Keeping Score

From the Morning Read inbox

It’s tough to watch, although plenty did

Why all the hoopla on Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf? The largest viewing audience for a non-major championship on the PGA Tour in five years would be one reason (“Keeping score,” March 13).

You can love him or hate him, but he moves the needle like no other golfer since Arnold Palmer back in the day. All, including the players, should be happy for Woods to return to relevance again, even for a short while, if that is what it turns out to be. There are no guarantees in this world for any of us. Make no mistake: Woods at age 42 and playing his A or A-minus game will win events on any tour in the world if he stays reasonably healthy.

Which brings me to the real observation. Before the new TV contracts come out, someone needs to handcuff the commissioner to a La-Z-Boy and make him watch the entire Valspar Championship telecast from start to finish, without adult beverages. I appreciate that I get to watch these telecasts for free – I really do – but I also can’t watch them without the remote, so what is in it for the advertisers?

I really like the crews on NBC and CBS; some are old friends of mine. But if you count the shots hit Saturday and Sunday (minus putts inside of 3 feet), you will find the ads, promotions, gimmicks, ShotLink stats, etc., etc., etc., outnumber the shots hit. Ads, promos, one shot, then Dan Hicks will say, “While we have a moment” and go to another ad, promo, etc.

I know it’s not about the money. It’s about the money. So, I am wondering whether it would be better to have fewer ads at a bigger dollar amount and have people actually watch them (as they do during the Masters at Augusta National) and have some idea who is promoting the golf tournaments and maybe think about a certain brand when they go to make a purchase. I do.

There you go. An observation from a guy in the golf business who is enduring the worst winter weather around here that I can remember, and suffering just like everyone else while sitting on the couch with the remote.

Mike Nixon
Nashville, Tenn.

(Nixon is the director of operations for the Tennessee Golf Trail.)

 

A hushed plea for fan decorum

As a longtime player and observer of golf, I always have been gratified to be a lover of a sport that is set apart from other spectator sports where boorish and crude behavior is the norm. Unfortunately, it is clear that some of the same classless behavior has been creeping into professional golf.

The days when spectators would politely clap or elicit an “ooooh” of disappointment of a narrowly missed putt are gone. One has to watch old YouTube video clips to appreciate just how respectful fans were in the days of Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and early Arnold Palmer. Sadly, the PGA Tour, among other failures, has allowed the crassness to invade tournament venues. Is this just another case of bowing for the sake of protecting the gate?

I was thrilled when Justin Thomas drove a stake into the ground and precipitated the ejection of an idiot onlooker during the final round of the Honda Classic. I cheered as if he had just holed a 30-footer. I was just as deflated when I read the story of his apology.

I'm really troubled by Thomas' amended stand and his statement that he “overreacted.” Here we had a chance, albeit a small one, to start restoring appropriate fan demeanor. I have to wonder if he was approached by the PGA Tour and urged to modify his position regarding hecklers. In fact, I'm convinced that he was so counseled. It is wrong.

Golf is one of the few games left in which heckling should not be allowed. If steps are not taken to crush this behavior – and ejection is just such a step – it won't be long before an intrusion of new "fans" will engage in distractions during a player's swing. Thomas’ apology was a disappointment, indeed.  

One caveat is the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where the stadium par-3 16th hole elicits some levity within the cacophony. This is a unique and good, fun tradition that has its place.

Bob Baribeau
Naples, Fla.

 

Any ball rollback comes with questions

As to the bifurcation of the Rules of Golf, many folks would agree that technology must be reined in (“Distance takes leap in golf, but what’s next?” March 6)(“Solution for distance debate: 2 sets of rules,” March 9). The real question which needs to be addressed is, where does the professional level begin at which technology should be reined in?

Let's assume that the golf ball manufacturers eventually agree to make a ball that flies 15-20 percent shorter than it currently does. Who would be in charge of making sure that professionals adhere to this rule? The pro golfer? USGA? R&A? PGA Tour? How would testing be applied in pro golf tournaments to ensure compliance?  

At what level of play should a reduced-flight golf ball be used? Would a reduced-flight ball be required for the lower-level professional tours that feed into the PGA Tour? What about the satellite tours, which are independently offered and may affect qualification for the developmental Web.com and Challenge tours? Will these professional events also require use of the new ball?

How about the U.S. Open? It is open to any professional and any amateur with a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 1.4. Qualifiers would have to use the reduced-flight ball. Who would be in charge of oversight? How about amateurs gaining entry into PGA Tour events through sponsor exemptions? PGA professionals for the PGA Championship?

If only PGA Tour players would have access to the new reduced-flight ball, wouldn't anyone else not using the ball have a competitive disadvantage by not having access to it? It would be a competitive disadvantage if only select players would have access to the new ball.

The Masters Tournament could choose not to abide by the reduced-flight ball. But, wouldn't Augusta National officials be asked for input into the eventual decision?

I agree that the golf ball needs to have some distance rollback. If the manufacturers were to agree to the rollback, bigger questions remain as to how it would be implemented.

I understand the PGA Tour’s opposition to a ball rollback. Even if the Tour would agree, how would it be done, and whom would it affect?

Joe DeAusen
Potomac, Md.

 

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