Much like a Tiger Woods round, this post could be all over the place.
To The Winner Goes the Spoils I’m done cracking Phil jokes. No more “Phillis” barbs, no more “Philsbury Dough Boy” jabs, no more goofs about his sagging C-cups, no more snide commentary about how his wife dresses him like a European catalogue model. Mick’s earned the right to look like a clown and “ahh-shucks” his way through his every adoring gallery. He dominated over the weekend with back-to-back 67s to hold off three of the world’s best players in Woods, Westwood and Kim. And he did it with style. I never thought I’d use “style” and Phil in the same sentence, but then again, I never thought I’d see Lefty dawn a third Green Jacket. His Saturday eagle-eagle-bird charge up the leaderboard on 12, 13 and 14 was nothing short of iconic – an ESPN Classic-worthy stretch the likes of which was only topped Sunday by that ballsy, “you stupid shiOHMYGAAAA!” long iron out of the woods on 15. He then throttled all challengers with workmanlike pars on 16 and 17, and polished it all off with a cake-icing three on 18. I say All-Time stuff, stuff that makes you change your mind about Phil if you weren’t already part of his massive legion of idolizing fans. He did everything that Tiger usually does over the weekend, only he did it with humility. That’s the highest compliment I can give.
The Cat’s Still Got It Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee is an anti-Tiger propagandist that would make Joe McCarthy blush. On Sunday night, my post-Masters conversation with my father was monopolized by I-can’t-believe-he-said-that Chamblee one-liners including, among many more, “Tiger’s game has slipped considerably.” Think of Chamblee like you would Keith Olbermann, except his Democrat is Phil and his ‘Pub is Tiger…
Block out what the blowhards are telling you. Tiger Woods did absolutely everything you could have asked of him short of winning. And you probably shouldn’t have asked for that. The guy looked unstoppable on Thursday and then defiantly fought back the rust over the weekend with enough spectacular shots to play -5 golf with 10 bogeys. Ten. His game was erratic, no doubt about it. Those two duffed drives on the back nine Sunday looked like Robbie Hilson Specials circa eighth grade. But to rebound from that disastrous start on the final day with a hole out for eagle on 7 and subsequent birdies on 8 and 9… Nobody does that. Nobody. Just like with the ’02 PGA when Tiger told Stevie he needed to birdie the last four holes to catch Rich Beem – and did – this is a tournament that will add to his mighty legend even in defeat.
I’m telling my kids about this one. I’m telling them how Tiger wore red Nike on Sunday, how he carded two eagles when his swing was going to hell, how he shook off a month of feebleness by almost wrapping his putter around Peter Kostis’ neck in the post-round interview. And by the way, he’s healthy. We didn’t hear one peep about the once-ailing knee. In fact, the biggest revelation was that he was playing all of ’09 with a torn achilles. Absolutely incredible. Chalk up the double-crosses, the block-handed short game, and the traitorous putter to a winter of chaos. Because if you’ve ever played golf – or really, if you’ve ever used common sense – you know that a five-month hiatus in which you were embroiled in an apocalyptic sex scandal, spent 30-plus days in rehab, and, in general, saw your whole world come crashing down around you has a tendency to get in the way of practice time. Kostis asked Tiger walking off 18 how he felt he performed. “Well, I finished fourth.” Translation: “I did’t win. And I always play to win. Always.” Sounds to me like a man who knows he’s still got a full tank.
America Still In Love with Greatness Not a heckle. Not one word. Not a whisper. Here’s the dirty little secret about the United States: we have a lot of dirty little secrets. So when somebody crashes and burns so monumentally – when they f*** up so colossally – we take the guy under our wing, we feel for him, we thank our lucky stars that it didn’t happen to us. The gallery at Augusta shot the collective bird to every holier-than-thou moralist brazen enough to get up on his squawk box in the last 130 or so days. They loyally cheered him Thursday on that most awkward of first tees, and they continued to cheer him 71 holes later. That’s Southern Hospitality for you – that’s a crowd that’s well aware that immaculate golf is the only reason they ever pulled for him in the first place. America loves flaws in its perfection, and it seems to this observer that we’ve found our new tragic hero… Sunday gave me the feeling that Phil wins because he’s got better things in his life to take the pressure off. Sunday, too, gave me the feeling that Tiger wins because the Burning Desire to Be Great is the only thing he’s ever had.