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Jay Busbee

They're throwing golf tournaments, and nobody's showing up

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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Let's not mince any words here. Golf's in trouble from an attendance perspective.

This past weekend at the Northern Trust Open, the crowds were sparse to start with, and didn't get any better when names like Phil Mickelson didn't come through.

Now, the obvious kneejerk response is, "No Tiger, no golf!" And while that may be a factor in the lack of overall interest in golf -- though, to be fair, for many people the golf season doesn't begin until Augusta -- there's much more to golf's attendance problems than that.

Waggle Room points out that the Northern Trust made a crucial mistake -- it forgot its role in the great sports universe. It scheduled its final day on Super Bowl Sunday and, in a "what were they thinking?" moment, raised ticket prices by $20 a day.

The Golf Watch notes that this phenomenon wasn't just limited to Riviera; Dubai also suffered from attendance problems. And I think we can safely rule out the Super Bowl as being a factor in Dubai. Real estate collapses are much more likely a culprit.

But here's the thing -- we all know what golf needs to invigorate it over the short term. That's the cheap fix, like stuffing your face with Cheetos rather than waiting for dinner. The guy in the red shirt only plays 16 or 17 tournaments a year. So what's the rest of the Tour to do?

People scream about the way the golf media and casual fans prize drama over skill, but the simple truth is that a Phil Mickelson griping about grooves draws ten times the attention of a Steve Stricker performing with low-key excellence. But storylines can't be manufactured, they have to evolve organically. Otherwise you get paint-by-numbers ad campaigns with prefabricated badass golfers -- and is there anything more pathetic than a golfer trying to be badass?

Golf will bounce back; it always does. But I've got a feeling it's going to get rougher before it gets easier.

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