This is part of a series of great golf arguments. We’ve asked SI’s Jim Gorant and Rick Lipsey to debate whether the silly season is super or superfluous. After reading their arguments, tell us what you think in our forum.
I can sum up everything that’s wrong with the Silly Season in two words: Fred Couples. I know, Couples is a nice guy, cool, laid-back, friendly, and I’ll get attacked for attacking him. But my problem is not so much with him as it is with what he represents. Couples is the virtual poster boy of Silly Season, the no-pressure, just-for-show exhibitions that start when the actual competitions end. In 552 career starts on Tour, Couples has won $19 million; in only 56 silly season events, Couples has won more than $8 million. In other words, when it’s time to play for money, he’s been good, but probably not as good as he could have been. When it’s time to play for fun, the guy is, well, money.
And that is the problem. There’s nothing on the line in these events. It’s a bunch of guys in casual Friday get-ups goofing around on the golf course. Any tension, frustration or anger they may experience because of a bad shot is strictly coincidental and instantly soothed by the guaranteed payouts that await. If there’s any golf equivalent to the Ice Capades, this is it. I take that back. At the Ice Capades there’s at least a little drama: someone might fall.
In theory, it could be interesting to see Tour players in a more relaxed environment having fun. That is until you actually see them doing it. I don’t subscribe to the belief that all professional golfers are boring, but the truth is that to excel at golf you generally need the type of level-headed, analytical, no-nonsense personality that does not make for spontaneous TV fun (with a few notable exceptions). If the big stars showed up, like they used to, that would add something, but they don’t come anywhere near these events (with the exception of Tiger Woods’s command-performance invitational, the Target World Challenge). Instead of big personalities and stars, you get events that feel more like an Ernst & Young corporate outing with microphones.
The formats don’t exactly tantalize either. In case you haven’t seen it, let me remind you that the Skins Game is a two-day, 18-hole event. That’s right, four guys play nine holes a day for two days. The endless succession of commercials and the thrill of watching Bret Wetterich and Zach Johnson walk down the fairway is not exactly a formula to take down American Idol.
Apparently, some people do enjoy watching all this, but during the holidays folks are looking for anything to keep them on the couch so all the trans fats and nitrates they’ve consumed can work their magic. Heck, the dog show draws an audience this time of year, so why not golf’s dog-and-pony show?
Do whatever you feel is right, golf fan, but I’m sticking with the actual competitions.