LOS ANGELES (AP) — Golf had three big events — not tournaments but events — over the past three days. They were about 400 miles (640 kilometers) apart. Their identity was loud noise and the hype to match.
Who would have guessed the tamest of the lot would be LIV Golf?
LIV brands itself as “Golf, But Louder,” and the most recent addition to the Saudi-funded league might agree. There was Masters champion Jon Rahm, preparing to hit a tee shot at LIV Golf Las Vegas, asking spectators to make sure their cellphones were on silent as a speaker behind the tee was pumping out music.
Tommy Fleetwood was at Las Vegas Country Club — crank up the rumors! — because he was in town to see Butch Harmon and thought he would check out LIV, along with catching up with friends he no longer sees in player dining. He was struck by the volume coming from the par-3 eighth hole until learning that was the “party hole.”
The grandstands were mostly empty. It was early.
The crowd at Las Vegas was good considering the weather was more suited to hockey at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. It got a great finish, with a six-way tie for the lead late in the final round and Dustin Johnson delivering a late birdie for the win.
On to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The WM Phoenix Open could more easily make the claim as “Golf, But Louder,” except that the golf is an afterthought.
It's been that way forever, or so it seems, and it would appear to be getting worse. How much worse is hard to tell. The big change is social media and instant availability of videos that make it look as though the Phoenix Open is on a faster path to depravity.
Imagine if there had been video of one man shouting to Casey Martin to “walk it off!” after a poor shot in 2000. Martin had a rare circulatory disease in his right leg that led to him being allowed a cart. His leg has since been amputated.
Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel both mixed it up with the crowd after having their fill, with Johnson telling them to “just shut up,” and Horschel explaining the etiquette in golf with saltier language (turns out the most common four-letter word in golf that starts with “F" is not “fore.”)
But this was a bad look, which tournament organizers attributed to weather — seriously. Rain earlier in the week led to mud and slippery conditions. The temperatures were cold. The alcohol flowed, as always. And it became so claustrophobic that the tournament took unprecedented steps. The gates were closed, and the sale of alcohol was halted. What a concept.
“I don’t know what the line is, but you have people falling out of the rafters, you have fights in the stands,” Johnson told the Arizona Republic. “It’s to the point where now, how do you reel it in? Because it’s taken on a life of its own. I think the Thunderbirds probably need to do something about it. I’m assuming they’re ashamed. Because at some point, somebody’s either gonna really, really get hurt or worse.”
The Thunderbirds run the tournament and executive director Chance Cozby was on Golf Channel the day after to pledge better days ahead.
“We have 365 days to fix this,” Cozby said. “I think you'll see a complete operational change how we manage our Friday and Saturday. We're very proud of what we've built. We don't like what happened on Saturday. The players don't like want happened on Saturday. Our fans don't like what happened on Saturday.”
It's a wonder the fans even remember what happened on Saturday.
“Nothing is off the table,” Cozby said.
And to think a decade ago the big controversy was when the PGA Tour put its foot down by putting a stop to caddies racing to the 16th green. And then in 2015, it banned players from tossing shirts or other items into the crowd because someone could get hurt. Indeed.
Is it getting worse? Yes. But so is behavior across all of society over the last 20 years. Is anyone really surprised by this? Give the Thunderbirds the 365 days to see what gets fixed.
“This tournament has been inappropriate and crossed the line since I’ve been on tour and this is my 21st year,” Johnson said. This was his 10th straight year playing Phoenix, his 15th time overall, and his best finish is a tie for 10th.
They keep coming back. It's unique. It's crazy. The line keeps getting crossed, except no one knows where the line was or where it should be.
Equally loud, though not nearly as crowded as Phoenix or even Las Vegas was Tiger Woods launching his new lifestyle apparel brand with TaylorMade in Los Angeles.
He began his pro career with Nike, stepping to a podium at the Greater Milwaukee Open and saying, “Hello, world.” Nike already had the campaign ready to go.
This one featured sportscaster Erin Andrews at a high-end restaurant in Pacific Palisades, cocktail attire for all the influencers to dress their best, music blaring to drown out conversation, dramatic videos and eventually Woods talking about his new “Sun Day Red.”
Three words instead of two.
Unlike with his media venture, TMRW Sports, at least he kept the vowels.
Woods showed up at Riviera on Tuesday with his new logo, a tiger with 15 stripes for his 15 majors. He starts his new season at the Genesis Invitational and is sure to attract an audience. A year ago, fans were hanging over the balcony to get a glimpse of him.
It will be big. It will be loud. Only on this occasion, it will be normal.
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf