Did Jake Simpson Really Get Paid For This Tripe?

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
– Charles Mackay

What a pleasant surprise I got this morning while drinking my coffee and reading the morning news. Yet another sports writer has left the herd: Simon Briggs of The Telegraph in London has written a brilliant takedown of the recent Tiger Woods puff piece by Jake Simpson at The Atlantic.

Particularly heartening to me was the fact that Briggs refuted a piece for which I myself had already begun writing a rebuttal. More and more of us are shaking our heads and rolling our eyes at the offal writers like Simpson are shoveling out.  I smiled when I saw one of Briggs’s counterexamples is near-identical to one of mine: he references the prize money growth at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, whereas I referenced the prize money growth at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

There are dissimilarities, of course.  For example, Briggs calls his piece, “Tiger Woods’ absence leaves golf in great shape,” whereas I titled mine the more direct, “Did Jake Simpson Really Get Paid For This Tripe?”

Did Jake Simpson Really Get Paid For This Tripe?

My first question: Did Jake Simpson really get paid for writing this article? My second question: Does The Atlantic no longer employ editors and fact checkers?

Five-second article summary: Simpson is upset that golf is moving beyond Tiger Woods (who fell well short of Gandhi, not to mention Jack Nicklaus), so he’s going to kick and cry and say golf will suck and die without Woods.

Simpson should win a prize because, by my count, his is the 1,000,000th such article written since Thanksgiving 2009.

Let’s take a look, starting with this:

Golf pundits can debate whether Woods or Jack Nicklaus was the better golfer for the next 100 years, but there’s no debating who was the most influential golfer of all time. When Woods turned pro in 1996, the total purse at the Masters was $2.5 million and the winner got $450,000. The purse for this year’s Masters was $9 million, and Watson’s winning prize was $1.62 million.

Okay, that’s eighteen years. In those eighteen years, have we not seen across-the-board corporatization of sports with attendant monetary inflation? Let’s take a look at a comparable event in another sport, the Wimbledon tennis tournament. First prize in 1996? £392,500. First prize in 2013? £1.6 million. Well, gosh, that means tennis’s premier tournament increased more than golf’s premier tournament during the Tiger Era. Why, that doesn’t fit the Tiger Woods Made Golfers Rich narrative at all.

Then consider this: In the 16 years prior to Woods, the Masters first prize grew from $45,000 to $450,000. Pretty easy to do that math, right? It grew 10x, or 900 percent in those 16 years before Woods. Got that? In the 18 years since, it grew 3.56x, or 246 percent.  Adjust for inflation and prize money rose 425 in the 16 years before Woods, only 140 percent in the 18 years after Woods arrived.

Then there’s the offhand remark — it must be true, or Simpson wouldn’t have mentioned it so casually, right? — that Woods has been more influential than Arnold Palmer. Well, we just showed Tour prize money increased more following Palmer’s arrival than Woods. And participation rates? Forget about it! Palmer caused millions of Americans to buy clubs and head to their local munis. Woods? Not so much. In fact, participation rates have actually dropped during the Woods Era.

Which brings us to this:

And other than Woods, no non-white U.S. golfer has become a global star—a definite impediment to spreading the historically lily-white game among minorities.

With an obvious intent to be inflammatory, the writer links to a five-year-old USA Today article that states no African American golfer has made the tour since Woods joined it. Which, while true in 2009, is no longer true, as, in 2011, Joseph Bramlett earned his Tour card. As for women’s golf, Cheyenne Woods gets more media attention than almost any other professional golfer.  Interestingly, this USA Today article Simpson uses to call golf “historically lily-white” points out that in 1975, the year Tiger Woods was born, there were eight — yes, eight — black golfers on tour.  Call me crazy, but that doesn’t sound at all “historically lily-white” to me.  (Not to mention one of golf’s biggest stars at that time, Lee Trevino, is Hispanic.)

