36 Holes and a Sunday Snooze


Cold statistics bear out what I firmly believed after trying to watch a full 36 holes of match-play golf Sunday. You the golfing public have spoken with your TV remotes, and what you said isnt very pretty: can you say, 2.4 on the Nielsens?
That, friends, is definitely not good for ANY golf telecast for this time of year. The average golf tournament in the winter months will generate around 3-3.5 Nielsen on Sunday. For an event in which Tiger figures prominently, expect something in excess of 5. For a World Golf Championship, which the PGA Tour touts as one of the most important events of the season, a 2.4 is in no way a good number.
Geoff Ogilvy and Davis Love III
Few golf fans tuned in to see Geoff Ogilvy defeat Davis Love III in the WGC-Match Play.
I sat down Sunday morning with the intent of watching Geoff Ogilvy vs. Davis Love III, all 30-something holes, for a couple of good reasons ' No. 1, it was chilly and wet outside (well, at least by Florida standards), and No. 2, my wife is a gigantic Davis Love fan (and I must admit that, to a little lesser degree, I am, too).
I made it for about 15 minutes. Thats when the remote began getting its workout. Sunday mornings round was excruciating ' someone would hit a shot, the other player would hit a moment later, and then either the program would be interrupted by five or six commercials, or the telecast would drag on forever with the announcers frantically reaching for something, anything to fill time.
As it was, I had plenty of time to watch every shot and still catch the European Tour on the Golf Channel, Meet the Press on another channel, and still had time to leisurely tune in to Sunday Morning.
And that was with the WGC event showing one participant in whom I had a casual interest. I cant imagine what it would have been like if the Nos. 34 and 56, say, had been playing.
Well, that is match play. And thats what happens when you get the top 64 in the world ' over 18 holes ' and maybe over 36 holes ' any golfer can overcome any other golfer. Even if you have Tiger Woods playing Chad Campbell. Even if you have Tiger Woods playing Nick OHearn. Even if you have Tiger Woods playing Peter OMalley or Jeff Maggert. A big name in no way guarantees a big-name winner.
I have always believed, as have many of my fellow scribblers, that the tour should definitely have a match-play event. The Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, after all, is great theater. But then, those two events have always got action ' four matches in the morning and four in the afternoon, or 12 singles matches the final day.
Thirty-six holes in a day? Eighteen of those holes played by itself in one match, before the consolation match joins the finalists in the afternoon? It just doesnt move the bar as far as interest is concerned. I want to read about it after it is over, certainly. I want to watch the end of the telecast, maybe even the final nine holes if its a close match. But there is nothing more boring than, say, a persons third shot on the sixth hole of a 36-hole match.
Would it have been better viewing if Woods had gotten to the finals? Well, marginally. But the morning 18 is a snoozer, regardless. Woods or Love, Mickelson or Els or Singh, the morning 18 is just a set-up to when the real action begins in the afternoon.
Ogilvys inclusion into the finale was a downer, admittedly. He may very well be a star someday, maybe rather quickly. And he may very well win another event or two before the year is over. But if he does, he will at least have three or four competing against him on Sunday. There will be several names to watch, several players to mull over and root for or against. One - or two ' players with no other compelling competition ' it may sound like a good idea, but in reality it just turns into an interminable snoozer.
So - does the tour need a match play event? Yes, unquestionably. Does it need a 36-hole finale? Im not so sure. Of course, it is a better gauge of a real champion than the 18-holers which are in effect the first four days. But showing all 36 holes? No way.
Is there some way to make it more interesting? Well, for me, making the finale the same length as the previous five matches ' one round of 18 holes and its over ' would make for more interesting viewing. Im just a product of this instant-gratification age, I guess.
Thirty-six holes ' yeah, go ahead and play it, and then show me the highlights. In fact, show me the highlights of the last 18, as long as you throw in all the strokes from the final, say, three holes.
What could be done to make the final 36 interesting? I honestly cant say. But I do know that a whole lot of golf fans agree with me. After all, two-point-four says something.
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