Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today we kick around the idea of story versus sport in the majors.
Busbee: So as the glow (and the hangover headache) of Darren Clarke's British Open win fades, let's take a harder-eyed look: purely from a golf perspective, this was a fairly boring Open. Nobody really mounted a serious charge on the back nine, and Dustin Johnson's shot out of bounds effectively snuffed out the last of the suspense. Let's kick this around: obviously, the best kind of tournament is great play combined with a great storyline (see Torrey Pines, 2008). But since we rarely get that harmonic convergence, which do you prefer? Perfect match or perfect story?
Bacon: Well, first off, I'd have to disagree with your assessment that this was a boring Open. The first two days were dominated by an amateur, playing with his namesake. We had all the four seasons in four days, which is very Open-like. We had some of the younger generation playing great golf, a huge name on the American side mount a change (Johnson), and then Phil Mickelson, the biggest name at the tournament, nearly play his win into an unlikely championship. While I do agree that the back nine wasn't exactly Schwartzel-Woods-Day-esque, it was still exciting stuff, right down to the shank by Johnson on 14.
But would I rather have the story or the match? I'd pick the story. People aren't going to remember the 2008 or 2010 Open champion in 20 years, but they'll remember Tom Watson's charge in '09.
Busbee: Correct. I should've been more specific: a less-interesting back-9 Sunday. You're right, the lead-up was as good as golf gets. And in truth, we see this proven every single lesser-tournament week: we have runs of astonishing, playoff-finish tournaments and last-second desperation putts to capture victories, and because the big names aren't there, those tournaments get all the viewership of shopping networks selling old cheese. In truth, the idea of "story" is inextricable from golf, because we watch these guys for years, or decades, and we form a certain connection with them. So with that in mind, let's consider this: what would be the best story for the PGA? I've got my ideas, but I'll let you take the first swipe.
Bacon: I will add this; the Mickelson run-then not a run wasn't as much him struggling on the back as much as it was, "how many guys have ever shot 5-under on Sunday to come back and win a major?" Never happens.
But the best story for the PGA? A Tiger win. Nothing would come close. Mickelson could shoot 59-59-59-59 and the ratings wouldn't eclipse what would happen if Tiger and McIlroy were battling down the stretch on Sunday at the Atlantic Athletic Club. If he comes back and was in the hunt, the sports world would forget all about whatever lockouts are going on, and focus on one thing and one thing only; golf. I'd say the interest in a Tiger return/win at the PGA would rival when he hit the fire hydrant. And you?
Busbee: Um ... Nick Watney winning? Steve Stricker? No? I agree with you completely, a Tiger win outshines everything. But that's the easy one; we both knew that. So let's broaden the scope a little bit. Which non-major-winner do you think would make the biggest splash by capturing his first major at the PGA? I think you've got to go Sergio, right?
Bacon: I think Sergio would be great, but I think you could toss a lot of names in that hat, and isn't that why the PGA Tour is so crazy right now? It's like a college kegger. You show up, you know you're going to have a good time, but one minute you might be dancing with your college crush, and the next you might be swimming the university's athletic pool. Darren Clarke? Charl Schwartzel? Nobody guessed these guys (Well, except for this guy).
I think for pure public interest and a broader viewing public on Sunday, Sergio might be your guy. For golfers, it might be Fowler, Bubba or even Matteo Manassero, who would one of the youngest major winners ever. The list goes on and on, but one more question; is this good for golf, or do we need someone to start dominating again?
Busbee: Hate to say it, but we need a dominant figure. Look at how much interest Rory McIlroy has garnered. We need a focal point, someone to rally around. And that person has to be iron-willed and broad-shouldered -- metaphorically, of course -- because we're going to hammer that guy within an inch of his life with expectation.
And your turn. Great story or great tournament? Have your say, friends.