Note that the author who incites with “lily-white” sees nothing wrong with the xenophobic “no non-white U.S. golfer has become a global star.” Not knowing what he means by “non-white” — does he? — I can only wonder if he thinks Hispanics like Sergio Garcia, Fijians like Vijay Singh, and Asians like Ryo Ishikawa are somehow not legitimate global stars because they are not “U.S.” enough for him. Xenophobia on parade.

There’s more. Try to follow this logic. First Simpson tells us:

For starters, [Woods has] brought in younger fans through his sheer cult of personality on the golf course.

Then:

The cohort of people playing golf, too, is aging, and none of Woods’s potential successors as Undisputed Best Golfer in the World has ever matched—or even remotely approached—Woods’s appeal to younger fans.

From a Wall Street Journal article Simpson references, we learn:

According to the National Golf Foundation’s most recent participation report, the number of golfers age 6-17 dropped 24% to 2.9 million from 3.8 million between 2005 and 2008.

During those years, 2005 through 2008, Woods won six majors, and an astonishing 25 of 55 PGA Tour events. Yet, golf participation rates dropped among those aged 6-17 by 24 percent.  So, Mr. Simpson, can tell me again how Woods is bringing young people into the game?

Much has been made of the lower television ratings for the Masters this year.  We are told over and over the reason is that Tiger Woods didn’t play.  But, contrary to that claim, some of the highest-rated golf events of all-time didn’t have Tiger Woods playing in them, so maybe there’s more to the story than that. Maybe a not particularly popular player ran away from the rest of the Masters field. Nah, it couldn’t be that, could it?

Simpson also repeats another talking point making the rounds when he tells us it was the “smallest Masters audience” since 1993 — oh, what a coincidence, right before Woods started playing! Of course, he conveniently neglects to mention that there were 70 million fewer people in the United States in 1993. (Credit Simpson with at least distinguishing between rating and audience size terminology; Darren Rovell doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the distinction.  He tells us, “Masters ratings worst since ’93.”  You’d think a television man like Rovell would understand that rating and audience size are not at all the same thing, but he writes, “All are potential reasons the television ratings for Saturday and Sunday of this year’s Masters were the worst in more than two decades.”)

Then Simpson gives us this, a fine example the modern sportswriter’s ability to wed creative fiction with illogic:

Perhaps learning from Woods’s overly candid interviews early in his career, Spieth and his team have already crafted a public persona designed to keep his private life very private.

They have? Forgive me, but I thought the lengthy television segment about Spieth’s relationship to his younger sister was about as revealing and open and intimate as it gets.  To support his strange contention, Simpson equates Spieth apologizing via Twitter for some pouty on-course behavior with tight control of his private life. Huh?  Does anyone have any idea how to connect those two dots?  I sure don’t.  What’s more, I looked back through Spieth’s tweets and found this one: “That was a terrible, self-centered interview by Calipari after the game. Anyone else agree?”  Sounds openly opinionated to me.  Hard to imagine “Steinie” tweeting that one out from Woods’ Twitter account.  Like I said, fiction and illogic.

So, there you have it.  That was my offering.  Read Briggs’s and compare it to mine.  I think mine’s better, but it’s possible I’m biased.  Whose is more important?  Briggs’s wins hands-down.  He shows those at the very top of the sports journalism hierarchy are no longer automatically putting the Approved Tiger Woods Narrative above the truth.

Let’s hope some of our prominent sportswriters on this side of the Atlantic will follow suit and reacquaint themselves with the truth.  The truth would be a welcome element in American golf journalism, don’t you think?

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Thursday Thoughts Special Report: More and more sports journalists linking Tiger Woods and PEDs

THURSDAY  THOUGHTS  SPECIAL  REPORT

For years, rumors and circumstantial evidence have linked Tiger Woods to PEDs; there has even been an admission by Woods that doping doctor Anthony Galea paid private visits to Woods’ home to treat him — even though Galea was not licensed to practice medicine in the United States. A survey of PGA Tour players in 2010 showed that twenty-four percent of them thought Woods used PEDs, so it’s clearly not lunatic to think Woods has a history of juicing.  The sports media, perhaps fearing retribution from Nike, has simply refused to discuss the topic — or even mention it, for that matter.

