- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

The American people have spoken, officially declaring the latest Battle of Bighorn a bust.

According to the ratings, approximately 13 people watched Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus defeat Sergio Garcia and Lee Trevino 3 and 2 in the Arizona desert on Monday night.

Now, we thought the golf was pretty decent, the groups combining to birdie 15 of the 16 holes needed to decide the match. And compared with last year's edition, which featured Tiger with scratch-handicappers cum cadavers David Duval, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, we actually thought the mid-match banter was fairly amusing. Trevino's incessant chatter made the network's color commentary superfluous. And the candid paternal exchange between Nicklaus and Sergio concerning El Nino's bout with re-gripitis was a real Old Yeller moment. We're all so proud that Sergio now has the courage to pull the trigger.

But apparently, the viewing public wasn't impressed, leaving ABC and organizers International Management Group to chew on the worst ratings (5.1) in the brief and rather inauspicious history of prime-time golf.

"We provided some of the greatest figures in the history of sports in a competitive show and didn't get the numbers we hoped for," ABC vice president Mark Mandel told USA Today. "It doesn't make sense."

Nope, it defies logic that you can take the planet's most recognizable athlete, pair him with the greatest golfer of all time and put him on in the sports vacuum that is late July and still generate virtually zero interest. Perhaps golf just isn't sexy enough for prime time. Or perhaps ABC and IMG just aren't going about it correctly. Here is our 10-item memo to Mandel on possible improvements for the next Battle of Boredom.

Bye Bye Bighorn

Joe Hack had never heard of Bighorn or Sherwood until the made-for-TV madness. We understand that the organizers want the event live and in prime time, but there must be at least a half dozen courses in California that would be more compelling to that average player. Why not take Tiger to Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill, Riviera or the Olympic Club, all top-100 courses in the world? We know the boys at ABC fancy their alliterative titles, so we suggest the "Pow-wow at Pebble," the "Odyssey at Olympic," the "Romp at Riviera," or the "Scrum at Cypress." The possibilities are deliciously limitless.

Format mania

Let's face it, Nicklaus and Trevino were basically bystanders on Monday night. In the best-ball format, the senior steerage helped Tiger and Sergio on two holes each. We suggest playing six holes of select shot, six holes of alternate shot and six holes of best ball to keep the supporting cast involved and the TV audience on its toes.

Make it meaningful

Money isn't a major carrot for most of the multi-millionaires likely to appear in future matches, so put something more meaningful on the line. Anything that involves a potentially demeaning task will do, but we suggest caddie-for-a-day duties. Say, for instance, Sergio had to caddie for Tiger in next week's Buick Open for losing at Bighorn. With that ignominious chore in the offing, don't you think the Spaniard might have been grinding a little more over the handful of 12-footers he good-naturedly yipped away at Bighorn?

"Sergio, I can't see my reflection in this wedge, give it another buffing, will you? And then fetch me a couple of bananas and a bottled water while I knock out this interview."

Back to the future

The older set is constantly whining about how easy the youngsters have it with their titanium woods, perimeter-weighted irons and Pro-VIs. Let's see if they have a point by forcing Tiger and his rival du jour to play with persimmon woods, unmerciful blades and the marshmallow balatas of the late 70s. We're betting Tiger could still tango with gutta percha and a brassie.

Send in the clowns

One of golf's favorite pastimes is basking in the meltdowns of major bridesmaids Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie. Any event involving either one of golf's sultans of swoon is automatically more entertaining thanks to the rubbernecking effect.

Lotto madness

Take Tiger and Sergio and pair them with two randomly selected ticket-holders from the gallery. How many people do you think would buy tickets for a chance to play with Tiger and Sergio? How fun would it be to watch Jack Chop play alternate shot with the stars?

Ban the Duke of Dour

Never again subject us to four hours of David Duval. We're still wondering why ABC twice invited Duval, golf's Personality Lite, to face Woods. You might as well mike-up a mute. Golf's Sominex in spikes could drive boredom itself to commit hari kari. Please, no mas.

Hef's choice

All players must have their significant others, preferably clad in bikinis, on the bag for future matchups. Do you think Bighorn's ratings might have been boosted if Swedish nanny/supermodel Elin Nordegren was sporting a thong and pulling clubs for Tiger? Wouldn't you have loved to watch Martina Hingis drip with visual scorn as she surveyed Nordegren? All caddie nominees shall be approved or rejected at the discretion of Hugh Hefner, who shall provide replacements when he deems necessary.

Chug or mug

After losing a hole, players may choose to either, A. chug a beer or B. allow a player on the opposing team to remove a club from their bag. We all know Tiger can make a pressure-stuffed 10-footer dead sober with his Scotty Cameron. But can he make it with a 2-iron on a six-beer buzz?

Booth purging

Dead air would be preferable to the sadistically drab broadcasting trio of Curtis Strange, Mike Tirico and Al Michaels. We suggest the team of Johnny Miller, Jean Van de Velde and Bill Murray, with on-course commentary from Charles Barkley. If the action takes a tedious turn, they can always cut to a round table discussion entitled, "Je ne sais crois the French and course management."

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