Golf Australia

Luke Elvy blog: Embracing an atmosphere

TPC Scottsdale
The iconic 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale packs in 25,000 fans

Expecting a review of Super Bowl XLVII?

Yes I watched it and thought it really came alive once the lights went out. Congratulations to Baltimore and no disrespect to Joe Flacco but Beyonce was my MVP.

I want to write about the great scenes at TPC of Scottsdale and how golf, as a product, can learn from it.

Lets not confuse things. Sport is now big business and the business of professional sports is an ultra competitive market. And Australia, despite our relatively meagre population of 22 million, is the most saturated market on earth.

For the past few years I’ve heard all the reasons why golf on TV doesn’t rate.

It’s too slow. The players have no personalities. They only show a handful of players. It’s too slow. Nothing’s changed with the broadcast for 20 years. It goes for too long and did I mention it’s too slow?

I’d agree with all those gripes, particularly here in Australia and it partly comes down to diminishing budgets but it doesn’t have to be that way as the Waste Management Phoenix Open continues to prove every year.

The Stadium Hole at TPC Scottsdale has been a winner for years - who could ever forget Tiger’s “loudest noise ever heard in golf” ace in 1997? What about all the colour it provides - and I’m not just talking about drunken fans.

These images get shown all around via the many media channels. The publicity is priceless. It shows golf can be cool.

This year we saw Padraig Harrington kick an NFL football into the crowd, James Hahn bust some moves Gangnam style and a caddy take an epic fall in a foot race with other caddies from tee to green. And that’s just what made it to air!

To top it all off, player turned commentator Peter Jacobsen wrote & recorded a song about the 16th hole called “Boos and Cheers” – its actually pretty good (watch here)

Most players have great personalities, some have absolute beauties and we’d get to see more of them if there were better outlets. What this tournament provides is a platform to showcase them.

Major champion and ESPN analyst Paul Azinger agrees. He tweeted “There is not another event in golf that does a better job of showcasing PGA Tour players/caddies personalities than the Phoenix Open”.

The key is getting the fan to interact. Why else did 525,821 people turn up for the week?

However, it’s important to recognise there are some events where this works and others where it obviously doesn’t.

The Majors are an obvious no go - there’s more than enough at stake at the big 4 that provides the necessary sports theatre needed to ‘entertain’ the fans. Ryder and Presidents Cups should also be off limits plus most National Opens, including our own.

The Party Hole concept simply didn’t work but it would at the more laid-back Australian PGA.

Regular tour events are no brainers and to entice more sponsors and fans, all sorts of interaction with players should occur. I remember the Surf Coast Knockout had a DJ pumping tunes and fans made all sorts of noise, it provided a great vibe and players fed of it.

When pros wearing shorts is a big story, you know the sport struggles for an interesting angle.

Isn’t it time we all loosened up? Again, there’s a time and a place but people go to sports events to have fun and be entertained.

And what’s with the “quiet please” signs?

If noise (read: atmosphere) was a regular feature at tournaments, players would still be able to hit great shots, it doesn’t seem to affect them in Phoenix.

The reality is golf has to liven itself up and the Phoenix Open has given us a blue print on how to do it. Tournament organisers just need to follow through.

Before I sign off, a ‘hats off’ to Karrie Webb who won her eighth Ladies Masters at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast. The legendary Sam Snead is the only other player to have won the same event that many times.

While Webb is 6-7 years removed from her prime, the Hall of Famer continues to be our best female player. Some players have the ability to stand up and deliver when a tournament is on the line and sadly some don’t.

Her long time coach Ian Triggs has often said, “if Sendo (John Senden) had some of Karrie’s mongrel then he’d win multiple times a year.” Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Congrats Karrie and all the best to all those contesting the Women’s Australian Open next week at Royal Canberra, I’ll be watching and so should you!

Luke Elvy hosted Ten Sport's coverage of the Australian PGA Championship coverage in December. He writes exclusively for Golf Australia. His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. Follow him on Twitter - @elvisgolf

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