Thursday, June 18, 2009

7 Reasons Why Golf is Great Television

Before USGA officials selfishly suspended play of the 1st Round of the US Open at Bethbage Black earlier this morning, it had been a great day at work. Thanks to a live video feed at the official US Open website, I was able to watch the group of Tiger Woods, Paddy Harrington, and Angel Cabrera play their first six holes of the day. This, along with a handful of lazy Sunday afternoons spent on the couch this spring, got me thinking about the reasons that golf is amazing to watch.

1. The Courses

The golf courses featured in PGA events are some of the most beautiful pieces of landscaping mankind has ever seen. The advent of HD television has only made the vibrant green fairways and wooded surroundings easier on the eyes. And there's just something so soothing about the Masters' theme playing just after commercial break with those close-up shots of azaleas.

Additionally, the wide variety of courses play makes each tournament unique. Each new course has its own personality and distinctive holes, such as Augusta's Amen Corner or the island par-3 at Sawgrass. Whereas in most sports the field of play is a merely a boundary, golf is a unique sport in which the terrain is the adversary.

2. The Personalities

While golf doesn't necessarily feature the outrageous trash-talking wide receivers of the NFL or the egomaniacal, motormouths of boxing, the independent nature of the game of golf allows players to develop their unique personas. Whether it be the boyish energy of Sergio Garcia, the chain-smoking huskiness of Angel Cabrera, or the crush-brews/crush-drives attitude of John Daly, its exciting to watch the wide field of PGA members week-in, week-out.

3. The Meltdowns

Golf meltdowns are the equivalent of big crashes in NASCAR; you feel bad for the guy involved, but you get a kind of sick pleasure out of it. Whether it be Jean Van de Velde triple-bogeying the 72nd hole of the 1999 British Open or Retief Goosen firing a final round 81 to blow his lead at the 2005 U.S. Open, golf fans love to see the world's best players show their mortality.

4. The Cinderella Stories

As is the case in any sport, people love to see a dark horse storm to the front of the pack. Who could forget #1-ranked Tiger Woods being forced into a playoff round (and forced to win the 18th and 19th holes to win that round) at the 2008 U.S. Open by Rocco Mediate, who was ranked 158th at the time. Or Ben Curtis winning the 2003 British Open as a rookie ranked 396th in the world. Team sports involve playoff systems that keep the Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Clippers from having their moment in the sun. Contrarily, each golf major bring the promise of introducing a player that you have never heard of, performing at the top of his game and surprising millions of fans.

5. The Championship Putts/The Playoff Holes

For my money, nothing in sports surpasses the tension of a player needing to make a putt on the 72nd hole of a major to either win or extend the tournament. You can see and practically feel the tension in his face and body language as he lines up the putt. Thousands of hours spent on the range and course, all building up to this defining moment in his career. It makes me rattled enough to watch it from the couch; I don't even think I could hold a putter with the kind of pressure, let alone stroke the thing, without Parkinson-esqe trembles. The triumph of draining the putt is pure ecstasy; the emptiness of missing it must leave one wondering if they've just blown their last chance at glory. It's pure melodrama--what is more entertaining than that?

Playoff holes are nearly as exciting, although generally less climactic. They're at their best when three or four different leaders are forced to play together, effectively turning pars into necessities, birdies into Holy Grails, and bogeys into death certificates.

6. Players' Wives/18+ Year Old Daughters

Try Googling "Elin Nordegren" or "Kenny Perry's daughter" and you'll get the idea. As proven by the Hotness/Television Face Time ratio, the hotter a spouse, the more the camera flocks to the wife when her man is leading the pack. Fortunately for viewers, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are usually leading the pack.

7. Tiger Woods

What can be said about Tiger Woods that hasn't already been said? He will doubtlessly finish his career as the greatest golfer of all-time, if he isn't already considered it. He already has 14 majors, putting him only four behind Jack Nicklaus for the majors record of 18. Nicklaus did this over a span of 26 years, winning his last major at age 46. Tiger is 33...and getting better at the game.

He is young and black, with a great public image in a gentleman's sport, making him a media darling. His wife is smoking. He is jacked and could definitely beat you up and steal your girlfriend. He delivers in the clutch, being basically automatic when he has the lead going into Sunday and never missing a putt when he needs it on 18.

And most importantly, people watch him. TV ratings for the PGA Championship were down 55% last year with Tiger out recovering from knee surgery. Meanwhile, the final round of the U.S. Open last year drew more viewers than the competing Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Love him or hate him, you still watch him.

1 comment:

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The advent of HD television has only made the vibrant green fairways and wooded surroundings easier on the eyes. And there's just something so soothing about the Masters' theme playing just after commercial break with those close-up shots of azaleas.