By Ron Mintz
During this years Masters as I was reading through comments sent to me via Twitter, one golf fan was very vocal in his “tweets”. Obviously this follower knew a lot about golf, and in particular the rules of golf.
He also had very strong words about the now famous “drop” by Tiger Woods that caused quite a controversy in Augusta. We discussed the drop and while we did not agree on the ruling Woods would receive, we both agreed it was an improper drop. Another fun day of talking with golf fans about the Masters. Little did I know that was just the start.
Fast forward to the Players Championship and once again, with another questionable drop by Woods my Twitter account was busy again with golf fans comments, 99% of them negative toward Woods and the spot he dropped his ball.
Again,of all the comments I received, one person in particular stood out. Actually that may be an understatement.
That person was John Ziegler. Unknown to me at that time, Mr. Ziegler is a film maker, author, talk show host, and has appeared on the Today Show, Fox News, and many other major media outlets. He is probably most famous for his current project: writing a book about Joe Paterno and trying to clear his name in the Penn State football scandal. In his spare time, Ziegler is also a scratch/tournament golfer. In fact, he created the world-famous web site The First Church of Tiger Woods and has qualified for two USGA Mid-Amateur championships.
I had exchanged a few messages with John over the previous months, but had no idea who he was other than an avid golf fan. By the end of the Players Championship, John had made a video presenting a very strong case on why Tiger Woods made an illegal drop. As of today, that video has had over 600,000 views on YouTube.
Social media sites are full of serious golf fans, but never have I seen a fan take his passion for the game to the extent John Ziegler did.
When he finished his video, he sent me a copy and asked for my opinion. By the end of the video I had forgotten about the Woods drop; instead asking myself, “who is this guy John Ziegler”? So, I contacted him and beyond his biography on his website, http://www.johnziegler.com/biography.asp , found out more about the man who’s video went viral in a matter of hours.
Below John answers questions I and many other golf fans had for him.
RM: John, your biography is very impressive, and covers several different issues including politics, sports, presidential elections, etc. You recently made a video about Tiger Woods, and the controversy of his drop at the Tournament Players Championship on the 14th hole. I watched your video and you made a case to me and hundreds of thousands who have since seen that video, that he did indeed take an illegal drop.
Your biography tells of your golf skills and passion for the game, but compared to other stories and films you have made, why did you devote so much time and effort to one shot in a golf tournament?
JZ:” I have had a very bizarre career (among other things, I have been a live guest with Matt Lauer twice on the Today Show) but the Tiger Woods drop video was one of the weirdest situations I have seen. I was upset about how the media was afraid to properly deal with the issue (I am a huge critic of the news media in general and the golf media in particular). So I asked my wife to record me explaining why I thought Tiger took a bad drop and why I thought the NBC announcers actually proved the case. I did no preparation, had no script, and did it in one take where my main concern was not waking up our baby we just put to bed. I figured maybe a couple of thousand people would see it, tops, because I knew the mainstream media was going to ignore it. I was stunned when, thanks in part to your help, the video ended up with almost 600,000 views!
I feel passionately about this issue because I think that the way the media and the golf associations is starting to have a real impact on the game itself (to be clear, I don’t see Tiger as a “cheater,” I think everyone is effectively falling all over themselves to cheat FOR Tiger). That is wrong and goes against everything that golf is supposed to stand for.”
RM: The video had over 250,000 views in just a few days. What type of feedback have you received from golf fans, critics, the PGA TOUR, etc?
JZ:”Despite the 600,000 views I have gotten very little personal feedback. Though the comments section of the video is completely hilarious because of the extremely hateful/bizarre things people (Tiger fans) have said about me. I only got asked to do one radio interview in Orlando. I exchanged about 30 email with ESPN’s Bob Harig over the issue and when he finally wrote a column on this he distorted the facts, used some of my reporting I gave him without any credit, and didn’t even link to the video that he referenced. When I asked him why he didn’t even link to the video he kept giving me ever changing and increasingly hilariously absurd explanations. The reality is that, like all golf writers, Harig is afraid of Tiger and the Tour. Its all really pathetic.”
RM: Do you think the rule that enables a PGA TOUR player to seek the approval from a fellow professional on the correct spot to drop is a good rule or should their be a rules official with each group, as the USGA, and the R&A do with many tournaments they officiate?
JZ:”Well, considering the money involved, how there is not a rules official with each group is beyond me. But I do think that it should be up to the players first unless there is confusion about the right spot. Most of these types of calls are very subjective. I would not have even done the video if I thought the Tiger situation was one of them. It seems pretty clear to me that it was a bad drop. The proof is that he was the only player who hit in the water there all week who drop on that side of the pond and he may have worst argument to do so.”
RM: Many have said that Tiger receives many favorable rulings because it is well known when he is playing, TV ratings go up. Do you agree?
