Thoughts On Watching The Golf Channel vs The Theater Of The Mind

Something occurred to me on Saturday while watching the U.S. Open on NBC “ Ëœthis isn`t fun.` The USGA claims it sets up the Open courses this hard in order to bring out the best in professional golfer`s games. But what ultimately happens with the narrow fairways, tough rough and slick greens is that these professionals often end up looking like, maybe, the best golfer in your Saturday morning foursome. Therein lays my problem. No one would want to watch a tournament played by weekend hackers so why is this any better.

Now, I will admit that there are miracle shots pulled off by these guys that make your jaw drop but then the same can be said at least once a round for your group too. The biggest cliché I hear is Å“I love the Open, it makes me feel like I can play with these guys. The ultimate conceit of us golfers is the thought of one day playing on one of these tours (isn`t everyone getting their game tuned up to qualify for the Senior Tour?). One of the most appealing aspects of the game of golf is that we have the opportunity to test ourselves on the same playing field as the professionals. That is until we get to the U.S. Open. We will never have a chance to play in the same conditions the PGA pros have to endure every Father`s Day weekend. In the end, I turned off the TV, hung out with the family and lost anything but a passing interest in outcome “ except that I had decided that I wanted Colin Montgomerie to win.

Conversely, I listened to the last hour of the tournament on the PGA Network on XM Radio. Regardless of the shots hit, the drama was incredible. Without the benefit of my eyes I had to rely on the commentators to describe the shots. Their thrilled voices, describing Jeff Ogilvy`s chip shot at 17 to save par, sent shivers down my spine. As they talked us through Monty`s drive at 18 you could feel the momentum of the tournament turning towards the Scotsman`s favor. A virtual roller coaster ride began as Monty hit a crap approach and blew his chance at a major and continued as Ogilvy saved par. And then, when Phil`s drive went left “ way left “ a two hour drive to New York left “ the announcers went wild. They started talking on top of each other trying to best describe the scene. It was awesome. Their excitement lent to the feeling of pandemonium.

Later I watched the highlights and seeing the shots didn`t seem nearly as exciting. Maybe you think it was because I already knew what was going to happen you say? Maybe so, but XM replayed the final hour in its entirety this morning and I listened to it all again. And you know what it was just as exciting as the live broadcast.

A long ago, families used to gather around radios for their nightly entertainment of variety shows, dramas and comedies. Since then we`ve relegated radio to a place where we hear music and get our news as we drive to and from work.

I have watched the U.S. Open and I have listened to the U.S. Open. I think I know which I prefer,

P.S. I heard Jack Nicklaus on The Fan this morning. He`s in PEI for some fishing and to play golf with Tom Watson. It turns out that jack didn`t watch any of the Open nor did he see any highlights. The morning show hosts had to walk him through Phil`s meltdown. Jack says he`s only touched his clubs 10 times since the British Open last year. He claims to have no interest in playing right now. He thinks that he still feels too competitive to play a fun round of golf and hopes to be able to get back on the course and enjoy himself a year from now. How about that? While the rest of us are looking for more and more rounds, the greatest player in history if looking for fewer. Go figure.

P.P.S. In responce to my blog asking “Why Would Anyone Esle Show Up”, Shawn wrote: “Phil Mickelson will have trouble just making the cut. He is a risk-taker and will have a lot of trouble with the graduated rough. The U.S. Open is a different animal, very unlike Augusta. He has played the U.S. Open 15 times and never won.” He made the cut but Shawn called him on being a risk taker. Most others assumed that Phil and his rocket science team had taken that out of his game.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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