Ah, what a relief.
After one of the most anticipated and entertaining Masters in recent history, things are finally back to normal in the world of professional golf. After a brief respite, Tiger Woods has returned to scowling, giving less than inspiring interviews and random outbursts of profanity.
Phil Mickelson, too, is back to his usual antics, inconsistent driving paired with a spectacular short game, and going for broke and ignoring conventional wisdom on every shot.
We have seen golf’s two most important personalities occupy these same roles for years, but this year, after 72 holes of golf, the results were much different.
This time, we cheered as a clearly emotional Phil Mickelson fought back tears as he walked off the 18th green at Augusta and into the waiting arms of his wife Amy, who was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago.
If you weren’t already rooting for Phil to win, his family’s recent struggles and his unbridled devotion to his wife and kids were bound to tug at a few heartstrings.
For heavens sake, he woke up early every morning during the week to go play chess with his daughter at an Augusta coffee shop! Contrast that with you-know-who’s current marital problems and the fact that he has to call a press conference in an attempt to seem like he cares about his family, and then take your pick.
Even more interestingly, this whole situation seemed to me as a bit of a role reversal, as the entire world was rooting for Tiger and complimenting his strength when he won the 2006 British Open just months after his father’s death. This time, Phil was the one triumphantly walking down the 18th fairway with a major championship and moral victory in hand. Tiger, meanwhile, assumed Phil’s usual role of clumsily faltering down the stretch of a major due to reckless decision making.
Aside from the whole Tiger/Phil saga, another storyline caught my eye while I watched the action at Augusta: that the old guys can still play.
While I enjoy seeing younger players like Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan play well, it is truly amazing to witness Tom Watson (age 60) and Fred Couples (age 50) playing well and contending in major championships.
Watching Tom Watson play golf with the likes of Woods, Kim and Phil is like having Lady Gaga and Frank Sinatra next to each other on your music playlist; by juxtaposing the two, you can clearly see how much better and more pure the game was in its simpler days.
Watching Watson do things “the old way” is so entertaining to me, and honestly, was probably one of my favorite things about this years’ Masters (and last year’s British Open). He doesn’t sound phony or overly corporate in interviews, plays the game with integrity, and is fun to watch. He is a senior citizen, probably close to retiring, and my favorite golfer to watch.
And so, with the year’s first major already in the books, there are a multitude of questions heading into the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June.
Can Phil continue his inspired performances and bring home another major title? Can Tiger withstand the media criticism and return to his winning ways? Who will be the next geezer to step up and contend for a major title?
All of these questions now await answers, as we wait in anticipation for what promises to be another great major championship.