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Friday, February 21, 2014

At Least It's Fan-Friendly

After two days of match play, I suspect GC and NBC are relatively happy. I mean, this could have been a horrible situation.

First there was Tiger, Phil, and Adam all skipping the WGC-Accenture entirely. They all had perfectly acceptable excuses but you can be pretty sure they just don't like the Dove Mountain course.

Then, after two days, all of the #1 seeds are gone. No more Zach. No more Rosie. No more Rory. No more Stensonator. Plus Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood tanked the very first day!

My gosh, this is a disaster, isn't it? Won't the TV ratings be killed?

Hardly. For the first time I can ever remember, the fact that all the top seeds are gone means relatively little. For you see, my friends, we can argue that most of the fan favorites are still here. Let's do a quick roll call...

Jordan Spieth? Here. (Didn't you hear the roar when he holed out from the bunker?)

Jordan Spieth

Bubba Watson? Here. There. Everywhere... but still able to hit the green.

Jason Dufner? Here. (He raised his hand but the movement was so slight you may not have noticed.)

Jason Day? Present, mate.

Graeme McDowell? He's at the bar sipping a Guinness, but he'll be at the first tee on time.

Rickie Fowler? He's that glowing orange light over there.

Matt Kuchar? Just follow the trail of bodies left by the Smiling Assassin. It's Friday and he's still smiling.

Plus we've still got Sergio and Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk and... well, you get the point. It appears that many of the most popular players have developed the types of followings once limited to the biggest names in the game.

I know some people think that's a sign of the apocalypse and the sad result of commercializing the game, but I say that's a good thing. Everybody tends to know the big name players in most sports, even if they aren't into that sport. (Hey, I know who Alexander Ovechkin is and I don't even follow hockey.) It's when this next tier of players becomes known that you know a sport is becoming a bigger part of society.

That's where we're at. People are beginning to recognize players in the Top25 to Top50 in the rankings, not just the top two or three, and they're tuning in and showing up at tournaments to follow them. That's not just good for TV ratings -- that's good for all of us golf fans. It means more exposure for the game and more golf broadcasts for us to watch.

And, fortunately, it means an interesting match play tournament even with all the "big names" gone.

BTW, all but one of my Final Four picks are still in it. And since one of the GC reporters started the day by saying that Patrick Reed had impressed him the most of any player during the first round, I'm blaming Reed's exit Thursday after 21 holes on "the announcer curse."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;-)

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