As we all know, golf often takes it
on the chin for having an image as being too elitist, a stereotype that isn’t
always wrong in this country.
But I sit here slack-jawed, having
just read one of the most unfounded, absurd, dare I say idiotic, attacks on the
game I’ve ever seen.
It comes from a very unlikely
Cohen, the ethics columnist for the New York Times.Now that the International Olympic Committee has given golf
a tentative thumbs-up for the 2016 summer games, Cohen evidently felt compelled to question the
wisdom of their decision in a column headlined, "Is Golf Unethical?"
You’ve got to figure the column
isn’t going to play out well for golf when, early on, Cohen cites that authority on all
things ethical, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who recently dismissed golf as a "bourgeois
Weighing the IOC’s favorable take on the game
– "golf’s underlying ethos," Cohen calls it – he concludes that "on
has the stronger case."
Cohen goes on to concede that the golf
community isn’t "monolithic nor immutable," but he does note that the "current
customs and values of big-time professional golfers" who are most likely to
play in the Olympics "seem remote from the Olympic ideal."
And don’t think Cohen is taking a swipe at only the
millionaire Americans on the PGA Tour.He finds the
"international perspective" on millionaire golf pros in a piece in The Irish
Times, by Bruce
Selcraig, during the 2006 Ryder Cup: "They drive the same
luxury cars, have the similar messy divorces, and whether they be from Denmark or Denver offer
up the same golf cliches in a globalized TV-read
English that pleases their corporate sponsors."
Not to quibble, but Selcraig
writes from an international perspective only if you consider Austin, Tex.,
where he lives, not to be part of the US of A.
Then, in what Cohen clearly considers a kill shot
from point-blank range, he reveals what he really doesn’t like about golf: PGA Tour
golfers are too conservative.
Still citing that internationalist Selcraig,
who found a Sports
Illustrated poll of 76 PGA Tour pros, Cohen notes that the poll found that 91 of the pros favored the
confirmation of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court; 88 percent supported the
invasion of Iraq;
and 0 percent had seen "Brokeback Mountain."
Haven’t seen "Brokeback Mountain?"The nerve of not going!
Of course, you know what’s coming
next.That’s right, Cohen goes
right to the issue of Augusta National, home of the Masters, not having a female member.It also does not escape his attention
that in 2002, during the Martha Burk-inspired protests over the club’s membership policies,
that a certain Tiger
Woods was "conspicuously
willing to play at a sexually segregated club" and that his "complacency"
Unsatisfied to simply cast golf as
an elitist game that Chavez believes is not a "people’s sport," Cohen goes on the assert
that golf courses are essentially a blight on the planet.After all, they require pesticides and
gulp too much valuable water, making the game not in keeping with the Olympic Movement’s
declared intent to "encourage and support responsible concern for environmental issues, to
promote sustainable development in sport."
Where to begin refuting this load of
I know; I’ll begin by saying I’m a
yet this is the kind of drivel that makes me want to smack an Upper West Sidewimpy
liberal and spend the rest of the day watching Fox News.
To dismiss an entire game as
unethical -- of course, golf has no ethics per se, no political bent -- because
the .0001 percent of golfers who make it to the PGA Tour are generally conservative is
What made this column really stick
in my craw is that I happened to read it on the very day that a friend’s 14-year-old son,
who was trying out for his high school golf team, called me for advice.It seemed he faced a situation that
tested – you got it -- his sense of ethics.
During the round earlier that day,
he had been paired with another kid who was also trying out, just the two of
them.The coach had instructed
them to keep each other’s scorecards, like they do on the PGA Tour.His dilemma was this: He didn’t think the other kid was
counting all his strokes, whether deliberately or not.
A relative newcomer to golf, my
young friend wrote down the scores the other kid told him, and even signed the
scorecard after the round.But not
long afterward, it began to eat at him.By then, the other kid had left, so it was too late to confront
him.My young friend’s question to
me was this: Should he say anything to the coach or should he just keep his
My advice: Pull the coach aside and
tell him what happened.
The coach handled it well.He thanked my young friend for having
the courage to step forward, even if it was a little later than was ideal.At that point all he could do was say
he’d keep an eye at the other kid the following day, when he’d be back for the
second half of the tryout.
That, Randy Cohen, in a nutshell, exemplifies
Come to think of it, name me any other
sport where the most elite players, regardless of their political leanings,
routinely call penalties on themselves for infractions that nobody else would
have ever known about.
If fact, in golf, if you want to
cast a shadow over your integrity that will follow you for the rest of your
career, simply give your peers reason to believe you breeched the game’s strict
code of self-policing – in other words, its code of ethics.Hey, just ask Vijay Singh.
