COMMENTARY | The Waste Management Open in its current form has been a hotbed for excitement and as a unique fan experience for more than 20 years.
Not only do the PGA Tour players in the tournament shoot obscenely low scores -- Phil Mickelson finished 28-under-par for the week in 2013 -- but the rowdy spectators at the par-3 No. 16 have become as much a part of the tournament as birdies and pars.
At this year's tournament at TPC Scottsdale, caddies started racing one another on the unique par-3 for some ungodly reason. What resulted was the funniest -- and unintentionally exciting -- spectacle on a golf course since golf carts. Golf fans both in attendance and watching on TV loved every minute of it.
Now the PGA Tour has decided to take Caddie Races away from all of us. Not cool.
What makes even less sense in all of this is the fact that the PGA Tour remains silent on a much more annoying and prevalent extracurricular activity as of late: the "Mashed Potatoes" Guy. This makes absolutely no sense to me, and it shouldn't to you, either.
On one hand, we have a group of athletic, able-bodied grown men choosing to make fools of themselves by racing one another with over 50 pounds on their backs for the enjoyment of fans everywhere. Their bosses -- the players competing in the tournament and who ultimately sign the caddies' paychecks -- don't seem to mind. Better yet, the overwhelming response to Caddie Races has been positive.
On the other hand, we have a select few drunk, disorderly grown men choosing to make fools of themselves by shouting nonsensical phrases at players milliseconds after a golf shot is struck. Is that still original if everyone does it all the time? Probably not.
What is the worst-case scenario for both situations? With Caddie Races, the worst thing that could happen is that a caddie trips, falls and injures himself while running to the green. The player would likely have to find another guy to carry his bag -- which shouldn't be a problem -- and everyone goes on his merry way.
The downside to Mashed Potatoes Guy is much more severe. Keep in mind that Mashed Potatoes Guy is only watching one golfer; other players on the course can be distracted by the shout at any moment. It also seems that the shouts are much more prevalent at major championships lately, which could be a huge problem should a player in contention become distracted mid-swing by a screamed food phrase. The spectator then gets escorted off the course, and, in the example of Augusta National, banned for life from every returning.
From a side-by-side comparison, it would seem that belligerent shouts directed at a player is much more of a problem and detriment to the game than watching a couple of loopers take a jog. Yet, the PGA Tour feels differently.
What am I missing here, exactly?
It seems as though the PGA Tour has completely missed the mark with this decision. Look no further than the post-PGA Championship feedback golfers like Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods provided in various forms about the persistent shouting they heard while playing the season's final major. Three of the biggest names in the game expressed their displeasure with the practice, yet the Tour remains mum and instead chooses to take away a fan-favorite spectacle that nobody complained about. Not once.
Golf is a game that has an image problem for many casual fans. The game can be seen as "uppity" or "elitist" while making a vain attempt at remaining traditional and true to its values. Yet, when a player the likes of the colorful, flat-brimmed Rickie Fowler or the loud, social media savvy Bubba Watson comes along and wins over a legion of younger fans, the PGA Tour welcomes the "fresh new look" with open arms.
Heaven forbid caddies start running amok all over the fairways. That would just be improper, wouldn't it? I'm sure Bobby Jones and Old Tom Morris is spinning in their graves.
Adam Fonseca has covered professional golf since 2005. His work can also be found on the Back9Network. Follow Adam on Twitter at @chicagoduffer.
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