Posted by James Lepp on October 01, 2014
The Big Break series is like a Honda Civic – you don’t think much of it, but year after year new renditions come out and people just keep on buying in. Nothing too flashy, nothing to write home about, but they just keep spitting out of that assembly line. I am always surprised at how well the show does, without wandering too far from what the original season was all about. It's Golf Channel's top ranked show!
Today, however, began a possible new twist on the Big Break brand – the Big Break Invitational, which assembled 40 past contestants from the over 20 seasons of Big Break. Being a prior contestant, the Invite has sparked my interest as a viewer. I wanted to see these golfers golf! When watching the regular Big Breaks we get to see contestants in funky challenges, but rarely do we get to see them compete in a real tournament situation. After all, how fast you break glass isn’t a great barometer for how great of a golfer you are.
I would assume that Big Break fans would be in a similar position, in that they want to see how these golfers golf. We want to know how good they actually are...or how bad they are for that matter. Sadly, and expectedly, Golf Channel is protecting its contestants and themselves by making the scoring system extremely difficult to understand.
It’s the same mentality that you see at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship event in Tahoe. No, you don’t know how many under or over par a golfer is; instead, you know their Modified Stabbleford score, where accumulating positive numbers is the goal. The PGA Tour does this for one event as well at the Barracuda Championship. Compared to the PGA Tour event, however, the points are much easier to earn at the Tahoe and Big Break Invitational. String 18 pars in a round at the Invitational? 18 points. That would be the equivalent of 0 points at the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship. With points so easily available it makes it very difficult to know how these golfers are playing.
Somebody asked me today how my buddy Mark Silvers did, and I told them he got 20 points. That total was meaningless to them. And if you watched today you’d probably feel the same way. Sure we can deduce what is a good score as they start to come in, but when a player has played 6 holes and is +7, while the leaders in the clubhouse are at +25, it’s somewhat difficult to understand, especially if you don’t have a scoring card right in front of you. Furthermore, we really don’t get a sense of how they’re playing relative to par. To all of us, par is the most understandable barometer out there! We get par! We don’t get +20 points through 16. If you told us a player was -3 through 16 then we’d get it.
This is how I see it. Golf Channel knows that some of the players on Big Break are not great golfers; in fact, many are far from it. But, those golfers are entertaining, whether they're rude, humorous, eye candy, or something else that keeps our eyes on the telly. Big Break is here to entertain, not find the best up and coming golfers. Yes, great golf is entertaining, but having 12 really solid golfers on each season, with little personality, well, that simply won’t sell.
Because of this 'entertainment first' mentality, Golf Channel is forced to protect its players. But are the viewers really that dumb? Does Golf Channel think that the viewers don't know some of the players are only their to entertain? Let's be honest here. I was on the Big Break where a guy was eating grass before every shot! But no...let's not show his actual scores for fear that people will see our mentality. We get it. There are some great players on the show, but we know you have to throw in a few wildcards too.
Unfortunately this protection has caused the Big Break Invitational to be really difficult to understand and watch. We're left with calculators and computers on our laps to understand how these golfers are actually playing. I don't suppose viewers are turning on the Invitational to watch PGA Tour level golf. They're watching because they're fans of the Big Break and they want to see how prior contestants are actually golfing. If we wanted to watch them accumulate points, we'd watch them bowl...with bumpers in the gutters.
So my suggestion – let us know what they shoot! Stop fearing that everybody is going to suck. Just look at the scores they actually shot below...not that bad. Enough of this inflated Modified Stabbleford scoring. The PGA Tour’s version is already tough enough to understand, but with the inflated points you may as well just have a running stroke total next to their name.
I was anxious to watch today, to see what my fellow contestants were shooting, but sadly, the scoring format and lack of coverage on all the golfers made it confusing and somewhat boring. And that’s coming from somebody who’s already very familiar with Modified Stabbleford scoring. To make matters worse, the tournament format, aside from the scoring, is even more difficult to understand, which I assume was constructed under the same 'protection' mentality.
I believe if Golf Channel had a little more faith in their players, and fans, then this would have been a much more exciting tournament to watch.
Here are the actual men's scores on what Mark Silvers said is a very difficult course. Please note I edited the Golf Channel leaderboard to put in the relation to par scores instead.
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