The Loop

Media: Els, Scott and 'a bunch of clowns'

July 22, 2012

(Getty Images)

Ultimately, the drama inherent on a major championship Sunday carries the show, as it did again at the British Open, Ernie Els improbably prying the claret jug from Adam Scott's grip.

Here they are in their own words in the immediate aftermath:

"It wasn't to be. That's golf, isn't it?" Scott said in his interview with the BBC.

"I feel numb," Els said in his interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi. "Later on it will set in that I won this golf tournament, but right now I feel for my buddy."

Together they made the final hour memorable. Before then, ESPN's outspoken analyst Paul Azinger helped make it interesting, not necessarily for the right reasons.

Azinger might be the best analyst in golf (duly noted in this space before), but he did not make a compelling case on his own behalf during one 30-minute stretch in the final round. He erred on the rules, called those on Twitter "a bunch of clowns," then doubled down by taking to Twitter to say it again, while using this hashtag: #ToDumbToKnowTheirClowns."

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Conceding that he was multi-tasking, Tweeting while on the air, it nonetheless is inadvisable to call others dumb while using "to" instead of "too" and "their" instead of "they're."

Azinger on the rules

When Tiger Woods was stymied in a bunker at the sixth hole and pondered coming out backwards, Azinger suggested another option.

"Ball could go anywhere that Tiger's about to hit if he chooses to go backwards," he said. "Much easier option to just drop it. Take your unplayable, walk out of the bunker and keep that point between you and the hole."

Rule 28, Ball Unplayable, from the Rules of Golf, states: "The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable."

So far so good. Then it says this: "If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker." (Emphasis ours).

The option that Azinger was talking about was Clause b, "Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped."

Azinger on Twitter cited a rules official for his error: "Ask RNA official about unplayable in bunker. He gave me wrong answer. It's been addressed and fixed on air."

Azinger vs. Twitter followers

Azinger often spars on Twitter with his followers (usually on politics), and when Scott Van Pelt brought up the topic of those Tweeting with instant opinions on rules, Azinger replied: "There's a ton of experts on Twitter, I can tell you that. What a bunch of clowns."

Josh Elliott, the news anchor on ABC's Good Morning America and ESPN alum, was among many who took exception. Elliott wrote on Twitter: "'Clowns,' @PaulAzinger...? Because people...have opinions, and share them in this de facto global sportsbar? Seems a bit much. #TheOpen"

Azinger still ranks among the top two analysts in golf. Regarding the rules error, it can happen. The clowns comment, meanwhile, was over the top. The bottom line: Outspoken and opinionated are the qualities that landed him the job. Occasionally he's going to irk, to which ESPN spokesman Andy Hall alluded in this statement:

"We hire analysts to give their opinions and expect them to do so, whether we agree with them or not."

How did Tiger make triple?

Hank Haney via Twitter has the answer: "Bad shot, bad break, bad decision, 3 putt."

It was reminiscent of the time that Seve Ballesteros was asked how he four-putted. "I miss, I miss, I miss, I make," he replied.

ESPN's Flight Track

It produced some excellent images, notably Graeme McDowell's 3-wood second shot on the 11th hole, a low, "dead, neck pull," Azinger called it. "That might be the worst shot he's hit in 20 years."

Tiger issues

Tiger Woods' Nicklaus chase stalled again, and Azinger brought up a compelling point by way of explanation.

"I look at Tiger, Adam Scott's playing the way Tiger used to play -- attack, attack attack," he said. "If he was swinging as great as everybody thinks he's swinging he'd probably hit more drivers and 3-woods off the tee."

Midway through the back nine, with his chances at winning slipping away, Woods again took iron off the tee.

"That just goes to show you that he's not very comfortable at all with the driver," Curtis Strange said. "He's just not the same man we knew some years ago, not the same player."

-- John Strege