Pete Cowen: Social media is killing the characters in golf

If you were to watch Usain Bolt run every week it would only be a matter of time before you started to lose interest. The lack of characters isn’t killing the game. It’s the frequency of the game that needs to be addressed.

I was asked the other day why don’t we see characters like Seve Ballesteros or Lee Trevino anymore on Tour. The answer is easy. Social media is frightening the players to death. They can’t open their mouths these days and offer an opinion or do anything out of the ordinary in case they get pulled apart on social media. It’s not just the golfers. Did you notice how the Manchester United players didn’t offer an opinion the moment José Mourinho left, as one poorly worded tweet or image and it could all turn against them. 

When you are getting paid millions, they keep their opinions to themselves. Even the tabloids struggle to make up scandal on sports stars these days, when not so long ago there would be an interesting gossip piece in the Press every other day.

Look below at the tweets of how fans reacted in different ways to Rory now turning his attention to the PGA Tour rather than the European Tour.

Social media is even the main reason why many coaches don’t teach women professionals, as you have to be so politically correct in everything you do. If they were to work with a talented girl and to physically explain certain positions in the swing, as you do with the male players, and she later falls out with her coach – you know how the story plays out….you hear it all the time. 

The coach is accused of physically and mentally abusing them during the time they worked together and even if there is no evidence to back up their accusations the coaches reputation is done for. To coach a woman, they would need a chaperon present all the time to make sure everything was done to the letter of the law and everything was handled in a ‘Politically Correct’ manner. Who would go to those lengths?  But this is why many of the leading coaches on Tour only coach the men.

Tour merger

I’m hearing more rumours about the USPGA and European Tour merging and that it’s only a matter of time before it happens. If it does happen, the interesting thing will be how it’s structured worldwide to make sure the top ranked players enter events outside the States. But, realistically, I can’t see the US players wanting it to happen, as they are more like a business. Those lads can earn $3million a year plus without winning a tournament, play 25 events and spend the rest of the time at home with the family or do whatever they want.

At the moment, the big names who travel the world are getting incentivised to tee it up at certain events. The power is with the PGA Tour as their players are locked into a very secure pension scheme, which gives them huge influence. Every PGA Tour player has to enter every tournament on the schedule over a four-year period and yet ‘appearance money’ is unheard of.

The bigger picture the US PGA Tour is trying to address is TV numbers and make it more fun to watch. The Phil and Tiger head-to-head was a joke but it was engineered to embrace the revised gambling laws in America and showcase golf in a new light. It didn’t work out but it’s great to see them addressing people’s perception of golf being boring to watch.

Golf needs more intensity

The problem with golf as a TV sport is the frequency and intensity. Once every four years in Europe during the Ryder Cup the problem is addressed as the intensity goes through the roof. 

It’s not just golf, though. Imagine if you had the Olympics every week, then the interest would fall due to the frequency. This is why so many golf fans watch golf on a Sunday afternoon – that’s when the intensity builds. Football is the most watch sport on the planet and it’s easy to see why. 

It’s only 90 minutes long and the intensity is there from the kick off. Look at the World Cup that always involves a penalty shoot out. Now you don’t get any more intense than that!

For golf to attract a larger following it needs to address the frequency and intensity issue.

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