I am completely befuddled by The Star’s weekend coverage of the Masters golf tournament.
Two things, in particular:
First, I don’t know why The Star wasted several thousand dollars sending sportswriter J. Brady McCullough to Augusta, Ga., to cover an event that offered no strong local connection. Tom Watson wasn’t a factor, and KU alumnus and Topeka native Gary Woodland finished 12 strokes back. This is an event that the national press can cover just fine, without help from golf reporters of the amateur variety.
Second, and perhaps most important, McCullough, who normally covers KU sports, didn’t really cover the Masters; he covered “The Tiger Woods Show.” Woods was not the story, however. Oh, he was part of it for a while, especially during the front nine on Sunday, when he briefly grabbed a share of the lead. But then, just like many other contenders, he faded like a tulip in August.
As the back nine wore on, the spotlight shifted from one contender to another before settling on the ultimate winner, South Africa’s Charl (that’s right, Charl) Schwartzel, who birdied the final four holes to take a two-stroke victory. Did you get that? He birdied the last four holes four holes at Augusta National. It had never been done before. He didn’t back into the win; he grabbed the course by the throat and strangled the life out of it.
Now that’s a story!
But where was Brady? Unfortunately for K.C. Star readers, Brady was fixated on Tiger, about whom he had written a big feature story in Sunday’s paper.
From The Star’s packaging of today’s Master’s report, it’s not immediately clear what a horrendous job McCullough did.
The headline at the top of today’s sports section says, “OUT OF AFRICA.” Good enough. A tag line above that says, “Closing kick gives Charl Schwartzel the green jacket.” On target. And the centerpiece photo is of a jubilant Schwartzel, arms upraised after canning a long putt on the final hole. Nice.
But then there’s the story itself.
Here’s how McCullough started it: “The short woman in the off-red shirt and floppy sun hat seemed important. A team of people in red Nike golf shirts were leading her around Augusta National Golf club, and one of the men in her entourage offered her his left arm for support.”
Now, if McCullough was writing about Schwartzel’s mother, that lead paragraph might actually be leading somewhere. But it’s not about Schwartzel’s moher; it’s about Tiger Woods’ mother! That’s right, the Tiger Woods who finished tied for third, four shots behind Schwartzel.
And so the story went — more of it about Tiger and his Mama than about the winner and his spectacular finish.
The logical thing for McCullough to have done would have been to research Schwartzel and introduce him to Star readers, many of whom might not have heard of him. He has played in several U.S. tournaments but just joined the PGA Tour this year. Until now, the 26-year-old golfer has been a fixture on the European tour.
I guess that was too much effort for McCullough. Or maybe he’s just devoid of the skill that’s most indispensable to a reporter: Pivoting in response to the direction that a breaking story takes.
Talk about a fluid, breaking story…that was Augusta on Sunday. But, clearly, McCullough was not prepared to follow the story wherever it went. He had already decided that the story was Tiger Woods, the outcome be damned.
And so, Kansas City Star readers were subjected to quotes like this (from a fan in the gallery): “Did you see the ring on Tiger’s mother? I’ve got to see that again.” For the record, McCullough described the ring as “a large oval stone that was covered in sparkly diamonds.”
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to pull McCullough’s press pass to big golf events and put him on the jewelry beat.
Correction: My friend John Landsberg of Bottom Line Communications, bottomlinecom.com, pointed out that I misspelled Brady’s last name. It’s McCollough, not McCullough. Sorry, Brady, I gave you enough grief in this piece without misspelling your name.