Golf Digest reader Mike Powers from Georgia is the first one to take exception to Dan Jenkins' account of this year's major winners. I expect he won't be the last, because Jenkins suggests that the "wrong" guys won....
While Dan Jenkin's article about a bad roster of major winners might have been tongue in cheek, it is still insulting to pros at any level who take up the challenge week to week. Readers already know there are a variety of talent levels; dominant, cruising, coasting, improving, struggling or just barely hanging on, but no matter what, all +125 earned the chance to step up to the tee any tournament and on Thursday morning everyone is tied for first and tied for last. Just because a high profile player didn't run away with the coveted major trophy doesn't make it any less of an accomplishment. If anything, maybe more so. The less known or admired player overcame challenges and obstacles the world's greatest and best coached ball strikers couldn't overcome. Why diminish their success or accomplishment ? They deserved to win, to imply anything less is in poor taste. Better topics would have been; getting up for majors, following up a major victory, seeking consistency week to week or year to year, believing in winning, what motivates the bottom 50 to compete (besides the money) or just about anything that recognizes and celebrates the competitive spirit in the lessor known players. Said another way, how did that article improve my play of the game, my enjoyment of the game, or my appreciation for the skills required to compete at any level ?
That last question is a great one. How does Dan Jenkins' jaundiced eye improve your view of the sport? I remember when Davis Love's father, the late Davis Love Jr., wrote for Golf Digest and we were doing a story together when Davis read Jenkins' account of Scott Simpson's 1987 U.S. Open victory. I think Jenkins said that it was about as exciting as watching hair grow or paint dry, something like that. It angered Davis, who understood from his own experience and his son's just what an accomplishment Simpson's was, and he let me know. How could Golf Digest demean such a victory?
But was he demeaning it, or just telling a different truth?
I tended to sympathize with Davis back then, but I'm not there now. Why? Because--not telling you anything you don't know here--the heart of any professional sport--golf, baseball, football--is not only the reality, the event, but the story we tell about it--and the story we want to hear. Our dreams, as well as the players' are part of it, a big part. It's wanting C.C. Sabathia to pitch a no-hitter, not a one-hitter, and why you might resent the guy that gets that one hit. It's rooting for your favorite NFL team to break the Miami Dolphins perfect record--or not--but demanding it be dramatic either way. Some stories are...I hesitate to say better, but certainly more lasting...than others. This year we had four such stories and none of them came to be. Kenny Perry, the good-guy, journeyman Southerner trying in vain to overcome age and pressure to win his first major, the one that meant more to him than any of the others; Phil Mickelson, returning to the city--and the galleries--that watched him blow the National Championship (and forgave him), grinding away to give himself and them another chance, only to let it slip away again; David Duval crawling from oblivion to get within two holes of the National Open, then to come up a putt short; Tom Watson, almost 60 but playing half that, leading the Open Championship with a hole to play, only to succumb to an old man's nerves; and finally Tiger, the year he comes back from knee surgery, about to take what's rightfully his, the year's final major, when it's snatched from him.
Forget that we had one of the greatest Latin American players ever winning the first major, a rising PGA Tour star we'll hear from again winning the second, the best player never to win a major finally getting his, and finally the first Asian player in history to win a major--pretty great story that--it just wasn't the same. We knew these players less well. It's not that we didn't like them; they simply weren't our heroes, at least not yet. Our heroes had fallen, the truth be told.
Dan has said that his goal as a sportswriter has always been to "get down to what's true." And with humor and an incredible ear for history (read his Sports Illustrated account of Crenshaw's first Masters victory, not funny, just perfect) he has done it. The great stories, not necessarily the great people, unraveled this year and that unraveling became a story in itself.
When the ballot came by this week to choose player of the year, I chose Yang, so great was his accomplishment for Asia, not to ainst the world's greatest player. But Dan's writing for us, not Asian Times.
I remember Stewart Cink at Turnberry graciously saying he knew we were rooting for Watson, that, heck, even he was to a point, and that he knew it wasn't personal.