Where have all the characters gone?

Golf News

Mark Townsend on why he yearns for the more innocent era he grew up in

Who knows what the players of today are really like? Behind the scenes it might well be a picture of leg-pulling, rib-tickling and practical jokes because this is what many perceive the word ‘character’ to mean.

Charley Hoffman, for example, is thought to be a character as he has longer hair than most and wears a coloured glove.

It’s a dreadful, sweeping word so let’s keep it simple and wonder who today is ‘of interest’.

Who are the heroes? Who is guaranteed to make you chuckle at the end of the round? Who dresses a bit differently? Who isn’t bound by a manufacturer to wear a baseball cap?

In my idyllic (and clueless) world I would love to see a leading player use whatever clubs that he fancied and suited him best – the best driver, irons, putter and ball – and wear whatever he liked. 

Then, given this edge, he would sweep all before him and not have to ensure he shows off very expensive watch in his post-round interview at least 10 times to satisfy his sponsors. 

The more flashes equals more money. Look out for it during the next tournament you watch on television – trust me, it does happen.

And then what does he say? We hear all about the process, the ‘it is what it is’ gubbins, the guarded utterances of anything close to something of interest, the belief, more about the process, the fans (never forget the fans), maybe sneak in something on the equipment and then pay tribute to the lovely wife and family. 

And all delivered with a perfect smile. Squeaky clean, kerching.

You will know the story of Sanders blowing the Open, but do you also know that he once hired a hitman to kill him? No mention of luck and the fact that you have been unable to breathe for the best part of the last hour. 

Never anything negative, particularly about yourself – this is what made you special, now don’t let anybody in.

Of course there are some players of interest these days – just not loads of them.
Five names off the top of my head in the world’s top 50 (and most likely my favourites) would be Geoff Ogilvy, Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk, Nicolas Colsaerts and George Coetzee.

To a man, open, honest, thoughtful and interesting.

It is all too easy to be rose-tinted and suggest that anyone with a bit of colour in their apparel from the 1970s or who marked their ball with a can of beer was the most fascinating character on earth.

But then you talk to the likes of Doug Sanders or Brian Barnes and you soon realise that in fact they’re not far off it. 

They open conversations with jokes, they swear too much, they admit their mistakes. You will know the story of Sanders blowing the Open, but do you also know that he once hired a hitman to kill him? It’s a brilliant story which one can’t imagine ever getting from Rose or Donald.

For a short period they let you into their lives and they don’t think too much about what comes out of their mouths.

What does come out is brilliant and a very welcome change from what is served up today.

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