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Bonus Episode | Full Swing ( Documentary- series)

1. Rory McIlroy has still got it.

We had to wait until the end of Full Swing’s inaugural season to get the Rory Episode, one you were undoubtedly waiting for if you spent any time following the PGA Tour last season. McIlroy didn’t just play well in 2022, though he certainly did that, winning three tournaments, including the Tour Championship in Atlanta in August, and finishing in the top eight in each of the four major championships. But he was also the primary face and voice of the PGA Tour in a season when it was under attack by the Saudi Arabia–funded LIV Golf.

McIlroy spent much of last year promoting the Tour, criticizing the players who jumped ship for money (something he says he regrets in a candid Full Swing moment), and perhaps most important, working to change the Tour to entice other top golfers to stick around.

And his episode doesn’t disappoint. We get plenty of gym time with Rory (even if some of his workouts may seem a little unorthodox—are you supposed to throw medicine balls into a mirror?); we see him chatting with other PGA Tour professionals and get a glimpse into the way they’ve started to defer to Rory as a steward of the game; and we also get this scene, which will live in comedic infamy:

Even if his episode isn’t the most illuminating overall—we don’t get any family or real personal time with him like we do with some of the younger guys on Tour—it’s clear who the big get of this season was for the Full Swing team. Rory delivers.
2. Brooks Koepka is going through it.
WHEW. “Win or Go Home,” Full Swing’s second episode and one that focuses largely on Koepka, is an incredible piece of television. It’s a portrait of a broken man, one who has lost his game because of injury and mental fatigue and is trying, and failing, to find it again. Plenty of images will stick with me from this episode: a bleached-blond Brooks getting testy with reporters after a disappointing performance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament he had won twice previously; Brooks melting down at the Masters, admitting he was embarrassed by his game for the first time; Brooks walking his dog out to the end of a long dock at his Jupiter, Florida, home just to stare out at the water.
But two scenes trump the rest. The first comes 12 minutes into the episode and shows Brooks chatting with his then-fiancée (and now wife), Jena Sims, at their home. He’s perched on a fluffy swing (as one does) and is talking with Jena about outfits she plans to wear on a forthcoming excursion—I’m assuming her bachelorette party, but that remains unconfirmed. He seems rather dazed, paying little attention to much around him aside from the toy he’s tossing to his dog, and the Full Swing producers overlay this scene with audio from an interview in which Brooks explains his obsession with his game: the fact that he’ll be at home, trying to live his life, but he can think only about the course, his swing, everything that’s going wrong. It’s a powerful juxtaposition.
The other scene is a conversation between Brooks and his mother. They sit on his couch, in front of a largely empty trophy display, dissecting the latest PGA Tour happenings. Brooks openly yearns for the quiet confidence and calm mental waters displayed by Scottie Scheffler, the no. 1 player in the world and his counterpart in this episode. “That kid,” Brooks laments, “I guarantee you if you ask him what he’s thinking about, he goes, ‘Nothing.’ The best player in the world doesn’t have any damn thoughts in his head, so why would you, right? … If Scottie ain’t doing it, why the hell am I doing it? I don’t know.”
All in all, “Win or Go Home” made me feel like I understood Koepka’s decision to join LIV a whole lot more. LIV came along at a time when he was at his lowest in his game—a far cry from the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons, when he won four majors and looked like he’d dominate the Tour for a long time to come. And rather than continue to put himself through such anguish, he chose to jump ship and secure his monetary future. Was it the right decision? I don’t know, and according to recent reports, he may not know either. But it certainly made more sense after this episode.
3. There aren’t a lot of LIV revelations.
A number of LIV golfers participated in Full Swing, from Koepka to Dustin Johnson to Ian Poulter to smaller characters like Joaquin Niemann. Most of those players’ story lines culminated in their jumps to LIV and the reasons they ultimately chose to make the leap.
The most common explanation, unsurprisingly, was providing for their families. Poulter’s episode shows him palling around with his four children, interspersed with shots of him struggling in tournaments and ultimately failing to qualify for the Masters, making it apparent that golf may not be the cash cow it once was for him. We’ve already covered Koepka’s struggles, and he’s similarly said that he made the choice to provide for the family he’s starting and the generations to come. Johnson is probably the most honest of the bunch, admitting that his decision came down to the offer they made him—nothing more. “For me it was playing less, making more money,” Johnson says. “Pretty simple.”
Outside of those story arcs, though, if you were hoping for much more insight into the LIV-PGA battles or what pros were really saying about the squabbles, you won’t see much here. Full Swing airs clips from a couple of contentious press conferences and gets into the PGA Tour’s response later in the season, but there isn’t a whole lot more than that.
4. Phil Mickelson notably didn’t participate—and neither did Tiger Woods.
Tiger’s specter looms large across Full Swing, from his post-accident Masters appearance to his role in helping reshape the PGA Tour in the wake of LIV to interviews with the next generation, who all cite him as their inspiration. It’s notable that he doesn’t sit down for an interview for the show, but it’s not all that surprising: Tiger was going through a lot last year, and it’s not like he needs the publicity.
