You are pulling off a heist. Which golfers are on your crew?

April 03, 2020
Presidents Cup - Round Two

Chris Condon

Golf is not so much our profession as it is our passion at Golf Digest, and often that passion translates to philosophical, analytical, ideological and, occasionally, idiotic workplace discussions about the game. During this time of pause in our sport (and in the world at large), we decided to take these office conversations online in hopes of providing a welcome distraction.

Today’s topic is handled by Golf Digest writers Joel Beall and Chris Powers.

BEALL: Our mission is simple: We need to put together a rag-tag crew of golfers to pull off a heist. What are we stealing? Our lawyers prevent us from using specifics … however, let’s just say (in theory) there’s a club in England that (allegedly) has a golf ball in its safe that proves an Open Championship was won by flagrant methods. Allegedly, that is. And we need that balata in our hands.

Using “Ocean’s Eleven” as a guide, we need 11 golfers for the following roles: Mastermind, Partner in Crime, Backer, Hacker, Explosives Guy, Con Man, Burglar, New Guy, Driver, Muscle and Inside Man.

Chris, you’re from Jersey; feels like your entire life has been leading to this moment. Who is your first pick?

POWERS: Despite having never seen “Ocean’s Eleven” (ducks), you’ve come to the right man. Before I get to that, “Ocean’s Eleven” doesn’t scream “OMG YOU HAVE TO SEE THAT MOVIE!!” to me. Like, yeah, I should probably watch it at some point. Cast looks incredible. Soderbergh directed it. Love anything involving the word “heist.” But let’s not jump down my throat for not having seen this, deal? We’re not talking about “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas” here (yes, I’ve seen those, calm down).

Anyway, (extreme Roger Goodell voice) with the first pick in the 2020 golfers to pull off a heist draft, I, Christopher Powers select … Ernie Els … as the muscle.

Sure, Brooks Koepka is young and “built like a NFL linebacker” if a NFL linebacker was barely 6 feet tall and 200 pounds (not many of them), but we’ve all heard the Els stories. Plus, the older he gets, the stronger he gets. That’s just dad strength science. I picture Ernie breaking in, rounding up all the security guards and saying “now we fight.”

BEALL: No objection. As much as I was hoping you’d go Boo Weekley—the cat once fought an orangutan—hard to argue Els, especially since Ernie would haul his own wine to the post-heist celebration.

For the second pick, I’m looking for a partner in crime. This guy needs to be a paradox: An alpha who is OK sharing the spotlight, who can be debonair yet loves playing in the dirt, owning the vigor of youth that’s underlined by experience. I want someone with the flair for the dramatic, but above all else, someone who is lights-out dependable, which his 9-1-2 record in foursome and four-ball conveys. That’s right, I’m going with Justin Thomas.

POWERS: Love how this roster is shaping up already, but before we continue to add role players, this team needs a leader. A mastermind, if you will. In keeping with the team theme, I think we have to go with a former Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup captain. A guy who thinks outside of the box. Somebody not afraid to shake things up and flip the whole plan on its head if need be. A guy like Paul Azinger.

2008 Ryder Cup - Day 3

Harry How

After losing five out of six Ryder Cups between 1995 and 2006, Azinger was called upon to lead the U.S. team in 2008. His innovative strategy, which featured the “pod system,” not only helped them win, it helped them dominate at Valhalla in a resounding 16½-11½ victory. This after the Americans had lost by nine points in consecutive cups. Hell, the guy wrote a book about it titled “Cracking the Code.” Find me a better captain for this heist … I’ll wait.

BEALL: Given our target is in the U.K., and no one gets under the European golf cognoscenti like Zinger, a more perfect pick I cannot think.

Now we need bankroll. Sure, these guys are millionaires, but we need “Screw You” money to fund this bad boy. Which is why I’m bringing in Mike Keiser.

The guy’s creations—Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley—are unassailable, sure. Those, along with his greeting-card company, have him swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck. But no amount of cabbage is as sweet as revenge, and Keiser is coming off the business end of a deal with the Scottish government, his Coul Links vision squashed. The chance to grab this precious memorabilia is not so much a reward as it is retaliation.

POWERS: Leave it to Joel to take this thing really deep. How the hell am I supposed to follow that up?

Not sure this next pick would want to be taking orders from Azinger, but I think the driver has to be Ian Poulter. The only thing he loves more than sinking clutch putts is sitting behind the wheel. He’d be the guy I’d trust in the getaway van, provided it’s a Mercedes-Benz.

BEALL: My inclination is to disagree and counter with Kiradech Aphibarnrat burning rubber. Not only does he own a Ferrari among his dozen cars … but it’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Guy brings the speed and the swag. But after further analysis, Poulter is the right call. Guy knows the lay of the land, is good in tight spots and embraces the team dynamic better than anyone in the sport. Besides, every crew needs a wacky Euro. It’s a heist bylaw.

On to the hacker. Although I wanted to pick Mav McNealy (his dad founded Sun Microsystems) or Max Homa (Twitter god), there’s only one fella for the job: Scott Parel. The PGA Tour Champions player didn’t pursue professional golf until age 31, instead studying computer science before going to work as a programmer. But Parel can ball, winning the Chubb Classic in February. Plus we need an “I’m getting too old for this [stuff]” guy,” a role Parcel can also fill.


Cliff Hawkins

POWERS: You make a great point about Barn Rat, and while I’d love to switch my driver pick to him, that’s not how this works. If you were allowed to change your mind last second in a draft, Michael Jordan would have been a Portland Trail Blazer, but I digress.

Think it’s time we get ourselves an explosives guy, someone who routinely sends heat-seeking missiles into orbit off the tee. No, not Rory McIlroy, I’m thinking Bryson DeChambeau, who was leading the tour in driving distance before the coronavirus brought the season to a screeching halt. The Mad Scientist would seem like a better fit for hacker or even mastermind given the deliberate way he goes about his rounds, but it’s clear he’s gone all-in on gainz SZN. I think he’d relish being the guy who gets to blow $%@& up.

Just realized we need a burglar as well … I’m tagging in you for that.

BEALL: Could there be an easier pick? The choice is clearly ...

(Electroshocked by lawyers)

(Editors dangling pink slip in face)

… Uh … let’s go with Stewart Cink. Because he stole that Open right under Tom Watson.

While we’re here, we need the token New Guy. It’s a pretty vague job description, a team member mostly called upon for grunt work. Yet, without fail, something goes wrong in the plans that thrust this guy into a staring role. Essentially, a likable personality with tons of upside that can already hang with the big boys. We are going with Sungjae Im.

POWERS: That leaves me with inside man, someone who is secretly not what they seem. Someone who can hide in plain sight for 54 holes only to sneak in the backdoor and steal a big check. Someone like ... Matt Kuchar!

BEALL: Even in hypothetical capers, Kuch still manages to backdoor onto the team. What a gift.

The last spot is a con man. Save your easy jokes; I don’t need someone who has been caught; the heat’s already on them. I’d like to bring in Titanic Thompson; alas, he’s been dead for 46 years and we don’t have a time machine (this is a contrived debate, but it’s not imaginary).

For the last spot, I need someone who’s slick with disguises, and perhaps has a bit of detective work in their past.


We are going with Richard Flower.

So there you go. I feel like we made a grave mistake leaving off Koepka (who’s likely planning his own heist against us for the slight), the brothers Molinari (comic relief) and Tiger Woods (SEAL training). That said, I’m ready to roll with this crew.

POWERS: Good point, but let’s be honest, Brooks and Tiger could pull off this heist on their own.