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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Televised golf providing much needed tonic in frustrating times

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Furloughed, watching Liverpool’s Premier League defence crumble like Jean Van De Velde with a three-stroke lead, Inter-county GAA kicked down the road, hearing our elected (and unelected) leaders writing off 2021 already, and looking at my still plastic-shrouded new three-wood gathering dust, positivity has been in short supply of late.

Thankfully, as anybody who’s been tuned to TV golf on a Sunday can attest, 2021 has been box-office quality. Week after week, for better or worse, golf has been the gift that keeps on giving.

It all began with Justin Thomas’ Hawaiian homophobic slur as Harris English won the Tournament of Champions despite not having won a tournament in over seven years – the kind of quirky idiosyncrasy that only golf can provide.

Kevin Na winning the Sony Open is unlikely to be in many people’s season highlights reel, but the diminutive Korean-American has a skillset totally unsuited to the bomber’s paradise tracks that are increasingly taking over. Watching him plot his way around the narrow Waialae Country Club was one for the purists and a stark reminder that there are many ways to skin a cat.

Few players divide opinion quite like Rory McIlroy. For some, watching Rory in contention soothes the soul, for others, McIlroy faltering on Sunday induces sadistic glee. Both cohorts had their fill as the ticking time bomb Tyrell Hatton chased down and out pointy-elbowed (©Paul McGinley) the four-time major winner in Abu Dhabi.

Controversy sells – we all know it – so Patrick Reed’s five-stroke victory at Torrey Pines made compelling viewing, even if the vast majority were in the “anybody but him” camp. As a shorter hitter (relatively) who relies on his fighting spirit and short game prowess, he should be something of a working class hero, but his questionable ethics make him public enemy number one. Say what you like though, a good villain is worth his weight in gold. And the ensuing social media gaffe that saw Reed’s official Twitter account and the @usegolfFACTS account – long suspected to be a burner account operated by a #TeamReed insider – post identical messages just minutes apart was the delicious icing on the cake.

Jordan Spieth on the comeback trail posting back-to-back 54 hole leads, Dustin Johnson resuming normal service by just being better than everybody else in Saudi Arabia, Brooks Koepka reminding everybody that he’s a cold-hearted killer with a major chip on his shoulder, and Pebble Beach in all its glory, unmarred by the celebrity circus that forms the “Am” section of AT&T’s annual festival of ass-kissing and corporate glad-handing.

Which bring us to the present week and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. The West Coast swing is undoubtedly the pinnacle stretch of the regular PGA Tour Season, and in true Hollywood Sunset Boulevard style, the Genesis at Riviera is the jewel in the crown. With the exception of the recovering host, Tiger Woods, almost every big-name in world golf is teeing it up in Tinsel Town on a storied golf course that challenges every aspect of the game.

I’m expecting a host of marquee names in the mix this weekend, and if that’s not enough to get the juices flowing, then televised golf probably isn’t for you.

 

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