Latest News

Villains in golf? There aren't any.

Where are the bad guys in pro golf?

In ice hockey, you have some guys who should be arrested every time they set foot on the ice.

In stock car racing, you have Kyle Busch, who is like Dennis The Menace with a lead foot, and guys who drive the wrong make of car or drink the wrong soda.

In football, basketball and baseball, there's always the opposing team, say the New York Yankees and Miami Heat and Oakland Raiders.

In golf, you have you have you have nobody to pull against. No villains.

The only time golf fans boo is when they're watching Boo Weekley or they see some guy coming back from the concession stand slip and spill a beer.

Rory Sabbatini tried. He has worn a dark hat on occasion, even came near fisticuffs in a beef with Sean O'Hair, but nobody boos him. If he hits a good shot, the gallery cheers for him.

The gallery cheers for everybody. That's the thing about golf, the people outside the ropes pull for those inside, some more than others but still, there isn't any whooping and hollering when somebody whacks a ball into a pond. Groans of sympathy, that's about it.

Pro golfers are not perfect, of course. Some of them drink to excess. Divorce is not uncommon. Some of them can be jerks when dealing with tournament volunteers or hotel clerks or waiters or autograph seekers. A lot of them could lose the face made for funerals and try smiling a little more.

So they are human, like us.

But when they are working, we don't view them in that context. We see men and women excelling at a game that is among the most difficult at which to excel, if not the most difficult. They play a beautiful game in beautiful places and every round is an adventure. We just want them to show us something that is better than most humans can do and we cheer them for that.

Tiger Woods left the game for a long time in the wake of an extramarital sex scandal. Media critics skewered him for months. But when he came back to the game, the galleries welcomed him with open arms, cheering, clapping, shouting encouragement.

He's Tiger the golfer out there. They're admiring his work, even if they have deep reservations about his behavior, which a lot of them do.

Golf does have some intense rivalries, most notably the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup competitions, in which the US takes on international teams. Even there, though, people don't throw pop bottles or chicken bones, curse opposing players, scream at officials. There's a lot of flag waving and some football songs and groaning when the other side wins a hole but it's a polite competition. It's riveting, crammed with tension, powerful enough to make some players cry, but nobody whacks anybody over the head with a hockey stick or blindsides someone in the kidney or elbows a defender in the nose. It's golf. On the surface, at least, they're all good guys.

You can pull against Graeme McDowell or Padraig Harrington in a match but in a week or two, they'll be back on the PGA Tour and you'll be cheering for them.

No pads or helmets required.

The loudest galleries we've heard in a long time were those pulling for Rory McIlroy in the US Open. He's not an American. But he's a golfer.

  Comments