One of my and NY Post columnist Phil Mushnick’s favorite Tiger-TV phenomena is the way his name is presented on leaderboard graphics. There is a proper, long ago established manner in which to display golf competitors who are tied in score relative to par. The rule is that the player who has played the most holes among those who are tied is listed first. When the players have finished playing and are tied, the one who finished the earliest is listed first and so forth. That is also how the next day’s pairings are determined when there are ties, in reverse order of finish. For example, tomorrow Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods will play together even though they were tied with David Toms at -1 after two rounds. That’s because Furyk finished the earliest, then Woods, then Toms. Thus, in effect, Furyk is considered the leader in terms of Saturday’s pairings.
Hence, to display the names of leaders in this fashion isn’t just some arbitrary rule. It is literally considered the order of finish that is used to determine subsequent round pairings. So that’s basically how the leaders should be displayed on television. This way, when the players are finished playing, you can look at that graphic and tell who will be paired with whom the next day. Simple premise, right?
That’s not how television does it anymore. Within relatively recent years, they began applying the Tiger treatment, whereby Woods’ name is automatically listed first in cases of ties. During one stretch late on Friday, the strangest looking leaderboard to the purist like myself appeared – wherein Tiger Woods appeared first, with a “70″ next to his name – to indicate that he’d completed his round and shot 70. Then came David Toms, with a “17″ – which indicates he had played 17 holes of his second round. Next came Jim Furyk, with a “69″ – so he’d finished his second round (earlier than Woods).
It didn’t look right. A guy who hadn’t finished playing shouldn’t have been sandwiched between two players who had. It doesn’t work that way.
Even worse than the perpetual propelling of Woods to the top of the list of deadlocked competitors was what followed on one of the ESPN mix channels. As scrolled through each page of the leaderboard, a footnote graphic at the bottom of each page read: “Leader: Woods -1″ – as if he was the only player at -1. Ugh.
Believe me, there was plenty of room down there to display: “Leader: Furyk, Woods, Toms -1″ or “3 players tied: -1.”
Nope, only Woods’ name was the one that mattered to the ESPN production team.
Even more recently than the Woods-propulsion phenomenon, all television stations which cover golf began to apply the Woods rule to other players. They now list tied players in order of the ones they think are more popular or known or noteworthy. So Graeme McDowell’s was the first name listed at +1 even though other players at that score had finished before him. Imagine the unnecessary contortions they must go through to make micro-level decisions such as, “Whom do we list first if tied, Tim Herron or Olin Browne?” – when all they need to do is follow the proper and established formula of listing tied players according to which have played more holes (and if they’ve played the same number of holes, list them alphabetically).
If you want sanity to prevail, go to the US Open website and view the leaderboard there to see it in its purist and proper order. Or, on the Directv mix channel itself, the leaderboard to the left (of which I’ve also complained because it consumes too much space on the screen that could be devoted to the video images). That leaderboard, too, is listed properly.
For good measure, we saw today and we will continue to see through the weekend and beyond, the obligatory “Tiger has arrived at the practice range” live footage – just in case any of us were worried that Tiger wouldn’t show up for his round.
He’s back…. so enjoy!