Rubenstein: In silly season, money talks
Published on Thursday, May. 09, 2013 12:01PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 08:09AM EDT
The so-called silly season is reaching new heights, or are they lows?
I’m not referring to the Fall Series of four PGA Tour events, or the Web.com Tour Championship that ended last Sunday in McKinney, Tex. Those events are all about golf and players moving ahead, or reversing direction, in their careers. Brad Fritsch, born in Edmonton and raised in Ottawa, tied for ninth in McKinney and 18th on the Web.com’s season money list. He’s made it to the 2013 PGA Tour.
Fritsch’s story is a good one, because he’s 34 and has finally reached the PGA Tour. Yet the golf news these days is dominated by talk about money, money, money, and one more limited-field goofy event after another.
Then, there’s the news that was breaking Tuesday morning that Rory McIlroy will leave Titleist and Footjoy after playing its equipment since he turned pro in 2007; and oh my, the rumours of his joining his pal, Tiger Woods, at Nike Inc. just might prove true.
The chatter is Nike will pay McIlroy as much as $250-million (all currency U.S.) on a 10-year contract. McIlroy’s No. 1 world ranking and popularity make him a natural for any company.
By writing this, meanwhile, I’m only aiding and abetting the silly season noise that fills the airwaves, iPads, TV and computer screens, and print – it still exists, doesn’t it? – with more talk about who is scoring the really big money than who is posting the really low scores. Guilty as charged. But my head is stuffed with the endless stream of money talk. I’m seeing dollars in my dreams rather than soaring drives to fairways.
And so we return to McIlroy and Woods, and their participation three weeks ago, in an eight-player boondoggle called the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final. The golf world was wild with anticipation – not really – that they would meet in the concluding match at a resort in Antalya, Turkey.
Alas, they didn’t. Justin Rose won the thing when he beat Lee Westwood in the final and looked almost abashed when he was handed his cheque for $1.5-million. McIlroy volunteered that he hadn’t taken the tournament – an exhibition, really – all that seriously in that he didn’t touch a club until the first day of competition. He speaks the truth: It’s hard to take such an event seriously.
But not to worry. McIlroy and Woods were sure to meet not long after. That transpired last Monday in Zhengzhou, China, and was billed as the Duel at Jinsha Lake.
McIlroy had finished second to Peter Hanson the day before at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, a legitimate European Tour event. Woods had played hard to shoot 63 the day before to tie for fourth at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur three shots behind winner Nick Watney.
McIlroy and Woods then teed it up in the Duel at Jinsha Lake – a duel for dollars, more like it. Alan Shipnuck, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated who knows frippery when he sees it, was there.
“The Duel at Jinsha Lake was so named to better publicize the host development, a buggy, Florida-style golf course that will soon be dotted with more than 300 huge, charmless villas,” he wrote. “They were being sold for up to $20-million to Chinese robber-barons.”
The match, Shipnuck observed, “had the feeling of a heavyweight prize fight mixed with the county fair. Opening ceremonies were over-the-top even by Chinese standards: a drum corps, fireworks, a confetti shower, stunt planes, a ceremonial gong. McIlroy and Woods kept stealing glances at each other, trying to hold in their laughter.”
Reports are that each player was paid at least $1-million to participate. McIlroy shot 67 to defeat Woods by a shot. They said all the right things about “growing” the game in China. And that was that.
The second stage of PGA Tour qualifying school starts in a couple of weeks. The final stage – a 108-hole event – goes Nov. 28 through Dec. 3 in La Quinta, Calif.
Real golf is around the corner, real golf that will provide a relief from gilded golf.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein