With this weekend’s snooze-fest called the PGA Championship, I believe it is now safe to say that professional golf’s television ratings are in a world of trouble.
As Brooks Koepka started the final day with an unheard-of seven shot lead on Sunday at the Bethpage State Park – Black golf course, it would have taken an epic collapse (think “Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters”) to prevent him from winning his fourth major championship over the past two years.
Koepka bogeyed four holes in a row on the back nine on Sunday and, for a few minutes, saw his lead trimmed to one shot, but his closest competitor and close friend, Dustin Johnson, gave up two shots on the final three holes to hand the title to Koepka.
Though Koepka’s training buddy, Dustin Johnson, applied some minimal pressure on Sunday, DJ seems to have trouble closing the deal in golf’s majors.
With Koepka now winning 50% of the past eight golf majors, Dustin Johnson is now the owner of the “Second Place Slam” as he has finished in the runner-up spot in the past four marquis golf events.
These two guys spend time in the weight room together, on the driving range together, and are off-the-course friends, too.
Sadly, both of these golfers share a bad habit of chewing tobacco, and, grossly, expectorating the stuff while the cameras are on them. Ugh.
They are both notoriously bland to watch and rarely provide golf fans any emotion while playing. As New York golf fans shouted “DJ! DJ! DJ!”, Dustin Johnson rarely acknowledged the hearty support from the crowd.
Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka admitted that he heard the DJ cheers and used it as motivation to snap-out of his bogey streak on the back nine.
Koepka, whose arrogance/confidence makes him equally as boring to watch as Dustin Johnson, admitted that he plays best when he feels slighted in some manner. Whether the issue (fans shouting a competitor’s name around him, for example) or something he keeps mentally filed away, Koepka apparently needs something to poke the bear and motivate himself.
“There’s always a chip,” Koepka said. “I think every great athlete has a chip.”
For Dustin Johnson, though, it looked like the fans’ adulation actually made him more nervous. With the winds blowing 15-20 mph for the first time in the four-day PGA Championship on Sunday, Dustin Johnson briefly moved to 3-under par for the day before stumbling with two bogeys coming down the stretch.
Koepka won the tournament by just two shots. Ouch.
As a golf fan, I was hoping that Dustin Johnson would embrace the support from the boisterous patrons and rally into a most improbable victory. Unfortunately, DJ continues to finish near the top but still has just one major championship (the 2016 US Open).
The CBS announcers called Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson the “Smash Brothers” as both golfers are known for their extremely long drives off the tee. When professional golfers’ tee shots travel well over 300 yards and find the fairway, most golf courses are being reduced to pitch-and-putt games for guys like these.
No one will convince me that Koepka and DJ would necessarily outdrive players from past generations without the benefit of recent equipment changes which have reduced the amount of hook or slice spin from the face of the golf club onto golf balls which, themselves, are engineered to go straighter and fly longer.
Golf has utilized a uniquely designed machine called “Iron Byron” for many years in order to replicate the golf swing and test golf clubs and golf balls.
With the recent success of long-bomb specialists such as Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, the USGA and the PGA Tour should dial back or limit the technological advantages afforded to professional golfers and increase the punishment for missing the fairways.
Absent any scaling-back of golf equipment advances, then the first place to start would be to end fairways at 300 yards and increase the amount of rough the further the ball travels down (and off) the fairway.
If golf doesn’t punish this generation of long-bombers soon, then golf might want to roll-out Iron Byron at June’s US Open to give Koepka and Johnson a run for the championship!
At least that might be more interesting to watch!