COMMENTARY | Drug suspensions. Cheating accusations. On-course name-calling. Lawsuits. Armchair rule officials.
Since January, the PGA Tour has been anything other than boring. With headlines more often seen on tabloid covers than in country clubs, some might say the gentlemanly elements and old-fashioned integrity upon which professional golf was founded have been compromised over the past few months. At the very least, lines are being crossed and tempers are being tested.
Professional golf has traditionally been a type of secret society that fans observed from the outside looking in. While it is a spectator sport that allows the general public closer to the action than any of the Big Four, most golfers go about their business with their heads down, arms to their sides and mouths shut. There was never any confusion as to where the lines were drawn between players on the fairway and fans in the gallery.
However, thanks to a series of societal and technological advancements not entirely reserved to observing a sporting event, that line has become blurred.
Most notably is the advent of high-definition television and super-sensitive microphones. Introduced to the world of professional golf coverage to enhance the viewing experience of fans seated comfortably on their sofas and recliners, these devices are seeing and hearing things that have never been witnessed on a golf course. At least, not in the public eye.
Take for example the Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia verbal tussle from the 2013 Players Championship. Regardless of your opinion on whether Woods showcased a subtle form of gamesmanship when pulling a 5-wood from his bag milliseconds before Garcia blocked his approach into the right trees, the real drama did not begin until after the third round. Garcia's comments to reporters swirled quickly among TV broadcasts, Twitter and Facebook within seconds of their utterance. Then, thanks to the modern marvel of television graphics and real-time editing, fans everywhere were shown a side-by-side video comparison of the entire incident that would rival any view from Abraham Zapruder.
The second round of the 2013 Masters tournament provided another example of how this generation's PGA Tour is so unique. Literally minutes after Woods -- who is obviously the subject of many golf fans' focus -- took his required drop after finding the water on hole No. 15 at Augusta National, a TV viewer was already contacting tournament officials by telephone (or text message, depending on whom you ask) as to the legality of the drop. By the time Woods arrived to his hotel room that evening, conversations among Augusta's powers-that-be on how to handle the situation had already begun.
Finally, we have the laughable and downright confusing case of Vijay Singh vs. the PGA Tour. Twenty years ago the notion of a professional golfer using an illegal substance to enhance his performance on the course would have been as alien as an adjustable driver. When Doug Barron was suspended in 2009 for violating the PGA Tour's substance abuse policy, most fans believed it would be an isolated incident. Then Vijay Singh indirectly taught everyone about the benefits of deer antler spray earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, a very public lawsuit was filed against the Tour by Singh. I'll go out on a limb and assume players like Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer would have settled the matter in the Men's Grill.
Such is the state of the game in present day. Social media has become the main competition to journalistic reporting; television cameras, the all-seeing watchful eye over golfers playing well enough to see their lenses. In an age where public opinion is able to be viewed and shared more often than ever before, we continue to shape the image of professional sport with every new keystroke. "Viral" may be the most fitting term ever assigned.
No, folks, this is not the same PGA Tour you enjoyed with your father or grandfather years ago. We have made it a different animal altogether.
Adam Fonseca has been writing and blogging about golf since 2005. His work has been featured on numerous digital outlets including the Back9Network and SB Nation. He currently resides in Chicago with his wife.
- Sports & Recreation
- PGA Tour
- Tiger Woods
- Sergio Garcia