This National Post column appeared earlier this week and generated a fairly heated readers response, which pleased me. Good thing to know that people are reading…. I’ll post select letters tomorrow.
You’ll have to pardon me for admitting to snoozing a bit during Tiger Woods’ dismantling of Royal Liverpool on Sunday morning. Maybe it was the fact that I was out of coffee, or that the telecast started at 7 a.m. But the truth is this year’s British Open was simply boring.It wasn’t that Tiger wasn’t impressive. The greatest golfer the game has known had a plan and stuck to it like John Daly to a case of Coors Light. Woods’ plan involved hitting an endless series of two-irons off the tee, finding the middle of the fairway and then the middle of the green with a mid-iron. He didn’t bludgeon or overwhelm the course like he did Augusta National in 1997; instead he out-finessed it. Kudos to Tiger — he was the only one in the field who seemed to understand that with patience, Hoylake was ripe for the taking. Tiger’s assault was subtle and nuanced, but powerful nonetheless.It was brilliant, tactical golf — it just wasn’t very entertaining. Woods’ victory was remarkable in its construction and execution, but it didn’t hold a candle to the drama of last month’s Massacre at Mamaroneck, with Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Jim Furyk and Geoff Ogilvy battling to the end.In contrast to Royal Liverpool, the final hole at Winged Foot (site of this year’s U.S. Open) tested players’ abilities to hit it long off the tee under exacting circumstances. That meant hitting driver in order to have a chance to go for the green. That brought potential disaster into play, which is exactly what happened. Though much was made of the out-of-bounds down the right side of the final hole at Royal Liverpool, Woods took it apart with his two-iron. Great play? Surely. Fun to watch? Only if you also enjoy televised bowling.It also didn’t hurt that there was little wind or weather over the course of the week. As television colour man Bobby Clampett repeated over and over, British Open courses can be hammered if the wind off the nearby sea fails to roar. Well, for a few years in a row now, the wind has been non-existent. With a gentle breeze and asphalt-hard fairways, Woods was never truly under any pressure from those chasing him on Sunday.Of course, adding to the lack of drama on the telecast of the event was the sheer volume of commercials. Watch a player hit a shot, then watch TaylorMade’s “I am a golfer” commercial for the millionth time. Watch a drive, then back to commercial. By the fifth hour it was painfully slow, or maybe just painful. The Masters has it right, since the good ol’ boys at Augusta only allow a handful of adverts on their broadcast.And I’m not the only one who found the tournament and resulting telecast overly dry. Gary Player told the media the tournament was “not very exciting for the galleries.”
“I’m quite sure the crowds would have loved to see [Woods] booming the driver,” Player continued.
Though I abhor the “bomb and slash” mentality used by the likes of PGA Tour long hitters such as J.B. Holmes, the truth is I also wanted to see Tiger take the occasional risk to put himself in a better position to challenge a hole. My hope was that Woods might pull out his Nike driver at least once in the final round, just to see the majesty and excitement that comes when he takes a risk. Wisely, since these days he only hits 60% of his fairways, Woods left the Sasquatch in the bag, but the truth is he never really needed it.
Toward the end of Sunday’s telecast, announcer Peter Alliss proclaimed the ignorance of those “ink-stained peasants” who dared doubt the greatness of Royal Liverpool. The course, he said, lived up to its billing and the best player won.
I have no doubt the greatest golfer came out on top. But this ink-stained peasant thinks great golf should also be entertaining and test more than a golfer’s ability to tee off with a 2-iron.