I’ll begin by saying, I know I shouldn’t complain. It was only a few months ago that I watched two dogs racing to the bottom of their dinner bowls because it was the closest thing to live sport I could find on the internet.
And I know golf has been in a privileged position since the lockdown, swinging freely long before other sports ever could. I even think I owe PGA Tour Chief Jay Monahan an apology for staring COVID-19 in the face when America looked to be suffocating under its spell and pulling off a Tour restart that, bar the odd infection, continued squeaky clean.
But as far removed as my sports channels are now from the monotonous trips down memory lane that occupied them from March through May, I can’t sit back and pretend that the Tour Championship at East Lake is anything other than a vulgar pile of steaming slurry masked in FedEx fanaticism and false fanfare.
Am I jealous that a guy could go out and shoot four rounds of 80 and collect a cheque worth $395,000 for last place? Absolutely, but for all the PR spin summoned from the darkest crevices of the Sky Sports commentators’ derrières, nothing can distract from the obnoxious duffle-bags of cash being traded meaninglessly between the thirty players who scarcely need it each time this parade of wealth rolls ‘round.
I know they earned the right to get there through supreme talent and hard work and that I’m just bitter because I never will, but when the rest of the world is suffering because of this poxy pandemic, it makes the wallet waving of the PGA Tour’s elite that much more difficult to swallow.
And I’m sure it’s not just us regular folk earning regular livings – or not as the case may be given the impact of global lockdowns – that find these annual cash bonanzas grating. For those players based in Europe grinding their nuts off in the name of golf, the disparity of wealth must irk further still.
While the top-30 at East Lake were filling their boots with cash, cars and holidays like Winning Streak contestants rewarded for being able to articulate ‘The Rock of Cashel’, those in Europe were playing for vastly reduced prize pots on a significantly tougher quiz show. Valderrama was like The Weakest Link on steroids, each hole peering into the golfer’s soul like Anne Robinson would a stuttering guest.
If you missed the European Tour’s latest outing in Andalucia, American John Catlin earned just over half what compatriot Billy Horschel pocketed just for turning up at East Lake. And Catlin had to earn it, pounded by questions and just about armed with the answers where two-over par proved enough to claim an exhausting win.
In golf, as in life, it seems the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. If you’re not finishing in the top-10 on a satellite tour leaderboard, you’re barely covering your week. While the PGA Tour hogged the limelight and Valderrama bared its teeth, Naas pro Jonathan Yates secured his best finish in some time with a top-20 result on the Alps Tour. The €660 he banked wouldn’t have even covered expenses.
But I realise I’m barking down the wrong capitalist tree here, and my idealistic hopes will be lost down a whirlpool of cigar smoke and top shelf scotch as the blazers sip to another FedEx Cup “classic”.
Sadly, even the format of the season finale is a shambles where it affords the form player, who also happens to be the world number one, a head-start over the field. It’s like Marty Whelan giving DJ the Spin of the Wheel without letting the other contestants have a go at the Wheel Reveal. Which makes for super news if your name is Dustin Johnson and you happen to be short $15million but it sucks the life out of the whole production for the common fan watching at home.