Wanted: PGA Tour Personalities

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - February 09, 2011
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Moments before UH’s Jan. 29 men’s basketball game against Utah State, where 5-foot-9-inch mighty mite Miah Ostrowski turned in one of the most-inspiring performances in Stan Sheriff Center history, a conversation with UH baseball announcer Don Robbs produced an interesting comment:

Today’s golfers lack the personality of the ball strikers of old.

Robbs acknowledged his opinion may have some generational bias, and came after watching Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson defend their Champions Skins Game title at Kaanapali — but that doesn’t make his observation incorrect.

The radio veteran is not alone in his wish to see more personality from modern touring pros.

The Tour needs Tiger to talk

Yes, we have the Tiger fist pump, though not as common as it once was. There’s Camilo Villegas’prone putting alignment and the various WAGs who are typically highlighted in online Maxim features. But real personality is a rare commodity, and commentary — well, forget it. PGA interviews make comments from the NFL sound like Wikileaks revelations. There is no place for a Lee Trevino or Chi Chi Rodriguez in the drab world that is now the PGA Tour.

Trevino’s gift for on-course gab would be labeled as phony as Phil Mickelson’s smile, and Chi Chi would be a showoff, his sword act and hat on the hole simply ways to one-up the competition. He might even get called to Tim Finchem’s wood shed.

Sadly, this sort of enthusiasm is exactly what the tour needs.

Networks have done well adopting technology like AimPoint and ShotLink to help highlight the abilities of the contestants, but as impressive as it is to see someone bend a shot to take advantage of a hidden pin position, it does nothing to help the viewer get an inside look at one of the most-secret relationships in sports: that between a golfer and his caddy.

Except for the occasional conversation picked up by boom mikes over the years, golf has been a mostly silent sport. The Golf Channel has begun wiring willing golfers for sound on a limited basis, and the walls have started to come down.

That has some golfers worried.

Justin Rose recently wrote on golf.com that he does not support the idea because he doesn’t want to feel self-conscious or, even worse, perhaps give away something the competition could use against him.

This isn’t the NFL where a pilfered playbook can alter the outcome of games.

Announcers know which club a player will use from what distance because almost everyone in the field hits it the same length.

The only real secret that could get out is the true colorful nature of conversation that goes on between golfers, and between a golfer and his caddy. Going blue is a real problem. It makes TV execs nervous, and is such a part of Tiger’s repertoire that things could get even more vanilla.

But this is a quick fix. Don’t swear. It’s not that hard. Playing winning golf is about controlling your emotions. Don’t tell me someone steady enough to stand over and sink a $400,000 putt cannot purposely trade a frick for a, well, you get the idea.

Miking players will be a tough sell regardless of how much it could do to market the sport. And it would do wonders for a game in which its most bankable star just finished in a tie for 44th on a course on which he grew up and has won eight tournaments.

So why not mike the cad-dies? This would allow for recorded conversations while giving the player a good measure of control over what is being heard.

And we want to listen. We want to hear Tiger’s aggression, Ian Poulter’s trash talking and Boo Weekly’s booisms.

The PGA cannot market outlandish flashes of violence, blistering slap shots and gravity-defying dunks, but it’s got personalities. Imagine the marketing possibilities of customized tele-casts to international audiences so Europeans can hear Lee Westwood and Martin Kymer work their way around a course, and South Americans can listen in as Angel Cabrera, Camillo Villegas and newcomer Jhonattan Vegas go about making their continent proud. Not to mention the strange silence when Tiger and Phil walk the fairways together.


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