But it looks like that is changing. I’ve recently seen quite a few sports journalists make comments about Tiger Woods and PEDs. Here are a few examples:

Marc “The Beetle” Bertrand, a sports journalist with Comcast SportsNet in Boston, took part in a roundtable discussion on “Who’s the biggest weasel in sports today?” The other three panelists chose Ryan Braun (a PED user from Major League Baseball), Ndamukong Suh (a dirty NFL defensive lineman who specializes in kicking players who are on the ground), and Rajon Rondo (no idea who this is). Bertrand chose Woods, and here’s what he had to say:

I’m gonna take Tiger Woods. Because I think Tiger Woods is a bit of a weasel, whether it be the fact that his doctor, Anthony Galea, is no longer in the business of doing whatever Anthony Galea did. And Tiger’s game is falling apart. I know he’s getting older, but that part… and you know, I have a lax policy on the PED users, but when your entire game falls apart? And you’re like half the guy you used to be, that’s suspicious. But I also think he cheats. I mean, there’s so many examples.

Wow. That kind of straight-forward discussion on the topic is very refreshing to hear.

Next up, Dick Bender with the Sawyer County Record in Wisconsin:

There’ll be no Tiger Woods at the Masters this week following back surgery a few weeks ago. Woods is falling apart physically right before our eyes. He is 38 years old and is a physical wreck. I’m sure he is not now but at one time in his career I believe Woods was on PEDs. That would explain a lot.

Then there’s Waddle and Silvy, a sports radio team in Chicago. They took two calls in early April from listeners (around the 2:52:00 mark) who were highly suspicious of Woods and PEDs. Waddle and Silvy were somewhat reluctant to address the matter, but, well, you can listen for yourself.

After the first caller said everyone keeps “ducking the question” about Woods and PEDs, and suggested Woods’ physical “breaking down” was the result of steroid use, Waddle and Silvy said (sorry, I don’t know which voice belongs to which guy):

Host 1: Uhm, look, i don’t think anyone has ignored… Those rumors or conversations have been there for a long, long time.

Host 2: They are all valid questions.

Host 1: It is, but there’s no evidence to, say, specifically that’s why anybody’s breaking down.

The very next caller says he wants to discuss the same topic — “the ‘roids” — and says, after mentioning some of the things that have happened with Woods in the past five years, “It seems like a lot of coincidences.”

Waddle and Silvy responded:

Host 1: Look, I would say this. I wouldn’t rule anything out. These days I think you’re safe as a sports fan to be a sceptic first. With that said, I can’t sit here and definitively say to you…

Host 2: No, you’d… legally you could get in big trouble for throwing that out there. But I think any question is valid.

Note that fear of legal action was making them hold back. Their final comment was one of those read-between-the-lines things:

Host: I wouldn’t make the accusation, but at the same time, I wouldn’t write it off. But, uhm.. I don’t know… I, I don’t, I don’t expect him to return to dominant form, I just don’t.

You can see that more and more sports journalists are going off the reservation.  As the caller to Waddle and Silvy put it, there are a lot of coincidences.  Too many to believe, and many sports journalists no longer feel compelled to hold their tongues.

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Tuesday Thoughts: April 15, 2014

Masters Wrapup:  Bubba dominated, eliminating all drama on the back nine.  The first 3-1/2 rounds were great, but the final nine holes left a sour taste.  As much as I like the Masters and Augusta National, the course is just too wide open on many holes.  You can hit a drive thirty yards off the fairway and get away with it.  It’s a long drive contest combined with Goofy Golf putting.  With its limited field, it’s the least of the majors.  The holes have a volatility to them that is great, but long-driving players — accurate or not — have too much of an advantage.  I love the tradition and limited commercial interruption, but not enough top players are invited, and the emphasis on length over accuracy gives a handful of players a leg up.  Maybe it’s time to put the Masters on a British Open type rota.

