“GET IN THE HOLE!”
Mating call of the North American Numpty Bird.
The Waste Management Open is unlike any other stop on the P.G.A. Tour. This year’s winner, Gary Woodland, overcame Chez Revie in a sudden death playoff, after Revie birdied the last two holes to tie.
Incredibly, over 719,179 spectators attended the 6 days, which considering Phoenix’s entire population is 260,000, is a staggering statistic. The 16th hole, a Par-3, is surrounded entirely by Hospitality Suites and grandstands – 20,000 sports fans and plenty of alcohol create a good-humoured version of the Coliseum in Rome. No gory deaths, just plenty of booing for any player who misses the green. Any birdies or long putts are greeted with deafening roars and cheers.
It is certainly a great spectacle: many would say its good for the game. Personally, I have mixed feelings as to whether it is a good thing. It is fantastic to see over 720,000 sports fans enjoying themselves; especially for the 20,000 around the sixteenth green. If it is contained there, then all well and good, but unfortunately it has started to spread to the galleries on the other 17 holes.
Everyone watching televised golf from the States, is driven mad by the inane screaming of “Get in the Hole” immediately after a player hits a long shot.
Worse still “Mashed Potato” – the anguished cry of a suicidal American vegetable - as “Lefty” Phil Mickelson flies another tee shot over 300 yards. The problem is, enthusiastic sports fans, perhaps watching a Tour event for the first time, are shouting out in the middle of a player’s backswing. Jordan Spieth, the victim on the 17th tee.
For decades at Wimbledon, tennis matches were watched by crowds that only applauded at the end of a point. It was in the 1975 final between Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors, that someone first shouted out before a player’s serve and during a rally. The genie was out of the bottle, and tennis matches were never the same again.
So, I must conclude that the great spectacle of the Waste Management Open has changed golf forever. We cannot on one hand, encourage the behaviour around the 16th hole, and then expect awed reverence on the other 17 holes.
What to do then? Personally, like so many things in golf, it is merely a question of education. We must not prevent 720,000 sports fans having a great time; but, if they do turn on to golf, a little teaching of rules and etiquette is all that is needed at the outset. Hence, the etiquette of golf is laid out at the very front of the R & A and USGA’S Rule Book.
Whether, it is slow play, not repairing pitch marks or disobeying a “dress code”, people need to be educated in a gentle way. If people are asked, albeit with a light touch, to apply a code of behaviour, they are generally happy to co-operate. For example, most people don’t know how to rake a bunker properly. Once they understand the practical reason behind the rule, they are normally happy to comply and are grateful for being helped.
Whilst your average Brit, myself included, have been wound up by U.S. galleries shouting out during play, we must remember to learn a thing or two from our American cousins.
Like how to have maximum fun at a Tournament; attract 640,000 fans, raise millions for charity, dress for golf in a casual way with tanned legs, smart but relaxed style shorts, good service in the clubhouse and Tour venues that are accessible to the public. You get my drift?