Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

The audience in the theatre, looking over the footlights, view the play as do most of the gallery following the experts of golf. However, back-stage, there are a few eyes critically regarding the play from an entirely different angle. For many years I have preferred to observe golf shots from backstage, as it were. Seeing a man whack a golf ball is of little interest to me, and frequently it is a performance that had better be missed. That which concerns me most is where the ball lands and what it does after. A.W. TILLINGHAST


    

Monday
Jul182016

NBC's First Open Off To Solid Ratings Start

Sports Media Watch breaks down some of the numbers and the real eye opener may be Saturday's third round out-rating the U.S. Open's, which was in the evening presumably when there would be more eyeballs. But who knows! Maybe golfers like their televised play early and June summer evening golf.

From SMW's report:

The 2.75 is the highest for third round coverage of the British Open since 2013 (3.1). The last time third round coverage aired on a broadcast network — ABC in 2009 — it earned a 2.4 overnight.

Of note, Saturday’s telecast scored a higher overnight than the third round of the U.S. Open on FOX (2.5). Keep in mind the U.S. Open aired in a later timeslot (11 AM-8 PM, versus 9 AM-2:30 PM).

Monday
Jul182016

Jack: Henrik v. Phil Better Than The Duel In The Sun!

Tweeted by the greatest of them all today, Jack Nicklaus.

He says:

I was fortunate to watch every second of today’s final round of the Open Championship, and I thought it was fantastic. Phil Mickelson played one of the best rounds I have ever seen played in the Open and Henrik Stenson just played better—he played one of the greatest rounds I have ever seen. Phil certainly has nothing to be ashamed of because he played wonderfully. Henrik played well from beginning to end. He drove the ball well; his iron game was great; his short game was wonderful; and his putting was great. Henrik was simply terrific. To win your first major championship is something special in and of itself, but to do it in the fashion Henrik did it in, makes for something very special and incredibly memorable. I'm proud of and happy for Henrik. Some in the media have already tried to compare today’s final round to 1977 at Turnberry, with Tom Watson and me in what they called the “duel in the sun.” I thought we played great and had a wonderful match. On that day, Tom got me, 65-66. Our final round was really good, but theirs was even better. What a great match today.

Monday
Jul182016

Phil On The Difference Between A USGA And R&A Setup

While we gradually wrap our heads around a historic Open Championship and I slowly collect some good reads, I didn't want to let Phil Mickelson's comments about the Royal Troon setup pass by without a little copy and pasting for future reference.

This was at the tale end of his post-65 final round press conference at Troon.

Q. For those who don't follow golf as closely as others might, can you explain the difference between how the USGA sets up a course for the U.S. Open and how the R&A sets up a course for the British Open? And do you prefer one over the other?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that R&A sets the golf course up to be as fair as possible and to try to kind of identify who the best player is regardless of what the score is given the conditions and so forth. Sometimes it's 20-under. Sometimes people don't want that many under par. But the fact is if somebody plays some incredible golf, that's what it should do. You shouldn't have to mess with the course too much to try to control the score.

The USGA has it in their mind that the score needs to be par, so no matter what lines they have to cross to get there, that's got to be the standard, and it kind of disregards and doesn't take into account the difference in talent level and abilities that the players of today now have.

Q. Prefer one over the other?

PHIL MICKELSON: I prefer this one, yeah. I think that it's much more fair. I think we all enjoy it. But I'm also biased because I've won this one and I haven't won the other one, so I've got that working against me.

I wrote about Troon and the R&A's performance for the week in Golf World.

Sunday
Jul172016

Shirtless Henrik Stenson To Us: "I'm a little hot"

Arguably the most surreal element to Henrik Stenson's 20-under-par Open Championship win was his calm, cool demeanor and unusual (for him) fluid pace of play.

No moment was more bizarre than the 17th when Stenson arrived at the tee, fresh off a key birdie from the native rough left of the green to maintain his two stroke lead. As fast as he'd walked up to the tee, Stenson immediately walked back down the tight-mow walkway toward the New York Post's Mark Cannizzaro and myself who were standing against the large scoreboard pondering the drama that had unfolded.

"Shield me," Stenson said to us as he had just finished taking off the shirt, revealing his abs to the crowd, and leaving him with just his under armor.

Stenson asked if he could moved behind us with the scoreboard as his backside shield, with only us and a day-glo clad policeman as his fronting shield, and then bared chest as he took off his undershirt while we awkwardly looked forward.

