In golf, unlike any sport out there, fans long to watch their veterans. Sure, baseball and football and basketball and hockey retire numbers and jerseys, but there isn't a yearning to actually see the old guys play against the young guys. At least not like there is in the game of golf.
We love the idea of a 50-year-old winning the Masters, or a veteran coming in and making a cut on his last leg, forgetting about all the young players out there simply just asking for that one chance to prove their worth.
This issue came up at this week's PGA Tour stop, the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head. Nick Faldo was extended an invite because he's a past winner, taking this title as his first ever win on the PGA Tour back in 1984. Faldo, fresh off his broadcasting duties at the Masters, accepted the invite and opened with a 6-over 77, currently tied for last place at the event.
This didn't go over well with one Web.com Tour player, Josh Broadaway, who took to Twitter to show his disgust for a 56-year-old taking up a spot in a PGA Tour event where plenty of other names are just trying to earn checks and keep their dream alive.
Here was what Broadaway had to say on Twitter.
Faldo...REALLY??? Get back in the booth and give the guys a chance to play that are trying to keep their job!! #STEWPID— xHandedbandit (@joshbroadaway1) April 17, 2014
Nick Faldo +3 thru 5.....does anybody know where his shots fall?? And how many guys are competing in the net division?? #CmonMan— xHandedbandit (@joshbroadaway1) April 17, 2014
@AlexBudd my point is dont take a spot from a guy that needs to be playing. The first 5 alts aren't making a million to broadcast the wknd— xHandedbandit (@joshbroadaway1) April 17, 2014
The argument here can go one of two ways, but before you make a decision, I want you to see what Faldo said in his press conference before the tournament began.
"Preparation is slim. I'm doing everything on — all on fond memories at the moment, trying to gear myself up a little bit as a golfer. But between my TV schedule and other things, it's kind of like start preparation on a Monday," Faldo said, continuing later with this. "I probably practice one percent compared to what I used to practice ..."
And on his goals for this week?
"The best goal is to make the cut. That would be‑‑ that requires an awful lot of good, consistent golf. That's the intention."
Now, there are obviously two arguments here. The first is simple: Faldo is a past champion who has been a staple in golf for decades and should be able to play in any event he wants to play, especially if he won that event in the past.
This isn't a wrong argument. This is fair and true and if someone wants to sit on this side of the fence I wouldn't think it was a bad decision.
My point on all of this has been and will continue to be this: Golf is a "catch lightning in a bottle" sport. I've seen guys qualify for Web.com events on Monday, keep the momentum going and win that week, changing their lives forever. We've seen plenty of Web.com players have great weeks on the PGA Tour, even winning, and making their dream a reality in just four short days.
But more than all that, you are limiting the chances of a professional golfer by bringing someone in that doesn't really have a chance of competing. Faldo being there is great for some, because he's a name that might draw a few people to watch and over the weekend he will be able to give us in depth points about the golf course, how it's playing and what to expect from each player on the holes coming in.
But is that what we want? Is that a better story than "Web.com player gets in as last alternate and goes on to win?" Did everyone forget about John Daly at Crooked Stick?
My problem with this is it's a curtain call for Faldo, not a great act. We want to see the action before we can cheer, and taking a spot away from someone like Hudson Swafford, the first alternate at the Heritage who sits 137th on the money list, could mean the difference in him playing professional golf next year (the top 125 players on the PGA Tour money list qualify for a tour card the next year) and him trying to figure out which insurance to hawk.
More than any sport out there, golf is a game of opportunity. The greats make it themselves, but the guys that are "just good enough" to hang around the tour for years and years are those guys that got the breaks. They got the invite to this tournament or that, or they were allowed in an event that they didn't expect to play. That is how these guys advance up the golf food chain, and how they can make a career for themselves.
Giving that spot to Faldo, who already has it all and hasn't made a cut on the PGA Tour since 2006 doesn't seem fair to the idea of the sport.
- - - - - - -