Golf Commentators

johnny miller Golf CommentatorsI love golf, I think it’s a beautiful game. It teaches us more about ourselves than any other sport, it’s a model for life. OK, maybe I’m a little more golf dazed than most, but I care about this game and it’s future. Modern golf commentators are contributing to it’s downfall in my opinion. Keep in mind that the sport hasn’t grown in more than 20 years.

The US Open is still the pinnacle of US golf. The Masters is right up there, but the Open has the edge because it’s an Open – meaning anyone can qualify to play. It’s the true American championship, where the Masters is a global golf championship. The Open should be the height in US sports TV coverage as well, where the knowledge, reverence and respect for the game is clear and inspiring – yes inspiring.

Golf is not football, obviously. What works for football coverage does not work for golf because the atmosphere for each is so different. Golf is contemplative, lonely, steeped in tradition as much as rules. Players mostly walk around and think. If you added up the swing time for an individual player I can’t think it would add up to much more than 5 minutes. My longwinded point is that while Chris Burmen for ESPN is a perfectly nice guy, he doesn’t understand golf. One only has to look at the classic English golf commentators to see the difference. They are steeped in the game, whereas Chris looks like he’s only been prepped. His commentary is filled with phrases that apparently someone told him would appeal to all the average Joe’s and Joanne’s who play the game. Golf is a much more thoughtful game than the ‘yuk yuk’ comments and idle chatter that proliferate in football coverage.

At least Chris is positive and affable. While I admire Johnny Miller’s non-paralleled knowledge of the players, the courses and the game, I’m tired of the negative attitude. Did someone in golf do something to him that he’s still upset about. Guys can hit a bad lie to 15 feet of the pin and Johnny acts like it was a hack. Does he really feel that five foot breaking putts on the toughest greens in the world are kickins? He of all people should know how tough the game is. Tiger takes off 4 weeks and can’t make the cut. That’s how quickly one of the best games in the world can turn to just so-so on the pro circuit.

I’d love more commentary about the game and how it’s played. With golf not growing as a sport for 20 years, it ought to occur to someone that it’s in need of some help. If a pro’s blast out of a sand trap to 5 feet is ‘a bad miss’ then how do I feel when my blast doesn’t clear the lip.

Golf is a wonderful mental game. Why don’t the analysts explore more of it. Are most of the pros making a mistake at this year’s Open by playing for birdie. From what I can saw of Monty, he decided that par was right as long as it saved him the doubles that so many took because they tried to get a little to close to pins that don’t tolerate risk. Maybe that’s why so many non-US players did so well. They can think out of the box that so many US pros find themselves in, namely a monster drive and wedge for birdie.

I’d like to hear the commentators take on the increased length now in the game. Are they afraid to because of repercussions from club and ball manufacturers? How about the target golf that US tournaments have become. I’d prefer to watch lesser matches on Scottish links courses to see the real game being played.

With modern video tools, swing analysis has never been better. On the rare occasions when they analyze a player’s swing it’s fascinating. With more coverage the average player might realize that he or she could benefit from the same kind of analysis. Think what that might do for the game and those that try to make a living teaching it.

Personally, I think commentators owe as much loyalty to the sport they cover as to their employer. There are millions of fascinating things to talk about and watch in golf. Leave the jokes for football and the negativity for politics. Golf is under assault in many ways and commentators can do a lot to protect it.

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