P.T. Steinberg:  The golf media dutifully reported on Mark Steinberg’s idea for a big “team match” between the “U.S. and South America.”  You can be sure Steinberg will run it just like he and IMG ran the Australian Masters, and thereby add some sweet dinero to his bank account.  ESPN is onboard to televise this “team event.”  The “U.S. team” will consist of Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, both managed by… drumroll… Mark Steinberg.  It’s nothing more than a paid exhibition for two of Steinberg’s clients; to play it up as anything more is insulting to golf fans, and degrading to the golf media.

Dustin Johnson:  He’s a great talent, obviously, though quite an on-again, off-again player.  He strikes me as a guy who likes to have a good time and has the ability to occasionally play great golf while doing so.  Not a bad way to go through life, really.  He played great golf early in the year then just disappeared — nowhere to be seen on Augusta’s leaderboard — after shooting 80 and WD’ing in Texas.

Woods, Part 1:  Woods will be lucky to play one major this year.  In fact, I wonder if P.T. Steinberg wouldn’t like Woods’s first outing after his surgery to be his new “team event” in South America this coming fall.

Woods, Part 2:  I heard one of the national sports talk shows discussing Tiger Woods and television golf ratings, and they brought up the fact that many past Masters have had higher ratings than those in the Tiger Era.  (Have they been reading my website?  It is hard to believe anyone associated with sports media doesn’t.)  They also spoke of how silly all the early-century hyperbole about Woods growing the game looks, fifteen years down the road.  Are we finally going to see realism introduced into golf coverage?

Jimmy Walker and Fred Couples:  The golf media drools over Freddie “Won-One-Major Hall-of-Famer” Couples (he won the golf media’s hearts when he proclaimed Woods his BPF) but they have little use for a Jimmy Walker.  Even in the post-Augusta recaps, you hardly hear that Walker finished T-8 (tied with McIlroy, who also closed strong) and climbed into the OWGR Top 20.  If you haven’t already read it here’s a great article by Shipnuck (SI) about how Jimmy Walker and Butch Harmon came together.  Started working together right at a year ago, with pretty astonishing results.

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Sunday Thoughts: Masters Sunday 2014

Masters Television Coverage:  CBS did a great job yesterday.  Isn’t it amazing how enjoyable golf can be when they switch quickly between players rather than forcing the Tiger Woods Reality Show down our throats?  When Adam Scott went the wrong direction, we stopped seeing him.  What a novel concept.  Had he been Tiger Woods, half the broadcast would have been hand-wringing over “what’s wrong with his swing,” with slow-motion swing analysis, and replays of his facial reactions, and endless discussion about whether he can “turn it around,” and whether a salvaged par “might just be the spark he needed.”  Had Woods been in the field, we’d have been robbed of half the great action we saw yesterday.  We would have gotten, “While we were watching Tiger line up this meaningless putt, that roar you heard was Jordan Spieth birdieing to take the lead.”

Worth Reading:  Nice piece from the New York Times on Jordan Spieth.

“It could be someone who listens to the talk of Woods’s onetime dominance and rolls his eyes the way he does when his grandfather talks about Elvis.”

“Woods is not from another generation to them; he is from another era.  They say lots of young professional golfers have learned to no longer fear Woods. Spieth and his brethren probably never knew they were supposed to fear Woods in the first place.”

“When Woods came to the Masters as a 20-year-old, he did not make the cut, and still everyone was impressed with his game.  What are we to make of Spieth, who outplayed the field on the back nine Saturday with two birdies, a bogey and six pars?”

Go read the entire thing.  Then read this one, too.  Posnanski, at Golf Channel, giving his take on Spieth.  Good stuff.

