No risk-taking made Open dull: Tigers plan was brilliant, just not that entertaining

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.

Robert Thompson

On Golf

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.

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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.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Watching Woods hit majestic long irons into the intended target areas on the greens is a rare feat these days. There are lots of bombers out there, but I do not think anyone else on tour right now who could demonstrate such consistency with long iron plays

    If Woods hit driver, got in trouble, and lost the Open, he would have been slaugthered by the ‘ink-stained’ crowd. Perhaps the lack of drama dis not make a good news story? However, I can not say this sentiment is shared by all media. Dave perkins wrote a pretty nice assessment of Woods’ victory yesterday.

    I do not recall anyone complaining about 2000 being boring when TBGITW ran away with the titles at Pebble Beach and the Old Course. Wait, he was going for the Grand Slam at that time, so there’s good news story there.

  • I’m curious to see the driving distances… would it be safe to say that Tiger’s 2 iron display probably ranked him higher than some of the Fred Funk’s out on tour.

    I couldn’t find any stats on either of the open or golfweb websites. Perhaps you may have better luck?

    Also, I’m surprised Garcia’s fall (or choke) didn’t garner more attention, maybe it’s because it’s nothing extremely new!

  • Your colleague Lorne Rubenstein from the Globe and Mail had another view of Tiger’s approach to the Open…one point being that Links golf is played on the ground and Tiger understands that…but more importantly that there are multiple ways to tackle the golf course. Unlike the US Open at Winged Foot where there is really only one shot off the 18th tee…hit it or else (and Phil got the “or else”). Hoylake offered multiple options. I enjoyed the Open because it offered competition on a variety of levels including skill, strategy, and execution…not simply skill and execution as is evident in many tournaments.

    With regards to Sergio, the Open showed a different movie with the same ending…sad really given his talent. Yet, he seems to air a level of arrogance that is irritating. If you are going to wear a banana costume on Sunday, you better have the closing game to back it up. It would appear his closing game slipped on his own banana peel…

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