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Mercedes: Day One Observations

The Golf Channel pretty much took up where it left off last year, providing an interesting, but never particularly entertaining, telecast of the first day of the Mercedes. Too much Rich Lerner, and Kelly Tilghman still seems to be trying too hard, and Nick Faldo is entertaining, but I wonder at what point he went from being a cold-hearted golf machine, to a goofy Englishman?

Why Tilghman and Faldo feel the need to entertain, as opposed to simply offer insight and inform, is beyond me. Neither is Gary McCord, that’s for sure, and I wish they’d stop trying so hard to be something they are both clearly not.

With that rant out of the way, there’s a golf tournament to comment on.

Mike Weir and Stephen Ames played well, but while watching the telecast I couldn’t help but think it was missing some star power, especially with both Tiger and Phil skipping out.

Ames, who pulled all of his usual faces while being interviewed by Lerner after his round, thought Woods and Mickelson weren’t the only ones missing from the event. Ames told the National Post’s Bill Hanley that he felt a certain executive should also be at the opening tournament of the year:

The absentees are a story that refuses to go away at this tournament. And it’s not just the big-name players. Ames told reporters after his round that he believes PGA commissioner Tim Finchem, absent because of business reasons, should be here at this marquee event.

“What’s the difference between the beginning of the season and the end?” he asked.

Ames played on his own, by the way, and said he enjoyed it, especially the fact his round took three hours. He missed gauging the speed of some putts from a playing partner, he said, but otherwise the quirky golfer from Calgary seemed to enjoy playing on his own.

With Nick Watney leading (and how many golf fans could pick him [photopress:verplank.jpg,full,alignright]out of a lineup, or name the tournament he won last year), the most compelling storyline turned out to be Scott Verplank’s odd rules infraction and ensuing battle with rules official Mike Shea over whether his balled moved at address:

Playing the 13th hole when the wind was howling and the rain pouring, Verplank put his club behind his golf ball to check his lie and then went about his routine of getting set up. When he looked as he addressed it, he saw it had moved and called for a rules official.

The official Mike Shea ruled that Verplanks act of placing his club behind the ball was deemed to have caused it to move, which would result in a one-stroke penalty. Verplank disagreed with the ruling during a sometimes-heated discussion with Shea, and elected to play two balls on the hole and continue his dispute after the round.

He bogeyed the hole with the ball that had moved and wound up taking double-bogey when the penalty stroke was added after his appeal was denied. He finished with 73.

I dont agree with it, he said. I know right from wrong and I know I didnt address the ball and didnt do anything to make it move. We were in the middle of a squall on a 45-degree slope with the wind howling 30 miles an hour down the slope.

The whole affair lasted more than 15 minutes, which allowed Faldo to get his one good quip in of the day — this one aimed at everyone’s favourite player, Rory Sabbatini. When Tilghman mentioned Sabbatini had to wait while the whole kerfuffle was unfolding, Faldo said in fact Sabbatini was on the 16th hole. Even I laughed at that one.

Lastly, what is the deal with Mark Rolfing? Is this guy not the most annoying personality in golf? I know he’s Mr. Golf Hawaii, and chief apologist for Michelle Wie, but why does the Golf Channel let him do the “Hawaiian word of the day?” And did anyone really need to know the “Imua” meant “moving forward?” And how exactly did that apply to the tournament or the players? Seemed pretty tangential to me.

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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.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Robert, first of all, happy new year to you and yours.

    I find that the Golf Channel’s handling of its PGA coverage has led me to watch far less golf than I used to. A few years ago I would watch the early-season events with enthusiasm but no longer. Part of the reason is their production style. I cannot stand Tilghman and Faldo wears thin very quickly when paired with her — unlike when he works with Nantz on CBS. The same with Lerner and Foltz and the rest of their crew. As for Rolfing, while the word of the day is stupid, undoubtedly it was the bright idea of some Golf Channel producer. Aside from that, most of the time he is the best thing on there.

    Here’s hoping that the Tour realizes its mistake by putting all of its eggs in TGS’s basket and finds an escape clause from its contract with them.

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