Yesterday promised to be an exciting day for the beginning of golf season. Tiger Woods, the dominant golfer of the last twenty years was paired up with his second-fiddle for much of that time, Phil Mickelson, in the penultimate group of the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Open. So, people like me, who generally just tune in for the sport’s major events, eagerly waited for the game to begin.
Because of a quick collapse by the golfers in the final group, it was obvious that any excitement would be between these two long-time opponents. Phil did his job, starting out with three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes. Tiger, meanwhile, was unable to meet the challenge, missing putt after putt from short range. When he did sink one out of a sand trap on the 12th hole, Mickelson followed with a long, downhill putt to keep his lead from shrinking. From then on, Tiger did all of the shrinking. While his opponent shot a 64, Woods got a 75, his worst final round in memory when he had a chance to win. He ended up in 15th place, while Mickelson won.
So, why am I thanking Tiger? Beginning next Wednesday (as I’ve done at this time of year for a long time), I try to give up schadenfreude, the feeling of joy when others suffer misfortune. This would have been impossible, if the tournament were just scheduled two weeks later.
Why do I so dislike Mr. Woods? Perhaps to your surprise, it has nothing to do with the dalliances which became gossip fodder after Thanksgiving a few years back. I only care about such events when they have electoral implications. No, the source of my aversion happened a few years after he became a pro. He was a sensation, and was rightly regarded as the opportunity for the American PGA tour to gain popularity. I was as enthralled as others by his ability to work magic with his clubs.
However, in a minor tournament, he hit his ball behind a log, and had a number of his fans move the log out of his way. Nobody on television or later uttered a discouraging word about this blatant disregard for the rules of the game, and for the honor that is implicit with every stroke a golfer takes. So now that his game is but a shell of what it previously was, and his fist-bumps seem to be done more out of muscle memory than any hope that it will turn his career around, thank you Tiger.