Scott Ferrell, Former President Gary Player Design and PGA Tour Executive

OnLink EVP of Sales and Marketing Scott Ferrell has over 25 years of industry experience, including 16 years traveling the globe running Gary Player’s’ golf course design business and over 10 years with the PGA TOUR.  He is now helping bring needed efficiencies to golf operations by exposing OnLink to the marketplace and serving on the company’s Board.  In Scott’s Corner, he will share his view on a variety of topics such as global golf trends, golf course architecture, competitions, and the business of golf. This month, he contrasts the entertainment value of the US Open at Shinnecock to the Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands.

 

Offense or Defense?

The host venues were both par 70.  That is where any similarity ends.

I find it fascinating that Shinnecock Hills and TPC River Highlands were back to back hosts on the schedule of professional golf in the US over the past two weeks.  There couldn’t possibly be more differences in the design and set-up of these venues.  From a player’s perspective, chasing the Travelers Championship trophy and a share of the $7,000,000 purse was no doubt a welcome reprieve from the stress of tackling a USGA set-up and trying to secure a place in US Open Championship history.

But what about the spectator’s point of view?  Before I debate that question, please consider the following comparative stats from both events:

 

 

The drama of watching Brooks Koepka play defense to grind out an incredibly difficult 68 to win at Shinnecock was definitely compelling and obviously offered a much more meaningful victory.  I suspect that lower handicappers by and large would chose to watch the greatest players in the world struggle against the toughest conditions.  But on the fun dial, I feel that Bubba Watson’s offensive birdie barrage and closing 63 were much more enjoyable to watch by the average golfer, or even the non-golfer.  To be honest, I was worn out after watching a weekend of US Open action on Long Island.  By contrast, I was totally entertained watching great golf in Hartford, including Stewart Cink’s closing 62, and Bubba eating away at Paul Casey’s six shot third-round lead and winning by three.  That’s a lot of action!

There a so many parallels of offense vs defense in the sporting world.  I know that purists often settle on the pitching duel, defensive dominance on the gridiron, or the “defense wins championships” mentality in basketball.  But not me.  A low scoring World Cup soccer match or the 41 – 33 Eagles victory over the Patriots in the Super Bowl?  I’ll take that Super Bowl every time.  A no-hitter or a walk-off grand slam to win by one run?  I’ll take the walk-off.  I know I’m showing my age, but Houston’s Phi Slama Jama in the 80’s or UNC’s four corners in the 70’s?  I’ll take Phi Slama Jama.  Those Dean Smith/Phil Ford teams sucked the life right out of me.

Offensive golf is precisely why I enjoy the Masters so much.  The risk/reward of the par 5 thirteenth and fifteenth at Augusta, as well as the opportunity to make a Sunday charge on the entire back nine, won me over long ago.  I vividly remember Tom Watson going for both par 5’s in two in 1977 on his way to two birdies and a two-shot victory over Jack Nicklaus.  And how about my former boss Gary Player shooting a Sunday back nine 30 in 1978 to overcome a six-shot deficit and win his third and final green jacket?  With the exception of Johnny Miller’s historic final round 63 at Oakmont in 1973 or Arnold Palmer’s charismatic Sunday charge and 65 at Cherry Hills in 1960, you just don’t see the same kind of drama at the US Open.

I mean no disrespect to the USGA…..we need the US Open and its set-up on the annual golf schedule.  It’s a welcome diversion for the avid fan.  However, I believe that the entertainment provided by tournaments like the Travelers Championship does more to attract new fans, and in turn new golfers, to our great game.  That should be a primary goal of all organizations that stage professional golf events.