While Cohen faults Augusta National for its lack of female
members, which I also find regrettable, it is after all a private club and free
to establish its own membership policies. Anyway, does Augusta National’s lack of a female
member undo the good the club does by donating much of the proceeds from the Masters to
local charities?That figure was $3.4 million
this year and $39
million over the past 12 years.
Oh, and let’s not forget that with
the glaring exception of the Masters, neither the PGA Tour, the PGA of America nor the U.S. Golf
Association will allow any of their tournaments to be held at clubs with
similarly restrictive membership policies.Actually, there is even some talk that Augusta National might finally be ready
to reverse it own policy, in the person of no less than former Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice.
As for golf courses generally being
a detriment to the planet, hogging water, perhaps Randy Cohen missed a recent story
that occupied a substantial chuck of the front page of his own paper, the New York Times.
The headline was "On the
Fairway, New Lessons in Saving Water."Datelined Atlanta, it was a lengthy and detailed report on how increasingly government
officials and corporations are turning to golf course superintendents for their
expertise in how to reduce water and chemical usage.Apparently, necessity being the mother of invention, golf is
leading the way these days.
As for PGA Tour players being too conservative
Cohen’s tastes, even I have to admit that they do come by it somewhat
honestly.Golf, after all, is not
a sport where players sign multi-million dollar, multi-year, no-cut contracts
with teams.In golf, there are no
guaranteed contracts.Pro golfers
are lone wolves who eat only what they kill.
To Chavez’s point that golf is not a sport
of the people, give me a break.Like what, those other sports of the people in the summer games such as
sailing, fencing and equestrian.
And did either of them bother to
look beyond the gilded clubs like Augusta National to a local muni, like Cobbs Creek in West Philadelphia or FDR in South Philly,
never mind much of England and most of Scotland, where the game is quite
egalitarian.Don’t blame a game
for what some people have done to it.
While the big news out of the Solheim Cup was a third straight
victory for the Americans, two other
compelling story lines were definitely grabbing headlines.
At 49, Inkster was playing in her eighth and final Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest
Farms outside Chicago.As she
eclipsed Meg Mallon over the weekend
to become the U.S. team’s all-time
points leader, Inkster vowed that
this outing brought down the curtain on her long and storied Solheim Cup career.
"I’m not doing a Brett Favre," vowed Inkster.
Meanwhile, the U.S.’s 16-12 win over the Europeans also marked the impressive arrival,
more or less, of rookie Michelle Wie
as a future star on the LPGA Tour
and a future staple on the U.S. Solheim
Wie, the former wunderkind, was a captain’s pick by Beth Daniel, along with Inkster. She responded by going 3-0-1 – the best record among Americans – highlighted by her
victory on Sunday in singles over European
It was the kind of performance
golf fans have been waiting to see from Wie,
whose career has already been so up-and-down it’s easy to forget she is still
only 19 years old.Inkster, among others, believes it was
just the kind of confidence-booster the young Hawaiian needs to rejuvenate her career.
"I would bet you a large amount of
money that Michelle will before the
year is out, said Inkster.
For anyone who has followed Wie’s see-saw career, it was also good
to see her smiling once again.
Maybe it doesn’t seem like it right now. Maybe our image of Tiger Woods as invincible and super
human is shattered for the moment, but this is good for golf.
Who among us didn’t watch in utter disbelief -- jaws on the floor-- as some
guy we’d never head of named Y.E. Yang
faced down the mighty Tiger?
Who among us hadn’t figured that Tiger’s15thmajor championship
was already in the bag, in the record books, a foregone conclusion?Tiger
blow a two-shot lead in the final round?Yeah, right.No way?Fat chance.
Not gonna happen.
It’s tempting to say that Tiger
didn’t blow the PGA, that Y.E. Yang came and got it.But the fact is, Yang shot 70 in the
final round, not 63 or 64, and Tiger shot 75.That’s blowing it.We just can’t believe it was Tiger who did the blowing.
If you watched the post-game press conferences, Tiger was in a place I’ve never seen him before.He looked stunned, beaten, humbled,
like a hit-and-run victim who hadn’t quite gotten the license plate of the car
that just hit him.He had no
excuses because, well, he had no excuses.For once, the opposition refused to
fold in the face of his intimidation and he flat-out got out-played.
Tiger said he hit the ball great on Sunday, and it looked like he did.But he missed a half-dozen putts that
he usually makes.Come to think of
it, for all the awesome length and majesty of Tiger’s tee shots, never lose sight of the fact that it is his short
game – specifically his putter – that has always separated him from
the rest of the golfing pack.
We are left to wonder what this means?Is Tiger now
broken, or brought down a notch?Or is it a freakish occurrence, a minor mishap?Remember, even if he didn’t win a major
this year, he has still won four times so far, including state-of-the-art, back-to-back wins at the Buick and the WGC-Bridgestone
just before this.
