By Gary Van Sickle The Flogging is a smorgasbord of news, opinion and occasional grass clippings from around the wide world of golf. Here's what you've been missing... The Ryder Cup is an event full of history, tradition and national pride. It is also a serious cash grab and has been for some time. The crassness will be in full bloom next week when representatives from six countries (France, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) gather to negotiate for the honor of being host for the 2018 match. (Come on man, Holland? Not even for 50 million golden pazoozas.) Alistair Tait nails it on Golfweek.com:
"The country with the most cash will get the match. Of course, the European Tour is not calling next Wednesday's powwow an auction. The official term is 'Symposium.'… Money has been the driving force behind Ryder Cups staged in Europe for as long as I can remember. In fact, I've never been to a Ryder Cup in Europe where the quality of the golf course was the priority… If the quality of the golf course was the driving force then no one would ever have heard of The Belfry, and Royal Porthcawl would be staging this year's Ryder Cup. Porthcawl is the best layout in Wales… It's been 29 years since the match was held on a classic British course - the 1981 contest at Walton Heath, a classic heathland gem. It could be decades before the match is staged over one of Britain's or Ireland's classic courses."It's too bad that the Ryder Cup, the most passionate event in golf, is all about the money -- this is the European PGA's main source of funding. Instead of the Old Course or Royal Troon, we get The Belfry, formerly one of the finest potato fields in England, or the K Club instead of Ballybunion or another of Ireland's spectacular tracks. Or, like this year, Celtic Manor in Wales. So don't bother speculating about which prime courses in the six chosen countries would be good sites, or which countries are most worthy because of the players they've produced. This will be about who writes the biggest check. That's right, chaps -- the Ryder Cup is more American than you thought.
Football folliesI had just finished playing in a golf outing Sunday afternoon at Troon North's Monument course in Scottsdale (my partner and I shot 63 in the two-man scramble, mostly due to him). We were attacking the buffet, but the big-screen TV was drawing a bigger crowd than the food. It was the fourth quarter of the Packers-Cardinals playoff game. No one even thought of putting on Golf Channel and the SBS Championship.
Yes, football rules. Especially when it's the local team. Several writers, including ESPN.com's Bob Harig, have suggested changing the format of the season-opening SBS Championship (currently for winners only) to create more buzz, or pushing back the start of the season so golf doesn't have to compete against the NFL playoffs.
I don't think that's the way to go. Why not just wave a white flag and admit that golf is a niche sport that has been riding a Tiger-induced bubble for the past dozen years? If you start dodging football in January, when snowbound golfers in the Midwest and Northeast are starved to see some green grass, when will it end? Do we cancel tour events in March because of the NCAA basketball tournament? April has baseball, June and July have the NBA and NHL playoffs.
Don't run scared from the NFL, just run hard. Lead and your hardcore fans will follow. A little creativity wouldn't hurt either. Golf in prime time two weeks in a row in Hawaii is genius. Try more of that, even if it means tape delay. How about ending a tournament on a Saturday instead of an NFL Sunday? And there's no live golf Monday through Wednesday. That's an opening for some enterprising tour. Require players to wear NFL jerseys and hire some less reverential, more entertaining talking heads. Lose the blazers. Run better tournaments, create better television, just be better. Steve Stricker finished strong last weekend in the SBS Championship, shooting
68-66 on the weekend, just like Zach Johnson did a year ago. That
finish propelled Johnson to victory the following week at the Sony. Paul Arnett in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin thinks Stricker is a good bet to win this week.
"If you enjoy those tumbling dice, pray -- as the Alan Parsons Project might say -- for the turn of a friendly card… and take a look at Steve Stricker at this week's Sony Open in Hawaii. ... Well, Stricker is one of 144 entered. That makes is something of a long shot… He finished in a tie for 23rd here last year. Not a ringing endorsement. But if you like to put $5 on No. 23 on the roulette wheel, believe the Dallas Cowboys should be odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl or think you've developed a system to beat 21, put some dough on Stricker."More Wales watching Most Americans don't know much about Wales, so Martin Kaufmann offers Wales for Us American Dummies, writing on Golfweek.com about the country and the excitement over the Ryder Cup: "Rarely has a country had so much riding on a simple golf tournament." He also quotes Sam Baker, a Cincinnati-based golf tour operator, on the virtues of Wales as a tourist destination: "Wales has a huge price advantage. We've never had anybody come back from Wales who felt they had a bad experience. It is comparable to the north and west of Ireland in the sense that it is rugged and undiscovered and has a very nice collection of links golf courses. . . . Is it as good as Scotland or Ireland? No, it's not. But for Americans making a second or third trip to the U.K., is it a good option? Absolutely."
(Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)