Good Stuff, Scary Stuff In Pro Golf
There’s a lot of good stuff happening in professional golf these days. But there’s also some stuff going on that’s just a little scary.
The PGA Tour has proved that it can survive without Tiger Woods. And for those worried that the quality of golf would drop off considerably without Tiger, well, how’s Rory McIlroy doing?
The Northern Ireland sensation obviously has the talent to dominate golf tournaments. Despite that unexpected malfunction on Sunday in Augusta, he’s proved he’s the real deal.
Tom Stewart, the local golf guru who operates the Old Sport Gallery and Bookshop in Pinehurst, is as knowledgeable as anyone when it comes to the game and the people who are the movers and shakers of the sport. He makes no bones about how he feels about McIlroy and the future.
Stewart is currently in Michigan, operating a shop there during the summer months, and plans on coming back to Pinehurst in September, hopefully after the 100-degree weather has lifted in the Sandhills,
“Rory has been my favorite golfer since he came on the Tour,” Stewart said in a recent exchange of emails. “He has all the natural talent to be a great player and has the perfect disposition for the game.
“Rory is the anti-Tiger. He is grounded by virtue of his upbringing and the sacrifices his parents made for him.”
Stewart understands that the golfing public is hungry for a new idol and thinks Rory fits the bill handsomely.
“We always want to crown the next Arnie, Jack or Tiger,” he said. “Americans need a new hero, and Rory is a fresh face. He’s humble, honest and accessible, and he genuinely likes people. Tiger has none of those qualities. But we should let McIlroy alone until he follows up his U.S. Open win.”
As much as he likes McIlroy, however, Stewart doesn’t think we should expect him to totally dominate the tour.
“I don’t think anyone is going to equal Tiger’s run on the Tour,” he said. “At his peak, Tiger struck the ball better than anyone in the history of the game.
“Still, it will always be open to question if he accomplished his record or parts of it with the help of performance enhancing drugs.
“Rory’s only vice seems to be the occasional pint of Guinness, and some of us wouldn’t consider that a vice at all.
“I don’t think it’s a question of whether Rory will succumb to the pressure of golf, but rather if he can handle all the demands of success. A mentor of mine once said, ‘Big money and success will make you more of whatever you are.’”
If that’s the case, then let’s hope that McIlroy is what we’ve seen so far. The kid is a fresh drink of water for the sport.
As for the downside of golf, we have only to visit the LPGA Tour. I hate to harp on this, because I truly enjoy women’s golf. But frankly, I don’t see how the women’s tour can survive much longer in this economy.
Then again, there’s more wrong with the LPGA than the economy. I watched at least some of the LPGA Championship during every round last week, and it was disheartening to see the sparse attendance.
I mean, here we were, in the heat of a battle for a major championship, and there was nobody watching in person. I don’t know what the television ratings were, but the live attendance was almost nonexistent. Heck, I covered the LPGA Championship back in 1976 when it was held at Bay Tree in North Myrtle Beach, and the live attendance was gigantic compared with what it was last week.
I covered several of the Henredon Classics in High Point years ago and they always had a good turnout.
So what’s going on here? It isn’t the product; the caliber of play is better than ever. The players are attractive and engaging. They sign autographs and make themselves accessible to everyone. Only problem is, everyone is about 60 people in the average gallery. I haven’t seen a large gallery at a women’s event since the 2007 U.S. Open at Pine Needles.
Is it promotion? Or is it that no one cares anymore?
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