Watching the Skins Game this weekend, I couldn't fight the feeling that something's changed about the Skins Game. Maybe I'm completely off or remembering something else, but this year's Skins Game - highlighted by four golfers who barely spoke, playing for a significant chunk of change in a somewhat charity event - didn't have the feel of Skins Games of old.
Or, maybe I'm just getting old…
I seem to remember, years ago when I first starting paying attention to this silly game called golf, the images of some of the greatest players on the course playing in this thing called the Skins Game. I distinctly remember that the name threw me; in a weekend of pigskins (football) I didn't expect the Skins Game to be about golf and have absolutely nothing to do about the Redskins.
(However, I'd still kill to see Theisman and Riggins playing golf, just for the humor value…)
I remember this loud guy named Trevino talking trash on the course, brashly walking while other guys were putting and trying to throw them off their game. I thought he was funny, annoying and a great golfer.
I remember Nicklaus. Jack's the reason I started playing golf, and my early memories of his style of play, his quiet dominance shape my approach to golf to this day.
There was Player and Fuzzy Zoeller… and seriously, I don't think Fuzzy would be allowed anywhere near a televised event any more, just because the Networks would worry about what he might say.
But, there was a time when the Skins Game was fun. Fun to watch and, based on my hazy recollections, fun to play. Friendly verbal jabs, good competition and a relaxed two days of golf. But now, I don't think anyone would say the same.
Now, people talk about the Skins Game needing a facelift. I watched the Golf Channel after the Skins Game, and listened to the arguments for and against the Skins Game. The predominant feeling I came away with - and one the above article makes as well - is that as a made-for-TV event, the Skins Game will eventually go the way of the dinosaur.
And I have to ask: why?
Brian Hewitt writes about Couples' performance over the weekend:
He is laid back. The Skins Game is laid back. For that matter, Couples may be the best player in the month of November in the history of golf.
Hewitt goes on to suggest that the way to make the Skins Game fun again is to change venues: Augusta, Pinehurst, Olympic. Another suggestion is to have the players put up their own purses, which would definitely make it somewhat interesting.
(But what's $250,000 to Annika Sorenstam, who earned more than $2.5 million in 2004 alone, not to mention Tiger and Couples?)
If you ask me, there's one thing more than any other that's changed the Skins Game: the players who play the Skins Game. Gone from television are the Trevinos and the Zoellers and the Players, the people who under today's blanket of inclusion and political correctness just don't fit into the 'Tiger Woods as Golf's Savior" corporate image.
For me, that's what made the Skins Game fun as a kid. The rivalries, the banter, the off-color comments all added to the sense that during the season, these guys were professionals but, come November, they let their guard down and play golf.
Sure, it was all staged, but that's what it took to attract the viewers. Somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten that professional sports aren't just about the athletes, but about the fans and getting them to watch. It's great if you have a tournament, but it's hard to have a good tournament without sponsors, and sponsors want fans.
Do I sound bitter? I'm not. I'm just disappointed that an event that was one of my favorites in golf has turned into little more than a showcase event and a chance for four golfers to earn a little more money. I was heartened to hear Tiger comment that all of his winnings were going to the Tiger Woods Foundation, but it didn't make the Skins Game any more fun.
Is it too much to expect that four professional golfers could get together for eighteen holes and have some fun?