Remember the old ad campaign where pro golfers would pull off some sort of amazing feat and end with the tagline, “these guys are good”? Well guess what, these guys ARE good. The depth of talent on tour these days is ridiculous. Take a look at the leaderboard after (almost) one round of play at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and I’d be willing to bet that the majority of actual golf fans don’t recognize at least half of the top 15. The likes of Loupe, Renner and Gardiner are not exactly household, yet they are talented enough to put themselves in position to make a run at the trophy.
Of course it’s very likely that these guys come back down to earth over the coming days, but that doesn’t change the fact that the difference between marginal players and grade A pros continues to get smaller and smaller. As a business, golf still very much relies on a handful of stars (ever heard of Tiger or Phil?) to create buzz, so this leveling of the playing field promises to pose challenges to the hype machine for years to come.
This phenomenon reminds me a little bit of the NASCAR model (insert redneck joke here), which for years thrived by marketing a select few. As more money poured into the “sport”, more drivers emerged to challenge to old standby’s, leading to a diluted talent pool that ultimately cost them in the ratings. Let’s hope that golf has a good plan for the post-Tiger era and finds a way to keep interest up as this transition continues to take shape.
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