I started by saying I think this is good for golf.I do, because I think this makes Tiger seem human, not some mythic
figure.Everybody saw this, everybody.
The next time Tiger strides
onto the practice tee at a tournament, with that air he has of a man who cannot
be beat, who owns golf, every single guy on the range will look up and
notice.They won’t say a word,
they wouldn’t dare, but they will think, "It turns out you can be beat, Tiger Woods.Next time, maybe it’ll be me."It gives them
hope, a reason to work harder.
Imagine what Phil Mickelson must
be thinking tonight.
Best of all, this will spur Tiger on
to even greater things.Words
cannot describe how he hates to lose.The man who we thought couldn’t work any harder will work harder.He is determined to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.He will, eventually.On Sunday at the PGA, he was
denied in humiliating fashion.In
the long run, he will not be.
Itís his putting that was way off at the PGA. His best round was on Thursday when he teed off early and the poa greens were freshly cut. His last 3 rounds started late in the day when the poa grows and blossoms. On Sunday, when he missed very makable birdie putts on 1 & 2, I thought he was in for a long day. Yang stood up to the test and won the tournament. That hybrid shot of his on 18 was terrific. Iíve added a 5hybrid to my bag this year. My lowest iron is a 6. Those hybrids work for me too-just not a the same level
Is it just me or does the idea of a full-throated debate about whether
golf should be included in the 2016
Olympics also make you want to curl up and take nap.
I mean, really.I love
golf.Played it since I was 8 or 9.I make my living writing about it. I watch way too much golf on TV.Still, for some reason, I couldn’t care
less whether golf becomes an Olympic
Chances are, it’s going to happen.On Thursday, the International
Olympic brass picked golf and rugby from among a half dozen or so sports
(baseball, softball, squash, karate, roller sports) for proposed inclusion in 2016.
I am fully aware of the arguments in favor of adding golf to the Olympics – namely, that it will
give the game worldwide exposure, immediately igniting golf crazes in such
potentially robust markets as Russia,
China and India.
No question, given the current economy and the sluggish growth of the game
here in America, equipment
manufacturers and out-of-work golf course architects would love it.
The PGA Tour also supports
golf’s Olympic push, along with the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient, the governing
bodies of golf, whose missions include growing the game.Even Tiger Woods, the only golfer who really matters, said this week at
the PGA Championship that he would
play in 2016, if he’s not retired by
then.He said that last part with
I also know the arguments of the naysayers, that golf already has four major championships that are
increasingly full of international players, not to mention the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and the World
My only reason for shrugging is, well, what has happened with
basketball.I am old enough to
remember when the United States, long the king pin of basketball, got beat by
the Soviet Union in the 1988 Olympics, largely because of a
cheap, bogus call but a ref.Of
course, that’s when it was our college players against the essentially
professional national teams from around the world.
Our response was the original Dream
Team in ’92, an array of NBA
stars – Michael Jordan, Larry
Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen
– that mowed down the international competition.
Boy, did we show them.
Okay, but here’s the thing.That first U.S. win in ’92 was sweet.Revenge is always sweet.But somewhere along the line, I stopped keeping track of Dream Teams.We made our point.Now, Olympics basketball is like a bad NBA All-Star.Do you care?No.Do you
My fear is that golf in Olympics would be cool in 2016.Then it would go the Dream Team route.By 2020,
when Tiger really is retired, the Olympics would be a burden that Tour
pros who reluctantly try to squeeze it into their schedules.Another week they’d play for free.They’d say they were playing out of
national pride, but deep down, it would be because they didn’t want to be ripped
in the media for not wanting to play for the US of A.
I ‘d prefer that didn’t happen.And so, when the subject of golf in the Olympics comes up, my reaction
is to yawn.Sorry, I’m just
If Tiger Woods’ image is at a rock bottom, you wouldn’t know it from
the reception he is getting at the AT&T
National at Aronimink GC.
Not only did Tiger have the largest following during
Wednesday’s pro-am, around the golf course he was greeted with applause and
pre-scandal respect and awe.No
catcalls, no hoots or hollers, no thumbs-down, no embarrassing banners being towed
overhead behind airplanes.
It almost feels like Tiger is still the host of the
tournament, despite the fact that he was famously dumped by communications
giant AT&T at the wake of his
personal life meltdown and his name was scrubbed from the tournament.
On Tuesday, Tiger was ushered into the media center
for his pre-tournament press conference, which felt no less official than when did
them as the host of the three previous AT&T
Nationals at Congressional CC in
And late yesterday morning, Tiger was seated front and center at
the tournament’s opening ceremonies on the back lawn behind Aronimink GC’s ornate clubhouse.He was right there with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and rocker Jon Bon Jovi.
