Archive » August 2, 2012
By Ray Navis, Contributing Writer
The British Open (aka The Open Championship) is always a treat to watch, especially on the West Coast, where it airs early morning on the weekend. Sometimes the end result is hard to swallow like this year, where most would say that Adam Scott snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. A closer look is needed.
72, 68 or 54 holesThe media seems to have a fascination with wanting to declare a winner before it happens. Golf is no exception. They even interview the leader after round one, as if it means anything. Do they talk about the Kentucky Derby leader after the first quarter-mile? How about the team leading an NBA playoff game in the 1st quarter? What could be more preposterous? The players probably feel the same way but are forced to go along to help TV ratings and enhance their own endorsement potential. As the rounds progress, the press attaches more importance to a lead especially after 54 holes. With a crowded leaderboard and tough conditions, what does a 2- or 3-shot lead with 18 holes to play really mean? Nothing.
Imagine you were playing with your buddies at La Purisima and the wind started to blow. One of your friends was having a great front nine and playing a bit over his head. You would probably try to double down and press him, assured that the tough back-nine stretch would wear him down. Was the recent British Open any different? Adam Scott, a veteran and highly regarded player, had really never been close to leading a major, and yet there he was with a big lead and only nine holes to play. Did he really blow it, or did the course finally exact its punishment at just the wrong time? Maybe things just averaged and he got the same bad lies at the end that everyone else had gotten earlier.
World No. 1?Nothing could be more farcical than the mythic World No. 1 ranking the golf media is so fond of mentioning. Obviously, this rankings system puts too much emphasis on regular tour events and not enough on major championships. Greg Norman was World No. 1 for years despite only winning two major championships. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald have both been No. 1 recently, but neither has ever won a major. Luke Donald has never even been close. Years ago would Billy Casper or Larry Nelson have ever been ranked No. 1? Yet they each won three majors. How about Ray Floyd who won 4? The greats of yesteryear must really have a laugh with Luke Donald being No. 1.
Too many points are given to European Tour events, some of which have almost no spectators. Next time you get up early on the weekend, check out the European Tour events played in Dubai or Spain. I have seen top-name players with only a dozen or so people watching. The same can be said for the PGA Tour Match Play event held each year in Tucson. When they have a no-name final like they have many times, you could shoot a canon down the fairway and not hit anyone. Yet the winner gets big points in the race for No. 1.
In his day, Jack Nicklaus – the greatest golfer of all time – would not have been ranked World No. 1. He only played 15 or so events each year and focused on the majors only. I am sure that Tiger Woods couldn’t care less who is ranked ahead of him, because he knows that none of the guys playing is in the same ballpark when it comes to clutch play in majors.
Putter rulingsWhere there is smoke, there is fire. Now that George Bush Sr. is pretty much out of the picture, the ruling bodies of golf are once again threatening to ban long and belly putters. This came up years ago and was quickly tabled, when it was discovered that the president himself liked his long putter. Since his father-in-law had been USGA President and had the Walker Cup Trophy named after him, the issue was tabled at the time.
Hard to believe this has been brought up instead of outlawing the hot golf balls and drivers that are rendering most courses defenseless. Could it be that the ruling bodies want to be seen as tough but have no interest in hurting the sales of the large equipment companies? Golfers who switch to the long or belly putter make less changes after that, reducing putter sales.