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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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.