AUTHOR : CHARLIE EPPS
Known as "The Golf Doctor," Charlie Epps has been one of Houston's most respected PGA professionals for 30 years. He is the Director of Golf at Redstone Golf Club, home of the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open.
Epps teaches two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and second-year Tour player Bobby Gates. Listen to Epps 9-10 a.m. Saturday mornings on Yahoo! Sports Radio on 1560 AM in Houston, channel 127 pm Sirius satellite and 242 XM.
Remember the game you played as a kid called King of the Mountain? All your friends ran to the top of a hill and pushed each other down along the way. To win the game, you had to be the one left standing alone at the top.
You didn't know it at the time, but that game was a microcosm for sports in America, and to a great extent, capitalism.
It's all about recognition. It's why the United States is so great. Everyone is trying to be No. 1 at what they do. My dad wanted to be the No. 1 tool and die maker in the country. We all want to be the best in our fields.
It's the same for the PGA Tour. Every player out there is trying to be No. 1. The problem is right now there is no clear No. 1 player. Tiger Woods held the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings for the better part of 14 years. Since he was dethroned, that position has been a revolving door. Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald have all been the top-ranked golfer in the world in the past year.
Currently, Donald is No. 1 and Westwood is No. 2. Neither player has a major championship victory. The last 13 major championships in our sport have been won by 13 different players. This year's major winners—Charl Schwartzel (Masters), Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open), Darren Clarke (British Open) and Keegan Bradley (PGA)—were all first-time major winners.
No one is dominating golf, and the TV ratings and general interest in our game is slipping.
Without a dominant player, we're left with parity in the sport.
No one wants parity.
If all of the prize money given out on Sundays was the same for the players finishing first to 65th, no one would be working hard. What's the motivation to practice and grind? It's the recognition—the money. The players who perform the best are paid the most and receive the most recognition.
In Little League Baseball, there was a movement to make every kid feel good by awarding them all trophies. No winners, no losers. That is called socialism. We live in a capitalistic society.
Why was Muhammad Ali so loved during his prime? It's not because who we was, but what he was—the best boxer in the world. Everyone is striving to be No. 1, and as sports fans, we want to see who the best are. It's why the NCAA basketball tournament (March Madness) is so much better than the current college football bowl system.
Parity is bad for golf. We need a King of the Mountain. We need someone above the rest, someone to set the standard for all the others. The media, too, needs a King to sell the product.
What if at the end of the college football season, we were left with two lesser-known schools in the national championship game? Instead of perennial dominant teams like Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, Florida, LSU or Auburn, what if it came down to Iowa State and Wyoming? Most football fans don't know much about Iowa State and Wyoming. Would the national championship game be as exciting and attract as much TV ratings as any of the dominant schools listed?
The answer is no. Nothing against Iowa State and Wyoming, but college football needs well-established, dominant teams to determine the champion. Otherwise, people lose interest. It's happening in golf right now.
The Super Bowl, World Series and World Cup all produce the true No. 1s in their sports. We're starting the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but why do I have the feeling that even the PGA Tour's postseason won't produce a true King of the Mountain?