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Murphy’s Law


The Future of Golf? It’s Rory or Bust

istory moves in chunks of time we can label. Talk to your neighbor, the geologist, and he can dazzle you over cocktails with a rap about the Pleistocene epoch, the Jurassic period and the Paleozoic Era. Good

happy hour chat, that. Or talk to your neighbor, the film buff, and he can

demarcate the arc of a thespian like Robert De Niro. There would be the “Oustanding Early Era,” including his turns in “The Godfather II,” “Raging Bull” and “GoodFellas.” Then there would be the “Curious and Sometimes Successful But Still Curious Foray Into Comedies Era,” including “Analyze This” and “Meet the Parents.” Then there would be the third era, tentatively titled, “Has De Niro Made a Good Film in Years? Era.” Again, healthy chatter. Same with golf. It can be divided into eras, some more glorious than others. Your grandfather can tell you about the “Ben Hogan

Transition Into Arnold Palmer Era” of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, when everything seemed sylvan and romantic. Your father can tell you about the “Golden Bear Era,” when Jack Nicklaus strode across the golf landscape like a majors- winning Tyrannosaurus. And you yourself are familiar with the “Tiger Era,” an eye-popping period in the Earth’s and sport’s history that, like some astronomers concur, ended with The Big Bang—Tiger’s Escalade hitting a fire hydrant in a gated Orlando neighborhood over Thanksgiving weekend, 2009. That brings us to today’s question: What is our next era

in golf, and will it be any good? I’ve got news for the folks at PGA Tour HQ down in

Ponte Vedra Beach. You best pray Rory McIlroy is up for a Jack/Tiger-like dash through the history books, or this next era may be filed alongside the Dark Ages. The PGA Tour can dress up its FedExCup playoffs all it

wants. The Tour can offer as many $10 million bounties as it wants. But—all due respect—when the Billy Horschels of the world and the Bill Haases of the world are the players ultimately kissing those checks while the rest of the free world watches football, the Tour could be headed for a post-

72 / NCGA.ORG / FALL 2014

Roman-Empire-like descent into oblivion. After all, who really remembers Charlemagne? What we love are compelling figures in history, not any

gimmicks or tricks. The Tour has been down this road be- fore. After Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters, there was a fallow decade until Tiger roared onto the scene. That period can be known by its scientific binomial nomenclatures, Faldo annoying-exus, or Norman choking-exus. No, golf fans, history does not look kindly on Nick Faldo’s six majors, or Greg Norman’s several failed windmill tilts. It was an era lacking in magnetic stars delivering the goods. Even a passing meteor like Nick Price, as inoffensive as he was, failed to register. It took Tiger, golf ’s equivalent of the printing

press, to burst golf out of its dark state and into the bright light of stardom. Suddenly, everyone had an opinion on Tiger. Some loved the fist-pump. Some hated it. Some loved the red shirt on Sundays. Some hated it. Some loved the controlled, corporate Nike-fueled image. Some…wait. Nobody like the controlled, corporate Nike-fueled image. Never mind. At any rate, Tiger mattered. Golf, without Tiger, doesn’t matter that much anymore. At least not to the casual American sports fans. Oh, there will always be the lunatic fringe, that miniscule percentage who knows the difference between Ryan Moore and Ryan Palmer; who can pon- tificate mightily on who’s the better Johnson, Dustin

You best pray Rory McIlroy is up for a Jack/ Tiger-like dash through the history books, or this next era may be filed alongside the Dark Ages.

or Zach. I speak, of course, of you and me, dear reader. But without a Rory-fueled run through history, a Rory

Slam, a Rory-steals-Tiger’s-records type run, we golf lovers may be relegated on the spectrum of society to the rank of bird watchers, or “Star Trek”-convention attendees. It’s a competitive sports landscape, full of video game addicts and short attention-span tweeters. Golf is a pastoral, slow-moving 18th century game invented by Scottish men who wore tweed. That may not be a cool selling point to the kids. So we can have all the FedExCup playoffs we want,

or offer cheaper tickets to PGA Tour stops or make sleek and neat-o. But sizzle sells. Palmer sells. Jack sells. Tiger sells. No pressure, Rory. But until another Mozart comes

along, you’re going to have to start shooting for the moon, kid. Otherwise, historians may one day look back on this era and shake their heads, ruefully.

BRIAN MURPHY hosts the KNBR morning show “Murph and Mac” and was the San Francisco Chronicle’s golf writer from 2001-04.

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