Bernard Darwin, first of the celebrated British golf writers, was frequently asked why he never quoted the players whose games he dissected so clinically.
"My readers do not want to know the players' opinions about anything," he said, definitely. "They want to know my opinion."
Darwin predated the telvision era, but his philosophy lives on in much of British golf writing and commentary, which is analytical, intensely personal and authoritative in tone. The critic's opinion is valued more highly than his rapport with the people on whom he comments.
It is a style relatively unfamiliar to the interview-conscious American audience, which expects an analyst to know and empathize with the players.
"I think our viewers want to know what the player is going through, and they don't want the opinion of guys unless they've been there," says Dave Marr, the 1965 PGA champion who is working as an expert commentator on ABC-TV's coverage of the 60th PGA Championship this weekend at Oakmont Country Club in suburban Pittsburgh. Marr will tem with host Jim McKay on coverage of the third and fourth rounds (WJLA-TV-7, 5:30-7 p.m. today and 4:30-7 p.m. tomorrow).
Marr was at the British Open last month for ABC and was fascinated, as he is every year, by the extensive and distinctively crisp, concise, and literate TV coverage on the noncommercial BBC.
"I kind of like the way they do it. They can televise golf differently than we do because they don't have commercial interruptions. We often have to get off the air in a hurry for one reason or another.
"They tend to speak a lot less than we do, which is the way the British seem to be. They're a lot more reserved than their American counterparts, which is good at times," Marr continued, by telephone from Oakmont.
"But they assume that everybody knows all about golf. I don't think we can assume that. The British make the same assumption about cricket, which I don't know a darned thing about, and I was lost watching it over there. We feel the need to be more basic, to explain more."
Marr, an amiable Texan whose easygoing manner and good humor have made him a favorite of American golf watchers, considers his greatest strength as a commentator to be his ability to keep explanation simple, but not simplistic.
"I hope I'm able to talk to the biggest percentage of golfers, and even to people who don't play golf, and have them understand what's going on," he said. "I approach it the same way I would if I were sitting with the viewer in his den, just watching the golf and chatting about it. I don't want to get so technical that I lose him.
"The thing that frustrates me a little is that we don't have time to get into all the little stories that are going on at any tournament - the youngster trying to win enough money to keep his card, or the veteran who's playing well again after being sick.
"We dwell on the winners mostly. I guess that's what people expect and want. But there are always a bunch of little things going on every week that are part of the big story, and we just don't have the opportunity to go into them."
Marr know the people of the professional golf tour. He has been part of their fraternity for a quarter of a century. They trust him, and he knows what their lives are all about.
He is on the scene, always keeping current, and is a fine storyteller - knowledgeable, funny and able to put people at ease instantly with his quips and manners. He is kind of a Don Meredith of the links. He has that rapport with the players that the British do not consider necessary, but Americans value highly.
Marr never won at Oakmont, and he has enormous respect for the course. It was there that, 25 years ago, he failed to qualify for his first U.S. Open as a professional, but stuck around to watch Ben Hogan pull away from Sam Snead by six strokes for the 1953 championship.
"A lot of memorable things have happened at Oakmont, and a lot of great players have won tournaments there: Tommy Armour, Bobby Jones, Hogan, Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller's 63 in the 1973 U.S. Open was an incredible achievement. I've got to respect anybody who wins at Oakmont," Marr said.
"As far as I'm concerned, the key to Oakmont is the greens. If they're as quick as they're supposed to be, guys had better be hitting the ball well and getting it close to the pins, because they're going to three-putt if they get in the wrong place. There are some places on these greens that I could put you where three putts is just the best you could do. That sounds funny to people who play golf, but it's true.
"There is a gauge (called the Stimpmeter) that measures the speed of greens by sliding a golf ball down a ramp, onto the putting surface, and measuring how far it rolls. The previous longest distance was 9 feet 6 inches. Last week at Oakmont, a ball rolled 13 feet.
"Man!" concluded Marr, whose enthusiasm for golf is endearing as his manner, "If they're that fast, all you got to do is hitch a little bit, or hiccup, and a put will get away from you."
Bernard Darwin could not have dramatized it better.