Sunday, April 11, 2010

Respectable

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The combination of recent events has me in new territory. Like many people, I've had a favorite golfer on tour since 1996/1997. But that changed last Thanksgiving.

I don't actively pull against any golfer, though I will admit if Rory Sabbatini or Vijah Singh miss a cut, it doesn't break my heart.

Yesterday, though, I found myself pulling for Phil. Actively.

It's not like I've picked up a dook hat. That would never happen. But it felt like I was watching Maryland vs. Kentucky. I'm not sure who was in the part of Kentucky, maybe the golf course. But Phil had become Maryland, and I had a red hat.

Wow.

I'm not that keen about red, Maryland, or really, Phil. I've been extremely critical of his course management, but usually there's also been respect for his vast skills. Playing the shot, Phil is genius. Choosing the shot, and Phil is suspect at times. But no one ever said Arnie was a strategist, either.

I remember how much I loathed the emergence of Jack Nicklaus in the mid 60s. Arnie was my guy, and Jack was dook. Then, Jack became dook in its prime, and, eventually, I didn't think of Jack as dook, or as replacing Arnie, but rather simply as Jack,  the greatest ever, other than Bobby Jones.

I went through a Greg Norman phase. I was crushed when he blew the 1996  Masters. I didn't like Faldo. At all.  Then Tiger comes along, and Faldo goes to the booth.

(I like Faldo now. I don't want to watch him during the broadcast, though, and i think CBS did a wretched job with coverage yesterday. Too much on tape. Too many non-live moments to punctuate the pre-determined story line, too much Jim Nantz reciting a series of facts about golfers who may or may not be of any interest. I admire the research that Team Nantz does, But like Phil and shot selection, they really don't choose their spots well. The other thing about Nantz and his "facts" is that they are offered in place of true analysis of the event as it is happening. if you can't do that, you shouldn't have the job. The overuse of the music is driving me out of my mind.)

Anyway, Tiger comes along, and for those of us who became captivated with Jack, and the power of his mind, his ability to play the right shot at crunch time, and to make those 6-foot par putts under the gun, it was easy to pull for Tiger. Particularly with his announced goal of catching and then passing Jack in regard to majors won.

Tiger, of course, is a thrilling player to watch. Over the years, like many fans, I excused the guy's demeanor. Tiger has been a butthead for most of his career. Yesterday's outbursts were far from vintage, but they were too recognizable, too much like the Tiger we've known all along. CBS was right there with the excuses after some mild criticism. I was not surprised, just a bit disappointed that the first time Tiger fought his swing, he also fought himself and lost.

Tiger's display on the sixth tee was a low point, and that was a bogey that was deserved. I thought the action on the 10th green was the start of moving in a new direction. But eliminate that three putt, and the Rush Limbaugh drive on 17, and Tiger Woods trails Westwood by 2, and Phil by 1.

A counterpoint to Tiger's antics was the manner in which Phil handled his folly on the 10th hole. This wasn't politics. Phil had no idea what Tiger was up to. It was simply about hammering the perfect drive on a tough hole with a tough green. And then trying to hit a landing area about the size and shape of one of Freddy's boat slippers that he's wearing this week. Phil's shot goes long and to a place where the unskilled (almost 99.9 percent of all earthlings) would suffer horrendous agony.

The logical question was, could Phil make a 6? It took the best short game player in the universe to keep the pitch on the green.

Anyway, when Phil saw where his second shot finally came to rest, there was no outburst, no tantrum, almost no reaction at all. I suppose one might say that Phil is used to this sort of thing, and he is, but really, he handled the missed shot perfectly with his demeanor. I think he was already at work trying to save the bogey.

We hear  and see how mentally tough Tiger is. His personality is clearly more volatile, and Tiger has always been able to release his stress with his various Tigerisms and then focus. But those displays have always been on his terms. In February, we were told: "When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game."

OK. I'm ready. Tiger, are you?

I did think Tiger pulled himself together on the back nine, and by the end, he was in control of his emotions, but not always his driver or putter.

I suppose we can expect more backsliding in regard to temper. What I refuse to accept, though, is more excuses from announcers and reporters. Call this guy on his Sheite. He needs to call it on himself, if he's serious about making his behavior more respectful of the game (on the golf course). Off the course, I have no clue what is really happening, only that I'm being sold a storyline.

Today, I wish Phil, Westwood, Tiger, all of those who have a chance, all the best.

In spite of itself, CBS will eventually show us enough live golf that we'll get a sense of what happened. All I can say is, though, just don't listen too carefully. Let your eyes be the judge, not the incessant drone of those who are being well paid to put a certain business back in full gear.

Golf has already won, almost in spite of CBS.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First 2010 Masters Moment

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Wednesday: Arnie drains a long, speedy, downhill putt from the back of the 9th green in the par 3 contest. Huge roar.

One of those putts that lasts forever, which is perfectly fitting for the Par 3 Contest.

It's where the past, such as Palmer, Player and Nicklaus, meets the future, as in the many, many kids who are carry clubs, maybe hit a shot or a putt. It's Old Home Week as presented by Norman Rockwell. Highly enjoyable to see The Big Three walk on a golf course and hit shots. They are not bigger than the game, but they certainly helped the game become the game in the modern (TV) era.

I love the Par 3 Contest at Augusta because The Masters is the only major that honors its past in such a fine way.

In a related issue,  Billy Payne had plenty to say about Tiger Woods in Payne's State of The Masters press conference. It was direct and clear. 
And it needed to be said, imo:

excerpt:

"It's not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here," Payne said, in his opening speech. "It is the fact he disappointed all of us and more imporantly our kids and grandkids.
"Our hero did not live up to the expectations as a role model that we sought for our children."
Payne's opening speech about Woods was unprecedented. He and his predecessor,Hootie Johnson, never before commented on the behavior of a golfer outside the course.
"As he ascended in our rankings of the world's great golfers, he became an example to our kids...," Payne said. "But as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibilty.
"Is there a way forward?" Payne asked. "I hope, yes. I think, yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but by the sincerity of his efforts to change... We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us who believe in second chances."

The decision for Tiger Woods to not play in the par 3 was probably made for a number of reasons. It was not up to me, nobody asked, but if someone had, I 'd say I think Tiger should wait a year for the Par 3. What's the difference in the Par 3 and the regular event?

Everything.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Masters Week

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Weather looks decent after Thursday.
Had computer issues and missed Monday's press conference. Watched some of it later.
Here's hoping the sincerity and hint of humility are both real and lasting.
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

What Final Four?

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Not paying attention.
Don't want to pay attention.
Can't.
OK. Go Butler.
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