Golf without fans can give supporters more access than ever

John Craven
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Golf without fans can give supporters more access than ever

Tiger Woods in Japan (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The “new normal”. Is it just me or is that one of the most jarring descriptions of this post-apocalyptic world we live in today?  

In reality, the new normal is the exact same as the old one, only good Friday comes around more often. But it was nice while it lasted, that whole new sense of perspective, nurses and doctors heralded as heroes and an appreciation for all things life.  

Summer has hit and brought with it an immediate shift in attitude. It wouldn’t matter now if you were told 30 seconds of outside exposure will kill you stone dead, it’s 24 degrees and the Irish are tanning.  

But they’re starting to tan elsewhere too. Leading the charge in terms of golfs reopening has been America, thanks in part to their tangerine leader and his ALL CAPS TWEETS. Trump asked for the country to open and it’s happening, despite the recurring loss of human life.  

The Donald’s not the only one chomping at the bit to get going again. I think I speak for most people when I say I miss live sport. It’s left a chasm in our hearts that no number of nostalgic reruns will ever fill.  

No wonder then there was such excitement at the prospect of Seminole Sunday where McIlroy and DJ teamed to face off against Fowler and Wolff. Any live sport is better than no life sport, they said.  

Then why did my eyes hurt and ears bleed watching it? 

There was a worry that spectator-less events would lack atmosphere. If anything, the noise coming out of the Seminole production was more deafening than any created by a Ryder Cup crowd. The commentators were overbearing, the players scarcely heard and if the endless ads and inside jokes weren’t enough, they even included a phone call from Trump himselfTalk about self-sabotage. 

I held out no hope for the following week’s Match part II after that. Take one of Tiger versus Phil was bad enough but someone called for a rekindling of old rivalries, with a twist, in the form of NFL legends Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as playing partners. 

I’m not even sure why I tuned in to be honest but as bad and all as Seminole Sunday was, and it was reprimandableMedalist Clubs Champions for Charity event was surprisingly brilliant. The lens focussed on the players, the commentary team’s inputs were timely and the golf was pretty good too, Brady aside!  

The event was worthwhile in so many ways, not least it raised over $20 million for Covid relief. But it also may well have proved an invaluable exercise for golf as a whole as we prepare for a PGA Tour restart on Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge, and a European Tour resumption in July. 

OK, we won’t have the energy of the galleries to supplement the initial broadcasts but their absence has presented golf with a rare opportunity to showcase its intricacies to a wider audience. In The Match II, there was a great example of what I mean when a mic’d up Phil Mickelson explained his thought process for his shot selection over a devilishly difficult pitch. In a match situation, viewers were handed the key to unlock the mind of one of golf’s great short game technicians. 

Of course, the charity element of that event lent itself to players taking on the role of entertainer. When golf resumes in the coming weeks, it will be for real and results will have consequences. Still, I’m not asking for golfers to play to their audience like Tommy Cooper. Anyone who watches live golf will be well aware that some of the most interesting moments in a broadcast can be caught by a chance microphone placement between player and caddie. Those interactions are often priceless. 

What better way then, to signal the return to competitive golf than to afford the fans unable to travel a kind of access they wouldn’t experience even if they could? Nobody has mastered this game for a reason but the stars set to partake in the Tour restarts around the world have come as close as any. Now’s the chance to let us in on their secret. 

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