Consider: Block has played in two US Opens and five US PGAs. He’s won five professional titles including the California State Open, the PGA Professional National Championship, and the Southern California PGA Championship three times.
So what? Well. How many times have you won the Southern California PGA Championship? I’ll bet never once.
I will also bet all my dollars against all of your donuts that Block has done another thing you have not which is sit two off the lead on day two of the PGA Championship, go into Sunday in the top-10, ace the 15th hole with a slam dunk in the company of Rory McIlroy, and go on to pocket $US288,333 for a share of 15th spot.
Since then, across a benighted period of angst and rage and kung-poo fighting, as greed-heads strived to own it all and screw the other guy, Block has been the one constant, true, feel-good story of professional golf.
Because Block has been Block, a genuinely nice man enjoying a tremendously fun third act. And he’s sucking the marrow from his time in the limelight by collecting life experiences he’d never otherwise have enjoyed.
Bottom line is he’s a good fellah, Block, we should all call him ‘Ice’ for a gag. (Adrian Meronk can be ‘Icey Pole’.)
Michael Block was hitting 3-wood to his player partners’ long irons. But he was scoring as well or better. PHOTO: Getty Images
And yet, when Golf Australia (the governing body, not this crackerjack journal) announced that Block would be coming to Australia to contest our national golf championship, types wondered, in the proud Australian tradition of cultural cringe, why a great sporting nation would import golf’s Eddie the Eagle, a man whose 15 minutes of fame has been going six months.
The questions were often rhetorical. Some types just don’t like new things. But Block is here because of clicks, links, ticks, toks.
Since October 26, according to Golf Australia media, there have been 520 mentions of Block in relation to the Australian Open, with a cumulative potential audience reach of 21,384,761.
There was a spike on 27 October in online coverage when Golf Australia announced him and another spike in radio and TV mentions on 27 November when he turned up at The Australian for a presser.
Michael Block on the first at The Australian. PHOTO: Getty Images
Of the 520 items about Block, 299 were online, 132 on TV, 80 on radio and nine in print.
Golf Australia’s posts about Block reached 968,000 Twitter viewers and 112,000 on Instagram.
Block’s done his bit by the Australian Open’s ‘Event Partner’, the state government’s tourism wing, Destination NSW, praising the golf course, the Opera House, kangaroos, the sausage roll.
“He’s done whatever’s been asked of him,” another Golf Australia media type told Golf Australia magazine.
What did he cost? According to our source, Golf Australia, with a kiss from the NSW taxpayer, didn’t pay Block an appearance fee, per se.
Rather his “expenses” – flights, accommodation for himself, caddy and entourage – were covered.
How much? GA won’t say. But what do you think? Fifty grand? A hundred? It’s chump-change for airtime of Block praising Sydney on American media.
Cashed-up American tourists are the holy grail of inbound operators. Surveys say they love the ‘idea’ of Australia but that 20-hour flights daunt them. Seeing a ‘normal’ person like ‘That PGA Guy’ drinking a beer at the Opera House and patting a kangaroo, well, there’s influence in that.
Golf Australia magazine is on the first tee at The Australian to watch Block go around. At 47, as the man will tell you, he doesn’t hit it far enough away to actually win big-boy golf tournaments on big-boy golf courses, which the Australian Open at The Australian genuinely is.
Thus, as old Block said in his stand-up on Tuesday, he’ll “need to roll the rock”.
The first hole at the Australian is case-in-point: a massive par-4 that’s par-5 for the members. There’s sand everywhere. It’s so long Peter Lonard laid up.
Block laid up, too, though he didn’t mean to. After his drive overshot the fairway the ball nestled deep in second-cut rough. Block tried to draw a hybrid around the mighty pines but effectively topped it, the ball squirreling perhaps 40 metres hence. A bogey resulted and he was back even par.
Michael Block has a singular action but it’s repeatable and after 47 years he knows it well enough to repeat. PHOTO: Golf Australia
He hit the green on the par-3 second only to see his ball slide down the slope into a bowl. A tidy and firm uphill putt followed. There followed the day’s first “C’mon, Blockie.”
On three, with a rather a lot of fairway to aim at, Block drew hybrid into a fairway pot. Not ideal. He extracted from that one and into another one – and plugged, halfway up the face. Not ideal, either.
His sand wedge finished six feet above the hole, and Block threatened to do his block, aiming the wedge at the offending sand, unhappy with its ability to snare his pill.
But it was here that the Block party began. His downhill putt rolled to gold. And Block strolled on, riding that invisible but unmistakable tide of old mate momentum.
A 20-footer rested on the right lip on four. A 10-footer saluted on five. Another 10-footer did as commanded on six. On seven a 20-footer looked good all the way bar the last slippery dip.
But Block was away. He hit driver, hybrids and fat 3-irons while his flat-bellied playing partners hit blades. And he continued to roll that rock. And the “C’mon Blockies” rang around the Oz.
And onwards he rolled, this good fellah from Southern California, enjoying the fruits of some verdant late blooming. You can’t knock him for it. Because you can’t dislike him.
And this: he’s also a very good golfer who, at the age of 47, may just be getting better.
And who made the cut on the number.
I hope he comes next year, too.