2:45 pm update: Can you imagine any other sport that would interrupt live action fifteen minutes after it started to show a propaganda documentary instead of the live event? I turned it off. That’s just bad television. I’ll listen to music and follow the online leaderboard. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll break my long streak of March-Madness-less Marches.
2:30 pm update: “If he had made that, the crowd would have erupted.” You don’t come up with such insights without intense study of the art and science of television journalism. I mean, golf fans clapping and cheering a birdie? Thanks for that analysis!
Woods has had every shot televised. Every practice swing. Every grimace. Every ball marking. Three birdies, two bogeys. Graeme McDowell got one “this just earlier” birdie putt. He also has three birdies — without the bogeys.
Media, Paint, Corner: The media has painted themselves into a corner with their Tiger hype and their focus on “casual fans” (aka, Tiger Only fans). These fans believe that second place is “first loser.” They have no interest in someone like Sam Burns trying to play himself onto the Tour, or James Hahn the erstwhile shoe salesman, or anything any deeper than Him Tiger Him Win Me Win. They are hunter-gatherers: They find food, they eat it. They are not farmers: They don’t have time to cultivate anything; they are hungry now dammit.
So here’s where we are. Woods has to be elated that, post-operation, not only can he walk and tie his shoes, but he can swing a golf club. And he can swing it well enough to play golf at the PGA Tour level.
Here’s where, to me, it gets funny. Any even marginally-sentient golf fan would see this year as tremendously successful for Woods. (With the caveat, as always, of no re-injury occurring.) Let me pull up OWGR. (Man, how I hate that website because of the asinine scroll those dunderheads refuse to remove. Great data, invalidated by the visual experience.) Okay, in the prior two years, Woods played a grand total of four tournaments — two of which were the silly season points giveaways currently called the Hero Challenge. The years prior to those two years were sparsely populated with tournaments as well.
So Woods regularly playing is huge. HUGE. But the golf media has created this narrative for their hunter-gatherer “casual fans” that Woods being “back” means winning. Every event. Every round. Every hole. As a result, I noticed yesterday an almost apologetic tone as they talked about sometimes you have rounds like this. The guy was something like five shots back of 4th place with 36 holes to go. He wasn’t missing the cut; he wasn’t ten shots back playing in the first group on Sunday morning. He’s still in the hunt, and they were apologizing for him.
Golf Channel is overselling and under-delivering, they fear, in the eyes of the hunter-gatherers — who want to be fed right now! And they are probably right. Those “casual fans” would be incapable of looking at a year of golf — and saying, “Five top tens, twelve top twenty-fives, and only three missed cuts. That’s quite a harvest!” Even after playing only two PGA Tour events, that would not be enough for them. And NBC/Golf Channel knows this.
What’s weird is that, in my view, at this point in time, they should be quite optimistic about their Tiger Only excessive coverage possibilities. Tiger Woods is the betting favorite for the Masters, I heard, and for the first time in many years, that doesn’t strike me as completely irrational.
Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe it’s the #MeToo hullabaloo. Maybe it was last year’s highway nap. He used to “return” with duct tape and baling wiring holding his body together, and the media would be insisting, “If anyone can come back from 20 shots behind on Sunday, it’s Tiger Woods.” They are much more measured now, even though Woods is far healthier.
Or maybe I’m out to sea because I only watch actual live coverage. As it is, that’s all I can speak to, and it does seem like they’ve very much painted themselves into a corner.
Sam Burns: I was bummed that Sam blew up on his final holes last week and fell to T12 (losing the top-ten autoqualifying for the next event). But here he is playing, anyway. Turns out the autoqualifying would have been for next week. He already had an exemption in to this week’s tournament for being the college player of the year. If Sam can finish somewhere around 7th or above this week, he would qualify for unlimited exemptions the rest of the year, which would mean, basically, he’s a permanent Tour member.
“In The Hole!” Screamers: Well, Tiger Woods is back, and so too, of course, are the dunderhead screamers. Golf had moved beyond those idiots, but here they are, back again. Wearing mullet haircuts, one would assume. Rushing home to hear themselves on their VCR tape recordings of Golf Channel.
Fix The Damn Courses: Idea. Put long penal wild areas alongside the fairways. Players could chose the club they can hit the farthest while keeping it in the fairway. Which would reward players for being, you know, good.
Imagination: I heard announcers yesterday discussing the importance of imagination in golf. Struck me as odd, because that’s been gone for a long, long time. Most courses have very little trouble, the lies are all immaculate. No rough to speak of. Trees are sparse enough to leave big gaps for recovery shots. You’d be hard-pressed to lose a ball anywhere other than in water. Chesson Hadley having a tree mildly interfering with his swing is the exception that proves the rule.
Woods Obsession Means: If you are interested in players like Graeme McDowell and Sam Burns, it’s good news when they show up on screen standing over a putt for birdie. You know it’s going in because Golf Channel would not waste one second on them otherwise. They’d much rather show Woods walking around a green.
March Madness: For the past four or five years, I’ve watched almost no March Madness. Literally, all I saw was a few seconds while changing channels. I don’t hate college basketball; I just don’t follow it. It’s true to say the only time I watch is when CBS golf coverage is pushed back due to a college basketball overrun.
Anyway, there was a game on Thursday night I fully intended to watch. Then I promptly forgot all about it until the next morning. In the 1980’s, March Madness was one of my favorite sporting events. We had a pool at work with more than 100 entries. All done by hand. I’d spend hours making my picks. Now it’s all very convenient with computers, but I’d rather take a beating than fill out a bracket.