Currently, 24 of the top golfers in the world are playing in what is the most detestable sanctioned PGA Tour event of the year. Even the name of the event, Tavistock, provokes an icky feeling.
Tavistock is of course the name of the company that owns the exclusive, but tackily modern, communities of Lake Nona and Isleworth. Those two McMansion developments quickly became the home of several celebrity athletes and CEOs, a veritable destination for Orlando-area high society (an oxymoron?). Given the wealth of golf talent residing in each community, a friendly match play event sprung up 10 years ago between residents. It was all well and good, a private competition that generated buzz because we could only speculate about what went on with the game's biggest stars, including Tiger Woods.
Now, it's a full-fledged event with six clubs represented, two days of television coverage, a Robb Report stable of advertisers, and endorsement from the PGA Tour. Like other Tour events, it generates cash for charity, but maintains the unsavory tinge of exclusivity and reinforces just about every negative stereotype of golf -- the ones that hammer the sport as a whole, not just these professionals and the PGA Tour.
For amateur and recreational golfers, match play team games are just about as fun as it gets -- whether it's a country club member-guest or a muni game. Those who hate golf and crack on it could maybe even have fun playing a team match play game.
But the Tavistock Cup doesn't exactly do much to remove the reputation of the game being inaccessible. The event should be kept private, let those who follow golf closely investigate and speculate about what went on, adding to the mythology of it (and maybe even a less exciting version of Mark Frost's The Match).
Instead, we now have a two-day long broadcast promoting these modern country club communities and their gilded sponsors, all under the imprimatur of some sort of serious golf competition. Just over an hour into the broadcast, the following has already been seen and heard:
- "These guys take pride in their investments, and take pride in their clubs" -- Peter Jacobsen's attempt at the top of the broadcast to rationalize what's on the line. At least we can try to convince ourselves that the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are for country. Tavistock: investments!
- A David Feherty interview with a rep from Sentient Jet with two private jet flight attendants inexplicably at the ready with trays of Fiji water. The entire list of Tavistock Cup sponsors doesn't exactly dispel the stereotypes, but Dr. Rovell surely eats this up:
- "Sweater matches the bottom of your shoes -- nice!" -- analyst Gary Koch. Ugh.
- A spotlight on Team Albany, and the club those four players (Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter, Tim Clark, Justin Rose) are representing in the Bahamas. Golf Channel proceeded to show a slideshow of Albany, with Rich Lerner selling the virtues of the place: "No surprise the marina at Albany is attracting the finest collection of yachts in the Caribbean."
- Another spotlight on one of the clubs, Queenwood in England, led to this exchange between Gary McCord and founder Fred Green. McCord: "Fred, tell me about your golf course." Green: "Queenwood follows on its sister clubs, Eagle Springs in Vail and Nantucket Golf Club, as a purely private golf club. No real estate development, high service levels, great golf ... All the great things in golf." Green didn't exactly respond to McCord's question and talk about the actual course, but it totally has all of the great things in the game.
- More Lerner: "Graeme [McDowell] just opened a restaurant just outside the gates of Lake Nona, and it is playing to very strong reviews in the first few weeks!" Important info fills all the broadcast gaps in this event. An athlete and the restaurant business, what could go wrong?
- And the Tiger Tracker:
Even the cart girls here have Tiffany watches. I need to move here, stat!— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 26, 2013
And we've still got three hours to go!
In an unintended way, maybe this farcical event is the most entertaining tourney of the year, even if the PGA Tour and its broadcast partners are not in on it.