"I'm a little hot," he joked, a nice duel reference to the temperature and his ninth birdie of the day.

Indeed he was.

A few pictures and Tweets:


Me, pretending this was situation normal, while Cannizzarro is doing the more extensive reporting as Stenson takes off his shirt:

 

 

 

 

Sunday
Jul172016

Stenson Wins The 2016 Open: Great Or Greatest Duel?

Great duel or greatest duel?

Because of the names involved at Turnberry and the way things went back and forth, it will be hard for any duel to ever surpass Nicklaus and Watson in 1977. (BTW, epic moment on The Open radio when one of the commentators asked if there had ever been a duel like this...that was quickly explained away).

Woods and May at Valhalla was special in its own way, especially considering the David v. Goliath quality. And no doubt there are so many past duels that will be dug up and shared. (Another benefit of such a compelling finish.)

However, given the quality of the play by Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, cases will be made that this was (A) in the conversation for all-time great major final rounds since Stenson was facing down his rival, and (B) the scoring separation was unprecedented.

A couple of Tweeted stats from Golf Channel's Justin Ray put the latter notion into perspective.

Being out on the course for the last portion it was almost a surreal exhibition of skill and class. Both players showed no signs of nerve and both played remarkably fast (but never rushed). It all happens so fast and both Mickelson and Stenson made the moment look so easy, putting what we saw into perspective can be tricky.

I'm going to write up a few things for my various publications but would love to hear your thoughts...

Sunday
Jul172016

2016 Open Championship Final Round This, That & Clippings

The Met Office has nailed the forecast as of this posting: cold and windy (gusts to 30 mph) to noon, with clouds and cool and and wind easing as the day progresses.

Barring some very strange occurrences, it's a two-man race at Troon between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, who tee off at 2:35 pm local time.

Derek Lawrenson's Daily Mail story on day three.

Thanks all for voting, as Stenson won 54% to 40% for Phil in our poll.

Your final round tee times.

The leaderboard.

For American audiences, your Golf Channel/NBC telecast times.

TheOpen.com also features live coverage.

Scott Miller helms The Guardian's live blog today.

Bob Harig on Phil Mickelson playing Troon his way Saturday. Will he do it again Sunday?

Phil's scolding of early-shooting photographers Saturday.

Martin Kaufmann at Golfweek.com on day three of Open coverage and NBC's first day. He sees NBC struggling to incorporate David Feherty and Mike Tirico.

Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN.com says Andrew Johnston "has a personality, and a 1-year-old beard that belongs at a barn raising or the James Harden Facial Hair Hall of Fame."

Johnston has some fun stuff engraved on his wedges, Alex Myers notes.

Sean Zak at Golf.com stayed overnight at the latest grow-the-game effort, The Village. Think music festival living without the music.

Although the week started slowly, the Village added 100 new campers on Thursday, creating an amicable mix of families and boisterous millennials. The Village reached max capacity Friday night (500) and is expected to do so again Saturday.

If you want to relive Phil's 63, Michael David Murphy has done a supercut.

Sunday
Jul172016

In Praise Of Slow Greens Files: Saturday At Royal Troon

Dave Shedloski talked to a few players after Saturday's Open Championship third round when the R&A decided not to mow greens, leaving them at 9.5 on the Stimpmeter. Players were notified by text of the speed figure and plan to not mow.

First, we should commend the R&A for taking the cautious approach, learning from last year's St. Andrews no-play day fiasco. Woohoo!

The bigger question involves speed and the belief that faster surfaces are a greater test of skill. We know that speed is used to protect courses and certainly a reading of 14 will make players defensive. And slower to get around.

Saturday at Troon the scoring average was 73.370 and yet, twosomes got around in 3:30 generally because every 2 footer did not need to be marked.

Two players lead who are not known for their ability to make a lot of putts of late, yet they seem to be putting well. But you also don't sense there is an overemphasis on putting.

Yet this was an interesting take from the various comments Shedloski reports.

“If they were 10, you wouldn’t have to think about it [the pace]. You would be surprised,” he said.

“You would just be thinking about hitting a good putt. But once you get down to that sort of 9.5, even over an 8-footer you have to say to yourself, ‘Don’t forget to hit it.’ That’s not a good thought to have if you’re trying to hole a putt.”

Or, is it? After all, it's a putting stroke and act of skill to stroke it in a solid way that gets it to the hole, no?

Isn't that a more skillful act than merely starting it on a line?

