Courses & TravelJuly 6, 2009

A Parting Chunked Chip

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If you need background--read this post first (and be sure to check out the comments box).

The best of my sparring partners would be Ian Ware of Lexington, KY.

He wrote:

Matt, I just wanted to thank you for showing us how emotion should be displayed when you won the U.S. Open. It's great for the game that you wish other professionals to show such passion in their quest to achieve the great things that you have in golf (while getting paid). Your example shows all of us that golf no longer need be about etiquette, rules or being one's genuine self, and that it should be more about the people who wish they could take more exciting photos so that they will get paid more. After all, isn't this how Mr. Palmer made his army? By profiteering from others good play. I would like to thank you once again for all your heart felt emotion shown during your amazing PGA tour and major wins, it is a shining example why genuine reactions should be looked down upon, after all, we need Tiger to say the f-word on TV a couple of more times to show our children and younger generations how "real" golfers act. With genuine disrespect for your personal desire to make the greatest sport a soap opera.

Ian Michael Ware, a fan of the long lost need to be genteel.

Nice note, Ian. I mean, that's well written. But you're a little off. This isn't about ME. It's about the sport WE love. And it's in trouble. If Tiger goes down with another bad knee, or, God-forbid, something worse, as evidenced by interest in the sport and ratings when he was gone last year (and the start of this year), the PGA Tour will become the pga tour. And that's about the time we'll be shifting our attention to soccer. (Can you believe we almost beat Brazil?)

My Mom tunes in to watch Tiger, my sister can pick Tiger out of a lineup and my niece thinks it's cool I met Tiger. And they have no idea what it means to win a major and they think shooting 65 is a bad score. They just know Tiger makes the sport fun to watch because he shares with the viewers what he's going through on the golf course--the best of times and the worst of times. And if that means we get the occasional f-bombs, I'll be quick to clarify to the offended that it's a bad word. Shame shame. And that doesn't mean we should use it in our professional arenas or around the house. But I'll explain that Tiger's just frustrated because he has more money than most small countries, combined, and yet he still just wants to win--every tournament he enters. And anything less is unacceptable. And that's exactly what we love about him.

I've always said the sport could get a boost in ratings just by letting us hear more of what's being said between caddies and players. Yesterday, as Stevie Williams was talking to Tiger in the 18th fairway at Congressional, we had to hear the commentators walk us through Anthony Kim's meaningless approach shot. Bad call. They need to stop talking and let us in on the strategy of the game--from the player's perspective--not the washed-up announcers loving on their glory days. I still laugh when I heard Ian Baker Finch welcome Lucas Glover to "the club." HA HA HA. I'm sure Glover had no idea Mr. two-last-names and can't keep it in bounds on the first tee of St. Andrews ever won a major.

Glover, from all that I can tell, is a good guy and a ridiculously great golfer (obviously), but he's not good for golf. Not when he wins an Open and reacts like he just found out his 401k was being handled by Madoff. The reason why the tour is so unhealthy is because it's filled with boring personalities who think shooting 65 is good enough. It's not. And there in lies my frustration. And my concern. Look at the harsh facts: Sponsors and massive purses--they're all going away. We're being force-fed a FedEx Cup that no one, not even the players, have any clue what it is and if they'll play in it even if they do qualify--for whatever it is. The old traditional Skins Game--gone because no one cares if the rich get richer or care to watch good golfers simply making great shots. We tune in to see, and feel, people win or lose. And I mean, we want to see it.

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Good golf is impressive. Tour level golf, to you and me, the ones who know how hard the game is and how much time the players put into practice getting to that level, is something we will never comprehend. But it's not impressive to the masses and they don't appreciate it like we do. And they're the ones we need to keep engaged or it will all go away.

I don't even blame the players most of the time. I think a big percentage of the current players, represented by their wives, their college friends or agents who are afraid of losing their commission, are a big part of the problem. If the players aren't being coached on how to have a personality to go with their amazing touch around the greens, if they're not being told to share their story or stories with the media (who disseminate that info to the fans) they're being misrepresented. And they're missing out on opportunities to grow their bank accounts, but more importantly, the game of golf. All good writers have good editors. Someone who can kick the copy back with advice on how to make it better. (I have a team of people working on my copy.) Successful players need good agents who are willing to give tough advice. And that's all I was doing. Passing on a little tough love to Glover--get a pulse.

Ian, I hope this makes some sense. It's my two cents, and I'm sure you think that's all it's worth.

--Matty G.

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