ROG: Make the PGA Championship fun again
Rachel O'Grady | Monday, September 5, 2016
Golf is inherently a boring spectator sport. It’s simply hard to watch for extended periods of time.
Over the summer, however, I decided to at least try and pay attention to all the relevant golf tournaments, despite routinely confusing a bogey and a birdie. With the help of The Observer sports department, past and present, “R.O.G. Understands Golf 2016” ended up being a mild success — I have the PGA Tour app downloaded on my phone, I marked my favorite players and I developed an allegiance to Rory McIlroy. While I had my heart broken when I realized he was engaged again, the bigger heartbreak was when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
With all of this said, I paid close — well, close enough — attention to almost every tournament this summer. I competed in a Masters pool, I watched the U.S. Open on an airplane bound for New York City and I woke up early for the British Open tee times. When the PGA Championship rolled around, I was excited. I had a better grasp of the sport, I wasn’t texting members of the sports staff every five seconds to ask questions about what was going on and I was feeling good. That weekend, however, I was sorely disappointed to learn just how boring the PGA Championship is, particularly when compared to the other majors.
Every major has it’s “thing.” The Masters is the Masters, with the theme music, Augusta National and “a tradition unlike any other.” It’s a brand unto itself, and it’s arguably one of the most fun weekends in golf. The U.S. Open is always gritty — this year it was rainy — and frequently, the winning scores aren’t up to par with other tournaments. The British Open is traditional links golf, which makes for enjoyable play. But the PGA Championship has no “thing” that makes it special. It’s just the PGA Championship.
Golf can be fun, though. And practically speaking, there are a number of ways to make the PGA Championship more fun. A simple solution would be just to put it on the West Coast — always and with no exceptions. It can become the West Coast tournament — the one everyone else can watch when they get home from work. The time zone change will push a lot of the later holes into prime time, which could be exponentially more fun for the viewer.
There are a couple more, less realistic alternatives. First, make the players carry their own bags. This makes the tournament a test of not just skill but also endurance. Imagine Phil Mickelson carrying his bag around the whole course. I don’t know this for sure, but I’d hazard a guess he hasn’t done that in years. In contrast to all the pomp and circumstance of the other tournaments — particularly the Masters — having these golf superstars carrying their bags around like any other guy playing golf would absolutely make it more watchable and enjoyable. Alternatively, the players should have to ride in the cart with their groups. While simply a fun way to add variety to the game in the first two rounds, requiring players to ride with their groups adds a serious element of competition between the leaders. It wouldn’t achieve quite the same effect as having the guys carry their own bags, but at least the PGA Championship would finally have its “thing.”
Maybe I’m not a real golf fan if I can’t appreciate the blandness of the PGA Championship, and I can accept that. But the real thing I learned this summer isn’t how to get my phone to autocorrect “GPA” to “PGA,” but, rather, that golf is a fun sport, and there’s no excuse for the PGA Championship to be the exception to that rule.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.