Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just another Sunday at the Masters

image from businessinsider.com

The PGA Tour has an impressive group of young players coming on of late.  Golf seems to be turning toward the younger generation’s athleticism and fresh swings instead of the older generation’s experience and course knowledge.  Guys like Aussies Jason Day (age 23) and Adam Scott (age 30) were right there in their pursuit for Australia’s first green jacket, finishing only two strokes off the lead.  The 21 year old Irishman Rory McIlroy owned the top of the leaderboard after 54 holes only to have one of the worst rounds a 54 hole leader has ever had.  Guys like Dustin Johnson (age 26), Rickie Fowler (age 22), and Ryo Ishikawa (age 19) are challenging the best nearly every time they are in the field.

Now add to the group the 140 pound South African Charl Schwartzel (age 26), the 2011 winner of the Masters.  After McIlroy’s painful collapse on the back nine, somebody had to take over to win the tournament.  Many guys hovered around the -11 to -8 range; nearly every shot aired on CBS could turn the tournament in someone else’s favor.  After the mess settled a bit, it seemed as if Aussie Adam Scott may run away with the green jacket.  That was until Charl Schwartzel decided he wanted it.  Schwartzel had been in the thick of it throughout the four days, but on Sunday he wasn’t settling for just a top ten finish.  The South African, who is a product of fellow South African PGA Tour player Ernie Els’ foundation to identify talented golfers in their country, went on a run.  Sitting at -10 with four holes to play, Schwartzel went on to birdie 15, birdie 16, birdie 17, and birdie 18 to win the Masters in dramatic style.

So much drama must have produced great ratings, huh?  Not so fast.  Sunday’s final round of the Masters on CBS generated a 10.4 Nielson rating.  Sounds alright except last year’s final round generated a rating of 12.0.  The 2011 final round had a spectacular finish and drama.  The 2010 Masters had Phil Mickelson’s historic 6-iron out of the pine straw while going onto winning the green jacket.  Oh yea, and Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf for the first time since the “accident”. 

The point is simply that the game of golf needs Phil Mickelson and more importantly needs Tiger Woods.  Tiger was in it this year with his front nine 31 on Sunday and was in the lead at one point.  We even got to see the vintage fist pump on the par 4 8th hole after an impressive eagle.  I must admit, seeing Tiger back in it and seeing the fist pump again gave me goose bumps.  Although many golf fans may have felt the same way, the ratings did not because a vast majority only knows Tiger and Phil.  Without Phil in the mix with Tiger this year, the ratings slipped.  For the game of golf to stay visible the PGA Tour needs to do one of two things: make sure each and every tournament has Tiger and Phil duking it out into the final round or market the strong core group of young players that are about to take over the game.  I would take the latter. 

-Written by Kevin Rossi

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