The pleasure (or not) of watching golf on television

For those hardcore avid golfers like myself, this week is a week that we circle on our calendars. It is Masters week. The Master’s golf tournament is one of my 5 favorite sporting events to watch during the year. Of course, it really helps to have a passion for the game as well. I just love the tradition of the tournament along with the spectacular scenery of the course. It is like a shot out of heaven! Many others seem to share my same enthusiasm, even those who do not golf. The Masters is typically one of the highest rated sporting events during the year.

I know many people would rather watch paint dry in their living room than get stuck watching golf. I certainly understand that mind-set. Watching golf is not like watching a football or basketball game. It is a very tranquil event with the only noise happening if someone makes a spectacular shot or sinks a long putt for a birdie. There are very few jaw dropping defining plays that make you gasp in amazement over their athletic ability. The athleticism in golf pales in comparison to other sports. Those facts drive many people away from watching the game.

I find watching golf fascinating on television fascinating for several reason, not just I happen to play the sport. There is a ton of unpredictability that very few sports have. How many of you had Patrick Reed winning the Masters in your Masters pool? Last weekend, I just so happened to watch some woman come out of nowhere to win some major championship in the playoff. It was one of the most exciting tournaments I have ever seen, men or women. The PGA has so many good young players these days. With Tiger Woods coming back, it makes the sport even better.

Very seldom do you ever see some player just run off with a particular tournament. Many of these televised tournaments are absolute dog fights. A tightly contested sporting event is an absolute pleasure to watch. Making it even better is seeing some unknown in contention to win the tournament; a frequent occurrence these days on the Tour. The drama of these tournaments should attract even the casual or non golf fan.

Even if you do not understand the game itself, you have to sit there and marvel at the beauty of some of these course. Watching tournaments such as the Masters and Pebble Beach make me want to get a plane ticket and visit those areas. They are breathtakingly beautiful places to have beaming on my television set.

Another interesting thing to watch besides the layout of the course is wardrobe of many of the players. I know many women and some men love to watch the new style in clothing of many of these players. So even if you do not understand the game and your mate is watching intently, you can still enjoy watching the sites of the tournament.

Golf and television go hand in hand very well. There are very few sports that I would rather watch on television and golf is one of them. It is like watching 4 football games at once. The golf teams do a great job of jumping around in their coverage from one hole to the next. I have to admit that some of the announcers are rather annoying, but many bring very good insight as to what is happening during play.

Oh and one more thing, is there any sport that you can take a nice long nap too? The crowd noise as well as the screaming announcers at a football and basketball game never seem to help me with my sleep. On the other hand, I can fall asleep to the soft whispers of hearing Jim Nantz describe the action.

Golf might be the least appreciated sport that is televised. Sure I would rather play than watch, but I find the game becoming more interesting to watch every week. This seems to be a golden era for the game of golf and hopefully will continue for years to come. The television coverage seems to continue to get better as well.



A sports record that will never be broken

In sports, team or individual, there are many records. Most records eventually get broken at some time or another. For instance, a good basketball player may average 30 points a game and set all kinds of scoring records during his career, however, there is always somebody, years later, who will eclipse that record. It happens all the time in sports. Very few records are safe. Since this is a big week in the world of golf with another major tournament taking place next weekend, the PGA, there is a sports record that will probably never be broken; that is the number of majors won by Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus won 18 majors and in my opinion, that is a sports record that I find hard anyone will ever top. In fact, nobody will probably even come close to it.

About 10 years ago, it seemed inevitable that Tiger Woods would top that mark. Woods dominated the game of golf like very few have and it was not a question of if he would beat Nicklaus’s record but when. As a fan myself, I thought Woods would easily win at least 20 majors, maybe more. Injuries caught up with him and he has not competed since and it is highly unlikely that Woods will ever contend again in a major championship. Woods currently has 14 major championships and that is quite an accomplishment in itself.

Of the current tour players, there might be a few who are capable of getting up to 10 major wins, but topping Tiger’s 14 or Jack’s 18 seems to be a rather long shot these days. There are simply too many good players on the professional tour these days. In order to win 18 majors, you have to average at least 1 major per year for 18 years, roughly the average competive span that a golfer has to win a major. A player has to remain extremely consistent with his game for a long period of time and that is not likely with many players. Many feel that Jordan Spieth has an excellent chance of reaching that mark. He is one of the youngest ever to win 3 majors, but will he remain injury free and consistent with his game in the next decade? The same goes with Rory McIlroy. About 5 years ago, he was well on his way to catching Woods or even getting close to Nicklaus, but injuries have hurt him in recent years. As many know who follow golf, any little injury can have grave consequences to a golfer.

The PGA is blessed with many fine young golfers who will win majors, but the days of having one golfer dominate like Woods and Nicklaus are probably over. It would have been great to see Woods compete against some of these great young players. Any tour player who wins maybe 10 majors these days is doing something incredible. I just don’t see anyone topping Woods 14 majors or Nicklaus’s 18 wins. It is a new era of golf and winning major championships are becoming more and more difficult. For now, it just seems extremely unlikely that any player will ever come close to Nicklaus’s 18 major mark. That is one sports record that will almost certainly never be broken.

A black eye for professional golf

Attention all you sports fans out there, wouldn’t it be nice if we had the power to change an outcome of an event or game from the comforts of our own home? Suppose we were watching a baseball game and noticed the hitter did not touch all of the bases after hitting a home run.  We could call or email the league office and get the ruling overturned. Perhaps there was an obvious pass interference call during a football game that the referees missed. Once again, maybe us fans should take matters into our own hands and be the final judges. Oh never mind the officials at the game, we are the ultimate referees. Sounds rather silly doesn’t it? What sport would actually give someone sitting at home that kind of power? Well as it turns out, professional golf does.

