Used to be that your job as a reporter was to tell folks what happened.
Somewhere along the line, the ground rules were changed.
Now, there’s a perceived notion that it’s part of the job to report what should have happened.
In other words, we have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and we’re darn well going to use it to be critical when the mood serves us.
And, oh, how it served many in the media Saturday at the 98th PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club.
Here’s the deal: It’s smack in the middle of summer in the States, there’s pretty much a heat dome on the entire country, and insufferable humidity abounds.
That means unpredictable thunderstorms.
When the second round ended Friday, officials knew that the forecast for Saturday was dicey — just as it was for Wednesday and Thursday and Friday — but they made the decision to send players off in twosomes from the first tee in Round 3.
It’s the proper call for a major championship and barely a peep was sounded. Until, of course, a pair of crushing thunderstorms hit one on top of the other and play was rendered impossible. Thirty-seven of 86 players had finished their rounds, six had not even teed off and so the decision was made to re-start Round 3 yesterday morning and basically flow it into Round 4 concurrently, no time for a re-pair.
Awkward, yes. Unconventional, no doubt. But stop and take a deep breath, folks; we’re talking golf, it’s sport, and hardly is it worth spewing fire like all of humanity has been dealt a horrible blow.
Yet when Kerry Haigh, managing director of championships for the PGA of America, came in for a press conference Saturday night, some reporters marched in there as if it were an inquisition.
It was as if of all the people inconvenienced at Baltusrol — the players, the caddies, the officials, the TV folks, and tens of thousands of spectators — the media put itself above everyone.
How had Haigh not known that splitting the tees and going in threesomes would have allowed for a lot more play?
A decent and honourable man, Haigh deserved better. Disagree with his decision to stick to twosomes and one tee, fine, and for sure you can question his choice to roll the dice against Mother Nature. But the first two questions were about decisions made at PGA Championships in 2014 and in 2012, then he was asked if he had considered that playing as much as 36 holes on Sunday was a disadvantage to older players.
Now we’re trying to make things so fair in our golf tournaments that we’re to take stock of players’ ages? Good gracious, are we for real? That’s what you’re going to ask a tournament director who has a small string of chaotic situations to attend to?
What made the media’s obsession with this controversy look even worse is that players — the guys who actually were impacted by the decision — really didn’t raise a beef.
Paul Casey concedes he was “surprised” that they didn’t go to a two-tee start with threesomes, but he emphasised that at the end of the day, there would have been the same scenario: The third-round wouldn’t have ended Saturday, some golfers were going to have to play well in excess of 18 holes, and it was going to be a race against Mother Nature to finish Sunday night.
Did he hear players complaining about going off one tee? Casey smiled. “Yeah, but we’re all experts in there, aren’t we?” he said.
“Every Tour player’s a weatherman, every Tour player’s an expert on set-up. We’re all experts.”
Then again, there are some players who are just soft-spoken and professional through and through. Steve Stricker, for instance.
He returned to the course around 5:30 a.m Sunday, played a few holes to finish off Round 3, then went to rest up for the fourth round.
He did so without raising any issues.
“Not bothered by any of it,” said Stricker. “You’ve got to just put your head down and go ahead and play. I don’t get into the politics, I think you just have to play. Everyone’s in the same boat.”
We were hours away from a winner in this 98th PGA Championship for hours, but fortunately we had been given a large dose of perspective.
We still didn’t have the foresight to call a winner, of course.
But fortunately we weren’t seizing onto hindsight to pontificate.
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