In an interview today broadcaster Piers Morgan says:
“I would take Dustin Johnson down to Times Square in New York and keep him there for an hour. No one would know who he was.
I’d then tell him, “You’re the number-one golfer in the world and there’s the problem”. Golf needs to get outside of its comfort zone. Johnson has everything. He’s tall, handsome, articulate and the best golfer in the world, and yet he’s not a forceful personality that’s galvanising the world.”
Now I disagree with several things about that. Firstly, I wouldn’t call Dustin particularly articulate…
Next, a lot of people outside of golf do know him because he is the Son In Law of the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, and when Paulina Gretzky dresses like Jessica Rabbit as she did during the Paris Ryder Cup, then she does get a lot of attention.
Dustin has had a lot of problems, he’s been suspended from the tour and been in rehab a couple of times. He’s had problems that people can relate to, and there is an underlying, widespread health issue in professional sports which gets hushed up. In spite of all that he’s become the Number One player in the world because he is a magnificent athlete.
The problem isnt with Dustin, its with the PR men and agents not doing their job properly. The mentality that golf has to be whiter than white and not reflect the society we live in. It’s an aspirational, perfect world. When it is not. To answer Piers Morgan’s charge that the problem with golf is that it is boring, Dustin should be the cover boy for the non boring and an inspiration for young people not living perfect lives themselves, on what can be overcome and achieved.
When John Daly won the Open Championship in 1995 I came away from St Andrews early and was at the airport in Edinburgh boarding a flight at the same time as Ken Schofield who was then the Chief Executive of the European Tour. He tried to help me with my bags, that’s another story, but I did say can we have Daly over here? Our fans would give him an easier time than are giving him in America. If younger Daly won this year 2019, instead of nearly 25 years ago, he would make golf explode. But he was the wrong man at the wrong time.
Where golf in general does go wrong is in being so uptight. The public school educated blazer brigade are to blame because that is the image that the public have in mind when they think of golf. Keith Pelley, the current Chief Executive of the European Tour is getting things better by seeing golf as entertainment. But the general public need to be won over and “new golf” needs to be made more visible. I challenge Top Golf to put this advert onto European television at prime time. That would be a start.