This past Saturday and Sunday afforded me several hours each to watch afternoon golf. I was flipping between the PGA’s Valero Texas Open and LIV Golf’s tournament in Orlando.
I have been following professional golf for about seven years. Before that, I knew almost nothing of the PGA, except for the 20 years of the sports media’s incessant coverage of Tigers Woods; I assumed he was the only pro golfer left. As a kid, I had no family members interested in golf, so I never learned anything about it. I had no idea who any pro golfers were, outside of Arnold Palmer’s name being stitched into one of my childhood sport coats.
So I may not be able to fully grasp the heritages and traditions of golf, like those who grew up, lived and breathed the sport from an early age. I have no emotional connection to players, courses, and tournaments of old. But on an intellectual level, I am certain of one aspect, that golf is inherently a gentleman’s game, if not the gentleman’s game.
I was thinking about this foundational characteristic of golf while watching the two telecasts. The PGA’s, perhaps by its incumbency, offers a very refined presentation. There is always an epic feel to those final holes when the tournament is close, like it was this weekend, with Stevens pushing hard on a late eagle. The stories of guys trying to break through for the first time on the PGA Tour (Rodgers) are pure enjoyment for the golf television spectator who is not vested in any particular player.
The irony of LIV Golf poaching so many of the PGA’s top talent is that it has opened the dynamics for the “little guy” underdog stories in ways not possible two years ago. And even more weirdly, LIV might have the names, but they don’t have the stories beyond what is obviously phony hype for the LIV team format. What really is there to talk about these guys now, except that they are chasing money? Many of them will start to see their eligibility fade for PGA events like majors, outside of the few, for example, who are past Masters champions who get to return to Augusta every year.
(Full disclosure – I know that they are all chasing money, but the point is the clear negative optics against those who left the PGA Tour.)
…but back to what is really important for me as a casual spectator, and that is the presentation of the golf product. If I take the premise that golf is the gentleman’s game, then it is hard not to observe that much of what LIV Golf’s TV coverage is doing cheapens that elegant expectation. If I have the choice between a polished broadcast following the usually interesting journeys of the participants, and a product whose background sounds reminds me of an annoying neighbor’s “music” reverberating through my walls, there is simply no choice.
I really do hope LIV Golf is a worthy competitor to the PGA Tour, as that should strength the macro-level products of both for the spectator like me. But this weekend, I gradually leaned of my attention towards Valero as the afternoons concluded, wearisome of the social media posts featuring people’s pets watching LIV Golf.