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Schupak: ‘Full Swing’ Season 2 on Netflix is better, but still not great

Zach Johnson’s Ryder Cup phone call to break the news to Keegan Bradley that he didn’t make Team USA is everything I hoped it would be and then some. You’ll have to wade through the first six episodes of Season 2 of “Full Swing,” but the wait is worth it.

The call is incredibly awkward, filled with nerves on both ends, Johnson telling Bradley “he’s amazing” as he goes full tilt into it’s not you, it’s me mode. It’s both heart-breaking and riveting TV to watch and the topper is Bradley’s classy response as he takes the news like a man. Bravo to “Full Swing” for giving the viewer this fly-on-the-wall, never-before-seen treat and the payoff is to see both Johnson and Bradley consoled in different ways by their spouses.

Earlier in Episode 6, after Bradley has won the Travelers Championship in June, the closest thing he has to a hometown event, the cameras capture Bradley, running on the highest of highs, whispering something into his wife’s ear. Wife Jillian fills us in that he said, “Do you want to go to Rome?” At that point it seemed very doable that Bradley will make the team but now in the finality that he’ll have to wait two more years and may never get a better chance to play in a Ryder Cup again, she tells their son, “Give your dad a squeeze.”

“Why?” he asks. “Because he needs it,” Jillian says.

It is raw and real and in the moment and if you’re a halfway decent human being you’ll start rooting for Bradley to make the next U.S. team. It is moments like this that make Season 2 better than Season 1. But then when the storyline turns to European captain Luke Donald’s picks we see him make the congratulatory calls to among others Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and to Justin Rose, who waits patiently kicking a soccer ball in his backyard with his son. After Donald hangs up, he says, “What a day!” That is it. No mention of who he overlooked. To not have Donald’s call to break the news to Adrian Meronk that he’s not going to Rome either was a major whiff, and it looks even worse when Meronk has gone on to admit that being passed over for the Ryder Cup is a main reason he jumped to LIV. I tabbed Season 1 as “good not great,” and Season 2 is better than good but still fell short of what it could be.

Season 2 follows a very similar story arc. The first season begins with the famous video of young Rory chipping balls into the washing machine and despite a turbulent year where he becomes the unofficial spokesman for the PGA Tour, it ends with him cast as this conquering hero who has endured all these arrows but still is triumphant at the Tour Championship and winner of the FedEx Cup. It makes for a nice, tidy ending except the golden trophy for the FedEx Cup isn’t the chalice he desires. He shed real tears on his wife’s shoulders after the putts failed to go down at the 150th British Open at St. Andrews.

Season 2 picks up early in 2023 in Phoenix with McIlroy as world No. 1. He’s full of confidence in his presser but one episode later, after missing the cut at the Masters and falling short at the PGA Championship in May, Rory is ready to go back to square one. The locker room scene justifies whatever they spent in production costs because it depicts Rory at his most vulnerable. It’s the equivalent of seeing Brooks Koepka’s insecurities in season 1 and the juxtaposition of the Rory we see at the start of the season and feeling lost in the locker room is powerful. Incredible get by “Full Swing” as I don’t think Rory would have spoken so openly around a scrum of journalists but he had to know millions of people were going to see him melting down in front of his manager and caddie with the cameras hovering nearby and rolling. Yet he doesn’t hold back.

Of course, the season will end in Episode 8 with McIlroy seemingly triumphant again as Europe wins the Ryder Cup. In between, the look into the highs and lows of his life – including feeling betrayed by Jay Monahan with the PIF agreement on June 6 and going after innocent bystander Jim “Bones” Mackay in the parking lot after Joe LaCava’s hat-waving celebration on 18 on Saturday of the Ryder Cup – is compelling to watch and richer thanks to the access he gives.

Episodes 3-5 are a mixed bag as we get to know Rickie Fowler, Wyndham Clark, Tom Kim and the brothers Fitzpatrick – Matt and Alex – as well as catch up with the breakout start of Season 1, Joel Dahmen. If not for a few F-bombs and the like, you’d think you were watching “Inside the PGA Tour,” the house organ. It’s all too-packaged and a bit rah-rah for my taste other than Dahmen’s struggles with work-life balance as a new dad. I didn’t think it was possible but the player-caddie relationship of Dahmen and Geno Bonnalie is even more heartwarming. Their heart-to-heart near the end of Episode 3 personifies that line from “Golf in the Kingdom — “Men lovin’ men, that’s what golf is.” Find someone who loves you the way Geno loves Joel. (Geno’s wife also has a scene-stealer and may have missed her calling as a psychiatrist.)

The Ryder Cup episodes (6-8) are entertaining but instead of walk and talks with journalist Dan Rapaport and scene setters that add little and feel repetitive, how about showing Scottie Scheffler crying on his wife’s shoulders after getting waxed with Brooks Koepka Saturday morning, or explain the sickness that hit Team USA and Fowler sitting all day Saturday, or allow Donald to explain some of the strategic moves that led to Europe’s victory. There’s no insight provided. But we do hear Johnson say things like “there’s going to be a winner and a loser.” You don’t say? The staged interviews as a whole are weak; the best material is when the “Full Swing” cameras just happen to be hovering around as they were to hear Shane Lowry say, “We can slag the Americans, right?” and Fowler to lean in and say to Wyndham Clark on the 18th green after he just won the U.S. Open, “Your mom would be proud,” or another great fly-on-the-wall moment at the PGA Championship champions’ dinner when Thomas, the defending champ, raises a  glass to Mito Pereira, “because this would not happen without him.” That’s the good stuff.

But in the next breath, I’m totally baffled by the bizarre decision to virtually abandon the PGA Tour-LIV storyline after the second episode. It’s only one of the biggest stories in all of sports and instead we’re spending the better part of an episode on how Alex Fitzpatrick has grown up in the shadow of his older brother. Somehow they lost the plot. In Season 3, that can’t happen. Dustin Johnson as the sole representative of LIV was a bad call, too. It was a real shame that Koepka declined to participate this time around and we only hear from his wife, Jenna. We need Phil Mickelson, we need Tiger Woods, we need Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan and after taking the money, Rahm would be incredibly compelling to get a window into his new life. Make it happen, Netflix.

The good news is the cameras are already rolling for Season 3.

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