Welcome to the Dystopian Major – the PGA Championship that weirdly we may never forget
It’s 11pm on a Friday night and Dominik Holyer, the man on whom Steve Coogan allegedly based the character of Alan Partridge, is asking viewers, whose number can surely barely stretch into four figures, to send in their funniest golfing stories.
“But keep them clean,” he stresses, and you can imagine him in your living room giving you that look, eyebrows raised, pointing his finger in your direction. Not that anyone, surely, would be considering replying, clean or otherwise.
To be fair to Holyer, the hooter has just sounded and the players have been called off the course. There is no live golf for Eleven Sports to show and their entire golfing back catalogue stretches to, err, the previous 36 hours of this tournament.
Nevertheless, this is the nadir. The 100th PGA Championship, for a variety of reasons, has officially become the Dystopian Major.
It is the golfing equivalent of George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – all rolled into one.
It is a major that no-one is watching, over here for a start. We may never know the official figures but on the first night the easiest way to tune into the action was on Eleven Sports’ Facebook page and in prime-time there were between 4,000 and 6,000 people watching.
For those of us refusing to be deterred from watching major golf, it didn’t really matter who was doing the commentating and summarising so long as the action was there in front of us. And with few commercial breaks, there was less jaw-jaw and more tour-draw than we are used to.
On the down side, while the St Louis sports fans undoubtedly deserve a major and course snobs like me should stop drivelling on about what an average Robert Trent Jones remodelled 1950s parkland Bellerive really is, the more coverage you watch, the more the sheer mediocrity of the venue became harder to ignore.
There are only so many times you can watch 515-yard par 4s with greens that are designed to receive wedge shots and pointless expanses of shallow fairway bunkers before it makes you sigh.
It feels somehow inevitable, despite the promising sight of Thomas Pieters on the leaderboard, plus the more customary excellence of Francesco Molinari, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, that we will see an American winner. If not Dustin Johnson then Brooks Koepka. If neither then Rickie Fowler. And if all three of the above fail to get the job done then presumably Gary Woodland or Kevin Kisner.
Nothing exciting to see here, European golf fans. Roll on the Ryder Cup.
Even the extra hour of time difference is another factor against us – pushing the coverage deeper into the night.
And that’s before we get the oh-so-predictable weather delays, so often a feature of steamy August golf in the States, especially away from the coast.
Then there is the date, just three weeks after that memorable Open at Carnoustie. It’s too soon to be playing another major. Plus there is a WGC in between, and Firestone always saps the enthusiasm for inland, linear, subtlety-free, American parkland golf.
That this is the last PGA Championship to be played in August seems to be an act of euthanasia. It’s time to try something else. Whether the new May slot in the calendar can entirely dispel the lethargy this tournament is currently weighed down by, we shall see.
Right now, March’s Players Championship looks like a much more appealing prospect.
In years to come, we might have a new major. And if so, we indefatigable few will always be able to say we were there when Holyer was trying to fill the dead air during that second-round weather delay at Bellerive in 2018. We will never forget the bond we forged during the Dystopian Major.