PGA fans, ask yourself this question. If Tiger Woods and John Daly weren’t around to provide nearly every headline for professional golf, would you care?
I’ve been pondering this myself. First off, Tiger is a phenom. He makes headlines because he wins practically every tournament he’s in, and there’s no question in most people’s minds that he’s the greatest golfer in the history of the sport.
The Players Championship started yesterday, and I had a hard time getting excited about it. Billed on ESPN.com as the tournament to determine who the world’s second best golfer is, it’s not really as if there’s a lot of enthusiasm surrounding an event that normally is one of the year’s biggest non-majors because of the risk and reward situation that TPC Sawgrass presents.
And second best? Hoo-rah for that.
“Come here, little Johnny, and watch the golf tournament with your old man to see who the second best golfer is. If you work real hard, maybe some day, even you could be second best.”
What a goal to shoot for. Who goes out in any athletic event and says, “I want to be second best?” Honestly, whoever wins the tournament isn’t even going to be second best, they’re just going to be the best player at that tournament — the same as any other. Second best? The PGA and the golf media are dying for storylines because there are none. It seems every week they’re clutching at whatever is there, because aside from Tiger, there isn’t much.
Let’s recap what’s been “big news” on tour in the last year or so.
1. The “lynch” comment. So Kelly Tilghman from the Golf Channel uses a poor choice of words on air and suddenly we’re in the midst of the segregation movement. Co-anchor Nick Faldo didn’t even so much as blink when she said it. Golfweek even ran a cover with a noose. It was all much ado about nothing. Tiger forgave her immediately, said it wasn’t a big deal, yet for a month it was debated like Tilghman was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Tilghman is a great analyst for the Golf Channel. Golfweek was stirring the pot like idiots, and editor Dave Seanor was rightly canned. But the PGA and its minions needed a story, so off it went.
2. Kevin Streelman. You already forgot about him, didn’t you? Streelman rose from Hooters Tour obscurity to be paired with Tiger Woods in the final pairing of the third round of the Buick Invitational earlier this year. Cute story, but Streelman didn’t exactly light it up playing next to the world’s best, and we haven’t heard much from him since. But for at least two days, the PGA went crazy over it. I’m not saying Streelman doesn’t have a promising future in the PGA, but it was another example of the tour clutching at straws for something to talk about. Streelman finished the tournament in 14th.
3. The next big thing, Adam Scott. Sure, Scott has played well this year making every cut and even notched himself a victory at the Byron Nelson Classic. Sports Illustrated ran him on the cover of its Masters preview, most likely because they were tired of running Tiger on it. Scott is a tremendous talent. He might even be the biggest challenger to Tiger at the present time. But again, jumping the gun is what the PGA and the media love to do, and Scott still has a lot to prove and a lot of ground to make up if he’s going to be on the same playing level as Tiger.
4. Phil vs. Tiger. This storyline only works when Phil Mickelson plays well. At his very best, it was already illustrated that Phil couldn’t keep up with Tiger. Mickelson is playing alright this year, but nowhere near the level that this “rivalry” can take any kind of shape. In what probably has played out to be the PGA’s most-hyped flop, unless Phil catches absolute fire, there is no Phil vs. Tiger. There’s still only Tiger vs. Tiger. Or what it’s always been, Tiger vs. Everybody Else.
5. Daly, Daly and even more Daly. For a guy ranked 600 and something in the world, John Daly sure does get a lot of attention these days. John Daly drinks beer. John Daly eats chicken wings, John Daly gets divorced again. John Daly said this about this rule. John Daly played at his own golf course shirtless. Butch Harmon says John Daly doesn’t care about golfing.
Give it a rest already. Daly is a fan favorite, always has been and always will be. But perhaps, maybe just perhaps part of the reason he’s playing so terribly, is that he’s bombarded every second with stupid press clippings exaggerating everything he does. He’s John Daly. What in any part of his history suggests that anything that has happened with him over the course of the last year or so is a surprise? It’s the PGA and co., again, looking for something to talk about. Tiger’s not in the field this week, so let’s crucify Daly again. As the song goes, “it’s five o’clock somewhere.” Chances are Daly’s there.
Long John went overseas following surgery last week to play a couple of European events. In his last 27 holes, he’s 10-under par. He called Europe “peaceful.” Mark my words, Daly will crack a top-10 or two before this year is over. Then, the PGA will love him again, and then they’ll actually have a legit Daly story. Imagine how big it would be if he won.
It’s frustrating being a fan of the PGA these days, because everything is so overhyped, and there is such a lack of consistency in the field behind Tiger to win or contend in tournaments. It’s frustrating writing about the PGA these days for the same reasons, so to a point I can understand why all this tends to happen.
There’s nothing there. Unless you’re name is Doug Ferguson.
Pardon the plug here, but I’ve been meaning to do this for some time. Associated Press Golf Writer Doug Ferguson has one of the toughest jobs in sports journalism. He’s had to come up with ideas consistently when the well has been pretty dry. He has to write about a great deal of what the PGA and all of the writers, sports talk show hosts and anchors tend to get all fired up about on a weekly basis. Yet, his columns never blow anything out of proportion. He’s always penning his thoughts, opinionated but fair. Why can’t the rest of the golf media take a page from Ferguson’s book and actually view things the way they are?
In fact, why can’t PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem take a page from Ferguson’s book, too? Finchem is always making things more complicated than they have to be, and it certainly doesn’t seem like he has too many one-on-one relationships with the players.
Personally Doug, I think you could do his job far better than he does.
The PGA and those who cover it are looking for a good story, much like all PGA fans are. But you can’t create one. And blowing things out of proportion just makes the whole tour look ridiculous and desperate. Give it time. The stories will develop on their own, like they always do.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org