Nantz on Spieth:  I thought Jim Nantz did a pretty good job when discussing Jordan Spieth at the start of yesterday’s broadcast, but he said, paraphrasing, Spieth’s story “really began about a year ago.”  In reality, Spieth came into the eye of the golf world at least a year earlier than that, when he finished T-21 and Low Amateur at the 2012 U.S. Open at age 18.  You could even make a case for two years prior to that, when he made the cut at the Byron Nelson at age 16.  The following year, he again made the cut and finished T-32.  Some of you will recall that many amateurs in addition to Spieth made some noise on the PGA Tour those summers, among them Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein, and Russell Henley.

Masters Sunday:  If you could adjust the leaderboard now for the scores that will be made on the first two holes, it would look vastly different.  There will be a lot of bogeys on No. 1, so a birdie there will move a player up in a hurry.  No. 2 will yield a few eagles and a lot of birdies, but some players will bogey it.  Those first two holes are so volatile that thirty minutes after the last group tees off, the current leaderboard will look like ancient history.

Don’t Forget: While Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and Jason Day are unlikely to make it to the top of the leaderboard today, a strong finish in the OWGR-point-rich Masters will go a long way toward positioning them for an ultimate #1 ranking.  In fact, I think Adam just needs a 3rd or 4th place finish to make it today.

Brand Names:  Why is it that golf club brands are never mentioned during televised events?  The brands are plastered all over the players’ clothing and bags, but it’s never mentioned.  Watch NASCAR for a few minutes and you’ll constantly hear about “the GoDaddy car” and “the Tide car,” and they’ll tell you how the Chevys are doing in comparison to the Fords.  The advertising in golf is just as pervasive, but it’s never mentioned.

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Saturday Thoughts: Masters Saturday 2014

Phil Mickelson:  On No. 12, Phil hits into the front bunker.  He hits from the front bunker into back bunker.  Then he hits from the back bunker back into front bunker.  He’s not happy, and says — cover your ears — “Got dang it!”  Total admiration.  At a time when many PGA Tour pros have the temper control of a 2-year-old, Phil shows why he is nothing but class.

Nicklaus-Proofing, Redux: As mentioned a couple of days ago, Tiger Only fans tell us how the horrible humans at Augusta singled out Tiger Woods and deliberately made the course harder for him, and him only, to play.  Tiger-proofing, they repeat ad nauseam.  Well, here’s another excerpt from Gil Capp’s new book, The Magnificent Masters, regarding the 13th hole:

The mounds had been added in 1969 — a move to prevent long players (like Jack Nicklaus) from blasting it down the slope on that side and having a short second shot (Nicklaus once hit as little as an 8-iron into the green).

Backup Plan: The golf media is in a panic with Woods and Mickelson nowhere to be found in Augusta this weekend.  Word is that CBS is planning to deploy their “Tiger Is Lurking” strategy, and hope no one notices he’s not actually there.

Mindless Golf Media: I am so fed up with the faux stats we’re inundated with these day.  “No player who has been more than nine strokes behind after 42-1/2 holes has ever…”  “Golfer Joe has won 42.3 percent of the time when…”  Such stats are worthless.  Unlikely means unlikely, and when all the world knows something is unlikely, what’s the point of producing faux stats to bolster that claim?  A player making the cut on the number is unlikely to win; no need for stats on that.  Besides, they do win on occasion, and the exceptions are more interesting than the “stats”: Think Rory at Quail Hollow.

Anyway, consider the 1975 Masters.  Johnny Miller barely made the cut and trailed leader Jack Nicklaus by 11 going into the weekend.  He made up 7 shots on Saturday, then another 3 on Sunday, losing by a single shot.  He could well have won.  (He bogeyed No. 17.)  Anyway, why don’t golf reporters write about this stuff instead of the mindless statistical drivel they regurgitate these days?  Their stats are either so obvious they do not deserve comment or they are utterly irrelevant.  Does anyone care that, say, “Only 2 of 45 winners have come from 10 or more back without shooting a 65 or lower in round three.”  If a player is in the back of the pack, he needs to shoot a good score.  Wow, stop the presses.