Saturday
Jul162016

Poll: Who Will Win The 2016 Open Championship?

As John Huggan notes, Henrik Stenson is trying to shed a label as one of the best (arguably the best) player not to have won a major.

As I note at GolfDigest.com as well, Phil Mickelson was upbeat during a 1-under-par 70, with very specific swing work to button up with Andrew Getson for the finale at Royal Troon.

Mickelson said it is not a match play situation for him, but it is essentially a two-man race starting at 2:35 pm.

Before I enter the Internet and 21st century dead zone that is an R&A's handpicked media hotel, who do you like?

Who will win the 2016 Open Championship?
pollcode.com free polls

Saturday
Jul162016

Rory Still Not Using Enough Lower Body In His Club Hurls!

I'm greedy, I want more lower body ala Tommy Bolt!

Round three, Open Championship.

Oh, and a little Protracer on the club's path would have happened in an ideal world.

 

Saturday
Jul162016

Spieth: I'd Be Getting Positive Questions If Not For 2015

Jordan Spieth's logic seems perfectly reasonable: he gets negative questions about his 2016 game given that it's no where near his 2015 game. But given that he hasn't posted an under par score since the first round of the Masters and is skipping the Olympics for undisclosed health reasons, I'm not entirely sure the positive questions would be flowing, either.

The full clip after Spieth's 72 at Royal Troon leaving him at +5 for The Open.

Saturday
Jul162016

2016 Open Championship Third Round This, That & Clippings

It's a bleak forecast for the players, a potentially captivating one for us watching the 145th Open Championship's third round at Royal Troon.

Your third round tee times.

The leaderboard.

For American audiences, your Golf Channel/NBC telecast times.

TheOpen.com also features live coverage.

Friday's Birdies and Bogeys.

John Huggan says 36-hole leader Phil Mickelson was “drookit” after a wet 18-holes over Royal Troon.

Michael Bamberger feels a Mickelson win would be epic in further defining his sensational career.

The 36 holes he has played at Troon, completed in a mere 132 shots, is just the latest. Like Fred Couples before him, he will be a factor at Augusta, at least now and again, for the next 10 years or more. Why? Because he is what he has always been, a golfer with a unique skill set and outsized desire. The thrill of competition just means too much too him. Tiger Woods burned out. Surely, his fade is rooted in an uncooperative body.

Ryan Lavner on the third round setup adjustments.

After the setup staff reviewed the course and forecast early Saturday morning, certain hole locations and tees were also moved before the 81 players began their day at Royal Troon.

The greens were rolling at about 9 1/2 on the Stimpmeter.

Here was the weather update greeting us at our work stations today, suggesting the R&A has no desire for a play stoppage should the wind kick up.

Lavner also explains what Mickelson did with Dave Pelz to make himself a better links player.

Jim McCabe ponders the luck of the draw and Steve Stricker says players have to resist the urge to throw themselves a pity party.

There were 52 games sent out Friday, and of the 26 players in red numbers heading to the weekend, 22 of them had earlier tee times on Friday. The only players who played late and finished under par were Patrick Reed (74), Byeong Hun An (70) and Rory McIlroy (71), all at 2 under, and Rickie Fowler (72) at 1 under.

Rory McIlroy also got the wrong side of the draw but he’s not getting down about his luck. Paul Weaver reports for The Guardian.

Jason Day
played a miraculous round in the afternoon wave to get to +1 and hopes there is more of it Saturday, if he can dry his stuff out. Mark Tallentire reports.

Billy Horschel
found a way to move the needle for the first time in ages. Alex Myers reports.

I wrote about Matthew Southgate for GolfDigest.com. What an inspirational story.

Jaime Diaz on short par-3s after watching some golf at the Postage Stamp.

I wrote for GolfDigest.com about how the double-breasted's from the R&A (of all groups) are doing quality grow-the-game work by presenting a fun, relaxed Spectator Village which also accomplishes the goal of giving some exposure to their corporate partners.

And finally, Phil Mickelson's binder clip/hat adjustment is drawing plenty of scrutiny, reports Alex Myers.

Friday
Jul152016

2016 Open Championship Second Round This, That & Clippings

The rain has come and the players going out early in round two finally experienced inclement conditions (as expected). Phil Mickelson managed his way around until a bogey at 12, but he nearly aced the Postage Stamp.

A few notes as you watch the Golf Channel telecast in the States.

Your second round tee times.

The leaderboard.

For American audiences, your Golf Channel/NBC telecast times.

