I could write with full confidence a lengthy essay on the various elements of beauty of Azahara Munoz or Hee-Kyung Seo or Michelle Wie or any number of other LPGA Tour players. I could make precise distinctions, as I see it, between “cute” and “pretty” and “beautiful.”
When it comes to men, I am basically guessing. I grew up thinking guys like Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler were beautiful/handsome because they attracted so many great-looking women; now I feel certain they would have had far less luck if they’d been working-class cab drivers instead of wealthy and famous musical performers. I’ve gotten better at guessing as I’ve grown older, but I’m still just guessing. I figure a guy like Webb Simpson is handsome mainly because he has such a beautiful wife, whom he married when young and not yet a star on the PGA Tour.
I bring this up because I am trying to understand how the golf media decides who is worthy of obsessive attention and praise and who is not. Consider Dustin Johnson. To me he’s always been “just another Tour player,” but one cannot help but notice he is a favorite of the media, far beyond what his actual results on the golf course would warrant. He has been linked to one or more of the prettier American LPGA players and is now married to the not-unattractive daughter of Wayne Gretsky, so I speculate the golf media finds him “handsome” and therefore might find him useful in “growing the game.” I will leave the call to my female and gay readers and move on.
When it comes to golf media attention, I am not so naive as to think physical attractiveness does not play a part. But there’s more to it. Winning helps. A lot. So too does being “interesting,” as long as it is in a media-approved, i.e., bland, way. If you are truly interesting, like Ian Poulter, you’ll have to settle for being a media “villain.”
Enough meandering, let me get to my point: I am starting to think, in the eyes of the American golf media, no foreign player can really be attractive. Our golf media has become xenophobic. Let’s take a look.
Consider Phil Mickelson. Along with the multitudes of “Tiger is at the End” articles we are seeing, we’ve been inundated with nearly as many “So is Phil” articles. Often the two are combined into one article along the lines of, “American Golf is at the End,” or “Good Era Over, Bad Era Coming.”
Enter Martin Kaymer. Let’s compare him to Phil Mickelson at the same age.
Kaymer: 12 in 8 years
Mickelson: 13 in 8 years (his amateur win, which I counted, actually
predated those 8 years)
Kaymer: 2 in 8 years
Mickelson: 0 in 8 years (was still 0 at 12 years)
Kaymer: won at age 29
Mickelson: won at age 36
There’s more to the matter than golf results, I know, but come on. Kaymer had two majors and a Players before age 30; Mickelson had none. Their win totals were about the same. Why is it that Kaymer is presented by the American golf media, reluctantly, as a kind-of-good player but Mickelson as if he were one of golf’s Mount Rushmore figures?
Then there’s Michelle Wie. She has always gotten attention well beyond her actual performance (Did she ever even make a cut playing men’s tour events?) She seems to be a fine young woman, and her game is finally jelling, but the American golf media so wants to make her the star of the show that they short-change golfers such as Lydia Ko, who is actually doing the things at a young age we were told Michelle Wie was going to do. Ko gets her fair share of attention, but still it is dwarfed by the attention Wie got at that age, and gets even today. It is clear from tournament broadcasts and discussions on Golf Channel that the American golf media is still invested in the idea of Michelle Wie becoming the star of the LPGA. The star-making machinery behind the popular golfer, I suppose.
Then there’s Rory McIlroy, the greatest golfer since at least Jack Nicklaus. He’s riding a 2-major win streak and is favored to win at Augusta. If he wins the Masters in April, he’ll actually be ahead of Jack’s pace for winning majors. The story of Rory’s bounceback in 2010 from Masters meltdown to U.S. Open runaway is the stuff of movies, equal to the all-time greatest stories in golf history. If you want to compare him to Tiger Woods — whose career we now know was very much front-loaded — Woods had 8 majors at age 29. Rory has 4 at age 25. Very likely Rory will be around Woods’s number come 2019. We were told Woods was the Chosen One from the day he won his first major. Rory, with four, is chopped liver.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that, in the eyes of the American golf media, if you ain’t American, you ain’t beautiful.
This is sad, and a step backward. Thirty years ago, Australian Greg Norman was far and away the most popular golfer in the world and in the United States.