Ask around a press room for golf, and most anyone who has watched golf will know the name Peter Kostis. The CBS commentator and reporter is well known in golf circles for his deep analysis of the game and is considered one of the top voices covering the PGA.
What some don’t know is that Kostis comes from an instructor background as well. The 68-year-old Maine-born Kostis was instrumental in the training for PGA pros like Bernhard Langer, Paul Casey and Steve Elkington, along with celebrities like Dan Marino, Maury Povich and Mike Schmidt.
Before this weekend’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, Kostis sat down with us to talk about the upcoming tournament, one of the first in the young 2015 PGA season that is already drawing a lot of interest.
With Tiger attempting to bounce back after back surgery and questions mounting on his longevity, how important is it for him to get a solid start to the season?
“Everything about Tiger’s comeback is going to be health related. That’s still the overriding issue — can he go through an entire year healthy, physically fit and able to practice whenever he needs to and wants to?
I think the first thing he has to do is put together four good days of golf, battle through, maybe get himself in contention if his game is sharp enough; really answer, over these next few weeks, any overall physical concerns that may be lingering about his back. Once that’s done, then he has to start putting himself in contention, becoming comfortable with his new swing technique and needs to start getting some confidence. Mentally, he hasn’t been the Tiger we’ve known in the past few years, but that can change very quickly.”
Are there any major changes to the course that golfers should be wary of?
“They did a complete redo of the golf course. All the greens are new, for starters. They’re going to be very, very firm, so expect the balls to bounce everywhere.
I think the green on the first par-5 they play (Hole number 3) is like a bad roller coaster ride, so that’s going to cause the players some issues, and I think we’re going to hear some complaining.
The 13th hole, which is the famous hole where Tiger had those spectators move that boulder, that fairway is now gone and there’s just a fairway down the right side. I expect that hole to play half a shot harder.
The very next hole, 14, I think has become brutally difficult. I think it’s the hardest par-4 on the golf course now. They’ve moved the green 30 or 40 yards up the hill to the left, and it’s a completely different hole.”
Should fans anticipate Phil Mickelson being in contention, or is the current tie he has with Johnny Miller for most wins in Arizona safe?
“The thing with Phil is every time I see him stumble and fall, he’s picked himself up, dusted himself off and come back with a vengeance. He’s a very resilient player. He had a terrible year last year by any metric — for Phil Mickelson. He’s re-dedicated himself with a new diet and workout program, he’s lost a few pounds, he’s got his ball speed up where it used to be five to seven years ago… so I think he’s feeling good about his changes. Now, we’ve got to wait and see how long it’s going to take to be instinctive and natural on the golf course. I expect Phil to be in contention this week or next week.”
“This golf course is brutally long. Obviously, power players always have an advantage over shorter hitters, especially if they can put it in the fairway. But I think the power player is going to be really important this week.
You’ve got Brooks Koepka, who just made his way on tour. I’d consider him a dark horse and a kid that can do well. Graham DeLaet is a long hitter coming off injury; he could do well. You’ve got other players that are a little bit on the sidelines.”
Where do you expect the general scores to be for the top tier? Subsequently, for this type of course, should we expect to see the top 20 all be within a stroke of each other, or will there be some wider margins?
“I played the golf course a couple weeks. It was long, it was wet, the ball wasn’t going very far, and I thought at that time the golf course, with the changes and the condition that it’s in, was going to be around 10 shots harder for 72 holes. I think low double digits could be the winning score, and it seems like every time we have a Super Bowl in Phoenix, there’s a playoff. We’re supposed to get off the air a half hour before kickoff, and of course I want to get home and see the kickoff — my two teams are the Cardinals and the Patriots, so I have a vested interest in this one. I’m smelling a playoff again and I’m going to miss the kickoff.”