After dispatching defending champion Geoff Ogilvy in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday, Henrik Stenson was asked about his 2001 mega-slump, which almost drove him out of the game and which NBC alluded to repeatedly in a telecast that rivaled a weather delay for pure excitement.
"I probably only heard [the question] a thousand times," Stenson said, trying to move on.
But the journos on hand weren't having any of that. They'd just sat through a 10-hour display of less than stellar golf between two guys not named Tiger or Phil, so the least Stenson could do was help them write the story.
A member of the press plowed ahead with the line of questioning:
"Did you just lose your swing?"
"Yeah, sort of lost the swing and then obviously lost the confidence," Stenson said, for the thousandth time, "and one thing leads to another. The first couple of provisional golf balls don't bother you that much, but after a while you start—(Stenson laughed)—when your caddie is rattling in the pocket to see if he's got a provisional when you're standing over the drive, you know you've got some sort of a problem." (More laughter.)
So the Fourth Estate had its money quote, the quote that might make Stenson, a lanky Swede who plays behind mirrored sunglasses, relatable, but to paraphrase the Accenture champ, when that's the day's highlight, you've got a problem. Sunday's action, which also included Trevor Immelman's consolation match victory over Chad Campbell, was so bereft of drama that it fell to Jimmy Roberts to liven things up with a segment on Tiger Woods, who had lost in the third round on Friday. Apparently he'd still lost.
Like the NCAA basketball tournament, or Eddie Murphy in a fat suit, the Accenture is grotesquely front-loaded, just as it's been since its inception in 1999. If anything interesting happens, it usually happens in the first three rounds, Wednesday through Friday, when 56 matches are played and most marquee names fall off the board.
In '99, Jeff Maggert beat Andrew Magee in 38 holes, a classic duel between two guys nobody cared about. Darren Clarke resuscitated the young tournament in 2000 with a cigar-fueled, 4&3 victory over Tiger, but Steve Stricker over Pierre Fulke in 2001, and Kevin Sutherland over Scott McCarron in 2002 didn't move the needle on Sunday.
Woods won back-to-back titles in 2003 and '04, and while dominating in 2005 David Toms played arguably the best golf anyone not named Tiger has played in 10 years.
Here's what ought to be done to liven things up: Invite the women.
The Accenture is golf's version of a major tennis tournament: single-elimination, with most everything resting on the quality of the semifinal and final. One of the things tennis has going for it is that men and women play concurrently at the same venue. Right away you double your chances of having at least one star in a final, and of getting at least one compelling match in the prime viewing hours Saturday and Sunday.