Golf fans seem to want what they can’t have, and it’s getting a bit tiresome.
This week was a Major test. Bethpage Black played as hard as it could and served up trouble around every corner for the players who usually enjoy going twenty-under par.
Brooks Koepka, with three Majors in his last seven starts, trashed the script and put daylight between himself and the field after 36 holes. He was 17 shots ahead of Tiger Woods when the 15-time Major champion left after missing the cut.
Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth were among those ‘in pursuit’, and Rory McIlroy rallied (really) late to make the cut. The winner, though, was fairly locked despite there being a long way to go.
Koepka wasn’t the winner-in-waiting the masses wanted, but he was the one that golf deserved.
And that seemed to set off a negative spiral, at least from the messages I received, the tweets I noticed and comments on Compleat Golfer’s various social channels.
The themes were: It’s a boring event, Koepka is a boring golfer, the course is too hard, the rough is too high, there’s not enough excitement because of a mixture of the above.
And that really made me think twice.
You have one of the world’s best players going out and executing on nearly every shot for almost three days and you’re not entertained? The course finally sets up to really examine the skills of all 14 clubs from the pampered globetrotting stars, who make insane money doing what we do for fun on weekend, and this irks you? That makes you turn off the TV? Now you’ve lost interest?
The sentiments of the New York crowd weren’t far apart from that of the global audience. Many were rooting for a Koepka stumble, combined with someone in the field making a charge.
Was that the case when Tiger was in his prime? Wasn’t golf a foregone conclusion when he had a 54-hole lead?
Why was it so hard to buy into watching Brooks do what everyone else in the field couldn’t? Surely there’s more to interest in the sport than only cheering and praising when it’s your favourite player in the lead? Or when anyone of 6 or 7 players can win it heading into the fourth round.
And at the end, if you bothered to stay up watching, there was drama aplenty as Brooks wobbled and DJ rallied. No 3 in the world being chased down by No 1 with only the back nine to play – isn’t that why we watch?
And so what if Koepka had gone out and obliterated the field on Sunday like he had on Thursday and Friday? Good for him, I say. And good for the game. He wasn’t managing his way around the course, he was pulling driver and taking aggressive lines. And with the kind of control that most of his peers will be asking their coaches to add to their game for Pebble Beach next month.
Speaking of which, will the public and ‘fans’ be okay if there’s another runaway winner, or if the weather sets in and the scores are high?
Or will the US Open only win rave reviews if a household favourite comes out on top with a birdie to beat five players on the 72nd hole?
Golf seems to have the odds unfairly stacked when it comes to delivering what those pundits, armed with the remote and slippers at their feet, expect.