sleeping dogs lie, Chamblee
next commented on Koepka’s weight loss, calling it “reckless self-sabotage” for “vanity reasons” and linking it to Koepka’s appearance in ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue.
Koepka: “I don’t care what anybody else says. I’m doing it for me, and obviously it seems to work.”
The same day, Chamblee was asked if Koepka, who had won three majors in 14 months, was “tough enough” to win the Masters.
“His talent is undeniable,” Chamblee said. “But I’ve heard people say this. You extrapolate from accomplishment, you infer qualities from a human being like, ‘He’s really tough.’ Maybe he is, I don’t know. I got to say, I still need to be convinced.”
That angered Koepka, and Chamblee tried hard to pull his foot out of his mouth.
“I never said he wasn’t tough. Perhaps he bought into the headlines. Easy to do. What I said was, I wasn’t going to agree that he was mentally the toughest player on tour until he proved that he could win on a more challenging course off the tee, which he just did. Great to see.”
Chamblee also said, “He’s handled it mentally. He’s handled it physically. He’s handled it technically. Which is exactly what Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods did. He’s made a believer out of me.”
A week later, it got downright syrupy.
Chamblee on Koepka: ““He’s built like Hulk Hogan and swings like Ben Hogan. I don’t know how you’re going to beat this guy. There’s something about him in major championships that you almost can’t get your arms around.”
Next Up: Jordan Spieth
That closed the chapter on Koepka, and Chamblee has moved on to Jordan Spieth, joining the crowd of golf analysts asking “What’s wrong with Jordan?” Chamblee knows, of course.
Spieth has been going through a dry spell the past couple of years, but at one time, when he was winning, Chamblee considered him to be “the greatest frontrunner of this generation and on his way to becoming one of the greatest frontrunners and leaders in the history of the game.”
This is Chamblee now, as reported by Reuters:
- “He is part of a problem that is going on in golf right now, almost an epidemic of players aged from the mid-20s to mid-30s who just disappear off the planet.”
- “If you put him on a range and leave him alone, he’ll put two and two together better than anybody else. You have to protect your talent and genius and do that at all costs. I see right now an onslaught of information overload.”
- “I believe he needs to get back to the softness and athleticism that he had when he first came out.”
- “You could call it a wise ignorance that he had then, or an ignorant wisdom. There’s a lot to be said about just going out and being an athlete.”
- “He (Spieth) doesn’t need to work on anything at all. This incessant tinkering comes with a cost. Some get better but more have disappeared. It could happen very easily that he never finds his way back home.”
Question: Is it smart giving playing advice to a 26-year-old whose 2019 golfing income, as of June 6, was $31.1 million (Forbes) and who has re-written the record books on his way to winning three majors and becoming the FedEx Cup champion in 2015?
Answer: Probably not.
But that aside, Chamblee doesn’t seem to understand Spieth.
Chamblee thinks that golf and winning at golf are Spieth’s top priorities. But they’re not. Never have been, never will be. And that’s one of the things that makes Spieth so special.
His life revolves around Faith, Family and Golf, in that order.
As Michael Bamberger wrote in Golf this past April, “it was all of that together that made Spieth Spieth. Millions picked up on it, young and old and in between.”
But Chamblee missed it.
Spieth has always been close to his family – parents, brother Steven, and sister, Ellie, who has special needs – and the family part of the equation grew larger and more important in November 2018 when Spieth married his high school sweetheart, Annie Verret.
To better understand Spieth, listen to his father, Shawn.
“Over a long career, I think balance and perspective, more times than not, will make you happier, whether you end up being the very best or not. If Jordan doesn’t ever become No. 1, he’ll know that’s only a piece of life, not all of life.” (Golf Digest.)
Another important piece of Spieth’s life is the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation for special needs youth, junior golf, military support and pediatric cancer. The foundation says those four areas are the pillars for Spieth to build “his most important legacy,” and the hope is that the JSFF will grow into “the most charitable athlete foundation.”
Chamblee also is wrong on coaching and “incessant tinkering.”
Cameron McCormick, a golfer himself, has been Spieth’s coach since Spieth was 12 years old, and he says he respects Jordan’s swing and focuses on making what works repeatable. He also says he does a lot of listening and gives Spieth a lot of room for self-discovery.
Spieth: “A key to our success has been a complete trust because we’ve known each other for so long. I’m able to explain what I believe is going on, and Cam’s so great at relating to me that he’ll suggest a drill that creates a solution.”
Spieth has not disappeared “off the planet,” of course, and this past week, at the Northern Trust, he shot a 64 in the second round, wound up tied for fifth place with 12 under par, and rode home with a cool $299,468.75.
That’s more than Chamblee makes in a year … and that’s as it should be.
Chamblee isn’t so smart after all, and it seems likely that he’ll be eating crow once again. Soon, most likely.
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