So confusing is his role
here this week that earlier today CBS
Sports, which willbroadcast
the tournament Saturday and Sunday, issued a press release headlined:
WOODS HOSTS AND AIMS TO DEFEND TITLE IN "AT&T NATIONAL" ON
JULY WEEKEND, JULY 3-4 ON CBS SPORTS
Minutes later the network
sent out a corrective press release:
PLEASE NOTE PREVIOUS RELEASE ...."TIGER WOODS HOSTS AND AIMS
TO DEFEND TITLE AT AT&T NATIONAL" .....
TIGER IS DEFENDING TITLE, NOT HOSTING
Of course, whether Tiger is hosting or defending doesn’t
seem to much matter to golf fans.All they seem to care about is that they’re finally getting to see the
No. 1 golfer in the flesh.
For reasons that never made much
sense to me, golf, which often gets lumped in with polo and yachting as a
frivolous pursuit of the rich, took a major public relations hit during the
nation’s financial meltdown a few months ago.
Remember the outcry over Northern Trust,
which took bailout money, having the audacity to sponsor the Northern Trust
Open in Los Angeles? And don’t forget the fallout when AIG was discovered to be entertaining clients at a golf resort.
Suddenly, from coast to
coast, companies and corporations that had long used golf to lubricate the
gears of commerce were distancing themselves from the game, for fear of being
portrayed as fat, rich and wasteful.
At the U.S. Open
many corporations tried to get out of their contracts for hospitality
tents.Of those who stuck it out,
many opted not to display their corporate logo.
And nothing sums of the
state of things any better than the recent departure from the game of Buick, once
the sponsor of four PGA Tour tournaments, not to mention Tiger Woods.
So it was a pleasure, and
a surprise, to pick up yesterday’s New York Times and see a positive story about
golf, accompanied by photo, occupying a large chunk of page 1-A.
In a nutshell, the story
said that in areas such as the arid Southwest and drought-ridden Southeast,
nobody has figured out how to stretch a gallon of water more efficiently than
your average golf course super.
"In Georgia, golf course
managers have emerged as go-to gurus on water conservation for both industries
and nonprofit groups," said the Times story, which carried an Atlanta
The story recounted the
horrific drought in the Southeast of a couple of years ago, and described some
of the creative measures golf courses adopted in their misery use of water.
They mowed less frequently and more selectively, found grasses and plants that needed
less water to survive and, of course, reduced irrigation, to name a few
president of the Georgia Water Wise Council, told the newspaper that her group had
relied heavily on golf course superintendents in drafting guidelines for
homeowners and industries.
As somebody who has hammered Michelle Wie with criticism over the past couple of years, let
me be the first to say, "Welcome back, Wie."
Did you see that U.S. Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel made Wie,
who is still only 19, as one of her two captain’s picks for the upcoming match
(The other pick was eight-time Cup veteran Juli Inkster.)
And did you see and hear young Wie
when they handed her the microphone at the press conference?
"I am so honored and so
thrilled," she said. "I'm just so excited to be wearing this jacket and this
hat and to be representing my country; it's such a thrill for me. I'm just so
honored and so thankful that Beth picked me and I'll do my best not to let her
so...poised, so...grown-up, so...likeable.
the sullen attitude Wie had shown in recent years, replaced
by a new reality-based view of herself and the world around her.Can it be only a year or so ago that Wie was careening from one bad
decision to another?
she did seemed to be wise or right back then: playing injured, firing caddies
or agents, making yet another ill-advised and failed attempt to play against
the me in a PGA
Tour event.It was beginning
to look like the erstwhile promising young phenom
from Hawaii was going to implode or, more likely, simply fade into
something happened once she got to Stanford.Maybe it was because she was a little older, a little wiser
– or maybe she discovered life not being under the thumb of her
began to blossom, or blossom once again. You never see or hear about her
parents these days.She seems to
have taken control of her own young life and, frankly, her life and career
appear to be on an upward trajectory.
Now, having earned her way onto the LPGA tour
via Q-school, Wie is a rookie in good standing.She still hasn’t won a tournament since
Women’s Amateur Public Links, when she was 13, but victory will come sooner
rather than later.So far this
year, she has five top 10 finishes in 13 tournaments and ranks 17th
on the LPGA
If she didn’t earn one of the 10 Solheim Cup spots
on points, it was only because she ran out of time. Wie was 13th on the points list, an
impressive feat considering she did that in only one year.Everybody ahead of her earned their
points over two years; if they had gone by only this year’s points, Wie
would have ranked 6th and made the team on her own for the Cup, set
21-23 at Rich
Harvest Farms outside Chicago.
The bottom line is that the Michelle Wie we all rooted for several years ago looks like
she’s back.Good.Here’s hoping she does well in the Solheim Cup, gains
a ton of confidence and truly sets her young career on the fast track once