The Presidents Men Come to Town

 

If, like me, you have played a lot of (bad) golf, but don’t follow the PGA tour that closely outside of the majors, then a local Presidents Cup is about as good an opportunity as you’ll get to put faces to some unfamiliar names. The team match play style of the event also exposes the top players to very different pressures from those of the normal tournament. It was instructive to see who flourished and who didn’t.

The following are some relatively random thoughts on the four days of golf just gone.

 

–          There was theorising in some quarters about the International team not really representing an identifiable area, ala Europe. Derrrr…  But what are the options? Anyway, the point of the exercise is trying to knock the Yanks off. Pick the best team you can from wherever.

–          Many local pundits were placing great store in Royal Melbourne’s greens and the Americans’ alleged inability to travel outside their own shores (the ‘prawn factor’- why doesn’t Kyle Sandilands host that?). The proponents of the Prawn Factor came a raw one themselves. If anything, it was a couple of locals who spectacularly failed to come to grips with the conditions.

–          By the by, nowhere in discussions was it asserted that the Internationals were actually the better team.

–          Like a Test match on a bowlers’ pitch, golf doesn’t need a birdie-fest to put on a great show. Friday was fascinating for the spectacle of great players desperately striving to grapple with fiery greens and fierce winds. Many pars were minor epics in themselves.

–          Lean and spare of frame, Jim Furyk has a classic American face straight out of a Dustbowl photo. He should have been a Disfarmer subject1. His swing has always been his own,  all flying elbows and looping backswing. No coaching manual approach here folks. He’s apparently had a poor year by his standards, but he’s the sort of hardnosed, gnarly old pro who seems born for match play. 5-0 over the four days would support that. Holing the putt is what match play is all about, and he did this so relentlessly it came as a shock late on Sunday when he actually missed a couple of 8 footers. The painful pre-putt routine he and partner Mickelson employed was probably designed to grate on opponents’ nerves (it certainly got on Jack Newton’s), but was also a declaration that they didn’t care what anyone else thought. They were here to win.

–          Prior to this week, I couldn’t have picked Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas or Hunter Mahan out of a witness line up. They all showed themselves to be tremendous players. The USA golf assembly line seems to produce an endless supply of these guys. All so coolly efficient and methodical, the only thing they outwardly lack is some flair and personality. I’m sure their bank managers care about that.

–          Bubba Watson seems a notable exception to this rule. The next Daly in the making?

–          Greg Norman’s pairing of Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day seemed to be a statement of his estimation of their talents. Likewise, matching up Baddeley against you-know-who in the singles.

–          Jason Day entered the contest as the Internationals’ highest ranked player, but after an ok opening day had an absolute Barry Crocker thereafter. He should take the way Hunter Mahan recovered from previous Cup traumas as the example to follow.

–          Mr Mahan was apparently an undercover cop in a previous guise. This may account for his choice of sunglasses, which made him look like a dodgy private dick out on the divorce-case trail. Stylish or not, the 4 points he took home will no doubt compensate. That, or his bank account.

–          20 year-old Ryo Ishikawa looks like an absolute Super Star in the making (sorry, slipped into James Brayshaw mode there).

–          The television broadcast was a reflection of changing media economics and the decline of the once mighty Nine Network. There’s no way Kerry would have done this event on the cheap by piggy-backing off the NBC feed. The resultant (often bewildering) vision chopped and changed like the director was suffering Tourette’s periodically. At least we were reminded that it’s not only Oz networks that are prone to parochialism.

–          The contrast between the actual golf commentators (IBF, Grades, Jack) and Nine’s usual suspects made for entertainment in its own right (of a kind). As a golf commentator, Eddie reconfirmed he’s an excellent Collingwood president. James Brayshaw is obviously paid by the superlative. Kenny Sutcliffe’s turn as course announcer gave me a renewed appreciation for Craig Willis’ body of work.

–          Did they forget Karl Stefanovic? Or isn’t he a golf fan?

–          Is Robert Allenby destined to join Brett Ogle riding shopping carts in Drummond’s ads?

–          On the final day, Phil Mickelson’s first four holes may well be the worst four holes ever played by someone of his talent. Yet such are the vagaries of match play that he almost took his singles game to the final hole. In the end, it didn’t matter.

–         The Fanatics seemed less teeth-grindingly annoying outside of the tennis context. Mind you, you couldn’t hear their chants on tv.

–          If some promoter ever decides to run a hybrid Greco-Roman wrestling/golf competition, K.J. Choi will go first pick in the draft.

–          I’ve got all the way to the end of a golf article without mentioning the words Tiger Woods. Surely this deserves some sort of prize?

–          Ok, ok. I know it’s required by the laws of commerce and sponsorship. Anyway, The Great Man (©Brayshaw) didn’t really live up to the profusion of superlatives for the first couple of days. It seemed apt that his former caddy drew more headlines (snore). On Saturday afternoon he showed signs, but couldn’t buy a putt. That was rectified by Sunday. The stunned look on Aaron Baddeley’s face indicated what he’d run into. There’s no doubt the talent’s still prodigious, but the world is no longer the certain place that Earl’s little boy was brought up to believe it was. It will be interesting to see how he goes from here.

 

I couldn’t bring myself to bleed over the final result, although there’s no doubt it mattered to the players. But the event has served to rekindle my taste for golf-watching. Am I alone in this?

 

1 Mike Meyers (better known as Disfarmer) became posthumously famous for the photo portraits he took of the people of Heber Springs, Arkansas, from 1939-45. If this interests, more information is available from here.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. Andrew Fithall says:

    JB – I don’t watch a lot of golf but this format is well set up for television viewing. There was a lot of cutting to different players, but every match was meaningful to the overall result.

    My gripe (I don’t always gripe!!??) is something that is irritating me more and more – the television networks have taken the entire country for a ride on High Definition TV. This additional resource was granted by the government to the existing television players and they have simply hived it off to their second-string channels leaving the viewing public short-changed. Events like these (and the AFL Grand Final etc etc etc) should be on HD. Murdoch and Rinehart by buying into channel 10 have damaged what was the only worthwhile HD free-to-air channel 1HD. The national broadcaster has opted to put their 24 hour news channel on HD. Good option. NOT. I choose to pay for pay television and have taken the HD option. I was able to switch away from Channel 9 to the Foxtel feed. Same pictures – different commentators. The vision on Foxtel was VASTLY superior to what was offered on free-to-air.

  2. JB

    I found it fun to watch, but was fairly dispassionate insofar as any team support went. Found myself barracking for individuals, rather than a team.

    Actually, what I was really barracking for was for someone to send a ferocious low, hard slice into The Fanatics.

    Andrew, that’s something I would want to see in HD.

  3. John Butler says:

    AF, Robert Allenby could probably have done without his tortured expressions being broadcast in HD, but you have a point.

    If the current tv license owners can’t turn a profit and keep up with technology, then maybe give someone else a go.

    Fat chance of that.

  4. John Butler says:

    Litza, I was waiting for that Fanatics comment. :)

    But the Yanks loved them. Gives you an idea of their home supporters maybe?

  5. David Downer says:

    Some nice work off the tee there JB.

    I’m no golfer by any stretch, but tuned in whilst laid up crook. It was an “event”, and one just down the road to boot.

    No doubting that Ch9 is, in Old Boys Club terms, “Still The One”. Ed, “Braysh”, Mark Nicholas. Blimey. I thought the Cricket starts next week? It was a gushing love-fest from go to whoa. They were more carried away with the occasion than the blokes with actual golf knowledge and backgrounds.

    At 5:30 on the Sunday, ironically enough Ch9 cut to S.Crawford on Postcards teeing off at the RACV club. So I flicked over to Fox for the closing ceremony.

    What transpired was possibly the most pompous, grandiose backslapping garbage witnessed in Australian sporting presentation history (including the GG’s Melb Cup speech). The players made a grand entrance – with their partners – who also wore matching uniforms! So an event just 17 years old is banging on traditions more befitting the Colonial Age.

    The whole formal americanised vibe of it was more reminiscent of the graduation ceremony from Police Academy. All that was missing was Mahoney and Jones pulling pranks on Captain Lussard.

    Ed was at his “fantastic” and “sensational” best as the MC of course.

    Worse followed when G.Norman whole-heartedly thanked the Fanatics for their “support”. These feigned enthusiasm Barmy Army-chant-ripping attention-seeking pickles do not need further encouragement. Do you think they, (or any of us for that matter), really gave a stuff about the Internationals actually winning?

    Like T20 and ODI’s, sure make it a contest, but who gives a stuff who ultimately wins it…

    End rant.

  6. … I would like to see Lt. Moses Hightower sort a few Fanatics out.

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