The U.S. Open gave us a microcosm of all that is wrong on the PGA Tour these days.
Tiger Woods missed the cut and you could hear the air going out of the balloon. How many pre-tournament stories were written and broadcast about the thrilling possibility of Woods and Phil Mickelson batting it out on the home stretch of Winged Foot?
It should have been a thrilling finish, with a pack of players so tightly bunched toward the end. Instead most of the drama came from the players who blew it: Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie on the 18th, Paddy Harrington, Jim Furyk - pick one. Winged Foot was difficult, but wasn't there anybody among the best players in the world - besides Geoff Ogilvy, who backed into a win - who could at least make a shot?
Dan Jenkins, the noted golf writer, told Anthony Cotton of The Denver Post, "This is the worst period in men's golf I've ever seen, in all of the thousands of years that I've been out here."
Jenkins' point is that only Woods and Mickelson have real star power and only the major are interesting, because they're so big that anyone who wins them becomes a story. As for the rest of the Tour, who cares?
"It's just a bunch of people you don't care about," he told Cotton. "God forbid Tiger and Phil get hit by a truck because I don't know what they'd have left."
I sort of agree.
Whatever happened to the Big Five? Five's an interesting number. There's enough there to hold your interest. Any of those lesser PGA Tour events that had a combination of the Big Five going mano a mano down the stretch usually held your interest.
Now, there's only the Big Two, Woods and Mickelson.
Singh will never be a superstar in terms of fan appeal because of his lackluster, drone-like personality. Those "Sign Boy" commercials only serve to make him seem even more humorless.
Els still hasn't gotten over his knee injury and has slipped to seventh place in the world rankings after finishing tied for 26th at Winged Foot.
Goosen also missed the cut at Winged Foot and, of course, shot an 81 last year after leading by three strokes going into the final round. He's out of the Big Five in earnings, though still ranked fourth in the world because of that system's focus on past performance.
It's so bad that Americans are even pulling for foreigners, like Scot Colin Montgomerie, who we used to hate. The New York galleries pulled for him at Winged Foot, although his boorish behavior after his double-bogey on No. 18 will probably quash that love-in.
While I haven't been around for thousands of years - just hundreds - I can't say I totally agree with Jenkins. But it is true that Mickelson seems to be the only one with the cojones these days to stand up to Woods - except when he's actually paired with him.
We're having to look to the awesomely big hitters now for our thrills - guys like Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes, who top the tour in driving distance. Another young guy creating a stir is Camilo Villegas, fifth in driving distance and first in the hearts of the womenfolk.
Well, there's Sergio Garcia if he can ever learn to putt, Adam Scott and ... uh ... maybe I do agree with Jenkins.
This provides plenty of ammunition to all those people saying the LPGA and its young stars are catching up. Michelle Wie may be a marketing phenomenon, but she is definitely shaking things up, and her squabbles with other young guns always make for good reading.
Maybe that's what the PGA Tour needs. If nobody is going to challenge Woods and Mickelson, a good barroom brawl would revive what is becoming an ongoing bore. That's why I'm looking forward to the Ryder Cup Matches.
July 3, 2006
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