Golf did have VAR of sorts once, and it was horrible. Why has football gone the other way? Alex Perry rounds up the big talking points of the week in The Slam
It’s April 2019, Tiger Woods has just tapped in for bogey to win the Masters, his first major championship for almost 11 years.
Tiger, as he so often does, fails to control his emotions in an outpouring of delight. This, after all, is one of the most incredible comebacks in sporting history. He squeezes his caddie, Joe La Cava, tightly before exiting stage left to embrace his mother and children. “For them to see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship,” he blubs, “I hope that’s something they will never forget.”
The watching world sobs with him.
But wait, what’s this?
Hold on. The match official has his finger in his ear. Someone’s telling him something.
The crowd is stunned into silence and joyous rapture is traded for a nervous glare at the big screen behind 18. Woods, and La Cava surround the official, demanding they know what’s going on.
Then the screen lights up. “NO WIN”. The cameras picked up something midway through the round. Tiger grounded his club in a bunker! It’s a two-shot penalty for the still 14-time major champion and he falls back to 11-under par. Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele will go to a play-off to decide the 2019 Masters champion.
Imagine if golf had VAR?
Wait, except we actually did, or sorts. And it was even worse, because it allowed people at home to PHONE IN AND GET PLAYERS PENALISED. I’ve capped that up for effect, because it is utter madness that this was allowed to happen.
Who can forget Lexi Thompson being hit with a four-shot penalty when she led the ANA Inspiration by two, because the cameras caught her incorrectly replacing her ball? It was the latest of a run of similar incidents so ridiculous that even Tiger chimed in: “Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes.”
Thankfully, our governing bodies got this one right and that was eradicated from the Rules of Golf. So it’s hard to stomach when we see the world’s most popular sport, football, adopt such strategies.
Now, it may not be as extreme as someone phoning in to get a decision changed, but it’s not too far off. VAR will suck the life out of football, the way it did on so many occasions for golf.
Human error is a beautiful part of sport that provides so many talking points. An accidental handball in the build up to a goal isn’t worthy of chalking it off, in the same way a player accidentally catching a couple of grains of sand in a bunker that was only seen because several ultra-high definition cameras are trained on it shouldn’t be hit with a two-shot penalty.
Golf was big enough to admit it was wrong. Football needs to do the same.
Hello, welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam. Thanks for drifting away with me there. For the record, Tiger didn’t ground his club in a bunker, it was a hypothetical scenario. I know you know that, but there is always one…
Facebook very kindly reminded me that myself and a former ESPN colleague were stuck behind a gaggle of fourballs (pretty sure that’s the collective term) at Epsom a few years ago. So, with no one behind us and a pub next to the 6th tee, we did this…
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) August 23, 2019
Anyway, here are some bits and bobs that caught the eye this week.
What do you think of the new FedEx Cup Play-offs format, which sees the leader start at 10-under? Farcical, right? Golf tries too hard to make so much of this. The money is obscene and none of the players or fans care about it. To go back to football, winning the Championship play-offs is worth hundreds of millions of pounds. But it’s reaching the promised land of the Premier League that counts, not the cash.
Here’s what Rory McIlroy had to say: “If the FedEx Cup really wants to have this legacy in the game, like some of these other championships do, is people starting the tournament on different numbers the best way to do it?
“Who knows what the winner wins at the Masters? I don’t know because that’s not what it’s about.
“If the FedEx Cup wants to create a legacy that lasts longer, it doesn’t need to be about the money. It should be about the prestige of winning an event that you’ll be remembered for.”
Bingo. Throwing obnoxious amounts of money at players is not the way to make your event stand out. My take? Have your season-long FedEx Cup end in early August, crown your winner, then take the top 128 into a two-week matchplay knockout extravaganza, culminating in two players battling out on the final day for a nice bonus prize.
Bet on the side
Remember this dunked wedge from JT? You should, it was only last week.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 18, 2019
If you’re wondering what he says to caddie Jimmy Johnson, Jason Sobel of the Action Network found out: “I got some of that Brooks Koepka money.”
It turns out JT and BK have had a side bet running since the start of the year about who would have the most hole-outs from outside 50 yards this season.
The score? Thomas leads Brooks 3-0. Yes, the World No. 1, who finished in the top four in all the majors this year, is yet to hole out from range. I think JT’s money is safe.
Nudes at 10
Speaking of Brooks, remember when he lost a stone to take part in the ESPN Body Issue and Brandel Chamblee called it “reckless self sabotage“? Well, we’ve been given a sneak preview from the man himself (Koepka, not Chamblee):
View this post on InstagramAug 21, 2019 at 6:27pm PDT
There has, as you would expect, been a mixed reaction on social media, but this is a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight where Koepka discusses his reasons for doing it…
Question: Why does he keep his glove on?
The Content King
Never one to be upstaged, Phil Mickelson has also been working on his body, as sister Tina proved:
Family beach day. Looks like calves are working their way up. 💪🏽🦵🏼 pic.twitter.com/tOnhUXUMlC
— Tina Mickelson (@TinaMickelson) August 21, 2019
Of course it was accompanied by a classic Phil comeback:
Love you sis. Such a fun day seeing everyone. FYI ,those weird bumps on the side of my stomach we’ve never seen before, Doc called them obliques and said it’s nothing to worry about.
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) August 21, 2019
If you’re not following Mickelson on Twitter, you need to sort that out. He’s been hilarious. This one had me howling with laughter:
Bro-you can’t tweet this stuff until AFTER you call Mom to tell her you’re ok. 🤦♀️😂 Just spoke with her. Btw….call her. She would like ‘a word.’
— Tina Mickelson (@TinaMickelson) August 18, 2019
Just go and read His stuff. You won’t regret it.
Right, that’s enough from me. Enjoy your bank holiday weekend and try not to lose too many balls.
Here is some more stuff to watch and read if you haven’t disappeared to Phil’s Twitter feed…