Monday, July 24, 2006 Updated: July 26, 1:31 PM ET
A good day spoiled
By Michael Davies Special to Page 2
In the interminable football-free weeks of midsummer, between the occasional preseason friendly (Manchester United versus South Africa's Kaizer Chiefs, anyone?) and Pepsi Pro Summer League basketball game (that Adam Morrison looks quite useful), I pass the weekends by watching golf on television and avoiding child care.
The final day of the British Open is usually one of my favorite sporting mornings of the year. In fact, I love all the majors. I love all golf tournaments. I even love "The Big Break." But the British Open -- The Open -- with its perennially unconquerable terrain, terrible weather, wild finishes, congested leaderboards and wild crowds, has always been my favorite golf event outside the incomparable, biennial Ryder Cup.
But not this year. I fear the British Open has jumped the shark. And as Greg Norman would remind us -- niver anderistimaate the paar of the shaaaaark.
Here are the Nine Reasons I have never enjoyed the final round of the British Open less:
(1) It was just so friggin' ugly. Britain is one of the most beautiful countries in the world -- gorgeous, verdant countryside, quaint and historic villages, rugged and spectacular coastline, stately and magnificent homes, golf courses carved from unparalleled nature. And then there's Hoylake. In the midst of a heat wave. It was six-and-a-half hours of light brown television. The tee boxes, fairways, rough, bunkers and greens were identical in color and condition. Jim Furyk putted -- putted -- out of a bunker for heaven's sake. The ugliness of the course seemed matched only by the awful mock Tudor semi-detachedness of the awful homes that bordered the course.
Let's just hope Michael's daughter doesn't hold this picture against him when she's a teenager.
And while we're talking ugly, can we just talk about some of these outfits? There seem to be two extremes in the world of golf: the American players who dress like "suburban dad" in their pleated dockers and baggy tops (what were Chris DiMarco, Furyk and Tiger thinking when they chose those shirts ... they might as well drive around the course in a minivan); and the European and Japanese players who dress kind of insane. Sergio's lemon yellow, tight-fitting ensemble would have made Carson Kressley blush. The only players who seem to get it right are the non-American, non-Euro international players like Adam Scott and Andres Romero. But then there's the Colombian, Camilo Villegas, who I swear is going to show up at some tournament soon dressed as Liberace.
(2) The Open wasn't open at all. No close finish, no leaderboard changes, no multiple contenders, no Van de Velde-like collapses on the 18th fairway. Sure, Tiger is going to end up being the greatest who ever lived. I love watching him play. I admire his control, ball striking and ability to rarely short side himself. But I enjoy a bit of short siding. I'd rather see Tiger hit one 30 yards right into the trees, hit it 200 yards through an opening the size of a doorway, and play a ridiculous lob wedge to 2 feet from the short side. I want to see him challenged, I want him to win it from behind, I want to see him overcome the competition, I want to see him use his driver. I want to see him have to risk using his driver. To miss some putts. To feel the pressure. To be human. There was no drama. And without that, golf on television is just ... well, golf on television.
(3) I was baby-sitting. This was pretty much unacceptable. My wife, inspired by a midweek Madonna concert, is on a huge diet and workout kick. She went to yoga and left me with two children -- 5 months and almost 2 -- and only one baby nurse for almost two hours! I was left to dress the almost 2-year-old, and as you can see from the photo, I completely failed. Moreover, my daughter has this annoying habit of always wanting to play. Very difficult to get her to concentrate on the golf until some child turned up at Hoylake with a dog painted as a tiger and they met a police horse. (What is happening to sports coverage?) She loved it so much I had to keep on rewinding the scene on the TiVo until the batteries ran out. Useless. This is why I am building a child- and woman-free Man Cave to watch sport in.
Yes, there really was a girl with a dog dressed as a Tiger on the course.
(4) I really missed Crazy Lefty. Even when Tiger is not in contention, all the networks show almost every shot he makes, every putt he misses. But the same rule does not apply to Phi Mickelson. Which is a shame. Because there is no golfer more fun to watch -- I am convinced he is the maddest character in pro sports. I love his crazy eyes, insane choices and, increasingly, his weight gain.
(5) No British or European golfers contending. Look, I don't expect these guys to win, but please, more than just Sergio on the leaderboard in our own major. This is getting ridiculous -- 28 majors without a European winner. On the bright side, we still have the Ryder Cup. And that is the greatest television event in all sports.
(6) Chris DiMarco's impossibly short legs and arms. DiMarco, with all that fire and Gator-like emotion, has become one of my favorite American golfers. In fact, he's top five with Daly, Couples, Lefty and Tiger. Wait a minute. Stadler. He's top six. But today, I started getting obsessed with the shortness of his legs and arms. How can he play golf with those stumps? Or maybe that's why he's so good?
(7) The BBC coverage. I am so American these days I really need the helicopter flyovers and the graphic packages of every hole and green. But, call me old-fashioned, when Tiger's about to swing I really don't want to cut to a shot of DiMarco talking to his caddy and miss the inevitable laser-guided power fade to the heart of the green. Also, there was an unintentionally hilarious and unremarked upon moment on the eighth tee when a cell phone rang, Tiger backed off, disgusted at someone in the crowd, and the BBC director cut to former England and current (again) Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler looking a bit sheepish. Surely it wasn't him. Or maybe it was?
(8) My TiVo ran out of batteries. Golf on television is pretty much impossible to watch unless you can get about an hour and a half ahead and fast-forward through the commercials and every time Peter Alliss is talking.
(9) Way too much sentimentality from the commentary box. I can take Tiger crying, I respect DiMarco playing so well so soon after his mother passed away, but I can't take the sentimentality of the commentary. Did they really ask me to go hug my kids? Let the pictures tell the story -- it will be way more powerful. And frankly, as el Tigre walked off the 18th, blubbing like a child, every man watching felt for him, then immediately forgot about it as they marveled at how hot his Swedish wife is.
Michael Davies is a British-born television producer whose forthcoming projects for ESPN include the World Series of Darts and the documentary film "Once In A Lifetime" about the New York Cosmos, which will air on ESPN in October after being released theatrically by Miramax in July.