Things I’d Like To Forget From 2014

Since everyone else is doing a year-in-review / best-of-the-year golf post, I decided to write about a few of the things I’d like to forget:

The 2014 Ryder Cup is first on my list. Even more so the embarrassing aftermath. And then the even more embarrassing “crisis committee.”

The simple truth of the United States’ Ryder Cup losses is this: the Europeans played better. The United States’ top four players—Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler—were a combined 3-9-3. It had nothing to do with the Captain, or the pairings, or the “chemistry.” On the course, when it mattered, the US team was outplayed.

I also want to forget the collapse of Ted Bishop’s presidency of the PGA of America. In many ways, I think this was closely linked to the Ryder Cup loss. Bishop’s “little girl” tweet would not gotten him fired if the US Team had won the Ryder Cup. He would not even have made that tweet if the US Team won. His ill-considered, defensive reaction was in direct relation to the loss and the player meltdown at the press conference afterwards.

It is a shame, really, I liked Bishop’s defense of the common man in the belly putter brouhaha. I’ve always thought that the PGA of America—not the USGA—was the golf organization on my side. While most golfers will never meet a USGA official, they interact with PGA pros on a daily basis. In his early presidency, Bishop struck me as a guy on our side.

I’d like to forget the PGA Championship’s finish in the dark. It was ridiculous and unnecessary, except to appease television money.

I want to forget the ridiculous “Hack Golf” initiative pushed by former TaylorMade CEO Mark King. Fifteen inch holes and soccer golf are not going to increase participation. I would bet that soccer golf fails to turn a single non-golfing soccer hooligan into a regular sticks-and-balls player.

The solution to making the game more fun, speeding up play and attracting more players is to get people to play from the proper tees. That’s it. No gimmicks needed. Everything flows from playing the proper distances.

Hack Golf leads me to something else I’d rather forget: the self-destructive product release cycle of the big golf companies, led by Mark King’s TaylorMade. That company released so many clubs in 2014 that I couldn’t keep track of them. My best guess is that it was six drivers and five iron sets. Maybe more.

Savvy golfers know that there’s no need to buy a new club from any of the major companies on release, because another one is just around the corner that promises five more yards and ten percent more accuracy. If you want Driver X, wait three months until a new model is released, and Driver X is on deep discount.

That new release-and-deep-discount cycle leads to something else I’d like to forget about 2014: Dick’s Sporting Goods firing 500 PGA pros. Apparently the stores’ golf departments just weren’t profitable.

I’ve spoken to several ex-Dick’s employees since then and all agree that profitability of the golf department was down because the manufacturers flooded the channels. Each time a new club was released, the stores were stuck with a pile of the slightly older models that they couldn’t get rid of.

On the Tour Pro side, I’d like to forget all of the early 2014 media hype surrounding the player formerly known as Tiger Woods. The Major Golf Media told us that 2014 was Eldrick’s year, featuring Major venues thought to be friendly to his game. Not so much.

As for me, I stand by my prediction of five years ago that Eldrick is done winning Majors.

Similarly, I’d like to forget the effusive exuberance of the Major Golf Media over Rory McIlroy. Yes, he had a very good year, but he is not—as Colin Montgomerie suggested—better than Tiger at his best. I frankly don’t understand the need of the MGM to build and obsess on a single player. Football writers don’t focus on Tom Brady to the exclusion of all others.

I’d like to forget the entire Dustin Johnson show: the squandering of enormous talent and his perhaps-perhaps not drug suspension. I’d like to forget the media’s obsession with his girlfriend Paulina Gretzky’s boobs.

In fact, I’d just like to forget major golf media coverage of the game in 2014 altogether. The hero worship, fawning obsequiousness, and obsession with sex and glamour is just embarrassing. Amanda Dufner in a bikini is not golf news. Rory and Carolyn’s hijinks are unworthy of coverage outside the tabloids. I got a journalism degree in the early 1980s, when the memory of Woodward and Bernstein was still strong. Journalists were supposed to chronicle, question and explain. There is precious little of that today.

Finally, I’d like to forget the incredible bad taste of the European Tour in continuing the Madeira Islands Open after popular caddy Ian MacGregor died on the 18th fairway in the final round. That they did sounds like a bad golf joke.

I’m hoping there will be less of all of this in 2015.

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