Full Swing or Full PR?
Updated: Mar 2
You have to wonder if PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was the real director of the eight-part Netflix Series “Full Swing”. As a public relations exercise for the organisation he runs, it scores a 66. As a behind the scenes documentary of the world’s biggest professional golf circuit it shoots 86.
Eight episodes? Another director could easily have distilled this down to four, perhaps two.
Aside from the odd swear word, this series could have emanated from the PGA Tour’s media department. You have to imagine Monahan and his team raising a glass of champagne after the screening for spreading the message that the PGA Tour is the land of milk and honey, where bromances flourish, kids from poor backgrounds can realise the American dream, the circuit is one big melting pot accepting players of any colour and any nation, and its very existence threatened by a big bad wolf called LIV Golf.
It took me nearly a week to finish the series. Like everyone else, I watched the much anticipated first episode shortly after its release. If not for the fact I’ve spent 30 years writing about this game, I don’t think I’d have watched the other seven. My other half didn’t. She fell asleep during episode one, the Justin Thomas – Jordan Spieth bromance, or “Frenemies” as Netflix dubs it.
“This is so boring” were the last words my other half spoke before she nodded off. Hard to argue with her. I worked my way through the other seven episodes, forcing myself to watch the final two last night. I had to switch off halfway through number two, the “woo is me,” sorry “Win or Go Home,” Brooks Koepka episode. There isn’t enough wine in the Tait household for me to sit through that depressing content in one sitting. Hard to feel sorry for a guy who’s won four majors, lives in a palatial mansion, flies in a private jet – the PGA Tour is good for private jet sales: private planes feature heavily in the series – and had earned approximately $35 million before the series aired.
Yes, Koepka opening up about his travails was decent insight, but at times it seemed too forced, as if he was putting it on for the cameras. However, he’s not the first major champion to find the game ridiculously easy for a short period of time only to find it’s anything but. It’s called “golf” because all the other four-letter swear words were already in use.
Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. There were good elements to the series. The Matt Fitzpatrick U.S. Open stuff, “American Dreams, was a good watch. Joel Dahmen emerges as the star of the series, as one of the more likeable, down to earth guys on the PGA Tour.
After the above, I’m struggling. We already know Tony Finau’s a good guy, but the portrayal of him as the ultimate family man goes a wee bit over the top. It’s pure schmaltz.
The PGA Tour suits were probably congratulating themselves after watching episode seven, “Golf Is Hard” – no S--- Sherlock! – featuring Mito Pereira, Joaquin Niemann and Sahith Theegala for portraying the PGA Tour as the great melting pot that welcomes people of any colour, any nationality. The irony is that Pereira and Niemann have now jumped to LIV. Guess playing on the PGA Tour isn’t every Chilean kid’s dream.
And so to Rory “Little Red Riding Hood” McIlroy taking on the Big Bad Wolf that is LIV Golf in episode eight, “Everything has Led to This.”
To change metaphors, Rory is the white-hatted cowboy who’s going to clean the town of black-hatted LIV Golf desperados like Ian Poulter, Koepka and Dustin Johnson. By the way, let’s give kudos to Netflix for getting Johnson to utter more words in the series than he’s uttered in his entire career.
Of course, the problem for Netflix is much of what Rory said was already in the public domain. Any golf fan worth his or her salt already knew Rory’s stance on LIV Golf before the series aired. Indeed, many non-golf fans did too.
About the only hard hitting line from the entire series is Rory’s “F--- You Phil” quote in the final episode. And therein lies the problem: Netflix had unlimited behind the scenes access and came out with little that was revelatory or hard hitting, instead peddling the PGA Tour PR mantra all the way through.
Documentary? More like hagiography. As swing coach Sean Foley states, LIV Golf has been good for PGA Tour players because the PGA Tour has increased prize funds, upped the ante on the Player Impact Program, suddenly finding an estimated extra $250 million down the back of the couch. A true documentary would surely have delved into the source of those new-found funds?
True, the series was aimed more at non-golf fans than golf ones but, based on what was on offer over the eight episodes, I can’t see many converts to the royal and ancient game.
Former colleague Adam Schupak said the series was “good, but not great.” Knowing Adam as I do, methinks he was perhaps biting his tongue.
I’ve got another G word. Guff!
I hear there’s talk of another series. Groan. Methinks I’ll have to take up knitting.
#JustSaying: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” From The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance