Two Weeks Off and a Little Perspective
Yep, as much as I love the game and my job, I made a concerted effort to stay as far away as possible from both for 16 days. And you know what I found out?
Theres a whole country out there that can live without golf. Doesnt even faze them to go weeks, even months, without at least putting a few balls on the local courses practice green. Heck, Im not confident that a lot of these people know where the local course is.
I knew where they were. From old habit, I peeked around every roadside stand of pine trees to see if there was a fairway hidden behind it. Saw a few. Managed to get around the TV dial with only a few accidental glimpses of golf while I was trying to find the Steelers game.
But other than that, I was purposely golf-free. The time away sharpened the old forest-for-trees dichotomy, which anyone deep in a particular discipline would be wise to examine from time to time. From golf writers to course owners to club designers to touring pros and everyone in between, we all take golf seriously because it provides us an opportunity to make a living. Tour pros agonize over three-footers that will, in some cases, make no more difference than to determine whether theyre rich or filthy rich. Marketers present slick videos that make new irons seem like a cross between a spiritual Everest and a Nobel Prize.
But the fact is, America does not care about golf, outside of our little club, whose membership is estimated at about 25 million. Add in the non-playing watchers and the estimate gets fuzzier, but Ill bet its still below 50 million.
This is not golfs fault. Aside from some irritating vestiges of elitism and a cost problem (see George Whites excellent column on this issue), golfs attractions generally outweigh its flaws, at least to my mind. But in a country whose population careens toward 300 million, in an age when speed and style surpass substance almost every time, its hard to get people to pay attention to anything very long. And as we all know, golf takes patience.
Remember, oh, a mere seven years ago, when we were all told the coming of Tiger Woods would herald golfs next golden age? Sure, there are gains to be seen. Purses on the PGA Tour continue to rise, and golf is one of the few sports whose TV ratings arent sliding. But otherwise, theres been a lot more pyrite than gold. If NASCAR is the standard for sports popularity, golf has a long way to go. And everything is transitory: The National Basketball Association used to be hot, but once Michael left, the field was open for NASCAR. And nothing approaches racing for breadth of popularity in this country. NASCAR is what baseball was fifty years ago, before TV and movies brought us everything from Britney and Madonna to Ozzy and Sharon, all the time, unceasingly.
So what to do? Its too complex a situation for quick fixes, but certainly golf has to manage its expectations. Maybe we have enough upscale daily fee (read: overpriced) courses. Perhaps we need to consider three- and six-hole courses, to adjust to American lifestyles (instead of insisting they adjust their lifestyles to us).
How about a national program similar to the take-a-kid-fishing efforts we see every so often? Every golfer introduces one other to the game. The math: From 25 million golfers, we can draw about 6 million avid players (estimates vary here, but stay with me). If half of those introduce a new player, we have 3 million. If half of the newcomers stick with it, we have 1.5 million. Do that once a year, and you have a 6 percent growth rate. Not bad.
Im heading back to the range at my club. Ive had enough time off. Besides, I need to find my swing again if Im going to introduce someone to the game.
NowBritney or Madonna?
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry