Do you give a shit whether the FedEx Cup winner receives $10 million or $15 million? I certainly do not, and while I’m willing to concede that I might be the crazy one on many things, I don’t believe I’m in the minority here. While I’m a fan of golfers earning as much money as possible, I can’t imagine the enjoyment level increases for fans as more money gets thrown around on Tour.
The inherent pull of sport is in the competition, the human condition and the interplay of personalities attached to teams and individuals. In short, and at the risk of making this sound like a plea for WWE scripting, professional golf becomes much more entertaining to me when I have players to not only root for, but also, critically, root against.
The increased purse of the FedEx Cup (and, frankly, any other tournament) is a half-baked response to a very real problem the Tour faces: a homogeneity crisis of its own making. Seemingly every player is marketed to look, sound and act the same. And, yes, I realize there are more underlying reasons for this that stretch beyond the purview of the Tour and into players and their agencies believing they are brands unto themselves. Regardless, the result of mixing a whole lot of vanilla ice cream together is a drama-free, boring-ass slog through many weeks of the Tour calendar. The most we can hope for are some salacious D.J. rumors or for Patrick Reed to put his foot in his mouth, which thankfully occur with some regularity.
Sheepishly, I admit in spite of all this that I still tune in to the Tour week after week. So what are we viewers to do? Feel free to join my work-around to the frequent monotony: Create your own reality!
There’s a whole spectrum of guys who shape-shift into different characters in my mind. Take Webb Simpson, the walking embodiment of a classic conservative professional golfer. In my world, however, I like to envision him as the long-lost third MacManus brother from Boondock Saints, waging a campaign of righteous revenge for some unknown crime every week (especially when he lets that beard grow out).
Yes, Jordan Spieth seems like one of the most well-adjusted, preternaturally wise athletes to come along in years. That’s all well and good in the real world, but it’s not going to cut it for me as I lie on the couch Sunday afternoon. I have him pegged as a compromised, sociopathic killer, broken free of his handlers and hell-bent on exacting the utmost pain on his fellow competitors. Jason Bourne with a flatstick.
You may think of Matt Kuchar as a big, affable goof who casually spends a lot of his time on the back end of top 10s. He’s showered with adoration and smiles and “KUUUUUCH” calls. But I see through his act. I know how Kuchar illegally stole the good-guy throne while ruthlessly dispatching his adversaries behind the scenes, a modern-day Commodus from Gladiator. Maximus will have his revenge in this life or the next, Kuch!
Then there’s my greatest personal nemesis: one Richard Fowler. By every account he’s a high-quality guy with a good head on his shoulders, a great hang on and off the course. But does that make a droning Saturday telecast more exciting for me? Hell no! In my world Rickie is golf’s Jacobim Mugatu from Zoolander, peddling the worst wares of fast fashion into a hyper-collapsing late-stage capitalist economy. He’s a scourge of cynical, reactionary fashion and social trends, showing up on leaderboards threatening to spoil a natural world order.
Finally, a word on the newest character in my drama, Bryson DeChambeau. He has emerged as one of the best young Americans in the game, well-known for his hyper-analytical approach. I’ve taken this a step further: To me, he’s John Nash with a golf bag, a tortured genius utterly consumed by theoretical mathematics and a prisoner to his own relentless intellect. He’s constantly testing new theories and hypotheses, each one more abstract and absurd than the last. His quest for truth is never-ending, torturous and…wait a second, is all this really just in my head?
Phil Landes is better known as Big Randy from the No Laying Up collective. Despite his strong opinions, we’re told he’s a gentle giant.