• Richard Mandell

$11.35 Million or Your Career?

Most people would rather watch paint dry than watch a golf tournament on television. Golfers as a whole are an odd bunch and what contributes to our oddity is that many of us do watch golf on television. Apparently there is enough demand that the Golf Channel exists. For me, the four majors are the golf tournaments I look forward to watching the most on television. Once the PGA Championship passed and football started, I had no interest in anything golf as a viewer.


Up until a few years ago, that was the extent of my interest in TV golf with the exception of the venue and its virtues architecturally. I am a slow study, but apparently after thirty years of watching golf on TV, I have finally realized that you don’t really get a sense of a course’s design by watching it in two dimensions, especially when most of the action is filmed from green to tee. Most courses look like they are all at the beach – flat as a pancake. With that epiphany, I had even less interest in watching TV golf.


Yet, my interest in golf as seen through a cathode-ray tube has heightened in recent years with the introduction of the FEDEXCUP playoffs. Although the Tour Championship was an interesting concept, the reality is that few people remembered who the winner was six months later. Most pros may not rank it in their top ten – until now. I have to admit, I LOVE the playoffs. I’m sure Jim Mora doesn’t mind talking about playoffs when it comes to the FEDEXCUP either.


For me, it is very much like the NCAA basketball tournament. The common denominator is the ‘do or die’ elimination factor. The three playoff events cut eligible golfers from 125 to 100 to 70 to the final 30 for the fourth FEDEXCUP event, the Tour Championship. Sure the PGA Tour tweaks the points each year and it is difficult to follow, but who cares? I am a sucker for stats and enjoy seeing who moves up or down the list based upon an upcoming putt. The fact is I watch these tournaments now for the drama. Before, I didn’t.


So Jim Furyk makes a simple three-footer worth $11.35 million dollars. We’ve all trembled over that same distance for much less. The real excitement was watching as his wheels slowly derailed those last two holes. Yet from Furyk’s steely demeanor, you never knew. In fact, he showed a looser side of the professional golfer on those final holes by getting his very own rally cap in place. Ok, so he turned his cap around to keep rain from dropping off his bill. Don’t ruin it for me. Bottom line – I love the FEDEXCUP playoffs. All that money up for grabs makes for compelling television.


Yet now the Fall Series begins and for me it is even more intriguing. It is a study in human nature and the only true reality show on television. The Fall Series is the group of five final PGA Tour events which determines the top 125 golfers who enjoy fully exempt status for the following season.


That means they can play in almost all the tour events without weekly Monday qualifying or seeking sponsor’s exemptions. It is, in effect, the final chance for many golfers to preserve a full-time job for the next year without having to go through the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (which also makes for pretty good television). For the average human being, it is the difference between having a full-time job and working for a temp service. Sure, anyone can play for a $10 million annuity. I’d rather watch someone play for their professional lives.


Go ahead and call me a masochist.


About Richard: Richard Mandell is a Golf Course Architect in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Educated as a Landscape Architect at the University of Georgia (he is licensed in both North and South Carolina), Richard has close to two decades’ experience in designing new golf courses and renovating existing ones. Richard may also be the only golf architect in the world who is a certified arborist. He co-hosts a weekly golf radio talk show in Pinehurst and continues to teach a class on Golf Architecture at North Carolina State University which he started in 1997. Mr. Mandell also wrote the award-winning book, Pinehurst ~ Home of American Golf - The Evolution of a Legend (International Network of Golf Book of the Year – 2007).


Richard Mandell has been a Golf Content Creator for the Washington Times Communities since October 20, 2008

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