Most golfers will tell you that they have a love/hate relationship with the game. Their emotions change from shot to shot. Once they are off the course, and socializing around the 19th hole, golf becomes a far more enjoyable activity.
A few years ago I was actively involved in a golf league called Pigbodies Golf Association. We don't have enough time to get into the name, and when the statute of limitations run out on the felonies and misdemeanors, I might write a column about that whole era, but the point is that golf can be wildly fun.
However, it is undeniable that the game of golf is not only physically difficult, but as our own golf insider, John Markiewicz says, "Golf is a mentally challenging game." He goes on to point out. "It is a great game to learn to play. It teaches you gamesmanship, honesty, humility, and joyfulness." I would concur and add that I have made many friends playing golf too.
Anyway, after watching the thrilling weekend of golf, at the The Open Championship, where a rising star, and a young American, Collin Morikawa won, I started thinking about the great events in golf coming up and wondering what the state of golf is today. I asked John to share some of his thoughts as we go in depth on all things golf.
I want to first focus on the two major tours in the USA, the PGA Tour for men, and the LPGA Tour for ladies. The PGA Tour dominates the golfing world in prize money, stars, fans, and ratings. In the TV era the late Arnold Palmer put golf on the TV map. Jack Nicklaus dominated in the 1960's 1970's, and into the 1980's where prize money grew and fan interest was captured. After some lean years, along came Tiger Woods in the 1990's, 2000's, and 2010's and golf exploded worldwide.
For the past ten years or so, Tiger has been either hurt, or recovering, from various injuries and personal issues. Yet the PGA Tour has continued to march along because of the development of all the kids who grew up watching Tiger that are now playing professionally. The quality of players is deep and diverse, if you think a hundred and twenty white upper class men are diverse.
As John has noted, "The state of the PGA Tour going forward is going to be great. Young talent is making it fun to watch. Guys like Morikawa, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, and Justin Thomas on the US side, and some new faces like Viktor Hovland, and Jon Rahm on the European side, will continue to make each week exciting."
One of the things the PGA needs to work on is bringing more golf tournaments to the Midwest. One tournament in Western Illinois and one in Columbus, Ohio is not enough. John adds, "The PGA Championship used to be held exclusively in the Midwest but recently they have moved it to either coast, why not bring this major back home?"
The LPGA has made the Midwest their home with around a half dozen tournaments each year there. They also have added more tournaments in Asia where the current tour leaders are from. While this has made the fans in Asia happy, it has cost the LPGA viewership here in the US. Tape delay, late night time slots, and many times, Australian announcers, make the broadcast choppy and unwatchable.
The good news, for US fans, is that for the first time in a while, US and European players are starting to take over the leaderboards. Currently nine of the top twenty LPGA players are either from Europe or the USA. This should help bring back those lost viewers.
Additionally, as John says, "Every week someone new seems to be winning a tournament, which creates tons of interest, and helps to develop new stars." He goes on to say, "The LPGA would attract more fans if it was promoted better, and as much, as the PGA Tour is promoted. If the PGA Tour would help to promote them it would make a difference. I also would love to see an end of the year tournament, with players from both tours, in some kind of team event, where they are paired up with each other. This would dramatically improve visibility for women's golf and would be fun for the fans too."
The next three team events on the schedule are the Tokyo Olympics, which will feature the men from 7/29 - 8/1, and then the ladies from 8/5 - 8/8; then the US women face off against the European women in the Solheim Cup from The Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio on 9/4 - 9/6; finally the US men go up against the European men in The Ryder Cup from Whistling Straights in Wisconsin from 9/24 - 9/26.
These are some of the most heart pounding events in golf, and the fact we are lucky enough to get them, basically, back-to-back-to-back is incredible. The top sixty players in men's golf and women's golf will tee it up in the Olympics. This limited field event will include golfers that we rarely see each week on tour as they represent their countries.
It will be wide open for both events, but, both John and I agree that there is going to be some advantage for the locals. Look for Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, and Viktor Hovland to lead the men, and Nasa Hataoka, Danielle Kang, and Nelly Korda to fight it out on the ladies side.
In the Solheim Cup the Europeans are the current title holders so advantage them, they only need fourteen points to retain the title while the USA needs fourteen and a half to win it back. John and I both think the USA will win it fairly easily, by at least two points. We expect the Korda sisters, pictured above, will be strong and dominate their matches to lead team USA.
The Ryder Cup is another story. John is strong on team USA to win, and I think team Europe will prevail. It will be close, but alternate shot will once again bite team USA in the butt and be the difference. It will for sure be must see TV. You can see both tournaments on The Golf Channel and NBC.
At another time John and I will discuss how golf can help the average golfer improve his or her game. In the meantime, get out and play, and if you can't play take the time to watch golf for the next sixty days where you will see some wonderful shots and emotional endings.