Beyond the Twitterverse

By Jason SobelJuly 28, 2011, 8:12 pm

Those who can, do. Those who can’t … cover those who can?

Maybe it’s because golf is a sport that everyone can play, but I’ve never understood the opinion that those in the media who haven’t competed at the highest professional level are somehow unqualified or incapable of critically analyzing current professionals.

There are men and women who cover Major League Baseball without having stepped inside the batter’s box or the National Football League without having battled in the trenches. Competing at such levels undoubtedly gives some experts a certain type of knowledge that enables them to provide analysis, but it’s hardly mandatory.

In fact, if only those who could compete on the same level were capable of critiquing the world’s best, there may be no such thing as instructors – many of whom weren’t elite players, but often understand the mechanics of the golf swing better than those who do it for a living.

This topic arose on Thursday when European Tour commentator Jay Townsend criticized the strategy of Rory McIlroy during the opening round of the Irish Open, where the U.S. Open champion posted a 1-under 70.

Townsend made his opinion known on the television broadcast, then later tweeted his thoughts on the 22-year-old’s play thusly:

“McIlroy’s course management was shocking … Some of the worst course management I have ever seen beyond under 10’s boys’ golf competition.”

The opinion wouldn’t have been construed as anything other than an analyst, well, analyzing – which is exactly what Townsend’s job description entails.

That is, until McIlroy felt the need to combat those comments with a tweet of his own in response:

“Shut up…You’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!”

Townsend also tweeted that McIlroy “should hire Stevie Williams, as I thought [caddie] JP [Fitzgerald] allowed some SHOCKING course management today.” To which the player replied, “Well, I stand by my caddie.”

It should come as no surprise that a golfer – or any professional athlete – would take exception to criticism leveled against him in a public forum. While most competitors will contend that they don’t read the news or listen to announcers, it’s difficult not to pay attention when your name is being called out – especially in a negative light.

The real story here isn’t that Townsend criticized McIlroy or that McIlroy took exception to such criticism. It’s that the player resorted to bringing up the commentator’s past career as the reason he isn’t qualified to own such an opinion.

There are two major problems with this theory.

First off, it’s plain wrong. While Townsend may not have claimed a major championship like McIlroy, he did compete at the game’s highest level. There are several tiers of what may be considered “success” in this game, but to denounce him as a failure is blatantly imprecise and factually incorrect.

Secondly – and more importantly – it doesn’t matter. Everybody is entitled to an opinion and as long as a commentator can put together thoughtful, cogent analysis, his ability to play the game should remain a non-factor.

Of course, this issue transcends whether someone can critique another person who is more talented. The root of what turned this into a headline-inducing story is the new frontier of journalism meeting social media.

That’s right. This is less a player-commentator problem and more a Twitter problem.

While Townsend – who has tweeted 6,015 times and has 4,266 followers at the time of this writing – sent the first part of the aforementioned tweet to everyone, the second part was in response to another person on Twitter. For the uninitiated, that’s like a private conversation through a bullhorn – a one-on-one discussion that the entire world can read.

For his part, McIlroy – who has posted 1,737 tweets and has 546,323 followers – was also only replying to Townsend, however in a forum visible to anyone who either follows both men or clicks on his timeline to view everything he has added to Twitter.

The point is, if both Townsend and McIlroy really wanted to keep this disagreement between themselves, they easily could have done so through direct messages or – laptops and phones be damned – a face-to-face confrontation. Instead, the analyst analyzed and the player analyzed the analyst, sending us into a meta-spiral that created a frenzy on an otherwise busy Thursday in golf.

Really, though, Rory’s outburst has less to do with him as a person or a player and more to do with him as a tweeter. Expect this to be a lesson learned. He likely won’t discontinue tweeting like buddy Lee Westwood did for a while, but he may edit down his posts to a more milquetoast persuasion in the future.

Being able to not only read unfiltered opinions from players and analysts, but interacting with them is a large part of what makes Twitter such a useful tool for most sports fans, as well as those who work in the industry. When handled improperly, though, it can become a dangerous device, as certain newsmakers can cause headlines with a few simple keystrokes.

The key for players and analysts is controlling the message through this medium, but controlling emotions is a major component of it, too.

Golf’s latest squabble featured an outspoken analyst who is entitled to his opinion and an uber-talented young player who went over the line in addressing his. It’s not the first time new-age media has created such turmoil and it surely won’t be the last.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."