So we are less than an hour away from the leaders teeing off for the final round of the PGA Championship. The leaderboard looks like this:
Jason Duffner -7
Brendan Steele -7
Keegan Bradley -6
While we all know that CBS can’t like this — after all they basically root for Tiger, Phil and any of about a half dozen names that are more recognizable to the general public — I’m trying to get a sense of whether this is good for the game, bad for the game or none of the above.
I kind of think that the PGA Championship gets a bit of a bad rap. I like that they have taken some chances in course selection (Kiawah, Whistling Straits). I like that they gave gone to courses that the USGA has kind of abandoned (Oak Hill, Baltustrol, Hazeltine, Medinah, etc.). I like that they aren’t nearly as concerned about “defending par” the way the USGA is. I think most of the time the setups seem challenging, but fair.
But somehow, the PGA has this uncanny knack at producing unusual/one-hit wonder champions. The two PGAs at Hazeltine left Rich Beem and Y.E. Yang holding the trophy at the end of the day. It’s also the major championship won by Shaun Micheel, Mark Brooks, Wayne Grady and Jeff Sluman.
So what does this leaderboard really mean?
Is an example of the depth of players on the PGA Tour? While so much (I say too much) of the golf media attention goes to too small of a number of players, there are a lot of guys out there who can really play. This year you have young guys like Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson — players the casual fan don’t know much about — in the top 10 of the FedEx points list. And while these three guys who start today at the top of the leaderboard, both Steele and Bradley won tournaments earlier this season. There is probably something to the theory that the lack of stars on the leaderboard means that there are way more excellent players on tour than the average sports fan realizes.
Is it bad for the game? While I’m not a Tiger fan, he did give the sport an identity. And that is a good thing. Too many of these guys can’t be picked out of a lineup by even golf fans. I like to compare this to baseball in some ways. Last fall, the Texas-San Francisco World Series was pretty darn good baseball. But the viewership numbers tied a record low. They were also down 28 percent from a year earlier when the Yankees played the Phillies. I’m going to guess that the weekend TV numbers are going to be very pedestrian. And that’s not good.
Could this be the beginning of something? Maybe Steele or Bradley is going to play great, win this thing and become a star. I guess it is possible, but maybe the winner will be the next, say, Mike Weir. He won a Masters and a few other tournaments and basically vanished.
I don’t really know what to make of it. I’m playing golf this afternoon and will watch highlights later. I like watching some of the PGA Tour, but I’m not a hardcore person that has to watch every week. If the weather is bad or I play early, I’ll probably watch.
I hope we see some good shots today. I’d like to see someone play well and earn this title. But I do wonder if the general public will really care.