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It sounds cliche, but it’s true, professional golf has never been in a more exciting place than it is today.
We have the battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf constantly evolving with both leaning into the personalities of their top players creating more drama and storylines to follow within the game than ever before.
Then there is the actual golf being played and the stories being created week after week inside the ropes.
You put all of this together and golf all of the sudden has a plethora of content to follow both on and off the course.
With that, welcome to Par Talk, where we’ll be covering the week that was, the week to come, and all the important happenings taking place in golf.
Chris Kirk Wins The Honda Classic, Shares Powerful Message About His Sobriety
For a tournament that’s fallen on hard times from both a scheduling and strength-of-field standpoint, The Honda Classic has delivered the drama down the stretch two years in a row.
After narrowly missing a playoff a year ago between Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka, we got one this time around with Chris Kirk and Eric Cole going to an extra hole.
Kirk nearly handed the tournament away after hitting his second shot into the water on the 72nd hole. Holding a one-shot lead at the time, Kirk questionably went for the green in two on the Par 5 18th.
Kirk made a bogey on the final hole, while Cole made a par to force the playoff.
The two went back to the 18th tee for the first and only playoff hole. After being forced to layup this time around, Kirk was able to hit a wedge within two feet for a tap-in birdie while Cole missed his birdie putt thanks to one of the cruelest lip outs you’ll ever see.
While Chris Kirk and Eric Cole are two names that don’t move the needle for the vast majority of casual fans, Kirk’s story certainly resonates with a lot of people around the world.
In May 2019, Kirk announced that he was taking an indefinite leave from golf to deal with his alcohol and depression issues. After stepping away from the PGA Tour for six months in 2019, and 2,836 days between wins, Kirk got the job done on one of the hardest courses on Tour.
“I owe everything that I have in my entire life to my sobriety,” Kirk said following his win. “I wouldn’t be doing this for a living anymore. I probably wouldn’t have the family that I have currently anymore. I came really close to losing everything that I cared about.
“For that to have happened and worked out for me, obviously there were some decisions that I made, but mostly the grace of God and a lot of other people that really helped me along the way.”
Akshay Bhatia Goes Shirtless Not Once, But Twice
One of the reasons PGA National is one of the hardest stops on the PGA Tour is the fact that there is water everywhere, and Akshay Bhatia fell victim not once, but twice during Saturday’s third round.
Both times he took off his shirt to hit shots from the hazard and didn’t necessarily hesitate to do so given that he’s not built like your typical golfer.
Bhatia and his girlfriend, Presleigh, came prepared though.
After his first shirtless adventure on the sixth hole, she met him between holes with a new pair of pants. That pair only lasted a few holes, however, as he found the mud yet again on the Par 3 15th.
While his third round Saturday was unique given he hit multiple shots without a shirt on, it was a disappointing day as he carded a four-over 74. He answered with a 69 (nice) Sunday to finish in a tie for 49th.
He likely picked up a few new followers on social media after taking his shirt off. So all in all, it was a nice week for the 21-year-old.
Nobody Watches LIV Golf’s Season Opener In Mexico
LIV Golf strategically planned to launch its second season the same week of the weak field at the Honda Classic. The Saudi-backed circuit made its TV debut this week, but nobody tuned in.
READ: GREG NORMAN CLAIMS HE HAD AN IN-HOME MEETING WITH 2022 MAJOR CHAMPION ABOUT JOINING LIV GOLF
Saturday’s second round of the event in Mexico drew a 0.2 TV rating across its 26 measured markets on the CW Network. That isn’t bad, its absolutely catastrophic.
World’s Funniest Animals, another program that airs on CW, outdrew LIV Golf.
The Honda Classic reportedly averaged 342,000 viewers on Golf Channel for Thursday’s opening round. While that number is also, uh, not good, it was a 1% uptick from the year prior.
There is no denying that LIV Golf securing a TV deal with the CW – even if it’s only in 26 markets right now – was a win for the breakaway circuit, but through week one it appears that win may only be on paper.
LIV Golf’s next tournament is March 17-19, which will compete with the Valspar Championship, another one of the ‘lesser’ events on the PGA Tour. It’ll be interesting to see if the LIV ratings get any sort of uptick that week.
What The PGA Tour Has That LIV Golf Lacks Entirely
You can call The Honda Classic or any other regular PGA Tour events ‘boring,’ but what you can’t do is say they lack storylines.
READ: SERGIO GARCIA RIPS ‘IMMATURE’ RORY MCILROY, MAKES IT CLEAR THAT THEIR FRIENDSHIP IS NO MORE
This Sunday we had Chris Kirk, who has openly battled alcoholism and depression, take on a 34-year-old rookie in Eric Cole who has 50+ mini-tour wins and absolutely addicted to the dream of being a PGA Tour winner.
While those two names don’t jump off the page, both the casual golf fan and the diehard golf fan are intrigued by those two stories.
Meanwhile, LIV Golf’s only storyline each and every week is a rich guy simply getting richer.
Charles Howell III won this weekend’s LIV event. It was only the fourth worldwide win for the 43-year-old, but he’s literally known as a walking ATM given how many close calls he’s had throughout his career.
Howell III earned over $42 million on the PGA Tour before making the jump to LIV Golf.
While there are varying degrees to it, this is all LIV Golf is filled with: players who signed seven-plus figure contracts to join the league who have guaranteed paydays at every event, and who are competing against a field of just 53 other players.
Sure, Howell III and other LIV players have worked hard to get where they are today, but there is no added emotion for the viewer to get attached to. There is no human element to LIV Golf whatsoever, and while some may be tuning in because it’s the new thing in the golf world, a lack of meaningful moments is going to catch up to the product much sooner rather than later.
What’s On Tap
The PGA Tour heads to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week for yet another designated event. All the big names on Tour will be teeing it up at Arnie’s place this week, while those not lucky enough to get into the field will be playing in the Puerto Rico Open.
Scottie Scheffler will be looking to defend his title this weekend at Bay Hill with an increased purse of $20 million on the line this time around.
We’ll see you right back here next Monday to recap what should be a great week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and catch up on everything that unfolds in the golf world between now and then.
Follow Mark Harris on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris
3 CommentsLeave a Reply
Here’s all you need to know about golf ratings. Ask grandpa what channel golf is on. He’ll say CBS and/or the Golf Channel. Then ask him what the CW is. Question answered.
LIV is exhibition golf. It is not Competitive golf. It will be like watching the NBA or Baseball or Wrestling.
Surprised to hear that Honda is pulling out of the “Honda Classic”, hope they find another quality sponsor to keep it going. It’s unfortunate it was sandwiched between two ‘elevated events’ this year, which probably kept most of the top players out so they could be ready for next weeks big dollar event, which they have to play.