The whole episode last week with professional women’s golfer Lexi Thompson is one of the strangest and most ridiculous rulings that I have ever seen in all my years of watching sports. To recap, Thompson made the terrible sin of not placing her ball directly behind the coin that was placed in front of her ball on the putting green before she picked up the ball. Instead, Thompson placed her ball on the side of the coin, roughly about an inch away from her original position.  The new location was not closer to the cup and no official noticed her placing the ball in the incorrect location. As it turns out, an anonymous fan at home noticed and sent an email to LGA headquarters. Yes, a serious rule violation took place and Thompson must pay! To make matters even worse, the viewer waited until the next day (final day of the tournament) to contact the league office. After reviewing the complaint the following, the official slapped Thompson with not only a 2 stroke penalty, but another 2 stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. It was not until the 12th whole on the final day of the tournament that Thompson was notified of this violation.

I find several things extremely wrong with this whole story, but I will focus on just a few. First of all, why did the rules official miss that so-called infraction? Was the official assigned to that group taking a late afternoon snooze? With all the advanced  technology that we currently have, there is absolutely no reason at all for missing something like that. The rules officials should have been on top of it immediately.

Second of all, this was an honest mistake by the player and the ball was not placed any closer to the hole. The only way I can see Thompson gaining an advantage is if there were a spike mark on the path to the hole. But let’s be real, I highly doubt moving the ball that little distance really affected the putt’s path at all. A silly rule if you ask me!

3rd and last of all, why is some viewer so obsessed that he or she would be willing to take time and write to the league headquarters to complain about such a minor infraction? And not to do it promptly? What do they feel they are gaining by doing this? I highly doubt this individual will have to guts to come out and become known.

I just feel that in any sporting event, it is the job of the officials to make calls and not the viewers at home. They get paid to do so, not us viewers at home. The officials of the LPGA should view ashamed of this happening. It is a huge black eye on the sport of golf. When a television viewer suddenly affects the outcome of a tournament, things are not right. We are going down a  slippery slope if this it not changed.  I just hope the officials learn from this and make changes to ensure this embarrassment does not happen again. Lexi Thompson deserved to be treated better than that. She probably lost a major championship and thousands of dollars due to incompetence by tournament officials and some anonymous fan. That is just not right!

Will Tiger Woods ever be great again?

One the biggest story lines coming out this weekend’s PGA tournament in Whistling Straits is yet another missed cut for Tiger Woods. If you’re keeping score at home, that is now 3 straight missed cuts in majors for Woods who is now ranked 278th in the official world rankings after being the top golfer in the world for so many years. His downfall has been absolutely shocking. If someone would have told me about 7 years ago that Woods would be the 278th ranked golfer in the world on August 16th 2015, I would have asked what drugs he or she is on. Back then, Tiger could probably play left-handed and still be in the top 100. It was not a question on whether Woods could break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major champion wins, but rather when. He dominated the sport in a 10 year stretch that few golfers ever have. I have never seen in all my years of watching sports such a high-profile athlete fall like Woods has.

So what is the problem with Woods? Why has he fallen so dramatically? These questions get constantly asked by the golf pundits. The Golf Channel’s crew at the PGA spent a considerable amount of time talking about Tiger’s game and whether he will ever win another major. The consenus of many in the gold world is that Woods is finished as being a top flight golfer and will be just another regular average golfer from now on. As a fan of the sport and player, I am definitely in the minority in saying that Woods still has some bullets left in his gun; he is not finished by any means. It would not shock me in the least to see him rise back again to a high level and possible win a few more majors.

There has been a lot of talk about Woods having multiple swing coaches during his career and whether that is really a good thing for him or any golfer. My question is why change a good thing? Even when Woods was dominating and hitting the ball well, he was constantly changing his coaches. He had some of the best coaches in the game. Apparently, Woods is one of these guys who can never be satisfied with his golf swing. Perhaps he was and is still too much of a perfectionist. A good golf swing should be a simple natural motion. No matter how ugly it may look, the only thing that matters is for consistent results. Woods needs to go back to Butch Harmon and get his swing straightened out.

Sure, Woods at times has had problems with his swing but in order for him to really achieve greatness again, his short game really has to come around. During his glory days, Tiger used to be money on those clutch short putts. Nowadays, he is really struggling to make anything! Forget about fixing his swing, if his putting and chipping do not improve, Woods will definitely not come back and win anything. Sometimes I feel like I am watching a 20 handicapped golfer when I see Woods trying to chip the ball or ball out of a bunker. It is even more shocking to see him struggle in that part of the game as opposed to swing.

Many people who cover golf fail to mention the effect of his injuries in recent years. A back problem is very toxic to any level golfer. Woods has battled back issues in recent years and that could be why he has suddenly dropped off. It appears that Woods is recovering nicely from those injuries and that may be key in helping him regain his winning ways. I doubt any golfer with back issues can play at a high level. The margin of error in golf these days is just too small. There are just too many good players, especially younger players. His injuries are definitely a reason that he has fallen so dramatically.

Whether you like or hate Woods, you have to admit that his return to greatness would be huge for the world of golf. Imagine a major with him, Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy competing for the title? It would create interest that golf has never seen. I still believe it will happen eventually. Sure Woods will be turning 40 this year, but let’s not write his obituary just yet. If anyone can come back, it’s Woods. He still has a little bit of gas left in his tank to compete at a high level and beat some of the young phenoms in golf. He may not dominate golf again like he used to, but he could soon be a strong contender in many tournaments.