Major(s) News & Notes July 29, 2021
The fake flatulence sounds that disrupted Collin Morikawa's 18th tee moment should be a bigger deal. Plus, major ratings dating back to 1995 show a serious decline in viewership*
Next Up: The Ryder Cup (September 24-26, 2021)
Days To First Tee Shot: 57
Days To The 2022 Masters First Tee Shot: 249
Because it would be rude to divert your attention away from Olympic golf’s scintillating display of higher, faster and persistent cicada sounds, The Quadrilateral offers just two major championship notes this week. But they are important ones…
Combustible: Follow-up On Morikawa’s 18th Tee Shot
After winning The Open, Collin Morikawa appeared on Barstool’s Pardon My Take podcast and was asked why he backed off his 72nd hole tee shot.
“We need to talk about this,” the Champion Golfer of the Year said. (Pardon My Take whittled this part of their podcast down to a clip you can view here.)
In a nutshell, sounds of flatulence were audible and caused the 24-year-old to back off in a huge moment.
Watching it again after Morikawa’s revelation, the sounds started as he and caddie J.J. Jakovac deliberated the wind and line. A light murmur from the three-deep crowd of 100-or-so drowned out the noise as they talked, but the fans could be heard laughing before Morikawa moved toward his ball. After taking the address position and a couple of waggles, Morikawa looked to the side and backed off.
Nervous laughter ensued and even Morikawa managed a small smile before stepping back and getting a sip of water. Playing partner Louis Oosthuizen, who first grinned at what sounded more like a creaky door, joined a marshal searching for the source. He looked somewhat annoyed.
Morikawa lost the smile but quickly went back to restarting his routine after the marshal found a planted device and diffused the uh, bomb.
Morikawa then hit a beauty down the left-center and took the championship. So no big deal, right?
“Some spectator, at some point in the day, snuck a little old school microphone, like a recording,” Morikawa told Pardon My Take. “Threw it underneath one of the marshals around there and started playing these farting noises right as I was about to swing,” Morikawa told the podcast.
“Louis [Oosthuizen], his caddie, my caddie, we all knew it was a farting noise. But we seriously thought it was from the spectators. We thought someone was playing it on their phone.
“The marshals were all looking, we're looking around, the marshal digs in the grass and pulls this little recorder out. What're the odds of that happening?”
With money on the line? Lower and lower I’m afraid.
I reached out to the R&A upon reading Morikawa’s comments to Pardon My Take. They were unaware of what he’d and are now investigating what happened. But make no mistake, someone could have altered the outcome.
The news broken by Morikawa and the potential repercussions should have people eager to hear what could have spoiled The Open. While it’s quite likely this was someone’s idea of a joke, there should have been more alarm over this occurring on the 72nd hole of a major, in a country where betting is legal and where a punter can now execute a bet just steps away from play.
It doesn’t take much imagination to picture a punter with Jordan Spieth at his pre-tournament 20-1 deciding to take a shot at altering the competition.
As Quad readers may recall, I recounted a story involving Tiger Woods and the 18th tee at Carnoustie. That incident was more about a drunken loser and poor security, but it also highlights how vulnerable players are to heckling or sabotage. With more ability to profit off such distractions, having fans that close to tees would be appear to be a recipe for disaster.
Will spectators eventually get moved farther away from tees to preserve the integrity of gambling? Or will players demand this after the first (inevitable) incident altering a tournament outcome?
The Five Families should be showing alarm at this incident and as some golf organizations make sports betting a priority. Some of the majors—The Masters not included—even provide free WiFi just in case fans can’t get any coverage.
At least in this case, Morikawa was thankfully undeterred and the outcome was not sabotaged. But next time it could alter the course of golf history.
A Look At Major Championship Ratings
It would be fair to glean from the above chart that fewer Americans watch majors now than even just ten years ago. Paulsen at SportsMediaWatch.com posted the major ratings dating back to 1995 for two of the four. You can see the full chart here.
Using viewership data available for Masters and U.S. Open dating back to 1995 and for The Open and PGA going back to 2002, he has highlighted (in yellow) the majors where Tiger Woods either won or finished second.
While the viewership numbers have dropped most significantly for the U.S. Open compared to its turn-of-the-century peak, the number of coverage hours has expanded significantly this decade for all of the majors. That, and the other well-chronicled factors, have eaten away at the numbers. Still, the peak audience numbers for 2021’s Masters and PGA were around a very respectable 15 million.
Regarding this year’s Open, Paulsen also reported that NBC’s final round 2.5/4.09 million viewers delivered “the seventh-largest golf audience of the year, behind the final rounds of the Masters (9.45M), PGA Championship (6.58M) and U.S. Open (5.67M), the third round of the Masters (5.18M), and the final rounds of non-majors the Players Championship (4.59M) and Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (4.19M).”
There was also this:
On that, I’ll let you get back to searching for deep, hidden excitement in the Olympic golf while The Quadrilateral focuses on players making their Ryder Cup cases over the coming weeks. See, the Playoffs© are good for something besides padding bank accounts!
Enjoy the weekend,