PGA Testing On-Course Interviews – Many Possible Problems
The Tournament of Champions is coming up before too long in Kapalua, Hawaii. The state of Hawaii is fairly laid back, but a professional golfer with huge amounts of money riding on the next shot is generally not. Nevertheless, the next round of experiments with player/gallery relations is gearing up for its first test, and it flies in the face of everything I’ve ever heard about concentration in golf. It may come to pass that interviews with players may begin during actual play. Considering the meltdowns I’ve seen on the municipal course for uttering a sound at the wrong time, I wonder how a high-strung pro in the throes of competition is going to fare.
The sports press in the U.S. is a somewhat kinder, more gentle form of the political press, but it’s the press all the same. Despite the institution’s tremendous importance, journalistic aggression can be maddening. Reporters are trained to dig for all the info they can get, and personal sensitivity is not always a priority. Are we going to turn someone like that on Tiger Woods with a victory in the balance? I wouldn’t take that job for anything. Rhythm and momentum of play is not a visible thing, but most of us understand its presence and fragility. To stop those forces for a series of questions, however innocent, interrupts the process for the player. Something in the actual game can be lost in a moment, and never recovered. An interrupted game can be suddenly altered in ways only the player can understand. Are these interviews going to involve sticking a microphone in a golfer’s face following a triple bogey, with the all too typical “How do you feel?” business? Is a sports journalist going to risk a player’s one, two, or three shot lead by suddenly causing a player to turn off the golf switch for the sake of the fan relations switch? Will there now be an additional presence in mid-fairway, where there used to be only players, caddies, and an occasional marshal? Will it include the lugging of large cameras and cords? Will journalists dig for information a player doesn’t want to give, or offer information he or she doesn’t to hear. – “Are you aware that Lexi eagled the fourth? Oh, you didn’t know that? Didn’t you look at the leaderboard?” Many players intentionally never look at it. Players are trained to put a bad shot behind them. What if an interviewer unwittingly won’t allow that? What if an interview puts a player on the clock, with the risk of a penalty?
So far, a good percentage of players are drawing the line. The player is having his or her time during play, and the fans gets their experience as well. However, the moment of preparing for and hitting the shot is different for both, and mixing the two is combining an entertainment component with a performance and income component. My imagination races to envision interviews in other professions that feature difficult physical feats, and a few of them look downright silly. I would like to see what happens when a microphone and camera-laden commentator stands next to Serena Williams, asking questions in the moment of pre-serve. It could get nasty. How about interviewing track stars rounding the final curve? Gallery members pay to watch experts play golf. In that way, they become part of the experience, but unless they go to Q-School, the depth of their involvement should stop right there. Press interviews for any other profession during actual performance is absurd, and I wonder if the press considers it for golf simply because the players don’t move so quickly, and can be caught. Is anyone so thick as to believe a golfer standing over or waiting his turn for a shot isn’t really doing anything?
It appears, despite the potential problems and sparse rewards, that the tour is going to try this idea of mid-round interviews out under the palm trees of Kapalua. I anticipate that when it’s all said and done, we will be content to watch great golfers play, and not strive to bond with them on the backswing or in mid-tantrum. At least, I hope so.