«Justin Timberlake is the best thing that’s happened to the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods.» – Inga Hammond, The Golf Channel
Or maybe Hammond said Timberlake «might» be the best thing that’s happened to the PGA Tour since Tiger. Come to think of it, she could have prefaced the entire statement with: «Call me crazy, but…»
I transcribed the moment from Saturday’s broadcast from memory, and may simply have misremembered it. But it deserves discussion one way or the other, whether she thought it was a crazy idea or not.
And it’s not such a crazy idea.
Timberlake — and my fandom only extends to a certain two-year-old Saturday Night Live short — did an admirable job in hosting the PGA Tour’s stop in Las Vegas last week. He was given the tournament (the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open) last year, becoming the 14th celebrity to host his own PGA Tour event.
Those other names, by the way, include Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Sammy Davis, Jr.
What Timberlake gave the PGA Tour was a notable face and a spark of excitement during a time of the season — the so-called Fall Series — when it lacks both. It’s something Woods does on a regular basis, when he is playing.
Instead of commercials stretching to get us excited about mid-level players competing for enough money to keep their playing privileges, we had mildly amusing ads featuring Timberlake taking his hosting duties too seriously: clipping grass with scissors, walking the rope lines, etc.
He may have been the most-recognizable face at the TPC Summerlin, even among hardcore golf fans who showed up on Sunday to see Marc Turnesa, Michael Allen, Ken Duke, Chris Stroud, Matt Kuchar, Brad Adamonis and John Mallinger among the final five pairings. The other faces, Chris DiMarco and Zach Johnson, we know well.
To boot, Timberlake drew attention to a worthy cause: the Shriners Hospitals that provide free care for children under the age of 18 in 22 locations.
Timberlake’s celebrity mattered most on Friday night, when he hosted a concert at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino that featured acts like 50 Cent, Lionel Richie, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Boyz II Men and the Jonas Brothers, among others.
The event raised $1 million, equal to nearly a quarter of the tournament’s prize purse.
«We have not had that youthful audience. He brought that last night,» said Douglas E. Maxwell, the highest-ranking Shriner in the world.
It’s not the first time Timberlake has drawn attention for the tour, and it won’t be the last. A very good golfer, he shot a 98 at Torrey Pines ahead of the U.S. Open in June in an exhibition round that also featured Tony Romo, Matt Lauer and an amateur.
Romo (84) and Timberlake proved Woods wrong in his assertion that the Average Joe — though Romo and Timberlake may be better than the Average Joe — couldn’t break 100 at a U.S. Open course.
And now he’s gone a long way in proving a PGA Tour celebrity host can be more than just a week-long yuck-yuck cheerleader.
«He’s going to be great for the tour,» said the Golf Channel’s Curt Byrum, also on Saturday. «I think he’s bringing a lot of recognition, a lot of eyeballs.»
I wrote a small story last year when the PGA Tour announced Timberlake would host the event. It received a negative comment from a woman who found my lead sentences too glib for her taste, considering the tournament benefits such a worthy cause.
«Justin Timberlake, the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and squire to such starlets as Britney Spears, Jessica Biel and Cameron Diaz, has given us one more reason to hate him,» I wrote. «He has his own PGA Tour event.»
She was right. Envy him, is what I should have written. After all, wouldn’t we all like our own PGA Tour event?
And wouldn’t we all like to be such good hosts.
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