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Kelly on the Telly… and Where's Bob?

Much has been said and even more has been written in traditional media (TV and newspapers mostly) and the on-line world about what happened during the Golf Channel’s coverage of the Sony open Friday afternoon.  Blog sites and reader forums have been packed to overflowing with comments from what appears to be every Tom, Dick and Harry on the planet with an interest in golf…or controversy.

Unfortunately, as is all too often the case (especially on the Internet), many of these comments are tremendously uninformed and seem to be driven more by ignorance or knee-jerk emotions, rather than by cool, objective, rational thought.

And so, as a long-time member of the media, opinionated blowhard and general disturber de merde, I feel compelled to offer my two cents worth on the situation…and hopefully open some eyes in the process.

I’m talking, of course, about Kelly Tilghman’s interview with Matt Every, following the conclusion of his second round 64 in Hawaii. 

Before I start, let me make this clear; the opinions I am going to offer are NOT a condemnation of pot or of pot smokers.  Forced to choose, I’d much rather be stoned than drunk.  I’d also prefer that more drunks took up pot and gave up booze entirely, because it’s much better on the furniture…and innocent bystanders.

And for the high and mighty, holier than thou, live by the law no matter how arbitrary it is, crowd who think that pot is in some way evil and ergo so are pot smokers, give your head a shake. 

If you champion the use of Jagermeister, Glenfiddich, Budweiser, Marlboros, duMauriers, Valium and Prozac, but in the same breath denounce the use of pot, I would suggest you’ve taken way too many trusting sips of the government’s Kool-Aid…and should sit down and engage in an activity I like to call “thinking for yourself.”

So having said all of that, Matt Every came across as a complete moron this weekend.  Not because he smoked pot, or didn’t…but because of the way he handled a very simple and entirely predictable (and desirable) question.

Every is a professional golfer, who has chosen to make his living in the limelight. He plays in front of tens of thousands of “live” fans every week, and is exposed to millions more on the television.  Like it or not, he is a public figure, making a living because of that exposure to the public.

And if, after a year and a half, he hasn’t managed to come up with a perfectly crafted response (or eight), to a question about the single most noteworthy event in his professional career, then he’s completely and utterly oblivious to the nature of his job…and reality.

A real pro would have actually welcomed the question, maybe even would have begged for it…and would have been ready to rock with a variety of well-considered responses, all designed to accomplish two things; 1) to put the issue to rest once and for all, and 2) to get into the good books of potential sponsors, who have probably been treating him like a leper and carving cheques to everyone with a golf club but him.

Unless he wants to try to make a living by courting Doritos and Mars and Twinkies to pay to be on his bag, you can bet that Every is at the very bottom of the food chain for sponsorship money right now.

Truth be told, Every was actually given a golden gift by Tilghman on Friday afternoon.  It was a rare opportunity to do some much-needed PR spin-doctoring on an international stage and redeem himself to family, friends, fans, peers, the Tour and potential Sponsors. 

After all, there are few things that American entertainment and sports fans like more than the fallen hero-turned penitent man. 

How else can you explain a man who went to prison for running gruesome, barbaric dog fights, not only getting a high-profile job after his release, but making millions in endorsement deals in the process?  Or, for that matter, the list of sponsors who are now lining up at Tiger Woods’ door again???

But instead of fully embracing the opportunity to re-brand himself, Every stammered and stumbled and hummed and hawed and came off as every bit the unprepared, unrepentant goof, caught with his hands full of “special” brownies.

Without being overly critical of his skills as a golfer, for the most part Every’s professional career has been a series of yawn-worthy moments.  He’s made some cuts, but generally has flown way below the radar.  In other words, he hasn’t been noteworthy at all. 

Except for one thing; his 2010 arrest for possession and subsequent suspension from the PGA Tour.

Yes, the charges were eventually dropped. Yes, the PGA Tour was probably (I’d say almost certainly) wrong for giving him the hook.  Yes, it’s unfortunate that he didn’t make enough cash in the few PGA events he did manage to play to keep his card. Yes, he was effectively demoted to the Nationwide Tour as a result (where he did fly above the radar on a few occasions). 

But other than being busted for pot, and his subsequent turfing from the Tour, there are no truly “big headlines” associated with the name Matt Every. 

So then, was Every, as many uninformed pundits have suggested, ambushed by Tilghman when she asked about this episode?  Definitely not.   Was Kelly’s question appropriate?  You bet it was.  Was her timing of the question, coming off one of Every’s hottest rounds ever, wrong in any way?  Absolutely not.

