This Week in Golf
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
There is some doubt about the definition of a career Grand Slam for LPGA players. Inbee Park won the British Open on the weekend, giving her victories in 4 of the 5 current majors. She also has a win at the Evian Championship which was designated a major the year after she won. What constitutes a career Grand Slam when majors seem to come and go depending on sponsors? Is it four majors, all five majors or is there another perspective?
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The LPGA has great traditions and it’s always a shame when sponsors trump history (no pun intended). The U.S. Open and British Open attract the strongest fields and are the most democratic events. The Nabisco Dinah Shore (or whatever they call it now) has been a major for a long time and the PGA is the Tour’s flagship event. Those are majors and that’s a Grand Slam. Everything else is just a sop to the latest bag of cash.
Matthew MacKay, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTours): Win the four longest-standing majors (US Open, PGA, British, Dinah Shore) and that’s your Grand Slam. Win the Evian as well? That’s great, pat on the back. We all know that the ‘5th major’ will either cease to exist within a few years or be transferred to another event (maybe the Canadian Open?).
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The problem with the LPGA Majors and the LPGA Tour its own self is who outside of South Korea and parts of China cares? Inbee Park could win a grand slam of 10 tournaments a year and there still wouldn’t be a TV audience in North America or Europe. There is absolutely nothing compelling about a leaderboard of flags of one nation, no matter the nation, if the players under that flag are not dynamic or engaging.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think the LPGA has completely confused the fan base in recent years by declaring some on/some off as majors. In the old days, it was the Dinah Shore (later Nabisco), the Open, the DuMaurier (which never really seemed worthy, somehow), and another one whose name escapes me. More recently, they added the Women’s British Open, and the Evian. Now, I’m not sure which is major and which is minor. It would certainly make more sense to have four majors on both men’s and women’s tours.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): There should be 4 Majors on the LPGA Tour (and one should be Canadian, but that’s another topic for another time). The LPGA Tour is clearly a different product than the PGA Tour, but they should align in the number of Majors, if not for the simple fact you can compare apples to apples when it comes to Hall of Fame considerations. Inbee Park has accomplished the career slam; she’s approaching Annika territory; and she’s just 27. Very impressive!
Tiger Woods presumably has only one event left this season. Rory McIlroy looks like he will be sidelined for the balance of 2015 too. Does the Tour have enough star power in Spieth, Day, Fowler etc to attract viewers and followers or does it need Tiger and Rory?
MacKay: The Tour easily has enough stars and story lines to keep the interest of fans through the rest of the year. Spieth moves the needle now like no other, Fowler is a huge fan favourite and playing the best golf of his life and Jason Day is a gentleman with sublime talent. I used to have mild interest in watching if Tiger was not in the field, but I’ll be watching keenly this year.
Loughry: Come on, you can’t honestly say those names in the same breath as TW, not yet, they haven’t quite earned it. They are fine players, but they just don’t have the cachet Tiger has. And Rory is close to that category. I’ll certainly watch, and many others too, but these guys do not currently have the ability to bring the additional eyeballs to the telecast or gate that Tiger does.
Deeks: I think the depth and viewer appeal of the PGA Tour is at an all-time high. Rory and Tiger’s absence is unfortunate, but Spieth, Day, Fowler, DJ and even ZJ are great to watch with or without those two.
Mumford: The Tour is exceptionally strong right now and I’m not even sure how much McIlroy’s absence is noticed. Tiger always moves the needle and will until he quits entirely. I don’t think Tiger’s needed like he once was but the excitement level sure goes up when he’s in the field and especially when he’s in contention. It was the same for Nicklaus when he’d make his annual appearance at the Masters, even long after he “officially” retired.
Quinn: Among real golfers and the cognoscenti, there is more than enough star power on Tour without Eldrick and without #1. The Tigermania passersby who bulged the TV numbers to the point that the networks vastly overpaid for rights, were never golfers or even vaguely knowledgeable about the game. But they did know how to scream, “You da Man!” and later the equally obnoxious “Go in da hole!” When Eldrick left the building, they turned off their TVs. The screamers unfortunately stuck around. The quality of the games and the players in the top 15 has never been close to this good. In fact, the game at the PGA Tour level is in great hands and should be inspirational to the next generation, and will just be better when Rory returns.
Golf at the Pan Am Games got little coverage in the Canadian media and attendance at the event was poor. Was this a function of the field not containing any big name players or does this kind of thing just not resonate with golf fans? If so, what does that mean for golf at the Olympics next year?
Deeks: It’s a sad commentary on spectating that 99 out of 100 golf fans only care for “names”, as opposed to watching good amateur competition. That said, I think the Pan Am Games Committee did an abysmal job of promoting the golf, and what little fan support could have been generated by media coverage was not, because the media turned a blind eye. The major newspaper and television sports departments have all but abdicated to hockey, football, baseball, basketball and soccer. Such a shame.
Mumford: There was golf at the Pan Am Games? Who knew? Olympic golf may fare a bit better because there will be some big names in the field but everything else is wrong – from how they select the field to the stroke play format. It’s biased in favour of the U.S. and South Korea (surprise, surprise) and the event could be a sleeper like the majority of PGA and LPGA Tour events. Hearn vs Aphibarnrat for the gold medal would be something to look forward to. A finish that reads like every week on the PGA Tour will be far less compelling.
Loughry: In my humble opinion it was a combination of things but primarily it was the quality of the field. Oh, and did you notice ticket prices? Organizers priced tickets much higher than the Canadian Open, and indeed if you compared the two fields, your money went way further in terms of entertainment at the Canadian Open. Huge bogey on the organizer’s part. It is going to take some time for North America and parts of Europe to put the Olympics on par with the Majors. For other countries, Olympic golf will be a HUGE deal. Great to represent your country but many of the top players do that in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Run a poll and you would see there is no way most players would pick a gold medal over a Major win. Years from now that may change but I think it is going to take time for the culture to shift (if it ever does) for players.
MacKay: Well, can’t say I’m surprised considering the price of tickets to the event. I’m not sure what the spectator numbers were but I’d be shocked if there were more than friends and family following along. The absence of Brooke Henderson hurt any chances that the event would pull people in because after her it was a bunch of very fine golfers who were of no interest to anyone. The Olympics is not a good comparison as they will have a field full of true superstars.
Quinn: From day one I have been against golf at the Five Ring Circus, and didn’t even know it was part of the Pan Am Games until Brooke Henderson wisely bowed out. (I understand Canada won about 2,000 medals last month). The Olympics have devolved into a multi-billion dollar quadrennial farce rivalling FIFA for corruption and misguided management. The massive political and ecological and class problems surrounding the Rio golf course and the sewage reservoir that is the rowing and sailing venue are just two examples of why it would have been nobler for golf to remain apart from the debacle. No democratic citizenry wants them, so Beijing should host what is left of these “games” -winter and summer – until they mercifully just fade away.