It’s always tough when you have to compete with yourself, and that was the situation the Wyndham Championship found itself in this year.
Last year, Tiger Woods came, and with him came galleries so huge they had to print more tickets. Tiger played well for three rounds and it looked like he might win it; and except for one disastrous hole, he might have. But this year, Tiger not only didn’t play here, he didn’t play anywhere; and last year’s champion, Davis Love, was recovering from surgery and couldn’t defend his title. But he did come to the tournament.
Then again, Jimmy Buffett didn’t make an appearance at Margaretville in 2015 but he was out at the tournament on Monday. Who knows, maybe Buffett will become a regular? It appears that if they can get golfers to come to the tournament once, they keep coming back. Maybe singers are the same.
It’s great to see the pro-ams getting beefed up again. At one time, in the old GGO, the Wednesday pro-am was often one of the biggest days of the tournament
The Wyndham has a lot going for it, but the two things that seem to keep bringing golfers back are the course and the people. The Donald Ross course at Sedgefield looks better every year and, according to the pros, who ought to know, it plays better. The pros have nothing but compliments for the course.
The weather in August is always a question mark. I have gotten as wet as I ever have with my clothes on in past years at the Wyndham, but this year only the Wednesday pro-am and the final round were affected by thunderstorms. That’s as good as you can hope for in August. It’s always going to be warm in August around here, but this year, when I was on the course, it wasn’t brutal and a nice breeze helped a lot.
I love the deep rough with the waist-high clumps of grass. And I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I love it when these professional golfers manage to put a ball in that rough. It makes me feel so much better about my own game.
I don’t play golf often or well, but I have played enough to be in every kind of rough there is. It always amazes me that most of the time these guys do what everyone always tells me to do when the ball is really in a bad spot, which is punch it back out on to the fairway. Maybe next time I play I’ll listen to everyone’s advice and not try to bend the ball around one tree and under another to get to the green, but probably not.
Along with the great course are the people, and I have to say that everyone at the Wyndham seems to have gotten a lot nicer, or maybe I’ve mellowed.
As a journalist, I’m not out on the course for the same reasons as the spectators, so I’m not doing the things that the gallery marshals expect spectators to do. I’m also not a golf writer, so I’m not doing the things that the golf writers do. I’ve noticed that sometimes it makes me stand out in the crowd and the gallery marshals in the past have barked at me. Let me add that I know the rules and obey them religiously, but marshals are supposed to be looking for unusual activity and that would be me. I really think there is a different and friendlier attitude. I certainly like being asked what I’m doing rather than being barked and told to stop what I’m doing.
This year I found the galleries to be amazingly polite. People far away from the golfers would stop walking and get quiet when a golfer was addressing the ball.
And I see this every year, where a shot is so errant that nobody on the course is really sure where it went and some spectator will stand with the ball between his feet waving until somebody realizes that they are looking in the wrong direction. Maybe that happens everywhere, but it shows respect for the golfers and the game.
One of my favorite parts of the tournament is always riding to and from the course on the media shuttle. It’s fun for me because I’m on a shuttle with reporters and camera crews that travel all over the country covering not just golf tournaments but all professional sports, and you never know what the topic of discussion will be.
Sometimes it’s about golf and who is hitting the ball better. This year there was a long discussion about the use of drones. They shoot the courses with drones now before the tournament starts, and according to the guys that do it, the shots of the course are much better than when they shot the course from helicopters because the drones fly lower and they can spend more time doing it because it’s not so expensive.
Maybe next year, or the year after, the TV guys will have drones strategically placed during the tournament itself. Drone technology is moving so fast it seems likely, and with drones they could get angles on shots that right now are impossible.
On one of my shuttle rides I found out that the driver had a son who was a golf pro at a country club. The driver knew as much about golf as some of the golf writers and I wondered how he managed to stay in his bus all day with all this great golf being played around him. Unlike some of the shuttle drivers, he didn’t mind having to stop and wait for the players to play through because that was the only golf he got to watch, so stopping and waiting was what he enjoyed.
Another driver was a retired high school tennis coach. Since tennis is a sport I know something about, we didn’t discuss golf on the trip.
Even the shuttle drivers seem to be friendlier. They would ask people if they were in hurry, or if anyone else was getting ready to leave the media area. In the past, some shuttle drivers have told me they couldn’t leave a minute early and also wouldn’t wait if you were running down the sidewalk.
An overall change in attitude can only come from management, and it certainly appears that the management has put out the word: be nice, be friendly, be accommodating, and try to help people if you can. When management has that attitude it not only transfers down the line to the people working the tournament but to the spectators and the golfers.
The tournament this year had a great feel.
I always enjoy watching City Councilmember Mike Barber announce the golfers on the first tee. He obviously enjoys it and has great rapport with the golfers. It really doesn’t take a conversation to announce someone’s name, but Barber spends a couple of minutes talking with each golfer. I know with some he’s making sure he gets the pronunciation of their name and their hometown right, but with most it’s just welcoming them to the tournament, making sure they have everything they need.
Greensboro is never going to be Augusta, but if we get the reputation for having one of the best courses on the tour and being the friendliest tournament, I don’t think we could do much better. And it appears that is where we are headed.