Given his fairly undistinguished Tour record so far, this was probably the first time that Every has been asked to be in a primo Golf Channel interview since ‘the incident.”  Other than talking specifically about his suspension, what other reason would have justified giving him camera time on the “big stage” (PGA coverage, not Nationwide coverage), since 2010, until his 64 this past weekend? 

And, who knows when he might get in front of the cameras again, based on his game play? 

So consider this; if his first prime time appearance on camera is not the appropriate time to ask him about the most notable event in his career so far, then when would it be?  Two weeks from now?  Two months?  Two years?  Never?

And regardless of what you may think of the Golf Channel’s mandate, or of Kelly Tilghman’s role on the network (and many truly pathetic, nasty, mean-spirited things have been written anonymously [i.e. cowardly] about her), keep in mind that she is, first and foremost, a professional sports journalist.  She is paid to cover golf events and golf stars and provide coverage on golf news. 

And a professional golfer arrested and suspended is golf news, fans.

To claim, as many have, that she should have just asked him about his round of 64, and nothing more, is to suggest that her job description should be professional cheerleader and not golf host/reporter.  “Gee Matt tell us about that drive…and those chips…and that putt.  Wow, that’s cool.  Thanks for all the wonderful insights. Gee you’re so keen.” 

Yawn!

If that’s what golf fans are looking for in an interview, then they should entreat the Golf Channel to bring Larry King out of retirement.

The only issue I have with the entire affair is the ham-handed way in which Tilghman tried to segue into the question.  Rather than just coming straight out and asking what was on everyone’s minds, she instead decided to “smooth” her way into the question with various allusions to surfing and being such a mellow dude.  Clumsy.

I’d like to think that it was her way of giving him a (somewhat) subtle warning that the question he should have been waiting for (hoping for) was finally on its’ way.  But it struck me that she was just trying to be overly clever or cute in making the transition. On that score (and only on that score), she failed.  The incident didn’t call for cute, it called for cutting through the crap.

And, just to put a fine point on the whole brouhaha, I can almost guarantee you that if the interview had come and gone with nary a mention of “the incident,” then the Internet would have been flooded with indignant complaints from golf enthusiasts that she hadn’t done her job properly, by not asking this most obvious of questions.  Fans would have called her and the Golf Channel a bunch of chickens for not daring to go there…and they would have been right. 

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t Kelly!

To his great credit, and my undying admiration, Sir Nick Faldo came out of the gate at the start of Saturday’s broadcast to defend Kelly and her question.   Using his considerable platform, he gave Kelly and her interview his seal of approval and set the record straight.

Meanwhile though, Mark Rolfing seemed to have a giant bug up his butt over the entire incident.  In between all of incessant schilling for Hawaiian tourism, Rolfing was heard to utter things like “well, here is Matt Every on the 13th tee…and I just hope he can focus on his game and isn’t going to let his dread of entering the media tent after the round to face questions about yesterday’s interview derail him right now.”

A little dissention inside the Golf Channel camp?  It sure sounded like it to me.  Nice team work Mark!  Stick to telling us about the whales…yet again.

The Humana Challenge in Partnership With the Clinton Foundation

If ever there was an event in need of re-branding with a better name…

I have to be honest, it tugs at my heart more than a little bit to see Bob Hope’s name taken off of this event.  Hope and his best buddy Bing Crosby were such amazing ambassadors for the sport over the last century that they’ve earned their own places in the World Golf Hall of Fame…and I think it’s a real shame that neither is now immortalized in the events they created and made famous.

That’s progress folks.

And a change in branding isn’t the only difference you’re going to notice when the event launches this Thursday.  Yes, I said Thursday, not Wednesday.  The other big difference is the fact that the tournament has been reduced from 90 holes to 72; from a 5-day tourney down to 4.

Frankly, I’m all over that particular change.  One fewer day to have to listen to a never-ending series of painfully meaningless interviews with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Kenny G.  One fewer day of having to endure watching Michael Bolton trying to scream his way back into relevance. 

One fewer day of being exposed to (insert your own Pro-Am pet peeve here), instead of…oh I don’t know…watching some REAL golf, by REAL golfers. 

Oh yes, and one fewer day of unbelievably shameless sandbagging too!  (But more on that when the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am comes onto the scope in a few weeks.)

The Pros and the Schmoes join forces and team up this week in La Quinta, California at the new Humana Challenge in Partnership With the Clinton Foundation. 

My only regret is that Tiger Woods isn’t confirmed to join the field for this tournament.  He and Monica Lewinsky would have made a dream partnership, don’t you think?

Too easy.  I feel shame!

Derek’s Picks

Bill Haas – It goes a little against my gut instincts to take Haas for this event…or for most of the season, for that matter…but I’m going to do it anyway.

