By: Tom Cunneff

Why I Do Watch Golf On TV

Golf is one of the few sports where watching it on TV is actually preferable to being there in person. Take the recent Ryder Cup. Unlike Jim, I was glued to the entire telecast, which like most Ryder Cups was the most exciting golf event of the year (although, interestingly, it really has no historical relevance when it comes to a player’s career achievements). 

I know from people who were there that it was impossible to see much of the action in person, so TV was really the only way to take in all the riveting drama, particularly on the last day. I’m not the only one who felt that way since the Sunday telecast on NBC achieved a 4.1 rating, half of what the Masters was but still pretty impressive with the NFL on. 

But this really isn’t a debate about whether the Ryder Cup and the majors are good TV. Clearly, they are; even my curmudgeonly colleague admits to that. This is really an argument about whether the tournaments that make up the bulk of the PGA Tour—the Hondas, Wells Fargo’s, and Crowne Plazas—are worth watching even though the storylines aren’t as compelling. I have to say I look forward to watching just about every telecast and haven’t missed at least part of one in years. (Yeah, I know, Jim. I need to get a life.)

First and foremost, I enjoy seeing the courses the pros are playing and the mental vacation it provides, whether it’s the start of the season in Hawaii, the West Coast Swing and the shots of Pebble, or the leafy layouts of summer in the Midwest and Northeast. The Fall Series now going on serves as a perfect illustration to my point. After vicariously visiting Vegas last week, I get to go to Northern California this week, and Sea Island, Georgia, next—all in HD. And now that Golf Channel rebroadcasts the first two rounds at night, it turns into a four-day holiday instead of a two-day one. (It’s hard to believe that there was a time not too long ago that us working stiffs had to wait till Saturday to watch golf on TV.)

Second, I enjoy watching the best players in the world swing the club, despite the cookie cutter quality of their motions. I find the perfect geometry and rhythm of their swings inspiring. Perhaps it was easier to tell players apart when they had more idiosyncratic actions, but I find it much more helpful to see beautiful, in-sync moves than I do homemade ones. I’d much rather watch Rory McIlroy swing the club than Jim Furyk (above). Who cares if I can’t hit it as far as they do? I can certainly try to swing it like they do and maximize my own potential. 

I also enjoy the Darwinian nature of the tournaments. Nobody gets a cent for showing up and playing two rounds and all the expense that entails unless they make the cut. And if you get a close, exciting finish with some boldface names in the hunt on Sunday, well, then, that’s a bonus. It also helps that I belong to a fantasy league so that also keeps my interest up. 

Now granted, I’ve been known to catch a few ZZZ’s now and again during a telecast, but that’s just another reason to love televised golf. I don’t have to worry about the announcers’ sotto voce play-by-play or the polite and muffled golf clap waking me up.

My only complaint is that there is no break that makes us miss golf on the tube. I think fans would be better off if we were starved a little bit with a longer off-season, like the major sports do. That’s why I absolutely refuse to watch any Champions Tour events, unless it’s one of the five (or is it six?) majors, of course.

Hey, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

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