Two Weeks Off and a Little Perspective

By Adam BarrSeptember 18, 2003, 4:00 pm
I took the family on vacation recently. Two weeks plus out of the office (amazing how those vacation days pile up when you work a lot), polite-but-firm I cant be reached message on the voicemail, and a conspiracy to disappear. Didnt even pack the clubs. (And my wife plays too, so that was a big deal.)
 
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?
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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.


Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.


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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.