Blame it on Rio: Golf’s Catastrophic Year

One step forward, two steps back.  This golf season has been a disaster.

Consider this week.  The weather.  Rory and Jordan on same side of draw.  Not a single day with a standard schedule.  A screwy penalty-stroke/non-penalty-stroke/who-has-any-idea-stroke.

The best thing about the winner is we can all stop pretending we are big DJ fans.  Is he anybody’s favorite player?  Here’s a guy who has all the charisma of Davis Love III — plus an unsavory history of drug abuse.  Hey, I wanted the guy to win a major, too.  After his US Open heartbreaks in 2010 and 2015, he deserved one.  Just like Hillary Clinton deserves to be president.  I wanted him to win a major; it just wasn’t necessary for it to be during my lifetime.

The best thing about DJ is his nonchalance.  It’s refreshing to see a player refuse to let the golf media dictate how he acts.  Of course, the golf media has expended a lot of energy insisting DJ has the defining physique for “golf’s new athletes.”  Yeah?  Well, that whole athlete thing didn’t exactly pan out, did it?  You don’t hear so much about that any more.

Golf has had two forward steps this year.  Jordan winning the (limited-field) opener, and Jason Day, Rory, and Jordan all coming into the same tournament off a win.  There have been too many steps back to count.

Oakmont was a weather-destroyed nightmare.  Which is a shame, because it’s a great course.  Well, a beautiful course.  This week’s setup?  It’s a shame we have to see goofy-golf “false fronts” to make a course challenging.  False fronts, false backs, false areas around sand traps.  There’s nothing true about these course setups, and the biggest lie is the unspoken lie.  I’ll say it: “Advances” in equipment have ruined the game.  The only thing being advanced is the chance of some greedy golf division president shilling clubs all the way to a corner office in Manhattan.

This has not been a good year for golf.  Which brings us around to the title of this article: Blame it on Rio.  If there has ever been a more ridiculous case of the tail wagging the dog than Olympics golf, I don’t know what it is.

It’s a made-for-TV exhibition that makes the Battle at Bighorn look like Cherry Hills 1960.  A non-event that means less than nothing.  And let’s not kid ourselves about why Olympics golf came to be.  NBC and Golf Channel thought “Tiger Woods At The Olympics” would be something they could hype to Mount Olympus.  Imagine the commercials:  Tiger Woods, American Flag, Tiger Woods, American Flag, Tiger Woods, American Flag.  Then the panel circle jerks, “Don’t you think an Olympic gold medal is worth four majors?  With that in mind, knowing that Jack never won a gold medal, it must be said that Woods is the sui generis Greatest Golfer Of All Time!”

And the target demo of the Olympics — you know, the LCD sports fans who lap up the human interest back stories (which get more airtime than the actual events) — would be susceptible to Woods/Gold Medal hype.  Well, at least that was NBC’s thinking.  I don’t believe even LCD sports fans would have taken that bogus bait.

One has to wonder if Tiger Woods, though, wanted any part of his blood being frozen and stored for analysis in the future.  Medical technology in 2036 might find more than a little Galea and Biogenesis lurking in his blood cells.

So where do we go from here?  Two weeks until Firestore, the worst course on the Tour.  Then the British Open.  Another two weeks, and then the PGA Championship.  Then, thankfully, college football.  Gluttons for punishment can consume two more months of golf with the Olympics, “playoffs,” and Ryder Cup.  Sensible people, however, will look forward to 2017, with its real golf from Hawaii, the UAE, and the West Coast.  People like to mock the B-list celebrities at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but Kevin James and Kenny G sound pretty damn good right now.

[I realize this morning that the big NBA game was played last night, and I still have no idea who won.  Nor do I care.  Total NBA minutes watched this season: 0.  I wonder if there was truly high interest in the series or if it was just national sports radio’s Hype of the Week.  Oh, well, if they hadn’t been pushing the NBA, they would have been going on about the NFL draft or telling listeners they “want to get your response” to whether player X’s “legacy” would be greater than player Y’s.

One thing we’ve learned from the golf media is that every player’s legacy dies within a couple of decades.  In the NBA, for example, guys with two or three decent seasons are ranked higher than career-start-to-finish dominant winners like Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  Then, of course, there is Tim Duncan, who would be the Greatest of All Time had he played in New York, but is all but forgotten in San Antonio.  Oh, well.  People who sit on hold for an hour to passionately weigh in about “Peyton Manning’s legacy” ain’t the shiniest silverware in the drawer.]

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15 Responses to Blame it on Rio: Golf’s Catastrophic Year

  1. Ken says:

    I’ve never missed Tiger Woods playing golf. And with the Olympics upcoming, I’m especially grateful that he’s not playing. Imagine that media slant. “Tiger Woods leads US Olympians!” It would be hell. Well, for a lot of people. I don’t actually watch the Olympics anyway.

    I’m was born a decade or more too late. I know that. But to me, it’s refreshing to see how DJ acted after winning. Just took it in stride. You could see happiness, relief. But no tears. Good for him. Someone should send a tape to Lebron and the rest of current crop of male athletes who blubber all over themselves after winning. Look at how a man is supposed to comport himself. I got through another NBA season without watching one minute. Bores the heck out of me. But Lebron’s bawling face was on on the cover of Drudge today.

    Yeah, I know about his history. Involvement in some sort of violence when he was a teenager. Rumors of drug use. Rumors of affairs with other player’s wives. Not good stuff. But people mature and change and hopefully he has. The guy is an immense talent.

    Charisma of DL3? I don’t know. Love (who was as long in relative terms, adjusting for equipment, in his prime as DJ is today) had absolutely no personality at all. Dustin to me exudes a certain quiet confidence. Charismatic? No. But his demeanor give him a certain aura or mystique. Maybe it’s just that someday you knew that his talent would result in more than just regular tour wins.