“Mindless” really is the word for what these guys so routinely do, and they seem to mimic each other in this regard.  I now see paid golf writers repeating tweets someone else made pointing out meaningless stats.  They repeat each others drivel, never pausing to consider if it is pertinent.  You might as well look at your checkbook and draw conclusions like, “Nine out of 12 times, an odd-numbered balance is followed by an even number, but only 3 of 10 times is an even-numbered balance followed by an odd number.  So from that, we see how unlikely it is that the next balance will be odd.”  Write that way about golf, and your golf writing peer will repeat/retweet it: “Lanny H makes a truly fascinating point about odd- and even-numbered bank balances.”

Tiger’s Non-Effect:  An article worth reading on the failure of the Tiger Woods Era to increase golf participation rates.  Interestingly, there are fewer golfers now than before Woods joined the Tour.  However, the whole idea of Woods driving golf has been another media myth.  Seems simpler and more accurate to just say this, “Golf participation goes up when the economy is booming.”  2000 marked the peak of the dotcom era, and 2014 is still early in our recovery from the Financial Meltdown at the end of the 00′s.  Anyway, the article has some interesting numbers, worth looking at.

Stuck in the past:  Do you think Golf Channel might be living in the past?  Here’s their top website stories this Masters Saturday morning:

gcopedsOnline Scoreboards:  I am no fan of the PGATour.com website overall, but their standard leaderboard is pretty darn decent, especially when they deploy ShotLink.  Too bad we can’t have that during majors.

Odds-on Man Out:  Another misuse of “odd-ons favorite,” this one from Shane Bacon: “He’s the odds-on favorite next week at Augusta and he should be, because the kid is finally swinging like the champion he is.”  Is there anything more embarrassing than someone misusing a word or term he thinks makes him sound cool or authoritative?

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Thoughts: Masters Friday 2014

Ceremonial Tee Shots:  Good thing it was cold Thursday morning, so Gary Player wasn’t tempted to hit his ceremonial tee shot in the nude.

CBS thinks Couples > Defending Champ Adam Scott:  I was watching CBS Amen Corner coverage Thursday morning.  CBS puts a leaderboard on the screen,  but they only have room for two of the seven players sitting at -2.  They show Rory McIlroy and Fred Couples.  Defending champ Adam Scott, one of this year’s favorites, was also at -2 but was passed over so they could include Fred Couples.  Speaks volumes.

Sound Check:  Notice the lack of idiots screaming, “In the hole!”  I heard only one in ten hours of viewing live action.  The time I heard that scream was far in the distance; I like to think he screamed it as he was being shepherded to the gate.

Media, Dime, Turn:  Okay, despite the fact that the PGA Tour had a traveling fitness trailer at every event ten years before Woods showed up, the narrative has been, “Tiger Woods brought fitness to golf.”  Woods was “golf’s first athlete.”  (Which had to come as a surprise a guy like Hale Irwin, who was all-conference as a football player in the Big Eight.  Not to mention, John Brodie, who played the tour after being an NFL quarterback.  Or that guy, Jack Nicklaus, who was a star in every sport he played.  Woody Hayes, recognizing Nicklaus’s immense golfing potential and fondness for football, told Jack’s father, “Keep him as far away from my game as you can.”)

The media took the mythology they created regarding Woods and resistance training and ran with it.  That was the wave of the future: Tiger is a pioneer, praise him, worship him, imitate him!  They turned a blind eye to Dr. Galea, et alia, and Woods’ Bonds-like increase in weight and preached a “We Will Pump You Up” Gospel According to Tiger Woods.  But, now, the chickens are coming home to roost.  Increasingly Woods is perceived as having been damaged goods since his early 30′s.  In a sign of a sea change, Rory McIlroy recently spoke of a conversation with his pink-headed tennis pro fiance, wherein she told him, basically, some fitness is good for golf, but overdoing it is just plain stupid.  (The Masters 2014: Rory McIlroy given a slice of perspective by fiancée Caroline Wozniacki.)

