The Match III, overlooked superstars and the Feel Good Golf Story of the Year

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.

The third version of the Match, known as The Match III, goes this Friday and will pit Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley against Peyton Manning and Steph Curry at Stone Canyon GC in Oro, Arizona. Are you likely to tune in and if so, why? (Or why not?)

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Not a chance I’ll be watching, even with nothing to do during the latest lockdown but stay in and watch TV.  For one who spent a few years putting on a televised golf exhibition (the Canadian Skins Game, from 1993-97), it may seem disingenuous of me to be so dismissive of this one, but at least our event featured serious competition… not contrived  hit-and-giggle golf among golly-aren’t-we-special-people. Besides, for me, watching Charles Barkley hit a golf ball is like watching the downing of a 747.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I have ABSOLUTELY ZERO interest in The Match, and I’m certain most will be in the same camp. I can understand the idea of cross-pollinating audiences to grow each other’s following, etc. But as entertainment, watching them play mediocre to bad golf by TV standard is not of interest at all, at least not to me. But there’s nothing else (sporting wise) to watch, so it might pull in some descent ratings.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: I’ll probably ‘tape’ it so I can watch sans commercials. The only reason I’ll watch is to see Charles’ swing and hear his banter.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I really don’t have any interest in this one.  The only thing that intrigues me is to see how bad Barkley’s swing is, but I only need to see one of his swings in a highlight package after the match.  Otherwise, as I’ve stated before, I much prefer watching pros play the game.  It’s like making an effort to go watch an average to bad karaoke singer sing, what’s the point?

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s only been six months since the last one! What marketing genius at the network determined that this was compelling content and therefore we needed more than one a year? If this is the best they can do during the almost non-existent hiatus on the PGA Tour, then televised golf is in big trouble. This is the worst type of programming appealing to the lowest common denominator ever. It’s not sport, not even comedy. More like something in the horror genre.

Sei Young Kim won the Pelican Women’s Championship on Sunday for her 12th victory on the LPGA Tour, third among Korean players behind only Se Ri Pak and Inbee Park. Kim has done so without the same degree of celebrity or attention as Pak and Park or other young LPGA stars like Nelly Korda, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson. Are we missing something here or is the media doing a poor job of highlighting one of the best women players in the world?

Deeks: Very fair question, and I agree with the premise.  SY Kim has received zero attention and credit for her achievements, but I’d say the same for Inbee and Se Ri as well.  Natalie Gulbis, who’s very nice but hasn’t made a cut in over a decade, remains far more famous, and we all know why — nothing to do with her golf ability.    Even Brooke Henderson doesn’t get the respect she’s due, at least by the American golf media, compared to Lexi and the Kordas. But are we surprised by this?  No.  It’s America.

Loughry: I find LPGA Tour golf compelling, its just that there are so many top players, in that top 10 have multiple win seasons over the last few years. Kim is a top player, but she’s bunched in with all the others (Kang, the two Lee’s, Ko (JY), Brooke, Thompson, N Korda, etc.). It’s not quite like that on the men’s side. Do I think she is getting short-changed on attention? Not really. If she keeps winning and takes over World #1 for a significant duration, that will force everyone to grant more credit.

Schurman: Sei Young Kim is delightful to watch and man can she ever play. Women’s PGA golf does absolutely everything they can do to put on a great show. The level of play is superb, the girls dress well, the courses are top grade and from what I hear the girls also are amazing at public relations around fans, media, Pro-am partners, sponsors etc. I don’t have the answer but the entire product lacks ‘electricity’.

Rule: It’s a shame that the Korean players in general don’t get enough attention, given their skill level and results over the past decade plus.  I guess it comes down to language barrier and comfort level in the media.  But the North American media could do a better job of highlighting the Korean players.  It seems they are just desperate to find that big, marketable North American talent that helps to grow the brand.

Mumford: It’s unfortunate that the LPGA stars don’t get more attention. If a PGA player put together the same record as Kim over the past few years, he’d be a superstar. Some of it comes down to personalities – most of the women are quite reserved, especially the South Koreans. Ron Sirak is one of the few golf writers that follows the LPGA Tour exclusively. You can read a recent article he wrote about Sei Young Kim HERE.

As the calendar year comes to a close, we’ll be making choices in the next few weeks about Player of the Year, Golf Story of the Year, Shot of the Year, etc. This week we kick off with the Best Feel Good Golf Story of the Year. Some options include Sophia Popov winning the Women’s British Open, DJ winning the Masters, Bryson DeChambeau winning the US Open or Collin Morikawa winning the PGA Championship. In your opinion, what has been the Best Feel Good Golf Story in professional golf this past year?

Deeks: I’m gonna say the Feel Good Story for me was the playing of The Masters.  And I should’ve added in my answer to the question “what did you like about it?” on last week’s Round Table: the drone shots that showed us the property like we’ve never seen it before, were awesome.  But just the fact that Augusta National held the tournament five months out-of-season, at least partially sating the starving appetites of people who love serious golf competition and this event in particular, made me feel good about the game all over again.

Loughry: If you don’t pick Sophia’s BO win, then you should be booted from this table. That was an incredible “Cinderella” story, who wasn’t cheering for her on that last day (other than maybe family members of other players). She beat the BEST in the world in a MAJOR. It was an amazing accomplishment and she looked to celebrate it in equal fashion, and good for you Sophia!

Schurman: The best “feel good’ story has to be the fact the TOUR even played this year. One year ago this month, something unbelievably bad escaped in China and has run rampant around the world. Due to shoddy planning in every country in the world except perhaps the African nations, nobody was prepared. Adding to the dilemma some leaders poo-poo’d the potential risk and some actually downplayed it thinking it would simply go away. One of the most developed countries in the world is showing their entire government infrastructure, their management system, their economy, their medical system, their ability (inability) to come together in the face of a crisis has been a fraud. They are nothing more than ‘smoke and mirrors’ made up of 330,000,000 self-serving, childish stumblebums. At least you can social distance on the course.

Rule: All due respect to the winners of the men’s majors this year – Morikawa and BD were impressive wins but hardly qualify for feel-good stories in my books; DJ’s was meaningful to him, so could be in the conversation – but the feel-good story has to be Sophia Popov at Royal Troon.  For someone who was considering quitting the game to come out of nowhere to win a major is an incredible story.  That was both fun and emotional to watch.

Mumford: I always enjoy it when veteran players outsmart the bookies to win or when some player who’s been wandering in the wilderness suddenly finds his or her game. Thus, it was enjoyable to watch Stewart Cink and Brian Gay notch wins this fall. However, when someone off the charts pulls it together to win a major and does it in an exciting, emotional fashion, that’s the best. Sophia Popov’s completely unexpected victory at the Women’s British Open gets my vote.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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