The AT&T National will look more like a college tournament than a PGA Tournament today.
If you haven’t heard, 80 mph winds knocked down over 40 trees at Congressional Country Club last night. In the interest of safety, the tournament has decided to keep spectators and volunteers off of the golf course until it can be further cleared today and tomorrow. The event will still be covered on CBS this afternoon.
That’s right, PGA Tour golf. With no spectators. Without a doubt it is going to be a strange experience for everyone involved, but it also adds an interesting twist to a tournament that was already compelling.
What will happen? Will the players still fist pump? Will they get angrier than they would have with people around? Will there be more lost balls with less people there to spot them and keep them in play? How will they cope with nobody yelling “Get in the hole” and “Mashed potatoes” on every par-5 tee shot?
One question that is easy to answer is whether or not the players will still fist pump, get angry and show emotion on the golf course — of course they will. Professional golfers don’t get up in the morning and try to win golf tournaments for the fans. They win for themselves. Emotion, both positive and negative, is the output of thousands of hours of hard work that only the player truly understands. For this reason, I expect just as big of a Tiger fist pump if he holes an eagle putt or a chips in today as I would on any other day. Fist pumps and anger are not a show for the fans, they are an expression of personal achievement and frustration that simply can’t be held in.
Even I have fist pumped a few times in high school tournaments and or the occasional scramble. And trust me, my galleries topped out in single digits at their highest. Another good example is the NGA Tour, where galleries are smaller than on the PGA Tour. Guys out here display emotion out on the golf course. This is their livelihood. This is what they work for day in and day out. With that in mind, it is no wonder they show emotion. The margin between success and failure in this sport is extremely thin; one shot here and there can be the difference between hitting it big and spinning your wheels.
With nobody on the golf course, it is likely that players will find themselves in more precarious positions than normal. The ball is bound to roll into some places it wouldn’t if the usual 3,000 ball barriers surrounded every hole. Players will likely have more gloves than ever before, since they won’t be signing and giving any away for hitting spectators.
What I am looking forward to the most is how the players deal with the odd pressure of being on television in front of no crowd. Most of these players have played in front of no crowd in college, but for many it has been a while. When was the last time Tiger Woods teed off in competition with no spectators? Hopefully someone in the media will ask that question, because I would like to know.
It will be difficult to gauge whether the peculiarity of having nobody out there will increase the pressure, or if having no spectators will make it feel more like a relaxed practice round. I guess all we can do is wait. And watch.