TheOpen.com also features live coverage.

Thursday's Birdies and Bogies.

Players are wearing ribbons in honor of the victims from the Nice tragedy, Ryan Herrington reports.

Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker
and Zach Johnson are sharing a house and having a jolly time at The Open. Steve Hennessy explains. For a UK take, Jonathan Liew of the Telegraph reports.

Alex Myers walks out to the Postage Stamp to take in the wee hole. You forget how far out this course goes before turning back to the clubhouse.

The Railway hole was a beast in round one, my take for GolfDigest.com and Richard Bath's look for the Telegraph.

The Postage Stamp didn't play favorites either. Ryan Lavner with the lowdown on the struggles there.

Which reminds me, The Open's app is a must download for featured 6-7-8th hole coverage. If you're on site or coming this weekend, it will even map you through the course to get to a preferred spot or group.

Jim McCabe looks at the early dominance of Americans and says we should not be surprised given the history here.

The latest odds have Phil 15/8.

Thursday
Jul142016

Stinger! 63 Again: Mickelson's Heartbreaker At Troon

There really wasn't a 62 in the air for Phil Mickelson until the birdie putt on 17 went in, and as I noted for GolfDigest.com based on my observations from the course, even Mickelson wasn't thinking it until late. But once he did, the heartbreak of such a lipout was evident.

Tiger still thinks about his putt at Southern Hills in 2008 and Phil will remember this one for the rest of his life. And 62 remains safe, as does the legacy of the Golf Gods.

That said, it's still a 63 in The Open, the last tournament Phil has won since 2013.

Where does it rank on the list of 28 previous 63's? Jaime Diaz, who wrote a definitive piece recently on 63s, says this one makes the top 5

After the round, Ernie Els lamented the missed chance at history but spoke of his pleasure in watching it unfold. Alex Myers reports.

Thursday
Jul142016

2016 Open Championship First Round This, That & Clips

Under sunny skies and mild temperatures, the 145th Open Championship kicked off 156 years after the first playing at nearby Prestwick.

Your first round tee times.

The leaderboard.

For American audiences, your Golf Channel/NBC telecast times.

TheOpen.com also features live coverage.

The Guardian is doing one of their signature live blogs.

For a little TV table side reading, starting with the New York Times' Christopher Clarey taking a nice definitive look at the Postage Stamp.

The telecast started with a grand opening set to Yanni's "In Celebration of Man," with bagpipes. Alex Myers at GolfDigest.com says NBC's major championship theme is as glorious as ever.

Dustin Johnson didn't want to join the Anna Nordqvist penalty fray, reports Mercer Baggs.

Nick Faldo thinks Rory's gone soft at the knees, reports Derek Lawrenson.

Matthew Southgate learned he had testicular cancer exactly one year ago. Today hes teeing off at 3:21 in The Open. Ryan Lavner with Southgate's amazing story for GolfChannel.com.

It takes two men to replace first tee announcer Ivor Robson, reports Ged Scott.

It wasn't that long ago Troon last hosted The Open, but it seems like ages ago when you think of some things going on in golf then. Ryan Herrington explains.

Tom Doak with other courses in the Prestwick/Troon area worth seeing.

And I took at look out the Spectator Village at The Open for Morning Drive. Check it out here.

Thursday
Jul142016

Natalie Gulbis On Donald Trump's Convention Speaker List!

Night three!

Jeremy Peters reports for the New York Times on the Trump campaign's Republican National Convention speaker list and LPGA star Natalie Gulbis has been slected for a prime night three slot(!?) when Newt Gingrich, Ted Cruz, Eric Trump and the vice presidential nominee are speaking.

Thursday
Jul142016

Today In Not Really Zika Virus: IOC Evaluating, Player Slams WDs, Rory At Peace, Coke To Silhouette Jordan

Could male golfers get themselves DQ'd from future Olympics while the women show off in Tokyo?

The chances are slim, but after reading Steven Wilson's AP story, all of the players who mentioned looking forward to future Olympic opportunities may look silly.

Wilson spoke to top IOC man Thomas Bach, and under Wilson's scenario, option is on the table to drop the men but not the women, though Bach did not say that.

The IOC will meet after the Rio Games to evaluate golf and all other sports and events on the program.

"One of the main categories of the evaluation is, of course, the question of participation of the best players," Bach said. "Let us wait then for this evaluation. Then, of course, we will also speak with the International Golf Federation once this is available."