JZ: I am NOT a conspiracy person at all. So I don’t think these things are happening on purpose. But if you look at what happened in Charlotte in the second round last year (probably the worst lost ball ruling in the history of golf) while he was trying to make the cut, then not being DQ’d when he should have at the Masters, and the the TPC drop, something is going on. I see this as everyone trying to please the hot girl in high school. Tiger is the hot girl and people want to please him. They are intimidated and I’m not even sure they realize what they are doing at the time. Its really pretty funny if it wasn’t so serious.”
RM: On that same issue, do you think there is anyone on tour other than Sergio Garcia who would stand up and disagree with Tiger and have kept him from dropping where he did?
JZ: “Boy, it would have been amazing to see what would have happened if Garcia was the partner. That would have been epic. But to be clear, I don’t think Tiger really initiated the drop spot (remember he looked away because he knew immediately the shot had no hope). I think Casey Wittenberg was simply laying down his jacket over a puddle for the hottest girl in school to walk over.”
RM: What is your take on the proposed rules change regarding “belly putters” ?
JZ: “I am in favor of the ban and it should have happened 20 years ago. To those who say it is not an advantage, I ask, “So why do you use it then?” It is absurd to look at stats to claim there is no advantage to using it because all of those using it are the worst putters to begin with! I think we will see that many players will have a very tough time adjusting and that will prove the case.”
RM: Do you think the PGA Tour should address the golf ball and clubs such as an “adjustable driver” first instead of a putter that has been legal for over 20 years?
JZ:” I agree that the adjustable driver seems weird, but not that big a deal. The golf ball is the problem but it seems as if we have finally reached the end point for how far a ball can go. I actually think the lack of side spin on the ball is a bigger issue than distance. If the ball could hook or slice, then big drivers would pay a larger price and the issue would take care of itself. I think the worst thing that has happened to golf in the last 20 years is that the Ben Crenshaws of the world have basically disappeared.”
RM: Golf course designers continue to build longer courses to accommodate the increase distance the modern day golf ball travels. Do you see a day we will have 8,000 yard courses or will the USGA step in and regulate distance, involving the golf ball and clubs?
JZ: “I could be wrong, but I sense we have reached the end point on this. Whether we go backwards, I doubt it because of the money involved. I think how the Merion Open goes will be very key here. If they get rain early in the week there, the US Open scoring record will be broken, probably by a lot.”
RM: With your broadcasting background have you ever considered a career as a golf commentator?
If so, would you be more like Johnny Miller, or Nick Faldo?
JZ: “That’s funny. I worked for the PGA Tour many years ago for about 15 minutes. I am way too outspoken for golf TV. Golf broadcasting, unfortunately, is a joke and doesn’t care at all about the truth. It is ALL about protecting the product and not upsetting the wrong people. Take what happened with Faldo (who I usually like) at the Masters. His dramatic flipping on Tiger’s DQ was the most embarrassing thing I have ever seen in top broadcasting. It was VERY obvious that after he went off on the Golf Channel that someone (probably at CBS) spoke to him and told him to back off. His comments a couple of weeks later basically proved that. I would have gotten fired for sure if I was on that telecast. No doubt. It is amazing that there is no room for someone with strong opinions in golf broadcasting because I really think the audience would take to it, but there is no way that is ever going to happen.”
“The golf media in general is made up of the most pathetic people in the world. They are lazy, stupid, gutless, compromised by massive conflicts, and most of them literally can’t break 100 on the golf course. Since I work my ass off, am pretty smart, have balls, care more about the truth than protecting my job, and have broken par many times, I just would never remotely fit in with that crowd.”
“As for Miller vs. Faldo, I have autographed photos of both hanging in my office, but I prefer Miller. In fact, the last time the US Open was at Merion I was a kid and my mother took me to the event in a T shirt she had made for me which read, “Its (Johnny) Miller Time!”
RM: Looking at the big picture, where do you see the PGA Tour ten years from now?
JZ:”In big trouble. Tiger will be essentially gone (though I am sure that the golf media will still be desperately declaring him to be on the verge of being “back” as he continues to try to win that 16 or 17th major) and I think it will be like watching baseball after Babe Ruth retired. What’s the point? You will never see anything like that again and the game it self is now boring to watch and there are 30-40 guys all of the same ability level who could win on any week based on nothing really but luck.
I think that society has changed so much that golf is in big trouble. It is sustaining itself now almost entirely on Tiger Woods. Men no longer have the leverage in their households to play two rounds every weekend and then watch golf in the afternoon. Women are just too busy and not naturally drawn to the game. In ten years, I think the tour will be much smaller and will look back in wonderment at how great things were in the early 2000s.”
RM: “With professionals playing all over the world and on different tours, do you think the concept of a “World Golf Tour” will one day become a reality?
JZ: “We basically already have that. I’m not sure how much more you could go in that direction. I think the second tier tour (non Tiger) events have really been hurt by this and I think a few of them will be lost over time.”
RM: Who would you include in your “dream foursome”?
JZ: “Living? Tiger of course (though my guess is that he would quit after 9), Jack, and either Crenshaw or Miller.”
See our original article with the John’s video HERE.
You can follow John and read his insight on the PGA Tour via Twitter @Zigmanfreud
You can follow Ron Mintz @PGATOURNEWS