If I was ruler of the golf world for a day, here are the executive orders I would sign so that I could “Make Golf Great Again.”
♦ A ban on all those foolish “Race to the FedEx Cup” commercials and pronouncements. For years, the PGA Tour and its broadcast partners have hammered us over the head hoping to convince us that the FedEx Cup playoffs matter. They don’t. They’ve tried to call the season-ending Tour Championship the fifth Major. It isn’t. And it doesn’t even end the season anymore. The FedEx Cup concludes on an NFL Sunday and no one is watching. The players care because it’s an unseemly large purse, but it merits no comparison to winning a major championship. Calling the FedEx Cup the most important race in golf is, shall we say, “fake news.”
♦ Every time a golf fan shouts “In the hole!” when a player tees off, that fan is immediately escorted to the parking lot.
♦ A measure to improve pace of play. The first step: be at your ball ready to hit when it’s your turn, with club in hand, yardage, wind direction and all the rest already discussed with your caddy. Have you ever noticed how a pro stands around twiddling his thumbs until his playing partner hits, and only then does he shift into his routine? Drives you nuts, doesn’t it? Me, too.
♦ Tighten up the fairways, lengthen the rough and speed up the greens at all tournaments, not just at the U.S. Open. If the pros want to swing out of their shoes to hit 350-yard drives, make them pay a penalty when they miss the fairway.
♦ Make the Ryder Cup an annual event. This truly is golf’s most compelling drama, so why hold it every two years? Does the NFL take a year off from the Super Bowl? Does Major League Baseball skip the World Series? I say, dump the President’s Cup, which has never caught on, and give us more of the U.S. vs. the Euros.
♦ Scale back the golf ball. Every time I hear a TV commentator say, “He has 210 yards to the green and he’s selected a 7-iron,” I think, “That’s just wrong.”
♦ No more rulings based on telephone calls from TV viewers or video replays that are discovered after the fact. Once the golfer has signed his scorecard, it’s case closed. No changes. Can you imagine a viewer calling the NFL Network moments after the Super Bowl to point out a pass interference that was missed, and the NFL execs actually listening? As an addendum, no longer would a rules official be allowed to keep a golfer in limbo until his round is completed before making a decision on a possible infraction. (Call it the Dustin Johnson Rule). Decide if it is or isn’t and move on! No more bending to “alternative facts.”
♦ Speaking of scorecards, I would end the antiquated practice of requiring players to sign their scorecards in order for the round to be official. Every professional tournament has scorers assigned to every group. A player’s score on each hole is immediately logged and electronic scoreboards across the course are instantly updated. So why, after the round, when everyone can plainly see what Player A shot, must he then sign a scorecard verifying it?
♦ Allow heckling. Steph Curry has to stand at the free throw line with people waving their arms and shouting in his ears. Mookie Betts faces 100 m.p.h. fastballs in the midst of deafening noise. Yet, when a golf fan twitches his nose as a player his standing over the ball, the player steps away with a stricken look on his face and acts as though a cannon was just fired. Toughen up, guys.
♦ Random tournament pairings. That means no more preferred tee times for the stars and early wake-up calls for the rookies. Level the playing field by picking names from a hat, so maybe Rory ends up with Joe Nobody who has never made a tour cut. It just feels to me like the fair thing to do. Rory already has all the talent; why does he also need the best tee time and pairing?
♦ Finally, I would sign a travel ban. No more racing to Dubai and other far-flung corners of the world for easy cash grabs in meaningless tournaments. Show some loyalty to the people who made you rich and famous.