Why Tiger vs. Phil is worth watching and the critics are worth ignoring

It doesn’t matter to us that it might be about 10 years late in their careers.

It doesn’t matter that it will cost $19.99 to watch it.

It doesn’t matter that it’s on the day after Thanksgiving.

And it certainly doesn’t matter that some people think watching golf on television is about as exciting as doing your taxes.

We like what we like, and we like golf. We like to play it. We like to talk about it. We will watch just about anything The Golf Channel throws our way.

So it makes no difference to us that “The Match” – the made-for-television, head-to-head showdown pitting Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson on Nov. 23 in Las Vegas – is getting shredded by the media.

We’re used to this. For years, we have heard them say and watched them write that interest in our great game is declining. Television ratings – down. Number of rounds being played – down. Star power – down.

The TV numbers are misleading. Of course they’re down! All TV ratings are down! Every year!

The only consistent exception has been the Super Bowl, and even those figures are going to get concussed one of these days when fans tire of watching what will amount to flag football.

In case you’ve already forgotten, golf’s TV ratings skyrocketed when Tiger Woods contended in the PGA Championship, and the numbers for the Tour Championship, which he won, were the highest in the history of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Right after that, the Ryder Cup ratings were higher all three days than the last time the event was played in Europe, in 2014.

Another misleading narrative: the idea that golf participation in the United States is plummeting. If you listened to the critics, you’d think no one ever plays the game anymore.

According to the National Golf Foundation’s report released last May, the number of people who played golf on a course in 2017 was 23.8 million, about the same as the previous year. It’s holding steady.

And then there’s this: The number of people who played at Topgolf and similar facilities rose 7% to 21.7 million. The total number of people who played golf in one form or another was 32 million – again, about the same as 2016.

Equally intriguing is that the number of newcomers to golf rose to 2.7 million. But here’s the figure that interests me the most: Of those 23.8 million who played on a course, 19.7 million (about 95%) said they are “committed” to the game.

The “golf doesn’t have any stars anymore” people are just ignorant. It has more than ever.

Sure, Tiger’s presence spiked the ratings in August and September. Tiger is Tiger. What’s golf supposed to do? Apologize that he’s so popular?

But knowledgeable fans of the game know how watchable the other top players are these days. “The Match” just as easily could have paired any two of about nine or 10 pros, and it still would have been far better than those overhyped boxing matches that cost more than twice as much as Tiger-Phil.

I have just finished a month of being glued to the TV for as many pitches as I could see in the baseball playoffs. At the end of it, I read that the World Series ratings were the fourth worst ever even though Boston and Los Angeles are such major media markets.

Does that make me say, “Hmm, I guess I shouldn’t watch next year”? Are you kidding? It makes me all the more defiant. Watching baseball in October is like a religious experience. Always has been for me. Always will be.

Same goes for televised golf. Want to tell me I shouldn’t care? I’ll show you! This is my sport. It always will be my sport. It always will be fascinating to me.

I hope you, too, can tune out the naysayers. Let them talk. They don’t know the joy that golf can bring. What they say simply doesn’t matter.

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