A Rooting Interest

I would have to say Kapalua is truly the very picture of perfection when it comes to what a golf resort should be. In almost every way they do it right, and the coverage by the PGA Tour and the Golf Channel and NBC is, quite truly, spectacular.

Maui is the only place where the TV coverage of golf includes whale watching as a regular part of the program. This past two days, we’ve also had some of the best weather for visibility in a long time.

We watched today’s coverage on TV, and saw the breaching whales and their pods, and this guy from Golf Channel, Ryan Burr, looking all relaxed on the lanai of someone’s house up there. What’s left to want?

Maybe a hero? These guys are the champions of the year but is there standout star among them? Bubba? He’s certainly on a roll, but a role model? Hmmm.

In the Da Game Show’s 2015 season opener, an interview also appearing in our current issue, Mark Rolfing tells Dave Ward: “Golf needs to have a rooting interest Golf needs to have a rooting interest, if you think about the other successful sports, Dave, take a look at the NFL… anybody who is watching an NFL game is rooting! They’re either rooting for their favorite team… or they’re rooting because they made a bet on the game… or they’re rooting for a variety of reasons…it’s their hometown… you name it.

Same thing with NASCAR… they root for a driver because they hate another driver, so they root against that guy and for the other guy. In golf, we never had much of that. It started with Nicklaus and Palmer, and people hated ‘fat Jack’, in the beginning, and despised the fact that he was unseating Arnold Palmer. But that was the only situation we had in my entire playing career that we had a love-hate relationship. You gotta have that in sport to have interest.

Even when Tiger went through his hard times, and people starting rooting against him, for the overall good of the game it wasn’t that bad because we were still creating a rooting interest. In today’s world, when you talk about these players—that you don’t even know—how are you gonna cause a viewer, in the audience, to either root for him or against him? It’s gonna be extremely difficult. So, I think any of this rooting is good.

That’s why I love the Ryder Cup. It’s totally different. It’s wild, it’s crazy, it’s a hard place to announce golf, it’s partisan, it’s all for—or all against—depending on which country your playing in. But man… that is good. That is why that event, which has gone from being maybe the 10th, or 11th, or 12th-best tournament in the world, I think it’s number two now. If you took a poll among all these people listening to us they would tell you it’s the second most-popular tournament in golf… after the Masters..”

Now, as much as I value and respect what Mark has to say, I can tell you that after 13 years of wars, it will take more than the rich, multi-millionaire touring pros covered in stars and stripes, to rehash my passion for them!

Yet, Mark is onto something. I believe the money has become the only thing that is promoted anymore by big media, and the decline in interest in golf only makes small-time local reporting all the more impossible to sustain. My hope is the PGA Tour, Comcast, and the other big players make the adjustments needed in order to reinvigorate the little guy. Golf can’t always be just about money. Patriotism is one good idea, but the idea of winning, just for the sake of being the best, would be of value to the game. That is why the amateur who wins is so loved. Remember Bobby Jones?

Arnold Palmer used to fly his own plane! He had charisma and people rooted for him. Tiger is black and was an underdog. We rooted for him. Then he won and won and won we couldn’t get enough, and we rooted some more. We need more underdogs. The USGA has been doing an excellent job of remembering the winners of past national championships but, much like the PGA Tour, has an institutional way of controlling that message to a point that it gets lost. I have more to say and will.

The event coverage on TV today was still superb. As usual, the most-intelligent and insightful commentary came from Mark Rolfing, who patiently told Burr that the reason players weren’t eating the Plantation course alive was because it is relatively short, given the brunt of its longest holes all play downhill and downwind (No. 17, 18 and 1). Rolfing went on to further explain that wedge players, and not long hitters, did well here as a consequence.

He may not be the youngest of the roost, but he is likely the smartest. For now, we’ll just root for him.


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