Disclaimer: I don’t golf. I never have. If I ever do, I will require a 200 handicap. I am very bad. The extent of my golf experience? Putt-putt at Valleyfair. I was bored and no one wanted to hang out with me during our 10th grade field trip, so I went and played 3 rounds of Valleyfair putt-putt by myself. Very, very poor scores. Double bogey golf, as an aficionado might say. Damn windmill.
Unlike the Gopher hockey article, which started with a similar disclaimer, I have watched golf before. I am familiar with the practice and rote memorization (and luck) necessary for a successful round of golf. I’ve never done it myself, but having witnessed practice rounds at Hazeltine in person, I see the pressure inherent in preparing for such a tournament.
In my Sprite™ Refreshing Moment of Clarity (Soda companies, please sponsor us for shit like this.), my most vivid moment golf memory came in 2009, at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, MN. This is slightly off topic, but please bear with me.
I had just returned home from a friend’s house. The TV was on, tuned in to the very end of the PGA Championship, happening just a few miles away. A group of us had attended the practice rounds earlier in the week before the tournament began. Driving home, I had seen the Goodyear blimp, ‘Providing us with these spectacular images.’ I arrived home and witnessed, live, the battle between Tiger Woods and Y.E. Yang for the championship. Tiger was chasing history, trying to join Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus as the only men to win the PGA Championship 5 times. Y.E. Yang was trying to defeat the immortal, indefatigable Tiger. I remember watching Yang play a masterful second shot from the fairway and sealing the victory with a birdie putt on the last hole.
That was the last time Tiger Woods would be in the top three at a PGA major event.
Fastforward 2+ years. Tiger is two weeks removed from winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first victory in two years. A few days later? The Masters. ‘Steeped in tradition’ – Jim Nantz.
There are few others that are as connected with the Masters as Tiger Woods. I welcome all arguments. The man’s won it four times, and has not finished out of the top six since 2004. 2004! Think about that. What have you done better than the entirety of Earth’s population in the last eight years? Tiger owns this shit.
What’s so important about Tiger? Why can’t anyone get behind the youthful cheekiness of Rory McIlroy? The lefty-ness of Phil Mickelson? The damn-it-I-want-to-drink-with-him-ness of Rocco Mediate? Tiger represents the casualness in all of us. We may tune in to see the drama of Tiger, but we stay for the idiosyncrasies of these other players. Tiger is that moment of pure greatness that this generation struggles to see. Tiger draws in the casual viewer (myself included) with the promise of history. Who doesn’t want to say that they were watching, live, just barely home from a friend’s house, when Tiger made history?
Tiger’s recent absence from the podium at a major has been noted. Tiger’s success at the Arnold Palmer Invitational has been noted. Tiger’s history at Augusta National has been noted. The recipe is complete for Tiger to resume his quest for history.
Third and Final Round coverage of the Masters will be on throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday on CBS. Come for the history. Stay for the idiosyncrasies.
(Editor's Note: Tiger endured one of his worst rounds in his history at the Masters--a +3 75--Friday, punting one of his clubs at one point and prompting former Masters champ and current broadcaster Nick Faldo to surmise that Tiger "has lost his game...and his mind." He entered the weekend eight shots behind co-leaders Jason Dufner and ageless wonder Fred Couples, pictured above humoring Tiger.)