Monday, April 12, 2010

One for the Ages

This year’s Masters golf tournament on CBS was must-see (sorry, NBC) television: a glittering leaderboard that included champions from decades past, the return of the world’s top golfer from five months of scandal, and exciting golf conducted on the pristine Augusta National stage. At the end it became a memorable morality play.

Like many fans I initially tuned in to see if Tiger Woods still had his game. I was ambivalent about wanting him to win (a just universe requires a penalty to be paid, n'est-ce pas?), but I did expect to view the customary compensatory gestures by this behavior-challenged celebrity: remorse, humility, and, above all, the self-control that showed that he is sensitive to his effect on those around him.

Despite a visible effort Tiger could not conceal his frustration and anger at his golfing miscues, and he has always been an ungracious, if not sore loser. He has unmatched skills, but his act is wearing thin. Tiger’s the bad guy now. If he doesn’t change, at the end of his career the public may acknowledge him only grudgingly to be the greatest ever. He’ll be the Barry Bonds of golf.

Phil Mickelson’s triumph on one of sports’ greatest stages had moments that reality television can only dream of. Phil could have played a safe shot from under the trees on the 13th hole par-5, but he refused to protect his two-shot lead and risked a water landing by going for the green. The ball landed a few feet from the hole, “the shot of his life,” according to Nick Faldo, three-time Masters champion. The birdie just about sealed his win.

But what catapulted Phil Mickelson’s victory to greatness was the background against which it was achieved: his wife’s year-long battle against breast cancer. Amy Mickelson’s trips to Houston for treatment, the strain it placed upon the family and their three young children, and the subsequent discovery that Phil’s mother also had breast cancer would make it difficult for any normal person to function normally, much less achieve a ranking of second-best golfer in the world at the end of 2009.

The 2010 Masters was about growing old, marriage, life, and love. It was one for the ages. © 2010 Stephen Yuen

The shot of the day, by CBS.


Jo said...

Wonderful post! You have a fabulous blog. The whole world should discover you.

Tiger Woods is a poor sport, on and off the golf greens. Sportsmanship and being a gentleman are inextricably linked to each other, and Tiger Woods is neither a sportsman nor a gentleman. All he knows how to do is play golf. That does not make him a good sportsman.

Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, is a sportsman and a gentleman, and I'm glad he won.

Stephen said...

Jo, thanks for the compliment, which is pretty special coming from the author of a featured blog. Yes, every writer, including yours truly, wants his work to be noticed to some degree, but I'm not willing to pay the price for success---having to write interestingly and often. What started as fun becomes too much like work--returning to the golf theme, you'll hear this from skilled amateur golfers who try turning pro.