Notice how the media, post Woods’ back surgery, now closely examine other players’ injuries, which they often glossed over in the past.  More than a few media members are starting to question the gym work fad of the past decade.

With Woods in decline, watch the media alter their story.  My prediction: In a few years, the media’s narrative will have changed 180 degrees.  They may even bash Woods’ gym work for robbing him of his longevity.  They will abandon the meme that Lyle Alzado and Hulk Hogan are the optimum body types for golf, and pretend they never promulgated that idea.  Arnold Palmer, not Arnold Schwarzenegger, they’ll say.

Network Execs Only:  It’s funny how the Tiger Only fans discuss only one thing when it comes to this year’s Masters: The ratings will be lower without Tiger Only fans.  Gee, you think?  How about this bold prediction:  American Idol ratings would be lower without prepubescent teens.  I assure you I’m heartbroken as I watch the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony while prepubescent teens chatter that “no one will watch that crap.”

First off, ratings in the “old days” were often better than during the “Tiger Era.”  (Certainly golf participation rates were.)  But more important, who cares about ratings — unless you just bought a bunch of short term stock options in the TV network’s parent company?  Geoff Shackleford has a good writeup about Jim Nantz’s comments on the topic.  Nantz puts it nicely:

I don’t think the golf fan cares about the ratings,” Nantz said. “I’ve never had anybody say, ‘Tell me about the ratings when Jack Nicklaus won in 1986.’ I never had anyone say, ‘Phil’s victory was great in 2004, but too bad about the rating.’ It was on Easter Sunday that year (which generally means a smaller rating).

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Thursday Thoughts: Masters Thursday 2014

Tiger-Proofing, How Unfair:  You know the narrative, right?  Tiger Woods was targeted by the disgusting old men at Augusta who had it in for him.  They “Tiger-proofed” the course, something they’d never do to one of their “approved” golfers like Jack Nicklaus.  The only problem is, like almost all of the Tiger Woods Narrative, it’s hogwash.  Check this out from Gil Capp’s new book, The Magnificent Masters, regarding the 18th hole in 1975:

In March, nineteen pine saplings had been planted along the left corner of the dogleg, just before the two bunkers that were added in 1966 as a response to Jack Nicklaus’s prodigious drives up the left side of the fairway the previous year.  Those bunkers narrowed the fairway width to just thirty yards and took the driver out of the longer players’ hands.

Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, those evil bastards Nicklaus-proofed Augusta National!

With Tiger out…  Woods, by dropping out has done the following: 1. Caused Rory McIlroy to become the favorite (even though Rory was already the favorite); 2. Given other players a real chance to win (because the presence of Woods, who won zero of the past eight Masters, meant they were all playing for second place); 3. Made this a “wide open” event.  (Because with the guy who hasn’t won in eight years out of the picture, who the hell knows who will win.)  Those last two must be particularly amusing for Phil Mickelson who has won two of the past eight.

Babbling Idiots:  Gary Williams tells us this morning, “Only the great can be remembered for losing.”  Huh?  Golf Channel has been running a piece on Scott Hoch losing a Masters playoff 25 years ago by missing a short putt.  Hoch was a fine player, but I doubt he’d be labeled “great.”  Then there’s Jean Van de Velde.  Do these guys even think about what they say?

Fashion Show:  Is anyone else as tired as I am of clothing advertisements being presented as news?  Here’s what Joe the Hacker will be wearing this week!

High Tech Golf Channel:  Every time I try to use the Golf Channel online live stream, I find the connection drops every four or five minutes.  You spend more time refreshing the screen than hearing about golf.

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