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  • Alistair Tait

Don't Expect Masters Miracles

Considering the build-up to this Masters, you’d have thought the first major golf championship of the year was going to solve all golf’s ills.


Spoiler alert: it probably won’t. Indeed, most of the pertinent questions being asked during the 88th running of Bobby Jones’s event at famed and ultra-elitist Augusta National Golf Club will probably still linger long after the man with the lowest 72-hole score has put on that gaudy green jacket.


Perhaps the most pertinent question needing addressed is will the men in charge of running the professional game come together to do what’s best for golf at the highest level? It’s been a wee while since the rich and powerful gathered in the Bahamas to discuss ways for the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund to work together, yet we’re still no clearer on the future of men’s professional golf.


No doubt discussions, even casual ones, will be held to try to drive that process forward. It seems blindingly obvious, as it has since LIV Golf first came on the scene, it’s in everyone’s interests to develop a truly world tour to help grow the game. Sadly, the vested interests and egos involved make that prospect about as real as the green jackets deciding to grow six-inch rough on either side of Augusta’s fairways.


Will this Masters arrest the dramatic fall in viewing figures for the PGA Tour? Goodness knows commissioner Jay Monahan and the suits at PGA Tour HQ in Ponte Vedra, Florida need eyeballs on screens considering the first three months of the season. Sponsors must be wondering if they should spend their dollars elsewhere.


As Rory McIlroy said recently, viewing figures are down 20% this year. So much for the PGA Tour punting supposedly fantastic story line winners such as Nick Dunlap, Matthieu Pavon, Jake Knapp and Peter Malnati. Seems the general public aren’t buying that line. Proof that perhaps the dilution of the brand by the absence of star attractions like Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and others is having a real effect. Or maybe near 52-week schedules is just a glut of golf driving down demand.


If the PGA Tour’s viewing figures are down by 20%, then what about the European Tour’s numbers? This is Guy Kinnings first major as European Tour boss. As one veteran European Tour player, a multiple winner, said to me recently, “Guy is well respected in the game, but this is a worrying time for our tour. Many players are totally unsure of what the future holds and where we fit in.”


Kinnings’s first task will be to convince players, and especially sponsors, that the circuit he now leads is still a viable entity.


As an aside on Kinnings, did he go for the wrong job? Martin Slumbers steps down as R&A CEO this year. Would former IMG man Kinnings have been better going for that role?


Here's another poser for the green jackets. Kudos to them for penalising Anna Davis during the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, but will they hammer a name player over the next four days for impersonating a snail. On past evidence, no, unless said player is an amateur like Guan Tianlang, who was penalised during the 2013 Masters. Rightly so, but many more could have been done for slow play that week and weren’t. You can bet the powers that be will still be reluctant to implement the 40-second recommendation (Rule 5) for name players.


Tiger Woods will no doubt do wonders for viewing figures this week – he always does – but will he contend for his 16th major title? Will he even make the cut? The green jackets will hope he at least does the latter, otherwise viewing figures will probably plummet.


Given this is just Woods’s first tournament since his WD from the Genesis Invitational in February, he might not even last two rounds. Mind you, he is Tiger Woods. It would be foolish to write him off completely considering what he’s done in this grand old game.


Speaking of contenders, what of Rory McIlroy? Oh, the perennial question of will he finally don that garish green jacket to complete the grand slam? Many hope he does, including yours truly, but we’ve been down this road every year since 2015. That thing called pressure, especially over those crucial six and eight foot putts on the slickest greens in golf, will probably deny him once again.


I hope I’m wrong. It’s tough being a Rory McIlroy fan.


The Masters may be heavenly for many golf fans, but even it can’t perform miracles to cure all professional golf’s problems. Still, we can but dream.


#JustSaying: “It’s like playing a Salvador Dali landscape. I expected a clock to fall out of the trees and hit me in the face.” David Feherty on playing Augusta National



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