Ivan Morris Column - Why the Open won’t feel like the Open

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
Mutt: I’m disappointed that the BBC has lost out to BSkyB in the bidding War to broadcast future Open Championships. Watching golf on the Beeb had such a nice change of pace to it. The Open, without Peter Alliss, won’t feel like The Open. Now, when the ad breaks come, I know I will become distracted and drift away to do something else.

Mutt: I’m disappointed that the BBC has lost out to BSkyB in the bidding War to broadcast future Open Championships. Watching golf on the Beeb had such a nice change of pace to it. The Open, without Peter Alliss, won’t feel like The Open. Now, when the ad breaks come, I know I will become distracted and drift away to do something else.

Jeff: You can’t fault SKY for the time and resources they put into golf. Does moving to new a network matter that much? It won’t affect the outcome.

Mutt: At a time when golf needs its governing body to lead the way in guiding it through troubled times, it’s letting golf down. This generation of R&A leadership will be remembered for not doing their job as guardians of the game. Non-golfers don’t watch golf on SKY. SKY preaches only to the already converted.

Jeff: Even though the agreement with SKY includes limitations on the advertising breaks and the R&A promises to use the proceeds to develop youth golf and embark on a comprehensive strategic review on golf participation?

Mutt: That’ll be like shutting the door after the horse has bolted. With SKY showing us The Masters, the US Open, The Open and PGA Championship it’s a grand slam! As a kid in 1971, Nick Faldo was obsessed with Cycling until he saw Jack Nicklaus in full flow on the back nine at Augusta. He only watched it by accident but it became the spark of inspiration that created Britain’s most successful, modern, golfer. Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and many others had similar introductions to golf. Ultimately, it may result in participation levels falling even further. It certainly won’t encourage people who would not ordinarily take up the game to have a go.

Jeff: From a kid’s standpoint golf isn’t cool. If it is not readily available on TV, they may not even know what it is. Kids today are more into computers and social media. Golf is expensive and inaccessible. Whether it’s on SKY or BBC doesn’t matter.

Mutt: The BBC’s all day long, Open Championship transmission was my favourite TV event of the year. The absence of advertisements and the fact that the broadcast mirrored the slow rhythm of the game plus the unique commentary of Peter Alliss and Ken Brown added to that feeling.

Jeff: It’s sad to see an amateur organization putting money above the overall welfare of the game.

Mutt: Nothing lasts forever. Progress isn’t always progress and this is just another case of it.

Jeff: By the way, did you see the rerun of a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf TV Match between Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, which was shown on SKY Sports 4 a few weeks ago? It illustrated perfectly how the game has changed since the Pro-V1 ball arrived on the scene.

Jeff: I saw it too. Filmed in 1997, Nicklaus was 57 and Miller had just turned 50. Both were well past their best but they played some wonderful long iron approaches and their little chats between shots were very interesting and informative. While, Nicklaus was still able to putt, Miller’s nerves were shot to pieces.

Mutt: I was easily able to relate to the game as played by this pair of all-time, greats who were hitting 8-irons (not gap wedges) 140-yards and 4-irons (instead of 7s) 190-yards.

Jeff: It wasn’t always the case but there is no comparison between a good amateur and a top pro these days. They are miles apart. How can ordinary golfers relate to someone, like Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson, who consistently hit the ball over 350-yards off the tee? That’s a ‘good’ par-4 for most people!

Mutt: 350-yards drives is the reason why Nicklaus is constantly making a case for a rollback in the distance the golf ball flies.

Jeff: Jack isn’t perfect! More recently, he has been pushing the idea of 10” cups. A 10” cup isn’t golf! Forget that. When I play golf, I hope that I will hit a shot or two as well as Nicklaus did and, maybe, sink a few putts too but using a bigger hole just to say that I shot an artificially low score would be nonsense and ruin the game.

Mutt: The biggest difference between good and poor players is in the long game. If you can’t get it airborne or carry it over a water hazard, you won’t get the chance to putt into any hole, no matter what size it is. 99% enjoy hitting the ball well; putting doesn’t give anything like the same pleasure. Putting into a 10-inch hole would destroy the game.

Words of the Wise:

In the upper echelons of the game, golf people have lost out to business people whose sole objective is to grow the game in order to make money out of it. They see the people that take up the game and then quit fairly quickly as lost opportunities. In the past, that was no more than the natural weeding out process of ensuring that the people who played golf were genuine and committed. Golf is a hard game to learn. It appeals to a minority with a tough and determined mentality that wouldn’t bother with it if it were ‘easy.’