State of the Game: Tomorrow night Golf Channel is hosting another “State of the Game” panel discussion. In year’s past, they did these earlier in the year at the WGC Match Play in February. These panel discussion are usually halfway decent, being almost the only time when Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, and the rest are bluntly honest. (I don’t see Faldo’s name on the list, which is disappointing. I hope his absence doesn’t alter the bluntness factor.)
Payne Stewart: If you missed the documentary about Payne Stewart on NBC yesterday, be sure to catch the replay tonight on Golf Channel. They did a great job of telling Payne’s story. I think I got the biggest kick out of the old video footage of interviews. Was it really only 2o years ago when Payne Stewart openly smoked and drank Budweiser when facing reporters? In terms of Political Correctness, it seems like 20 decades ago. I loved the interview after Payne lost a big event, where, finishing second, he told the reporters he was disappointed, but, hey, he still got a check for $50,000 and that might call for a celebratory drink later in the night.
Nowadays, our “star” golfers wouldn’t touch a cigarette or beer at a press conference. No, no, they are Mister Perfect Family Honor Man to the world, but, when the cameras are off, they quickly jet off to load up on Ambien, steroids, and insider trading tips. Call me weird, but I prefer Payne’s honesty and openness. And, funny thing is, Payne actually was worthy of a World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug.
Keeping the game all about Tiger: I was watching some televised LPGA action recently when it dawned on me how nice it was that the announcers didn’t seek to diminish the current players and game. Here’s what I mean: With PGA broadcasts, the announcers are in a battle to see which one can most frequently point out, in some fashion or other, “Golf sucks without Tiger.” You know the various ways:
- Tiger spoiled us.
- Of course, to put things in perspective, Tiger had won five more events by that age.
- It’s just not the same without Tiger.
- That gallery is big enough to be one of Tiger’s.
To them, it’s still always Tiger Tiger Tiger, even when he isn’t playing — and has not hit a ball in months. They ignored his sex scandal, and they ignored Galea and Biogenesis; now they are even ignoring the fact that he major surgery and may never be as good as he was before the surgery. And that version of Woods hadn’t won a major in five years. The golf media seems incapable of moving on, even as we increasingly come to realize Woods is n0t going to reach 30 majors, not 25, not 20. He’s not even going to get particularly close to Jack’s mark.
Watching the women, however, I was taken with how many times the camera switched between “equal stars.” And, even though I don’t follow the LPGA all that closely, I knew the players. No one dominated the coverage. They all dominated the coverage.
And we did not hear — not once, certainly not over and over again — how none of those players was ever going to win double-digit majors like Annika Sorenstam did. We weren’t told Annika was a once in a lifetime golfer, so these these others, in comparison, suck. We didn’t hear how the Nabisco Classic major was pretty cool, but can’t hold a candle to its heyday with Dinah Shore, or during the years when Annika won or contended every year.
No, we hear about scores of pertinent golfers. Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Stacey Lewis, Inbee Park, Michelle Wie. Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordquist. Paula Creamer. Yani Tseng, for crying out loud. Karrie Webb. Azahara Munoz. Charley Hull. The list goes on and one. Eveyone is in agreement: women’s golf is a lot of fun.
Now, would that be the case if the golf media, instead of building up the players, told us nonstop how much they all suck compared to Annika? Of course, some of these young women will end up doing about as well — perhaps better — than Annika. Just as some of the young male players will compare favorably to Woods in twenty years. After all, their entire careers are ahead of them.
The golf media does great damage to the men’s game with their Tiger Only coverage. The golf media could likewise damage the women’s game if all they talked about was, “Yeah, it was a good event, but I still miss Annika. I hope her little foray into a pro-am event portends a return to competitive play.” Then have panel discussions about whether they think she’ll return and what it would mean for and blah blah blah.
The lesson is clear: When it comes to golf, diversity is good. The Tiger Only focus of PGA coverage is detrimental to the game.
Rex Hoggard, Hack Writer: I recently said Hoggard was getting better, but he’s clearly headed in the wrong direction now. A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. A Career Slam is a Career Slam. Is that so difficult? Also, “enormity” refers to something extremely wicked or evil, not simply “big.”