This wasn’t supposed to be anything to do with the PGA Tour, or LIV. Although the irony of that is that I probably wouldn’t have started writing if it wasn’t for a very real thing in professional golf. Missing cuts. Unless you’re the 0.1% of the 0.1%, missing cuts is a far more exhausting part of professional golf than any amount of competing can possibly be. Walking the internal tightrope of analysis and instinct, and understanding when one clouds the other or when one is disguised as the other… missing cuts isn’t the only cause, but it certainly gives you more time to do it. How do you spend that time when thinking about it might be what helps you climb you out of it? But it also might dig you deeper into it? That quote about hoping the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train is a fun way to spend your weekend when you’re not getting paid.
But it’s not supposed to be a blog about missing cuts either.
I think some of what the PGA Tour has done (probably primarily in response to LIV) has been good. Having a situation a little while ago when the two current best players in the world could both cement their position at the top, playing in two different tournaments on opposite sides of the globe, made absolutely no sense to me. That hopefully shouldn’t happen in the future. There are other things I don’t like, and I suspect a lot of other fans don’t either, but I certainly understand it. And that doesn’t have to mean that LIV is right and the PGA Tour is wrong, or vice versa. It also probably doesn’t matter whether you or I agree or disagree on any or all of it. The balancing act between any professional sport as a sport, and as a business, is more delicate than most of us would like. Keeping the integrity of competition (and your soul) while surviving, and thriving, in a world where money strangles just about everything is unenviable. And perhaps, despite the confounding logic, what we want to see as fans isn’t always what holds the most value. That’s why LIV has got some things right too. Some of their (perceived) intentions make sense.
But the issue for me is that golf will never be football, or F1, and trying to make it so – while it may bring in new fans(?) – detracts from what golf really, inherently is… and why it has appealed to the audience it has for so long. Is it the right thing for professional golf to try and widen its audience? To “grow the game”? I personally think some of the current existential issues come from believing those two things are the same thing. Golf needs to diversify, yes. It needs to be more accessible, and equitable, to a more diverse population. But does that mean it needs to be played and structured in a different way at the top? What is the top? The players or the governing bodies? The manufacturers or the purse strings?
The funny thing is (you will definitely know if you follow me) football is part of my soul. And my post Drive-to-Survive interest in F1 is bordering on obsession (Is Alonso going to get pole in Bahrain???). There are still money and power related complications that I struggle with in both of those sports, as there are in governments all over the world, but I understand my own personal reasons for why I want to watch them without really over-thinking it. I do understand that those reasons are very different for each sport. I’m not sure there has been a collective awareness or acceptance of that in golf.
The ever-shifting dynamics at the top of men’s professional golf, as well as my lack of enthusiasm for wanting to write so much, have made me question what and why it is that I have had a pretty constant desire to watch the professional golf product over the years – and why it has probably been less so since all these things started happening. I haven’t figured that out yet but I think a lot of it comes back to the reason I started writing this particular blog on this particular evening: the all-consuming power struggle in golf is actually nothing to do with any particular tour or purse-string. For golfers, for most existing fans (I think), it’s actually just golf itself. The desperate, mostly blind grasping of your potential in one hand and your reality in the other.
I’ll be spending my Sunday trying to bring those hands closer together.
And maybe watching the conclusion of Bay Hill… and Bahrain.