There is, however, an even bigger absence than Woods in Full Swing: Phil Mickelson. The man who led the charge away from the Tour and to LIV Golf is the biggest missing voice from the series. Now, given that Full Swing was created in conjunction with the PGA Tour, it’s not at all shocking that Mickelson would choose not to be included (I assume the show’s creators would have reached out). But it is tough not to get his firsthand perspective on all the goings-on—even if there’s little chance we would have gotten more transparency than there was in his quotes in this piece.
5. Joel Dahmen and the rookies will undoubtedly have lots of new fans.
One of the biggest successes of Drive to Survive, the Netflix docuseries about Formula One (made by Box to Box productions, which also produced Full Swing), is its ability to make you care about the midfield. You don’t see the drivers from Mercedes or Ferrari at all in the first season, other than in canned Sky Sports clips about their on-track performance; instead, the show introduces you to the other guys behind the wheel—Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean, young Charles Leclerc—and gets you invested in their respective journeys.
This is a big win for Full Swing as well, which spends multiple episodes following rookies Sahith Theegala and Mito Pereira and PGA Tour everyman Joel Dahmen. Dahmen, in particular, will likely become a fan favorite, not just for his bucket hats and on-again, off-again mustache, but also because of his laid-back attitude and self-deprecating mental state. It never feels like he’s sandbagging when he says he doesn’t believe he has what it takes to win major championships or to become one of the top 30 or so golfers in the world. His caddie, Geno Bonnalie, speculates at one point that Dahmen may not even want to be in that company. It just makes it that much sweeter, then, when we watch Dahmen surge to the top of the 2022 U.S. Open leaderboard and ultimately finish tied for 10th.
The rookies similarly paint heartwarming pictures. Theegala and his family are incredibly emotional about golf, not afraid to show how much the game means to them and how much Theegala wants to succeed. And there’s Pereira, who has the tournament of his life at the PGA Championship only to see it come to a teeth-grinding halt at the 72nd hole.
All three of these guys are likable and great at golf, and the Full Swing fan base is undoubtedly invested in their success now.
6. The “Who is this for?” discourse has a point.
Whenever a show like this is made, there’s always one central question: Who is this for? Was it created for newbies who are just coming to the sport? Or for the old guard who’s been around awhile? The answer is usually somewhere in between—or at least that’s what the companies behind the series will say; after all, they’re trying to attract the biggest audience possible. But with Full Swing, the discourse around this question has been notable, and in some ways the criticism is fair.
If you’re new to golf and you watched this season, you probably learned a lot about the structure of tournaments, the notable personalities on Tour, and how the sport generally functions. What you didn’t learn, though, was much about the ways tournaments differentiate themselves from one another—sure, they often say the majors are important, but when it comes to individual players’ story lines, Tony Finau’s win at the 3M Championship carries a weight similar to that of Matt Fitzpatrick’s U.S. Open victory. You also may not fully understand why LIV is such an existential threat to the PGA Tour (outside of poaching its talent) or why the sides have had such contentious back-and-forths.
If you’re more familiar with golf, you may feel like you weren’t told much about the players that you didn’t already know. Sure, it was cool to see the old notebooks we’ve heard about Fitzpatrick writing in for so many years, to witness Finau’s unflinching commitment to his family, to get deeper insight into Koepka’s demise. But really, if you didn’t already know that Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas are close friends, it seems like that’s on you.
Will this show end up creating new golf fans, à la the Formula One boom in the United States? Only time will tell. Will existing golf fans start to feel like the material is more suited to them in later seasons? I think there’s a good chance of that. But I understand those who feel a bit stuck in the middle at this point and are questioning who this series is trying to serve.
7. There are too many Jupiter, Florida, title cards to count.
OK, that’s a lie; I did count, and there are seven. That’s right, people: seven Jupiter cards in eight episodes. If you feel like every golfer you’ve ever heard of resides in Jupiter, you’re probably right.

8. I can’t wait for Season 2.
I’ve levied a few critiques in this piece, and this first season wasn’t perfect by any means. But as a Drive to Survive fan who’s watched that show evolve over four (soon to be five) seasons, I’m optimistic that Full Swing can do the same.
The challenge of any first season of a show like this is introducing a cast of characters—giving the audience people they’ll want to follow over the years—and to simultaneously educate new fans on the game and the structures behind it. Full Swing has started that process. The question now is whether they can build on it in a way that pushes the show forward and eventually allows for more complexities. Box to Box has done this once already, and with that formula (sorry) already in place, I don’t think there’s any reason they shouldn’t be able to continue in the same way with golf.

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Creators and Guests

Reese Chanson
Reese Chanson
Producer, director, writer. Basically one man production team.
Bonus Episode | Full Swing  ( Documentary- series)
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