The reason for my reluctance is in the fact that he won the FedEx Cup last year…and the ten million bones that go with the title.  While this seems like a good thing (hell a GREAT thing), it appears that the title also comes with a curse.

Just ask Jim “where did he go?” Furyk.  Or Vijay “what happened to him?” Singh.  Or Tiger “here’s my press release.  I won’t be taking any questions…ever” Woods.

Based on the three other (huge) names who have claimed the FedEx Cup since its inception, it seems there is a heavy price to be paid for lifting the heavy winner’s cheque and trophy.

So, one of the big questions for me this season is; “can Haas break the curse and follow up on his recent glories, with more of the same?”

The jury is out on this one…and will be until the 2012 season is fully in the books.  Meanwhile, the Humana (Hope) is probably one of his best chances of the year to shrug off bad superstition and hoist a trophy.

Haas and Gary Woodland finished second to Jhonattan Vegas in a three-man playoff at this event last year.  It was a topsy-turvy, goofy playoff that Haas really should have won.  The year before, Haas did win it, outplaying a star-studded field over 5 days with a score of -30.  T24 in 2009, T16 in 2008, T19 in 2006. 

When Haas tees it up in La Quinta, there’s magic coursing through his clubs…and I think this week is his best chance to break the FedEx Cup curse. 

Matt Kuchar – The most successful player without a win in 2011.  Grinning Matt finished third on the PGA Tour’s Money list, winning nearly $6,000,000 over the course of 28 events…and never lifted a trophy. 

Hell, I’d be grinning too…all the way to the bank!

After his spectacular 2010 campaign, where he won a ton of events (but thankfully not the FedEx Cup!), 2011 must have seemed like an awfully big let down to the perpetually friendly and upbeat golfer.  Yet, when you listen to his interviews, he has his head screwed on right and is anything but mopey about his 2011 results…and seems brimming with confidence on his prospects for the new season.

And Kuchar has LOTS of reason to be optimistic this week in California.  In his last two Hope appearances, he finished 7th (2011) and 2nd (2010).  Add a few more top 30’s in the few years before that, and he’s a guy that seems well-suited to the courses and the Pro-Am climate.

Brian Gay – In retrospect this is a name I should have looked at a lot more closely in my prognostications for 2011.  I may have chosen him in an event or two last year, but I couldn’t swear on it.

Nonetheless, I’m correcting that oversight right now, by taking him at The Humana.

For whatever reason, Gay seems to fly below my radar for the most part…but his record at this event is pretty much impossible to ignore.  He was T5 here last year, just a few strokes of the playoff.  He was also T15 the year before that and T18 in 2009.  No wins, but pretty impressive stuff.

Combine that with his red-hot start at the Sony open last week (T6) and I think Gay is definitely worth a look this week in La Quinta.

Charles Howell III – Everything I just wrote about Brian Gay, can be repeated, with very few tweaks, in this section too.  Howell at La Quinta is Brian Gay Light…with an overbite.

In the past two years, Howell finished T13 and T26 at the Hope. Not quite as impressive as Gay, I’ll admit, but still pretty good stuff. 

Where Howell comes out in front of Gay though, is in his most recent performance.  Young Thurston started off his season in Hawaii with a T2 finish at The Sony…just two strokes out of a tie.

Howell was a rising star several years ago, and then seemed to slip off the face of the golfing world for a few seasons.  He was never entirely gone…but from my perspective, he was never entirely there either.  This season, my gut tells me that he’s going to stage a comeback and make his presence felt…and he’s already off to a great start.

Given all of that, I’m liking his chances this week in California.

And now that I’ve had my rant, let’s mosey downstairs to the rec room and see where my daughter managed to lob her darts this week:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  •         Brian Harman
  •         Tim Herron
  •         J.J. Killeen
  •         Brandt Snedeker

And that’s all for now folks.  As always, thanks very much for reading and playing along with my silliness…and enjoy the tournament!

Cheers,

Derek

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derekaubrey

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Can you let me know the “ton” of events Matt Kuchar won in 2010. Yes he was the scoring and money list leader – but one victory certainly doesn’t equate to this “ton” you mention.

    • Fact Checker; thanks very much for reading my column…and for living up to your nom de plume. You’re quite right about Kuchar’s win total in 2010…and I’m embarrassed to say I don”t know what I might have been thinking when I described one as “a ton.” Either my mind is going faster than I thought or my memory must have somehow re-written his whack of top 10’s and top 5’s into more victories than he actually earned. Either way; lesson learned for me…think harder before I type and ALWAYS check the facts rather than relying on my sketchy memory. Thanks again for reading…and for taking the time to write. Cheers, Derek

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