Golf things need fixing, soon


Five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods on the 12th tee at Augusta National. — AFP

THIS Masters week has been unlike any other, with all the story lines emerging from Augusta National Golf Club and beyond.

Some of the narrative was to be expected. The start of the first major championship of the season was delayed by poor weather, as an earlier forecast had detailed.

After that, things heated up somewhat, as they often do.

Much of the discussion has been centered on Scottie Scheffler. And the world number one did not disappoint in his opening round.

The American duly chipped away in soft conditions to sit just one back of leader Bryson DeChambeau, who carded a first day seven-under 65.

For the record, tournament favourite of many Rory McIlroy, who started a 10th successive Masters seeking a career slam, was one-under after the opening round, and defending champion Jon Rahm, who like DeChambeau plays on the LIV Tour, was one-over.

A few of the other sub-plots to turn up in the Masters really raised a few eyebrows, partly because some of the news was said to be best kept low-key, depending on which side of the fence you sit on in the great divide of world golf.

In substance, The Guardian mentioned that golf television audiences were down rather significantly.

The British media outlet, discussing Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, said he also made pointed reference to the fractured state of elite golf.

Television audiences in the United States are reportedly down by 20% this year, the paper added.

“Certainly, the fact that the best players in the world are not convening very often is not helpful. Whether or not there’s a direct causal effect (on broadcast figures), I don’t know. But I think that it would be a lot better if they were together more often,” it quoted Ridley as saying.

For some, it was quite difficult to fathom that the chairman of Augusta National does know whether their television viewership is down some 20%.

What is certain, though, is that those figures will be even greater outside of the United States.

And this is so because, like was mentioned previously, not everybody in the world loves the US PGA Tour as many Americans do, or some of those from faraway lands who are paid to do so.

The best players in the game are split these days between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. There is no debate there.

And as the official world golf ranking (OWGR) continues to sideline LIV players from earning points, the points system will continue to lose its relevance in the game and make it all that more difficult to determine just who is the best.

What the report about a drop in television audiences does also mean is that it should not be too long before sponsors begin to raise the issue if they haven’t done so already.

A 20% decline is steep, and sponsors will see this as a huge knock on their spreads.

We can rest assured that those in charge will not be forthcoming about what exactly is happening behind the scenes, if indeed some sponsors have raised the matter.

Unless, of course, we get lukcy and source a leak from somewhere – those things sometimes do happen.

It was also interesting to hear what veteran caddie Billy Foster had to say about the world rankings and the European Tour.

In a Golf Monthly article on msn.com, Forster, who caddied for some of the biggest names in golf, “criticised the official golf world ranking, which he feels discriminates against the European Tour and lacks credibility as LIV players like Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, and Bryson DeChambeau now languish down the rankings as their breakaway series doesn’t get any points.

“Yorkshireman Foster, speaking via CasinoAlpha.com, said: ‘I don’t know how the system works, but it’s all biased towards America, which is rubbish’.”

“Out of Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, and Bryson DeChambeau, they’d all be in the top 15 in the world, so absolutely, the ranking system is a load of rubbish.

“The European Tour has been absolutely destroyed by it.

“It’s so difficult to build ranking points on the European Tour, all the points go to America (the PGA Tour).”

Forster has caddied for the likes of Lee Westwood, Seve Ballasteros, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke and is with Matt Fitzpatrick at the Masters this week,and was with him when he won the 2022 US Open.

Forster said he “thinks the European Tour, now rebranded as the DP World Tour, may end up regretting shunning a potential alliance with Saudi Arabia and LIV Golf”.

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