Golf stereotypes brought to light last week

By Jason SobelMay 27, 2013, 2:01 pm

When I told my buddy Scott that I was going to mention him in my column, this was his response: “You mean the non-golf fan who thinks golf has an elitism and racism problem?”

At least he knows his role in our conversation – or debate, argument or whatever you want to call it – that we’ve been having for the better part of 15 years now. Scott believes in the antiquated notion that golf is a game for the upper-crust one-percenters, that its collective face is still too lily-white compared with our ever-evolving society. I counter with the fact that the world’s best player is multi-cultural and elite golfers hail from all corners of the globe, making it as diverse a sport as any. He thinks there are too many exclusionary policies and too few opportunities for those born without a silver spoon. I contend that many of the last bastions of segregation and sexual discrimination have been eliminated in the private realm, while more programs geared toward growing the game are sprouting every week.

Neither one of us has ever budged. But even though I haven’t pulled him over to this side of the fence, I’ve always been proud that my case has included more factual evidence than his, which is born largely on nothing but the loosest of opinions.

And then this past week happened, and all of a sudden Scott was armed with more ammo than he’s had in years.

It all started, of course, with Sergio Garcia’s comment about Tiger Woods at a European Tour gala on Tuesday night. When jokingly asked if he would have his acknowledged enemy over for dinner during next month’s U.S. Open, Garcia responded, “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”

The level of vitriol emanating from Wentworth and spreading worldwide was immediate and varied, depending upon the interpretation of malice. Some believe it was merely a playful jab, invoking the “everybody loves fried chicken” defense. But here’s the problem with that take: It should have been irrevocably undermined the minute Woods himself took to social media to call the comment “wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.”

When the target of such innuendo takes offense to it, who among the rest of us is qualified to contend that he shouldn’t feel this way?

The biggest takeaway from the situation wasn’t that it labeled Garcia – fairly or unfairly – as a racist, but that it shined a spotlight on an issue which has roots within golf’s foundation. Casual observers who know little about the game or those who play it professionally can point to Garcia as the smoking gun. No longer can my buddy Scott forge loose opinions on racial insensitivities within golf; he can now proffer a tangible example.

Actually, make that examples – plural. That’s because one day later, in trying to defend Garcia’s comment as benign, European Tour CEO George O’Grady said in part, “Most of Sergio’s friends are colored athletes in the United States …”

So much for Garcia getting sanctioned. That would have provided some precedent – and if there was precedent for his sanctioning, then O’Grady would have been forced to levy a similar punishment against himself. But, of course, the lack of transparency in golf’s major tours prevents this sort of precedent.

Such inactivity is in stark contrast to that of, say, the NBA. Two years ago, Kobe Bryant was heard on live television berating a referee with an anti-gay slur. Commissioner David Stern acted quickly, handing down a $100,000 fine for what he termed an “offensive and inexcusable” comment.

It’s almost shocking that the level of outrage over O’Grady’s comment hasn’t been stronger. Now this is purely hypothetical, but I’d venture to guess that if he was CEO of a high-profile company and used the term “colored” on live television, his gleaming corner office would be inhabited by the next guy in line before end of business that day.

Don’t think that’s a fair comparison? Fine. Then try this one instead: If Stern, who presides over a major sports franchise much like O’Grady, provided the adjective “colored” to describe a race of people, do you think he’d keep that job? Or would he be forced to resign immediately? If you don’t believe it would be the latter, you clearly haven’t been paying attention these last few decades.

Like they say, bad things come in threes and so it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when none other than Colin Montgomerie completed the unenlightened cycle by attempting to come to O’Grady’s defense in defense of Garcia.

“We’re all frightened to say anything; we’re frightened to open our mouths in case we say something that isn’t kosher in 2013,” Montgomerie said. “Somebody should tell us what to say because no one is quite sure what is right and wrong. George says ‘colored,’ somebody says ‘black’. But who is to say who is right and wrong?”

Each of these comments recalls the infamous movie line that Brian Fantana once whispered to Champ Kind: “Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.”

(Speaking of “Anchorman” – or at least anchormen – last week’s USGA and R&A joint ruling to ban anchored putting doesn’t do much to stave off the anti-golf crowd, either, most of whom already believe our rules are too rigid. Throw in The Associated Press report which claimed viewer call-ins for potential PGA Tour rules violations has increased since Woods’ infraction at the Masters, and we’re providing plenty of welcome fodder for the opponent.)

Between the ropes, the first five months of this golf season have been as mesmerizing as any in recent memory. Woods is playing the brand of dominant golf we came to expect a decade ago. Adam Scott was a popular green jacket winner in a must-see conclusion at Augusta National. Youngsters like Jordan Spieth and Matteo Manassero have proven that 19 and 20 are the new 25.

For those of us indoctrinated into the game, for whom the weekly pursuits toward titles are at the forefront of our temporal lobes, these are the major stories. We’re outnumbered, though. There are many more observers on the outside looking in and when they do, they don’t see smiling faces reflecting in shimmering trophies. Instead, they see an industry collectively stagnating while the rest of the world continues to evolve.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve defended golf against these long held stereotypes from outsiders about elitism and racism. So many others in our great game have, too. The events of the past week shouldn’t be enough to dissuade us from believing that things are moving ahead at a swift enough pace, but they do provide fuel for the other side of the argument. That idea in itself should leave us collectively wondering if there is a problem. And if so, how can we fix it?

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.