Full Swing Ep1 is like taking an iron for position, if only Pereira did the same

Ronan MacNamara

Happier times - Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth at Whistling Straits (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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“I f****d it up. On the last hole, man…”

Oh Mito, Mito, Mito, Mito Pereira.

If ever there was a sentence more relatable to the average golfer. It’s funny how you forget what happened and the ramifications that golf can have for the loser in a tight situation.

Of course, the Chilean subsequently moved to LIV so he’s doing fairly OK, but with Full Swing, Netflix’s latest Drive to Survive style docuseries designed to entice new eyes to the game, this would have left a whole new golfing audience feeling punch drunk with sympathy. Even golfing virgins would surely have noticed that Pereira’s drive on 18 was an awful, awful swing.

The opening episode profiling two best mates, two of the top players in the game and to be fair, two of golf’s more compelling characters is a safe bet to ease the viewers into the series.

From a fan’s point of view or someone who does not watch golf this was an intriguing insight into what a professional golfer does off the course, golf is far from a hit and giggle and we’ll go for a few beers after.

The dynamic between Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth is compelling. There is that blend of best buds yet I still want to beat the s***e out of you every week.

If you judge their careers over the last two to three years it’s easy to suggest that Thomas is the better player out of the pair. The throwback to 2015 Spieth gives an indication as to how amazing he was as he embarked on the familiar career path of winning major championships in a rapid surge.

Thomas, long referred to as Spieth’s best mate has been on a gradual progression with majors not following as quickly, but all of a sudden after winning the PGA Championship last year now lies just one shy of Grand Slam chasing Spieth while seeming the more likely to surpass Spieth before he wins the PGA for the set.

Spieth wins in Harbour Town – many Irish fans would have forgotten the winner after Shane Lowry missed out. The docuseries briefly mentions his recovery from a steep decline in the commentary as he receives the trophy.

Briefly being the operative word. The explainers for what a par and a bogey mean are informative for a newbie to golf. But what about a birdie, eagle or double bogey?

Amanda Balionis isn’t fooling anybody when she says players who miss the cut don’t get paid. Many of them are getting an appearance fee or have sponsors to cover the costs or both.

The opening episode makes golf very relatable for the bog standard club golfer. The behind the scenes access gives us an insight into how hard the elite players in the game work both on the practice facilities and in the gym, to find that extra gear, that extra yard, that extra mile of speed. Yet one day they could be firing on all cylinders, the next can’t hit the ball out of their way.

‘Frenemies’ is a safe opening to this docuseries as it is clear that Thomas and Spieth are at the upper echelon of the scale. It’s a real living the dream scenario portrayed here.

The struggles and the frustrations that both players go through, particularly Spieth at the PGA Championship show that even the best players in the world can be made to look extremely ordinary by this sport that can never be perfected. The contrast between rounds three and four for Thomas show that no two days in golf are the same.

Surely any viewer who doesn’t play golf grasped those basic points?

As an introduction to what golf is and how difficult it is to win, the first episode ticks all the boxes, does what it says on the tin, fills a gap etc. Solid. Can’t fault the opening.

However, as someone who is not part of the target audience, this felt more like a ‘How the 2022 PGA Championship was won’ on a mundane Tuesday afternoon on Sky Sports Golf.

In truth though, this docuseries is not targeted towards members of the media who already know what goes on during practice rounds, on the range, in tournaments, off the course so maybe I’m just over-exposed?

Having heard the reviews from those who had early access or binged the whole series, I was not expecting LIV Golf content in the first episode and yet it being bookended by exactly that is what hooked me.

It’s ironic because what has made non golf fans keep an eye out for what is happening in golf is the LIV controversy, yet it’s not included in the first episode.

I had completely forgotten Phil Mickelson was an absent defending champion. So much has happened it’s nice to reminisce on previous chaos and anarchy.

From a media point of view, I know JT and Spieth are extremely close, I know all the gym movements, the interactions. But most importantly, as a golf fan, I know how the final round of the PGA Championship played out.

I don’t need to see the final round recap. I could have skipped through it.

However, it has its uses.

I did not watch the Formula One documentary and I don’t intend to. But I did watch the tennis one. As someone who was very much into tennis during my childhood and teenage years – record holder for estate road tennis championships – I had grown out of it over the last five or six years.

Therefore, the tournament recaps of the French Open, Indian Wells and the Australian Open etc served a purpose because I did not know who won, nor did I know who some of the players were.

From that point of view the recaps serve a purpose.

From speaking to tennis lovers about the documentary, they admitted they didn’t enjoy it. That’s because you know what happens, you know the players, this is not new for you. You are not the target audience.

The PGA Championship is the fourth biggest out of the four major championships, so to have it in the first episode was fine. Full Swing is off to a steady start and it was an enjoyable opener, even if the insights were brief.

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