B/R Exclusive Part 1: Steve Elkington on Tiger Woods, Social Media, Golf World

Will Leivenberg@@will_leivenbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2011

Steve Elkington is a golf legend. In over 20 years playing on the PGA Tour, the affable Australian racked up 10 wins, including the 1995 PGA Championship at Hogan’s Alley, and he might not be finished yet. Elkington was one of the top challengers at the PGA in both 2005 and 2010.

You may also know Elk from his legendary appearances on the Jim Rome show. Let me assure you, this man knows how to tell a tale.

Earlier this week, Max Rausch and I got a chance to sit down with Elk and his business partner Mike Maves in B/R’s San Francisco offices. Elk and Maves dished on the their awesome new golf-centric social media site, the President’s Cup, Tiger Woods, and why Elk won’t play fours.

SecretintheDirt.com is a dynamic online community designed to bring golfers together.  On the site, dirters can find video lessons from trusted pros, read fresh golf news, sell old clubs and even read course reviews.  The Secret in the Dirt is fast becoming the web's one stop shop for golfers everywhere. 

B/R: Social media is primarily about sharing and social networks have allowed people from every background and every corner of the world to connect.  How and why do you think golfers can benefit from the power of social media through the Secret in the Dirt? 

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Maves: We believe the future of golf is in the good amateur. The idea when Elk and I first started talking was lets make it a goal to create more good amateurs. And really that’s what’s going to grow the game of golf.

Elk: There were two things we built the dirt on. One was there was no way for me, this little guy growing up in Wagga Wagga, Australia to get discovered. But with the Secret in the Dirt that’s possible. And then the other is: We don’t think golf lessons should cost $500. We think it should be free. We think you should be able to pass down information like I do to my son or my friends. That was our original ‘this is why we are doing this.’  Twitter and Facebook and all of these different social media pieces have grown around it.

B/R: What do you think of Twitter?

Elk: Twitter is awesome. I got right on it. I follow a mismatch of everything. There are some brilliant people on twitter and what I like most about it is that they have to get it out in 140 characters. I feel like it was invented for me.  

B/R: Other than you (@elkpga), are there any golfers we should follow on Twitter?

Elk: There are no other big golf personalities. Their content is rubbish.

B/R:What can you tell me about the World Dirter Summit?

Elk: That’s going to be our first tournament. We wanted to have an event where digital world meets real world. So we thought we’d do it in Vegas because where would be better to lay it out.  But, It’s not just a blowout party. It’s really about golf and learning. They’ll get to see me and Mike on the range and meet these real guys that they bought videos from. 

Maves: It’s like a dating site [laughing]. Eventually you have to meet and go on the date. So this is a where people who have been fraternizing and talking with each other on the website will have a place to congregate nationally. You know, make it real.

B/R: Turning to the world of professional golf, the Tour has never felt as global and wide-reaching as it does today. What does the global element bring to the game?

Elk: Listen, the global element has always been there, it’s just instead of it was Norman, Faldo and even Jumbo Ozaki. The difference is that now there is Twitter and when events like the Presidents Cup are played it’s shown all over the world on TV.  Tiger obviously brings so much attention to golf, and everyone wants to see the Americans come down to Australia to see if they can live up to the hype. Everyone wants to knock off the Americans in everything, whether they like it or not, that’s just the way it is.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 05:  (EDITORS NOTE: Swing Sequence, Image 9 of 13) Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club on November 5, 2011 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

B/R: Who amongst the latest group of young guns – Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler – do you foresee having the best chance to achieve Tiger-like success?

Elk: The only way you are going to differentiate yourself in the golf world is to win the Majors. Rory did it this year and that jumped him up above everybody else. Jason Day has only won one tournament so he can’t be in any conversation about anything other than just being hyped. This era is a little bit dangerous with the amount of press because the young guys don’t actually do that much to get the recognition they get. 

Now if Sergio or Jason Day won [a tournament] every year plus a PGA and 2 Players [the media] would just bronze them. The thing is you try and bronze ‘em now when they’ve just won one. From our old school perspective Day’s not there yet. That’s why Tiger laughs at all these ‘who’s the next guy’ questions. Do they have any idea what it’s like to win a bunch of tournaments on tour? And they don’t think he’s gonna ever be good again? What are you kidding me?

B/R: When Woods was at his best he seemed untouchable. What do you think set him apart?

Elk: Tiger was the best swimmer in the pool.  If you’re the fastest swimmer than anybody else you’re not worried about the other swimmers, right? You are going to get to the other end quicker.  He was better. He was the most gifted player out there. Physically and mentally that combination was just dynamic and he had that intangible that was that kill factor. And the media kinda bought into that and unhyped everyone around him and hyped him more. In my mind, it was no different than playing with Nicklaus.

B/R: Everybody talks about Tiger’s intimidation factor, which became more intense as he continued to win. Did you have a new mental toughness, or arrogance, after winning the PGA?  How did that affect the way you approached the game?

Elk: Oh yea, for sure. At that point you just try and clean house. I kept winning the next year and then in 1997 I won twice and had my all time best performance at the Players. 1997 was before the social media boom. So I would have been regarded as being, well, awesome at that point. I might have just quit right there. But, that was the same year Tiger won by 12 at Augusta.

Part 2 is continued by Max Rausch...


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