By evaluating events within each sport, the IOC could look separately at the men's and women's tournaments. As it has been almost exclusively male players who have been withdrawing from Rio, the IOC could potentially consider whether to drop the men's event and keep the women's tournament for Tokyo.

Brian Keogh of the Irish Golf Desk quotes Rory McIlroy at length, who says he feels even more peace of mind than ever not going.

Explaing his Olympics decision in detail, he said: “Zika is a risk but there are other risks attached to going to Rio from political unrest to security issues. So there is more to it that that.

“There were enough people around me, members of my team and my family who weren’t comfortable and I wasn’t comfortable going down there so I felt that the best decision for me was to pull the plug."

And he presumes Tokyo will be there for him in four years.

“We have golf in the Olympics in Tokyo in four years’ time and if I really feel the need to get that Olympic experience hopefully, I can go there and do that.  

“I have no regrets. I have made my stance pretty clear and golf in the Olympics. I play for other things.

“Golf in the Olympics is great for golf and to grow the game. There is no question about that. But with the number of top professionals have decided not to go, that shows where it stands in our minds."

Hopefully Thomas Bach didn't see that last line!

Speaking to Morning Drive's Cara Robinson, Gary Player took his criticism of the Olympic WD's to a new level.

"I'm bitterly disappointed," said Player, the team captain for South Africa. "In America today, their plus-minus combined with car accidents and guns, 100,000 people killed a year, and you're going to go and play in a golf tournament where Zika is the great word. I think there's a greater chance of that happening to you in America than getting Zika. I was just in Zambia, where you have Malaria, and it didn't concern me at all.

"I'm really amazed," he added. "I just hope that it doesn't hurt golf. I hope we stay in the Olympics. I do believe we should have it for amateurs and not for professionals."

And Coca-Cola has coverted planned packaging featuring Jordan Spieth to a silhouette of a golfer, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer (H/T John Strege who has other details on the change in marketing approach).

Wednesday
Jul132016

R&A: Our Chief Referee Is Always Ready To Rule On Video

Shane Bacon proposes that we have three-person review centers at the major championships ready to review possible rules infractions, and while it makes sense on paper, it's also depressing to think it's come to this.

Of course, new R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers didn't take long to get asked about 18-2 and video reviews during his first press conference as head man.

Slumbers made clear the R&A has been ready to review and decide on such scenarios for a decade.

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Yeah, this is just throughout the process, the team here have been thinking about how to respond and monitor any sort of chain of command around rules for over ten years now. And about ten years ago a fundamental change was made by the team here, which I think makes a big difference in the way we would deal with any situation that arises in the next four days, which is that the chief referee doesn't leave this compound here. He has access to video replays in his office, and in addition to that, either Peter or I are also always here.

So we are very focused on -- rules are complex. This is a big, big animal out there being played on. All sorts of things can happen, we know that, and generally do happen in this game. It is the speed and the clarity with which we respond, which is something that we're very focused on, have been for a number of years. And I think it's that function of us sitting here, just about 50 yards away, being able to respond and provide instructions back to the referees, is the difference in how we would deal with it.

Zing!

Sadly, that was about as good as it got.

This was a First Team, All-Conference non-answer:

Q. Martin, what is your take on Rory McIlroy's comments regarding not feeling a special need to give back to the game?

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, I think everybody has a right to their own opinions, and from our perspective I think we have three fundamental roles in the game: One is what's going to happen over the next few days in the Open Championship, two is governance, and three is about how we develop the game. It's part of our DNA to focus on developing the game. I think you have to look to the future always. I think it's great to celebrate wonderful talent out there today, whether it's in the professional game or the amateur game, but it's equally important to look to the future for us, and that's something we're focused on.

Still, Slumbers did make a good impression by sounding engaged and with a little less of the attitude brought by his predecessor.

Wednesday
Jul132016

145th Open: A Few Picks And Thoughts On Royal Troon 

Looking at Troon after spending time at far more beautiful links like Cruden Bay, Royal Dornoch, Brora, Prestwick and Turnberry is, admittedly, a let down. But within the corridors there are some sensational par-4s and par-5s, but beyond of the Postage Stamp, forgettable one-shotters.

Having not been here in over two decades, I forgot just how difficult the 10th and 11th holes look from the tee. While the Postage Stamp looms with its difficult (flat floored) bunkers, the gorse at Sandhills and The Railway must keep a few players up at night, particularly if the rain and cold come as forecast for Friday through Sunday.

