October 13, 2010
With the not-unexpected news that Louis Oosthuizen will be pulling out of next week's Grand Slam of Golf (AP's second item down), we're left with exactly two major winners playing in the event that was supposed to have all four. That would be the U.S. Open's Graeme McDowell and the PGA Championship's Martin Kaymer, as the Masters' Phil Mickelson already bailed on the Bermuda event.
Oh, but it gets worse. While Ernie Els will replace Mickelson, two players -- Retief Goosen and Zach Johnson -- both declined to play in Oosthuizen's stead. (To be fair, Goosen had a scheduling conflict, and Johnson has a new baby, so you can understand their reluctance.) Only past major winners are permitted to serve as alternates.
Thing is, alternates are a common occurrence, as players do win multiple majors in a year. However, this marks the first time in 20 years that there will be two alternates when there are four different major champions.
So what's to be done? Is there any way to goose interest in the format, or is it doomed to suffer from champions' fatigue? (Since the end of major season, we've had the FedEx Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Grand Slam of Golf ... it dilutes the end product.) More to the point, what can we do to keep interest in golf going in October and November?
The old World Series of Golf used to bring together the best golfers from all over the world for a tournament, and it offered a prize that made everyone stand up and take notice.
No, not cash. As we've seen, money doesn't motivate players, not when they make as much as they do on routine tour stops. And "honors" don't either; the only thing that really matters to them is those four majors. But the old World Series of Golf had it right -- a 10-year tour exemption to the winner. That gives motivation on a whole new scale. Suddenly, the idea of not fighting for one's tour card a decade hence seems like a pretty good reason for playing a little fall golf.
Of course, all this presupposes the idea that we have to keep interest in golf going in October and November. Should golf just concede the stage to football? Or should we keep the game and its stars out in front almost all year long?