All over but the shouting
Welcome to the Inanity Index, where we consider the Saudi Shark, Tiger's walk, and Golf Facts
Every month, week, day, a new topic or controversy blooms in the golf world. There’s a mix of drama, amusement, bland news, bombshell news, PR, PR masquerading as news, and unexpected developments to dissect. The larger golf Internet landscape and the narrower golf Twitter, a highly engaged and occasionally cantankerous cohort, debates and reacts to all of it.
Sometimes—OK, very often—it’s an ephemeral distraction. Sometimes it’s the start of a significant change in the game or shift in perception of a certain player. One wave comes after another, and some recede back out into the great content ocean while others may leave treasures or pollutants ashore. So in comes the Inanity Index, an attempt to 1) round-up some of these amusements and developments that wash ashore one after another 2) view them together from 10,000 feet and 3) succinctly try to understand if it means anything or was even worth our angst and attention in the first place.
The Inanity Index will consider stories and controversies on a 0 to 5 scale, with 5 being the most inane and well—let’s face it—straight-up inconsequential if we want to be honest with ourselves about all that occupies our time shouting and laughing at each other in the golf corner of the world. As in golf, if you’re a serious person here, you’re aiming for the low number.
Let’s begin with a few recent items you may have missed, or could not have missed if you tried.
The Saudi Shark
The big top circus now has a frequently topless ringmaster. It was hard not to miss the news last week that Greg Norman is now the CEO of something called Liv Golf Investments, golf’s trendiest-named disruptor. Liv is pouring $200 million dollars into the Asian Tour over the next 10 years and will start a 10-event series beginning in 2022, they claim.
Norman disclosed, as was widely rumored and expected, that most of those dollars are coming from Saudi Arabia, a place the Shark argued is progressive on women’s rights now because “You walk into a restaurant and there are women.” And there’s the Shark difference, that’s why you bring him in to be CEO.
Let’s set aside the larger aims of this Saudi-backed investment group. No one could argue a well-financed attempt to completely alter the order of professional golf is inane. But there’s a lot of coverage so far on just what this could be or might be. No players were announced. No dates or venues were announced. A goal, and this goes for the other potential disruptor, the PGL, is to just keep awareness out there with minimal substantive offerings at this point. The point of a press release and embargo-constrained meetings with the press and interviews with the press is … to get press.
So let’s turn to the hard details of last week’s announcement, the $200 million investment and Norman as the CEO and public face. Here’s where we start wading into the inanity waters. If you’re looking for positive momentum in the press and with player targets, you know, maybe a little something to mitigate the reticence to take Saudi money, is Norman really the person you want as the deodorizer?
He’s become a caricature for ridiculous PR stunts and multiple social media postings of him nude in a lake, nude in the shower, nude for a magazine issue, shirtless on the beach, shirtless after nearly sawing his arm off, and it goes on. The vanity is suffocating, you see, and this is an opportunistic moment to dive back into the world golf scene as a player of some hopeful prominence.
But perhaps more important than a caricature not exactly bringing gravitas to this organization’s apparent serious attempt to alter pro golf, is that several of the top-ranked young players seem to be repelled rather than drawn to him. Money may be what matters more to those players in the end, but the details we have now are Commissioner Norman, and the baggage he brings after decades in the public light, becoming the face of the Saudi league. There are women in restaurants! The Saudi-backed league is a massive and serious golf story, the investment in the Asian Tour is significant, and it will be going forward. But Norman the normalizer rates high (4 out of 5) on the Inanity Index.
The Tiger Walk
No, not the fall Saturday tradition in Auburn. But the surreptitious filming and breathless reaction to a certain 15-time major winner simply putting one foot in front of the other for a split second on grainy video. TMZ Sports posted the video in October, and the sports world reacted.
1. The absurdity of its existence is enough to make one chuckle before you then recoil in moderate horror that this man was filmed through the bushes taking a couple steps.
2. The poor quality—all of it stitched together in toto—of the video strengthens that amusement & horror cocktail.
3. The giant arrow distinguishing that this one is “Woods” (presumably Tiger and not Robert or some other Woods) from all the other folks not around him adds to the absurdity and chuckles.
4. The quick shut down of the surreptitious shooting as the phone jerks suddenly to the cold concrete of a cart path provokes a mix of ire and empathy. We’ve all been there. Maybe not creepily trying to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods at his kid’s golf tournament, but trying to capture some shot quickly and quietly before hastily jamming our phone back into that neutral position, that 45-degree-eyes-addictively-affixed-onto-unproductive-social-media-app position.
5. The optimism and proclamations that will follow from just a couple seconds of a basic function—he’s back … 2022 Grand Slam here we come … Jack’s record is done— some serious, others half serious, but probably more hopeful than just some cliche joke.
6. The relief. It’s good to see him walk. It’s a good step, a stable step, and a fine pace. The lift off the turf is confident while the stride is casual. It’s one that says that I’m not overexerting anything here but I’m going to win the 2022 Masters (whoops I just fell into the trap door above).
Tiger Woods walking again, proof of it, rates low (0 out of 5) on the Inanity Index. The way in which that proof was captured and promoted, and the golf world’s reaction to it, is a 4 out of 5 on the Inanity Index.
The Bubba turn
There cannot be enough Bubba Watson content. The two-time Masters winner is everywhere this week—the most popular morning TV shows and TV networks, the most popular podcasts, the best golf websites—promoting his new book. These book promo car washes can become a bit insufferable, but listening to Bubba speak about his struggles, his self-discovery, and how he’s tried to become better is enlightening and endearing every time. It’s authentic. He’s not trying to push a narrative or cravenly sell books, it appears cathartic for him to talk about these topics and he genuinely seems to want to help others who might be facing similar difficulties.
We’re a far cry from 2014, when it felt like there was almost a weekly self-inflicted Bubba controversy that provoked scorn and punch lines among peers and the press. Of course, we’re starting to understand some of the underlying issues around that time from Bubba himself, and he’d made that transition from heel to favorite well before this book tour. It was done authentically and honestly, not with PR stunts or hollow promises to become better. He just talked about himself, his flaws, his struggles. and how he could be better. It’s one maybe some current players who try to cover up missteps in spurious ways could learn from. It became clear a few years ago he‘s been on a path to 1) become a better person and 2) do good for the world, generally. It’s an incredible turn from the first half of the last decade. Bubba’s book tour and what he’s come to preach is a 0 out of 5 on the Inanity Index.
Inanity and entertainment can be mutually exclusive. The NBA has #ThisLeague. College football is a beautifully rich pageant, where most recently the pet monkey of a stripper biting a child on Halloween impacted the coaching staff at one of the richest programs in the sport. Pro golf, for having a snoozy reputation, is not far behind these two funhouses and Patrick Reed’s familial entourage is a critical part of that.
It’s November. Nothing is happening. Things are supposed to be quiet. Then you get a golf story as old as time—an account exhorting us all to simply use golf facts replying to a nine-month-old tweet with a non-sequitur repudiation of an almost two-year-old cheating incident, spewing allegations of altered footage, a smear campaign, and a frame-by-frame Zapruder-level dissection that was allegedly the result of more than 180 hours of work by a forensic video expert. The entertainment level is absolutely maxed out, but it’s full 5 out of 5 on the Inanity Index.