Below are some embedded scenes from the course that hopefully give a little perspective what players face on those key holes. And here we talk on Morning Drive about the ebb and flow of the course.

As for picks, Jason Day is my choice over Dustin Johnson despite Day having something "pop" yesterday, but they are both so good right now that it will certainly come down to luck of the draw. Day goes late Friday, which has the potential to be an issue according to forecasters.

Damon Hack and I discussed the fun of wagering a few quid on The Open today.

My current wagering centers around value plays with top 7 finishes in mind, and will likely be rounded out by a few prop bets and perhaps some each way money on Mickelson and Knox (as long as I can get Phil at 45-1) and paying out the top seven spots. My current wagers include Ernie Els each way at 125-1, Graeme McDowell at 80-1, Padraig Harrington at 100-1, Danny Lee at 125-1 and Jim Furyk at 80-1.

**Late add: Greg Chalmers at 500-1! Winner of the recent Barracuda Championship. Go Aussie!

The course is soft and green, as we explained on Morning Drive, but the forecast has me liking "mudders" who know how to handle such conditions, which accounts for my interest in three former major champions who have been showing signs of



Nice spelling by the Tweeter here...trains, planes, eh...

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul122016

Forward Press: Golf Channel Does Its First Major

For this week's Forward Press, I preview some of the things you can expect with NBC/Golf Channel's first Open Championship, plus offer some information on the long programming windows.

Their neatest sounding new production element to show off bump-and-run approach shots may not get much use if Troon remains soft.

I do not, however, have the bootleg yet of Yanni's re-imagined theme, with bagpipes. Something tells me you can wait.

Tuesday
Jul122016

Rio 2016: Spieth, McIlroy Fumble The Torch

It's a day that won't be looked on with much affection by those who admire the skill, passion and leadership roles Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have been carrying for golf.

Inheriting and running with the torch handed to them in recent years--and enjoying the perks that come with the gig--these popular and impressive athletes have inspired young people. They've reminded the world that golf is a sport played by passionate figures.  And they have done their part when called upon to spread the gospel of golf to new lands. But after passing on the 2016 Rio games for reasons that seem less than their normally honest feelings, they've fumbled the torch each seemed so proud to have taken from golf's revered champions of the past.

Golf in the Olympics, while flawed due to the format and crowded schedule, is still one week out of their lives that could have cemented them as ambassadors, world-class sportsman willing to eat Olympic Village food for a week, and all around gents who love golf so much they'll show up in Rio for four whole days of potentially exciting golf.

However, the lads have stumbled in passing on Rio for an undisclosed health reason (Spieth), and altogether dismissing Olympic golf in a petty manner (McIlroy).

Spieth, who had called this a fifth major, signed with Olympic presenting sponsor Coca Cola to be part of its campaign, and who genuinely seems determined to become a sporting legend, could never quite disclose the reason he waffled right up to the inopportune moment of announcing his decision at a major championship (Alex Myers with Spieth's comments here.)

More disconcerting was the assertion that this was the hardest decision of his life, paramount to a college choice. While many around the world would envy someone who has never faced a decision more difficult than deciding to play in the first Olympic golf competition in 104 years or whether to go to UT or USC, the gravity suggests Spieth isn't quite prepared for the modern limelight that is so harsh. Trying to crack a joke about carrying the torch didn't help.

But at least Spieth seems to have genuinely agonized over this. McIlroy, however, went a disappointing path in belittling the competition by suggesting it is not one that matters. While John Huggan rightly notes the brutal honesty of McIlroy is, in part, why he is beloved and paid handsomely to be a global brand ambassador, McIlroy didn't have to put Olympic golf down because he's decided not to go.

The key quote from James Corrigan's Telegraph story:

“But, look, I get where different people come from and different people have different opinions. But I'm very happy with the decision that I've made and I have no regrets about it. I'll probably watch the Olympics, but I'm not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.”

When pressed which events these would be, he replied: “Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters.”

As Jason Sobel wrote of the surreal at ESPN.com:

Unlike Spieth's delicate attempt to convey golf's relevance in the Olympics without his participation, McIlroy stuck a knife in the back of the event and twisted it. Hard.

Ultimately golf is an individual sport played successfully by those who think very hard about themselves, their goals and their needs. Spieth and McIlroy confirmed they are no different than many past champions in putting their needs first. The difference, however, is that while past champions were often selfish and inconsistent at times, they were never handed a torch resembling this Olympic opportunity.