The way the PGA tournament golf-courses are set up today, Jordan Spieth should be seen as an outlier, maybe the last real golfer we are going to see at the top of the leaderboards. The post-mortem comment by yesterday’s winner, Brooks Koepka, that he was strongly influenced by watching Rory McIlroy pull driver on every hole, tells it all. Who wouldn’t swing for the fences, and go for the green with a wedge from the rough than with a 6 iron from the fairway, if driving is virtually risk-free because the rough is playable and there are no OB stakes and few trees and because the greens, however fast, are relatively receptive. Why not “pull driver,” and try to build a body to suit? Macho Golf doesn’t work very well on the opposite type of course, but other than the punishing clowns-&-windmills venues used for the US Open, there are few relevant examples of the opposite type of course. No, this is what golf has done to itself – and the un-checked advances in equipment have exacerbated the problem.
I, for one, find it almost stupefyingly boring. I watched very little of Sunday’s final round, and had there been an alternative as compelling as, say, a high school football game or maybe some volleyball or a little synchronized swimming, I would have gladly foregone the thrill of watching Koepka take yet another violent swing and reach the green on yet another par 5 with another indifferent middle-iron. For that matter, Martin Laird, Koepka’s main competition, was no bacchanal, either, given that his game consisted of one-putting nearly every green while otherwise showing limited skills and finesse.
The Phoenix Open format, which is to turn a mediocre tournament-setting into a muted channeling of a singles bar, with over-the-hill swinger Gary McCord getting hoarse from trying to convince us what fun it is, tells you all you need to know about golf’s desperate efforts to restore its status as a high-growth financial play. Trying to identify the most serious narcissist in a TV announcing-crew that includes not just McCord but Nick Faldo (speaking of swingers emeritus), is tough duty. Good thing I woke up in time for the Super Bowl – though I did awaken a bit too early and had to endure yet another butchering of the Star-Spangled Banner. Fortunately, I did get to see the flyover of military jets and got to imagine that some day they might actually be utilized for our country’s benefit in the kind of heroic activity that once was celebrated by the performance of our national anthem – you know, the activity for which football is supposed to be a metaphor.