Good Golf As PGA Returns, but The Silence is Eerie
I’m taking a break from the final round of the Charles Schwab, despite being interested in who wins. It’s something I would seldom do, but I needed a short time away from the sound of nothing. – the almost irritating silence.The golf is good, the commentary is fine, the course is attractive and it’s a nice day, but the absolute silence is driving me crazy. It sounds just like it does when I play, but it shouldn’t. These people play so much better than I do, and somebody ought to be there to notice it.
I can’t get the words of a scene from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park out of my head – “Where are the people out strolling on Sunday?” As much as I love to harp about golf getting out of hand and starting to look like hockey from an onlooker’s point of view, this is not what I had in mind, either. Just let the guy swing first, then react. Scream all you want at the sinking of a forty-footer, a chip-in from the bunker, or a fairway wood two feet from the pin on a par 5. I do get a little irritated with “Get in the hole!” but I guess it’s worse to hear nothing at all. I never intended to have a golf gallery be totally silent, just a little decorum bound.
There are factors that obscure the problem for the TV spectator. The analysis and commentary seems to be going by with fewer pauses and breaths taken. That fills in the void a bit. The music that reeks of tradition and proud heritage helps distract from the emptiness, and transitioning from shot to shot without too much space in between is good.
However, all the extraordinary events of the day require a reaction. Just as I thought Jordan Spieth was looking like his old self, he missed a one foot tap-in. Another p[layer did the same five minutes later. Bryson deChambeau is making use of his added heft, and Schauffele is as consistent as always. Following Harold Varner’s quest for first win continues to be interesting, but as I waited for a reaction to these ups and downs of the day, it sounded as if nobody cared at all, outside of a few colleagues. Even a hole at the edge of the course with a few onlookers standing behind the fence sounded pathetic when they applauded. The silence that pervades the Charles Schwab and will persist through the next handful of events sounds like the nothingness astronauts on space walks must experience.
Beautiful panoramic views of the course show not a sign of life. The ponds, roughs, tee boxes and greens look as if some intruder has removed all human life from the game, something that erased the humanity of the event but was sensitive enough to leave the beautiful real estate and facilities. I am sensing the energy that a fascinated gallery brings to such events. A crowd of hundreds or thousands is never truly silent. Even during the back swing, a tv fan or gallery member can feel the collective energy gathering suspense. Look at an average gallery, and some are watching what the player does, while another part looks for where the ball went. Groups of people follow its trajectory and talk to it, yell at it, and gyrate as if coaxing the thing to go right or left.
Putting is the least solitary part of the game. A missed tap-in, like that of Spieth’s requires a general up-welling of “Ahhhhhhh!” to drive home what has just happened. A down to the wire finish can’t produce suspense if there’s no one there to get caught up in it. Good golf in itself can be dramatic and interesting, but a professional tournament is a phenomenon with multiple components. Today, we’re feeling the effects of having a big one removed.
Appropriate behavior, sure, but in the game of professional golf, I’m learning that silence is anything but golden. As Sondheim added, “George would have loved to see people out strolling on Sunday.”