As my wife will testify, I spent far too much of this past weekend watching golf on TV.
Take more than half of the world’s top 20 or 30 golfers, put them on teams, and then play various versions of match play games rather than stroke play on a killer tough course and you have great television for anyone who has ever swung a golf club.
You see for most of the year in the world of professional golf you eat what you kill, salary wise. There are no guaranteed contracts to help you over the bad games; there are no team-mates you can rely on. It’s you and nobody else but you. Sure, the top 100 or so golfers earn a fortune. But the difference between those top 100 and the next thousand is a bit less than a stroke a round. And as anyone can attest who has ever tried to make a lot of 4 or 5 foot putts just to see who buys the beers – to say nothing of putting food on the family table or diapers on the kids – you can’t begrudge these top guys their riches.
And then once every couple of years they play golf in teams. It’s the US versus Europe (in the Ryder Cup) and the US versus the non-European rest of the world (in the Presidents Cup). The players struggle mightily to get chosen. They don’t get paid a single, solitary dime for playing (though they and their uniformly blonde, leggy, supermodel-like wives – there must be some PGA rule to the effect that once you’re a multi-millionaire you need this sort of wife – get treated wonderfully at these events). For part of the competition they even alternate playing the same ball, so the top players in the world are sharing the same ball and when they goof the other guy suffers. In golf, that’s real pressure. And all that team play is wonderful to watch.
Now I know that non-golfers wonder what the attraction is, in much the same way that I simply cannot see the appeal of watching Tour de France bike racing. (Personally, I don’t see why they don’t skip all the biking and just give the win to the team with the best steroid chemists, or those with the nicest lycra outfits.)
Anyway, on Sunday I watched one of the game’s great all-time players, Phil Mickleson, hack his way around the first three holes, playing so badly that his opponent Adam Scott didn’t even have to putt on any of those opening holes. They were conceded to him. And the world number 7, possibly one of the game’s future greats and a home grown great Aussie with a terrific back story, Jason Day, was so unspeakably awful those of us at home felt for a fleeting moment that we could play better.
And did I mention that on Sunday Tiger Woods seemed to rediscover his majestic form?
What a terrific way to spend a weekend (though of course if my wife is reading this then I want to make it clear that working hard in the garden is a very close second).