Monday, June 16, 2008

In Other News, Water is Wet

I tried to take up golf. My boss gave me the old line of how it would be good for my career. Danelle's mom let me use her dad's old set of clubs, and I made a few trips to the driving range and played about four rounds over the course of a couple of years.

What I eventually decided was that I didn't have enough free time at this point in my life to spend it doing something I suck at. So the clubs went on a hook in the garage and I went back to things like tennis and volleyball that I'd played with some success and considerably more enjoyment when I was younger.

I share all that to establish that I really have no credentials for commenting on how good Tiger Woods is. But great googly moogly, the man is simply a force of nature and probably the greatest athlete of our generation whether you believe golf is actually a sport or not.

He just won his 14th major championship in a 19-hole playoff after forcing said playoff on the final hole yesterday of the first tournament he'd played in since having knee surgery eight weeks earlier.

The only hole of the tournament I actually watched in its entirety was the final one, but I couldn't get away from knowing what was going on throughout the weekend. ESPN Radio talked about nothing else Saturday night the whole way to and from my friend Rick's gig. Today the playoff was on the televisions at the Morrison Inn when I had lunch and Tipsy's Liquor World when I stopped to pick up a bottle of wine for Danelle. And as I drove home ESPN Radio was once again all over it, giving stroke-by-stroke recaps. So I knew that Tiger was behind going in to what was supposed to be the final hole today but again had a chance to forge a tie as I pulled in to my garage. And I turned on the TV in my family room just in time to see him do exactly that.

Then I settled in to witness what was, quite frankly, almost inevitable. After all, the first time this man played in The Masters as a professional he won it by 12 strokes. He won the British Open in 2006 just two months after his father and mentor passed away from cancer. He married a Swedish model, for Pete's sake. He wasn't supposed to lose to some guy named "Rocco," and he didn't.

I read once that rooting for the New York Yankees in baseball is like rooting for the house in blackjack. I suppose on some level cheering for Tiger is comparable. It's widely regarded as more fun to root for the underdog, a sentiment which makes the early rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament so compelling.

But there's something awe-inspiring to me about watching something or someone whose whole existence is focused on one purpose achieve that purpose. Do what they were built to do. I don't know Tiger personally, although I did eat at the table next to him in a Morton's Steakhouse in Orlando once. He may very well be a loving father, a devoted husband, help old ladies across the street and all that. All I really know about him is what I see on TV and read online about his professional side -- the red shirt on Sundays, the fist pump, the incomparable "mental toughness." Every ounce of it is devoted to winning golf tournaments. If he had lost today, it would have been exactly that. Him losing, not the other guy winning.

But that didn't happen, and Tiger now gets one major victory closer to the all-time record holder, Jack Nicklaus with 18, and removing the final flimsy argument from those who still refuse to acknowledge him as the greatest golfer ever. Tiger will turn 33 years old this December. Nicklaus won his final major when he was 46. If Woods can play 91 holes on a bum leg to win a major, I like his chances of somehow pulling out five more.

I may not know much about golf, but like Justice Potter Stewart and pornography I know greatness when I see it. So congratulations for making it to the end of probably my biggest waste of words in a post to date. I could have saved you and me both a lot of time if I'd just written, "Tiger Woods is quite skilled at golf" and left it at that.

But seriously, the internet would be a much more boring place if people didn't feel the need to state the obvious so much.


Ace Hunter said...

But what has he won? ; )

SteveHarbula said...

I can almost hear the sultry rasp of the Old Gray Wolf himself in your comment...