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Thoughts on the first four episodes of Netflix's doc Full Swing

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary Full Swing about the 2022 PGA Tour, I’m writing about the first four episodes this week and the final four next week.

I found the first four episodes disappointing. First of all, it’s done at the start like Golf For Dummies. It explains some of the terminology, such as birdie, bogey, eagle, cut, etc. Look, if you are a golf newbie, you probably have no interest in this documentary. In some ways, the introductory episode is more educational than entertaining.

I think the producers made a mistake by starting off the documentary with the relationship between Justin Thomas (Titleist Pro V1x) and Jordan Spieth (Titleist Pro V1x). The episode is called Frenemies, and while it’s nice and fine, I found it bland.

I think if the producers really wanted to grab the viewers – both the diehards and the neophytes – they should have focused on Tiger Woods (Bridgestone Tour B XS) and his return to the Masters 13 months after a horrific car accident. Indeed, as CBS broadcaster Amanda Renner says in the documentary, “We’re talking about a guy who almost died. He’s lucky to be alive. It’s one of the most incredible feats we’ve seen in all of sports.”

Yes, there have been numerous docs and features about Woods and all of the things that have happened on and off the golf course in his career, but his return to the Masters was a big deal and it happened during the filming of this documentary. So why not lead with that off the top? Woods has been one of the most compelling figures in all of sports in the last 25 years, so I think the producers bogeyed by going with a simple and saccharin approach in the opening episode. That said, I haven’t seen the final four episodes and purposely didn’t read anything about the documentary so I could go into it with an open mind. I’m sure there will be lots of Tiger in the last four episodes, given his role in the battle between the upstart LIV Golf and its attempt to compete with the PGA Tour.

The second episode is called Win Or Go Home, and I think this could have been the opening episode because it captures the difference between a player, Brooks Koepka (Srixon Z-Star Diamond), who used to be the top player in the world and is struggling badly, and the new emerging top player, Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1). Koepka is shown at his massive Florida home, which includes a vaulted ceiling and pillars. Other features include a magnificent outdoor pool and a showcase for his collection of expensive running shoes. He has all the riches and trappings of a modern-day athlete, which helps the viewer to understand the world’s top players can make a lot of money. He is clearly living lavishly and I found that really interesting. He's also built like a linebacker from pumping iron and his hair dyed blond makes him look like Justin Bieber.

In contrast, everything about Scheffler, who became the hottest player in golf in 2022, is modest, although it’s really early into his ascension to greatness. Five days before the Masters, he is reading the Bible and says he is “led by the Lord.”

The contrast between the two is great.

Koepka, who once famously said he only cares about majors and doesn’t focus too much on the other tournaments, opens up in a way that captures the struggles he is going through to find his form. For an individual who came across as cocky and arrogant on TV and in media conferences when he was mowing down the competition in majors, he is surprisingly honest about his struggles, which is where I think the documentary shines. He talks about difficulty making eight-foot puts. “Golf is so crazy. When you have it, you feel like you’re never going to lose it. When you don’t have it, you feel like you’re never going to get it. That’s how I feel inside eight feet.” He later says: “Honestly, I can’t compete with these guys week in, week out.”

Koepka fails to make the Masters cut and says: “To leave here with a missed cut is disappointing. I feel embarrassed.”

He is asked sometime later if he watched the final and says he didn’t. He is then asked if knew who won and he can’t remember until he is told it was Scheffler.

A golf reporter says Koepka is in a downward spiral and suffering a crisis of confidence.

“Being at the low end,” says Koepka, “you can either just give up and lay there or you’ve got to figure the f--- out and that’s where I am.”

At this point it is not revealed he is considering switching to LIV Golf, though anyone who follows golf knows that he did.

The third episode is Money Or Legacy and it’s about the battle between LIV and the PGA. This became the biggest story in golf in 2022 and one of the biggest in all of sports, so for the producers of the documentary it’s like they were gifted with an amazing story line. Talk about good timing. There is the explanation of the uncertainty of what LIV can do to impact the PGA, in particular with stars being offered guaranteed contracts worth $100 million or more. It explains Woods has been offered $700 million. Thomas says: “It’s astronomical money they are throwing at these people. Everything’s got a price, I guess.”

The episode points out the moral dilemma of players taking money from a country that has been criticized for its inhumane treatment of people and their rights. The key person in this episode is England’s Ian Poulter (Titleist Pro V1x), who is shown as being a character because of the crazy outfits he wears during tournaments and his spiked hair. If you didn’t already know that, you’d find it amusing. He looks a little like Rod Stewart.

My name is Ian Poulter,” he says. “My profession is wannabe golfer.”

A room in his house features all of his outfits and it’s rather funny.

He’s been on the PGA Tour since 2004 and has starred in the Ryder Cup, which is explained for people who don’t know what the tournament is.

“Do I like playing in the Ryder Cup?” he says. “Is the Pope Catholic?”

Faced with the dilemma of accepting an offer from LIV, knowing PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan telling defectors they will be banned from playing on the tour and not allowed to be in the Ryder Cup, Poulter decides to take the guaranteed millions he is offered, though the amount is not revealed. He said LIV’s limited tournament schedule will give him more time to spend with his wife and four children and that he'd already missed so many key dates with them because of the PGA Tour’s schedule. He says it’s hard to give a simple, quick explanation of the Saudi conflict. I like how all of this is portrayed.

I’m not sure anyone who doesn’t follow the PGA Tour will have lasted this long into the series, which is a shame because this part is really good.

“I definitely shouldn’t be forced to walk away from the PGA Tour, (but) it’s the right decision for myself, the right decision for my family,” he says. “Deep down I feel comfortable with my decision. I think that’s what you have to guide yourself by.”

Golf Channel commentator Brandel Chamblee opines: “I think Ian Poulter has given up everything. He’s not going to be the Ryder Cup captain (in 2025), he’s not going to get the goodwill of golf, he’s not going to get the goodwill of sponsors. It all goes away.”

The fourth episode is called Imposter Syndrome and focus on Joel Dahmen (Titleist Pro V1), who is one of those middling players on the PGA Tour. He became famous/infamous for taking off his shirt at the 2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open and swinging it around after Harry Higgs (TaylorMade TP5x), whom he was playing alongside, birdied the 16th hole. Higgs lifted up his shirt and the fans were asking for more, so Dahmen obliged. Both he and Higgs were not anywhere in contention, but Dahmen said the PGA bigwigs subsequently called him to say they didn’t approve of what he did.

I thought it was funny just because of the craziness that comes with the 16th hole and crowds throwing beer cans on the course. Is a player taking off his shirt so wrong when the fans are asking for it? Come on.

The big narrative in this episode is the financial struggles a player such as Dahmen and his caddie face on a week-to-week basis. It also highlights the losing cancer battle his mother had when he was in high school and later his own successful battle beating testicular cancer. The producers could have picked anyone for this episode – Higgs is far more of a character – because there’s so many players struggling just like Dahmen, but taking off his shirt and swinging it around in sheer delight likely made him a person of interest in the series.

I give the first four episodes a 6 out of 10.

I hope the final four are more interesting.




Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko is an award-winning writer who has published nine books, three of them bestsellers. He has been involved in sports writing for more than 35 years and has interviewed many superstar athletes. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and enjoys watching golf and playing it.

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