Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If It's a Question of Tiger vs. Phil, It's Easy to Favor Phil

In recent years, I've grown more and more negative to Tiger Woods.  I appreciated his rise to glory, and certainly appreciate (and envy) what he had accomplished on the golf course. And when I say "envy", I think I speak for anybody who's ever played the game.  We'd all love to hit the ball so far and so accurate as Tiger Woods did in his prime.  What I dislike about Woods is how golf became secondary to his celebrity status. Many people openly talk about how "if Tiger's not winning, I'm not watching." They are more interested i the celebrity, not the golfer.  Perhaps they are only interested in watching in case Woods sets a record; I suppose the non-sports fan could see it that way.  But if you like golf, the personalities shouldn't matter much if there is good golf to be seen.  If anything, any sporting event is MORE interesting when two or more players are battling it out, as opposed to having an insurmountable lead.

Tiger Woods' injuries and problems in his personal life have undoubtedly called into question his ability to shatter Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships. Can he still do it? Absolutely yes.  But not until he comes to terms with his own failings.  He may never again enjoy the physical superiority of his earlier years.  The wear and tear on his legs may be irreversible.  What can be reversed is his mental outlook and the sense of entitlement that his years of success brought him.  From my perspective, Woods is another child prodigy who knows nothing in life other than success in athletic competition. His father put a golf club in his hands before he could barely walk; it's all he knows, and it's brought him this far in life. It has given him fame and riches, and he hasn't handled it well, destroying his marriage along the way.  And now that the game that he once dominated is now giving him fits at times.  Yes, he won two weeks ago.  He's still a great golfer.  But he's not invincible like he wishes or though he was.

Take his temper tantrums at the Masters this weekend.  If it was one blowup, you could understand it.  But he did it multiple times during the weekend...over and over and over again.  He's done it before..and he'll do it again.

For all his failings, I still like Phil Mickelson far better than Tiger Woods.  Head to head in their prime, Woods would regularly eat Mickelson alive on the course.  But now, both have their physical issues...but Mickelson is dealing with it better.  He still channels his inner "Tin Cup" (Phil being Phil), like the third hole triple bogey (now chronicled with the "Yakety Phil").  But even with two triples on the weekend, he still found himself in contention.  And he even took the time to slip into the background to watch Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus, and Gary Player open the tournament on Thursday.

Think Tiger Woods would ever do something like that?  Me neither...

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