Golf on TV; Must See?

Shark: 30 For 30

“This one might go down as one of the greatest final-round collapses in major tournament history” says the famous, soothing voice of CBS broadcaster Verne Lundquist. The line was given just as a golf ball takes a peak into the hole before rolling by on Augusta National’s 15th green. The player falls to the ground in agony as one final attempt at heroics slides by. That player is Greg Norman, and this is the 1996 Masters.

Norman falls to his knees, then on his back as his chip rolls by the cup on #15

Shark: 30 For 30 is ESPN’s latest sports documentary special, focusing on Norman’s historic final round collapse in an effort to finally secure his long awaited green jacket. The piece is directed by the duo that gave us “The Last Dance”, the award-winning doc series that covered the 1990’s Chicago Bulls dynasty. Both specials are packed with such insight and excitement, even though we already knew Michal Jordan wins in “Dance”, and in “Shark” we know Greg loses.

In the special there are clips of Norman watching the highlights, err lowlights, of that round on his laptop. When that chip on 15 rolls by he pauses, and stares…finger over his lips; as if he just watched himself in an epic car crash.

Between Tiger and Jack there was Greg Norman, the Shark. A good looking, athletic, blonde, Australian with a swagger to his walk and golf swing, who was ranked number 1 in the world for 331 weeks. He had 2 major championships to his credit, both British Opens, but a green jacket had eluded him so many times. Too many close calls but that 6-stroke lead on Sunday in 96 should have all but sealed the deal. But with Norman’s 78 came Nick Faldo’s 67, and after an opening round 63, the Shark ended up losing by 5.

“My history there of close calls is more entrenched than some guys who have won the jacket”, recalls Norman. He was also runner-up to Jack Nicklaus when the golden bear did the improbable at the time and became the oldest major winner ever in 1986. Norman was on the other side of Larry Mize’s winning chip in ’87 and he also finished tied for 3rd in 1995. All of this is what makes it kind of shocking that Norman agreed to the special and to even film playing a few holes at Augusta last May. It’s literally like returning to the scene where a horrible crime was committed, but you were the victim.

The Shark has been taking it on the chin with his recent position as CEO of LIV Golf Investments and his relationship with getting the Saudi Tour off the ground. But kudos to Greg for manning up and allowing us to get a glimpse of a pretty negative moment in his career along side of him. “Shark: 30 For 30” airs tonight at 8:30 est on ESPN.

The Match Returns

The Match by Capital One returns this summer on Wednesday June 1st. This edition is an all-quarterback event as Aaron Rodgers teams up with Tom Brady to take on Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. The series has raised close to $33 million for charity, and this installment will be a 12-hole exhibition at the Wynn in Las Vegas.

My excitement level for this is just above what I felt yesterday as I watched it snow a day after Easter. Now will I watch this event? Yes. Actually I’ll dvr it. Because I love golf and I do enjoy seeing the swings of other famous people or athletes. But planning my day around it, or skipping my own round of golf to watch, will not occur.

All of these guys are decent players. We’ve seen Rodgers and Brady tee it up. Mahomes is supposedly an 8 hdcp and Allen is a 9. But would I want to watch Jordan Spieth vs Justin Thomas in a game of one-on-one or horse? Or Sergio vs Rory in a homerun derby? The answer is an astounding no. If I want to watch mediocre golf being played on a world-class golf course I’d go on another trip with my buddies.

The Match needs a tour pro presence. I would love to see the LPGA get involved. Put together Nelly Korda and Tiger vs Brooke Henderson and Dustin Johnson and I’m all in. Or tap into the PGA Tour Champions. Freddie Couples was always a gem in “silly season” or made for tv events.

While the Shark doc is definitely “must see”, I won’t go as far as The Match being a “must skip.” But it is a “meh” and a shoulder shrug on the how much I care meter. If mowing the lawn is an option, I can’t promise I won’t at least entertain it.

Enjoy the game and each other,

Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional

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