    • lannyh says:

      Drudge is how I learned of the result. Only I didn’t know if he was crying for joy or sadness, so had to wait to see the score somewhere else. Nothing against the NBA, or Lebron, who by accounts I’ve read is a decent guy and worthy role model; I’m just not drawn to basketball. In my youth, I followed it, but there were far fewer sports alternatives back then. And, I would claim, the coverage was less bombastic. (If you pull up an old Monday Night Football telecast on YouTube, the most shocking thing is how the pregame lasts all of two minutes.)

  2. Ken says:

    Chamblee had a pretty good rant last night on “Live from…” about how modern equipment and traditional courses just don’t mix. He said this in reference to the “penalty” and the hyper-fast greens used to trick up old courses.

    He can be a pompous ass to be sure, but IMO he often makes some very good points.

    • lannyh says:

      Geoff Shackelford used to pound on this point. In fact, he wrote a book on the subject. But since he’s hooked up with GC, which stays afloat via golf equipment ads, he’s lost his bite.

      Everyone agrees the equipment is a problem. Read what Jack Nicklaus has said. Everyone knows it’s a problem, but they are afraid of chasing away the golf equipment ad money.

    • lannyh says:

      So I guess I’m saying Chamblee can make that remark once in a blue moon, but then GC cuts away to 20 minutes of golf gear ads every hour. You are not going to see Chamblee or anyone else at Golf Channel lead a movement to roll back the ball.

      • Ken says:

        Definitely not. Chamblee referenced technology last night without getting too specific, but his point was obvious and still good.

        Funny how TGC muzzles people. Some of the same people who appear on TGC, like Feinstein and DiMarco, sing a very different tune on PGA Tour Radio on Sirius/XM. They are much more honest and blunt about the problems in the game when on radio. And say some downright shocking things (truths) about Tiger Woods.

  3. benchrat says:

    the ‘ruling’ on johnson was in itself a huge disaster, but the course setups are simply absurd. if i heard the quote attributed to the usga while trying to defend their insanely difficult setups correctly, it went something like, “we are not trying to embarrass the players, we are trying to identify the best player”. please. do these people really think that introducing conditions where luck plays a bigger part in the outcome really provides a truer test? using the same logic with which they penalized johnson, (intimating he was lying) the probability that the usga considers itself bigger than the game is more than 50%.
    i would love to see a bunch of the top players find something else to do for the us open next year, and see the usga come off it’s high horse a bit.

    • Speedy says:

      The USGA was just doing their thing, that they’ve done for decades. Showing us who’s boss.

      Seven holes to decide what to tell Dustin? Methinks they, after lengthy discussion, tried to even matters in a Ryder Cup year, Re ball movement, Lowry was first penalized. Wattel was next to come under their hammer, but they passed on. That would be ganging up on the Euros. Dustin’s “indiscretion” presented the perfect leveller.

      Of course, the USGA should do away with imagining the worst in their rules. But it won’t happen in our lifetimes.

  4. Jaybird77 says:

    Rory, Jordan, or Jason didn’t win the US Open, and Jordan collapsed like a cheap lawn chair at The Masters, so all of the sudden this year has been a disaster. Riiiiiiggggghhhhhttttt.

    You rail on Tiger Only Fans yet you yourself are apparently a Rory and Jordan Only fan. But that’s okay, because it’s two guys, not just one.

    In general, they don’t need to dial back equipment, but I would be all for a special standard for the tours. They make limited flight range balls so it would be easy to come up with a limited golf ball for the tours.

    • Ken says:

      I think one of the great things about golf is that you play with the same equipment as pros, possibly even some of the same courses. There one set of rules, the same standards. I think it would take something away from game if you separated the professional game with different equipment. I can’t play eighteen holes as well as a pro, but for any one hole or a short stretch of holes, I can sometimes play as well as anyone in the world. To me, that’s pretty cool.

      I know guys who play balls (Bandit) that do not conform to USGA standards. I would never do that. To me that is cheating. If they dialed back the ball for the pros, in my mind (and yeah, I’m something of a stickler), that would make any amateur playing the discontinued long balls that the pros no longer used a cheater.

      • Jaybird77 says:

        Yeah, I get that. I just think if you dial equipment back for everyone, the pros will still play pretty much just as well but it would likely make the game harder for amateurs than it already is. That’s the logic, right or wrong, behind the idea of having a different standard for pros. But I certainly get your point.

      • lannyh says:

        Well, as a player who never got very good, I can tell you that the equipment doesn’t make much difference for 90 percent of players. A lot of modern gear works because the the driver/ball/swing speed/launch angle are all coordinated. Amateurs aren’t going to have that.

      • lannyh says:

        I remember back when John Daly hit the scene, my fellow 106-golfers and I really enjoyed comparing ourselves to him. “That’s my best drive all day — and I’d still be 80 yards behind Daly.” Or, “I’m hitting 3-wood here; Daly would hit six-iron.” Just stuff like that. Like you said, it’s fun to play the same equipment so you can compare.

  5. Sports-realist. says:

    Yeah Dustin is a rather uninteresting champion, but, I suppose he earned it, and could have easily won back to back US Open’s, considering last year…..

  6. Speedy says:

    They can have it if they want it, but I agree that club-fitting is a joke for most amateurs. Every one of their swings is different to some degree. It’s a crapshoot that only fulfills club sale quotas.

    Hillary deserves to be President? With this lot, no one belongs in the Oral er Oval Office.

    Jason and Dustin shoot-out at Troon. Should be good. Then, Ryder Cup furor. Oops, I forgot the PGA. Jordan or Rory for that one.

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