Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's Not Forget: The Players Was Great

Either you're a golf fan or you're a Tiger fan, and I think we really need to figure out which one each of us are.

Golf fans loved the final round of the Players Championship, and the entire week at TPC Sawgrass. It gave us just about every storyline, from Phil Mickelson making a charge only to fall back on Friday, to Graeme McDowell showing life for the first time since the Chevron. It showed us that even major championship winning Northern Irishmen can flirt with 80 in a final round, and there's something about this golf course that makes Paul Goydos play like Sam Snead. It gave us glimpses of Garcia, hints of Hunter and a turtle that will forever live in Players past, and it event tossed in a playoff to make 2011 continue on it's wacky route.

Tiger fans didn't love it. He withdrew early on Thursday, never to be seen again. Tiger fans turned off their televisions and watched tennis or "Bridesmaids" or Kevin Durant. They didn't care that David Toms was trying to win for the first time 2006. That K.J. Choi was trying to be the first Korean to fly his flag above the majestic clubhouse. That Luke Donald and Nick Watney were trying to add to their already tremendous seasons. Tiger fans care about Tiger and not much else.

ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski tweeted early on Sunday, " There is no such thing as a 5th Major, but final round of TPC should be a gas. Rly interesting leaderboard and usual weirdness of the course," only to write an entire column about how bad this was for golf. I always enjoy Wojo's writing, but I have to disagree with the following point:

This is the supposed "fifth major," but the guy who won it hasn't cashed a tour victory check since the 2008 Sony Open. The guy he beat, David Toms, hasn't won on tour since the 2006 Sony. And the guy who finished third, Paul Goydos, hasn't won since the 2007 Sony.

PlayStations for everybody!

Choi turns 41 this Thursday. Toms is 44. Goydos is 46. It was like the Champions Tour Lite.

The most interesting part about his point there? I bet if you asked Gene, or any sportswriter north of rental car age, what their favorite golf moment was, they'd all bring up the 1986 Masters, and I'm fairly certain that Jack Nicklaus was in his 40s when he won that tournament. Hummm. I guess that doesn't matter when you're named Toms or Choi.

The tournament was great, and if people want more young guys to win, I have a simple solution; tell the young guys to play better golf. Until then, people like Toms will compete because they have the game to compete. We love Rickie Fowler, but how many wins does he have? I am totally impressed with the games of Dustin Johnson and Hunter Mahan, but how many times have they parred the 18th hole at PGA Championship to win a major? Exactly. It takes a long time to learn how to win events on the PGA Tour, and just because Tiger did it at such an astonishing, and young, age doesn't mean that will become the norm. Golfers are too good these days, and on any given week a player from the middle of the talent pack can ride a hot putter to the winner's circle.

A good friend of mine called on Sunday morning and said he had a point about golf he wanted to pass by me. He asked if golf was turning into professional poker, where on any given week a guy could win that most people had never heard of, and if this is bad for the game. I answered that I didn't think it was, because everyone is so good these days that it'll be a long time before we have a four-time winner in a single season. Those days of Tiger and Vijay winning 10 tournaments are done, and if you like golf, that's awesome. Every week is completely unpredictable, and that's beautiful. It's how golf is supposed to be. We all deal with it daily on the golf course; one day you have your best stuff, the next you can barely find the face on a wedge.

If you're a golf fan you probably understand. If you're just a Tiger fan, you probably stopped reading this six graphs ago.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you on this subject. I was thinking Sunday morning about Phil's comments of TPC Sawgrass and how it can feel unfair at times. A track that can take a guy that is cruising for a win (Toms) and trip him up down the stretch, can let experience (Choi, Goydos) go head to head with the next generation (Gmac, Watney, Donald) is not all bad. In fact, it was one of the best finishes this year with a great field of players. I still miss the Tiger factor, but the golf is so good it's getting easy to put it in the past...


mike said...

Golf was spoiled by Tiger. Before Tiger it was hard to win major and sub-majors. Now it seems they expect every young player to win every time they have an opportunity. People forget how often Jack finished 2nd.

As for Tiger, I still fail to see the argument that he is good for golf. If he attracts casual fans that turn the tournament off as soon as he exits how did that help golf. The only people Tiger has helped is the professional golfer finishing 100th on the money list, Tiger made him a millionaire.

Anonymous said...

This was what golf was prior to the arrival of Tiger Woods.( a niche sports with a golf-centric fan base) Truly though if you really look at the facts, there were approx 44 tourneys played in a year and Woods played in 18 and won an average of 5; thus he never factored that much percentage wise on the Tour. Every one made him out to be this larger than life persona and waited with bated breath for his 1 in 3 weeks appearance.Yes he could be counted on to deliver good golf almost always and he brought "color" and "athleticism" to a staid, lily-white, old man, rich, middle class sports. Because of his winning mentality, he brought people from all sporting background to the table. Golf is not better off now that Woods is not winning, but it is good, since we now truly realise that talent level is equal and therefore whay woods accomplish in his 14 years was truly special.

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