Jim Souhan

 

The Ryder Cup is bringing a lot of people to Minnesota who are very good at their jobs. Hazeltine National this week will contain many of the world’s best golfers, event coordinators, agronomists and sports journalists.

I would like to welcome the superstars of golf to our fair state by making them angry.

I think Brandel Chamblee is the best in America at what he does.

That should do it.

If you’re not a golf geek like me who finds the analysis of the game almost as compelling as the playing of it, you may not know Chamblee. He was a pretty good tour pro who lost his card in 2003. He won one event on the PGA Tour. He also graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in speech communication.

He has melded his skills and interests in his current career, as the lead studio analyst for the Golf Channel.

Chamblee possesses expertise, but so do a thousand other golfers. What sets him apart from the average golf analyst, and from so many who fail to do the job properly while covering other sports, is fearlessness.

Golf is too often a closed society — one reason it is heartening to see Hazeltine become a celebrated international golf venue. Hazeltine has proven throughout its history that it is as unstuffy and open-minded as any major championship course. Hazeltine broke ground half a century ago with its openness to Jews and women. It is a club with a history of which we can be proud.

Speaking harsh truths in a closed society can be uncomfortable. Chamblee evidently doesn’t care.

He once gave Tiger Woods an “F” for a five-win season because Woods, as Chamblee wrote, “was a little cavalier with the rules.”

Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, responded with a harsh statement to ESPN and insinuated he may take legal action.

This wasn’t Chamblee taking on today’s Tiger Woods, a part-time golfer who may never win again. This was Chamblee taking on one of the world’s most popular and recognizable athletes at the time.

This summer, Chamblee ripped into Rory McIlroy for blowing off the Olympics and saying it wasn’t his job to grow the game of golf.

“It is an insult to everyone who goes and plays in the Olympics,” Chamblee said.

Again, Chamblee had bluntly critiqued one of the game’s foremost stars.

The role of former-athlete-turned-analyst must be difficult, because so few do it well. Too many former athletes think their “I was in the locker room” anecdotes or their relationships with the greats of the game suffice to make them interesting.

Too many pull punches, hoping to avoid offending their friends in the business, or their bosses. The Golf Channel is better for understanding that honest criticism is vital for any media outlet, and has built one of the best studio shows in sports around Chamblee.

Their “Live From…” shows from major venues feature host Rich Lerner, and Chamblee’s exchanges with former pro Frank Nobilo, as well as guests. The show is at its best when Lerner sets up Chamblee and Nobilo for a frank discussion.

Golf lends itself to intelligent analysis. I’ve always loved listening to Johnny Miller, David Feherty and Gary McCord, and Nick Faldo has rounded into an excellent broadcaster.

Chamblee is unique. He can offer a soliloquy, or a critique. He can break down the swing or unearth forgotten history. He will take on anyone from Woods to the USGA, which he did during the Dustin Johnson scoring silliness at Oakmont this year.

What’s comforting as a frequent viewer of golf is to know that Chamblee will do his homework, then let it rip.

Everyone who can afford a ticket should try to experience one day of live Ryder Cup golf at Hazeltine. For those who can’t, be comforted in knowing that often the best seat for a major golf competition is your couch, and from there you’ll have a chance to hear what the best analyst in sports has to say.

 

Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com