16929252263c “Golf is a good walk spoiled” – Mark Twain


In the “Tiger/Phil Debate”, I’ve always been a Phil guy.  My reasoning is a tad lame.  I like Phil Mickelson because he’s left-handed (like me) and because he has a propensity for those Tin Cup type shots from bodily crevices heretofore not defined (in all of the good and bad ways).   However, Tiger Woods is growing on me because he’s becoming (whether he likes it or not) increasingly human – and correspondingly, increasingly rootable.

Tiger pulled out of this week’s Masters Tournament (and at least the first half of the 2014 season) last week with a bad back.  Currently, Tiger has 14 career “Grand Slam” wins (defined as wins compiled in the annual Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championships).  The all-time “Grand Slam” career record is 18 wins, held by Jack Nicklaus, who won his last Grand Slam at age 46.  Tiger is 38.  He has five to go to pass Jack.  Tiger’s last Grand Slam win was the US Open in 2008, on a bad knee – a foreshadowing of the injury-plagued destructibility that has ensued.  In fact, this week, Tiger is now officially “behind the pace” needed to pass Jack for the first time in his crazy-illustrious career.

So, hey, GO TIGER!  Here’s hoping he defies the odds (now against him) that were forever in his favor.  He’s now unwittingly on a path that most of the rest of us can relate to – broken family, broken body, broken dreams.  It’s a new, downward slanting trajectory for Tiger – one that is glorious, if only embraced.  To be fair, Tiger still won FIVE tournaments last year and was the PGA “Golfer of the Year” – did anyone notice?  Ask any golfer with a PGA tour card, five tour wins in a career would bottle enough euphoria for a lifetime.  Not for Tiger Woods, though – he of the “photo-shopped abs” and the avatar-like persona (until now).

Note: Brief strong language here.

Now, we’re left with a diminished Tiger, not dissimilar to the one that wandered aimlessly off the boat at the end of “Life of Pi”.   No longer do the other golfers fear him.  No longer does he pose a threat when lurking in the shadows a few strokes back on a Sunday afternoon Major.  Truth be told, Tiger has never come from behind on a Sunday to win a major – zero of the 14.   He’s not exactly “clutch” in the comeback moments.  Sound familiar?  Tiger (dare we contemplate) might be like us.

Jack Nicklaus still believes in Tiger:

“I feel very bad for Tiger. He’s really worked towards my record. I still think he’ll break my record… as long as he is physically able to do it. He’s 38 years old and he’s probably got another 10 years at least of being able to compete — that’s 40 more majors to win five of them. It shouldn’t be too difficult. But then again, I’ve always said he’s just gotta do it. It’s gonna be difficult, but if I said anything different I think I would be a jerk. So I think I better say he will do that… and I actually believe that.”

c02-golf-02-e1396984857855Nicklaus graciously eludes to the notion that perhaps “records are made to be broken” but not by an avatar.  If Tiger’s going to break the record, it’s going to take a few of those requisite “Phil-Tin Cup” shots.   Those on the “Tiger side” of the Tiger/Phil debate will contend that Tiger has always been human.  He’s always been quick to mouth an expletive for the cameras to see in a sport where personal decorum is a virtue.  He’s always been quick with a requisite fist-pump after a big shot in a sport where personal restraint is a virtue.  His supporters are right.  He’s always been “one of us”.

Among other endorsements, Tiger has been a spokesman for Gillette razors.  Memo to the Gillette ad team – here’s your moment.   It’s Masters weekend and Tiger is sidelined,  but Tiger’s arc is not yet complete.  Your commercial this weekend is as follows:  A lathered up Tiger is looking himself in the mirror, Gillette razor in hand, glaring ominously at his broken self.  As the razor strokes come across the face with his left hand, a right hand fist pump concludes the scene and announces his inevitable return as he stares embracingly into the reality of his own ragged company.

O lord I think I’m falling
To my disbelief
I’m cursing like a sailor and lying like a thief
It’s hard to heed the calling from the better side of me
When I’m blaming everybody else and no one’s coming clean

O lord can you see my thick skin wearing thin
And the demons of a lesser me are beckoning me in
Those who gathered’round me – I’m watching them all leave
Cause I am my own ragged company – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Note: below features an endearingly ragged Willie Nelson (ht CD).