Monday, April 12, 2010

The Day After Tiger Lost

I was expecting Armageddon when I awoke early this morning but to my surprise everything was A-ok. No frogs falling from the sky, the Ohio River had not turned into blood, the poles had not shifted, and the rapture had not occurred, for I am still here. Why was I expecting such catastrophic events? We are about a year and a half away from 2012, the year the ancient Mayans predicted the end (allegedly) of the world according to John Cusak and a million other nut jobs, so it wasn't that. I was expecting the end of the world because Tiger Woods did not win the Masters.

What was built up by ESPN and other sports news outlets to be the end all be all of Major golf events was definitely entertaining but it lacked the insight into Tiger's psyche as many for told. Tiger was still Tiger. He set a record for Eagles in a week's time at the Masters (5) and was in contention on the final day. The always recognizable red Nike polo was stalking around the course but the lay off from golf that he had experienced was evident. The kill shot that Tiger has become famous for was lacking.

Tiger did not lose this tournament, Phil Mickleson won it. He was as close to flawless as one could get on Sunday. As I watched him hit a near perfect drive off the tee on the second hole (par 5) and then hit his second shot into a bunker. I was thinking to myself, "Here comes the famous Mickelson meltdown," but he ended up saving par and played magnificently throughout the afternoon. It was good to see the positive story of Mickelson takeover the negative attention and speculation that Tiger had brought to Augusta, some of it warranted on his part but some if it unwarranted.

Mickelson's wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Weeks later his mother was diagnosed with the same disease. Both women have been fighting the cancer ever since and both seemed to be doing well at the moment. Mickelson decided to lay off from golf for a short time to deal with his family issues. It was good to see the moment when he embraced his wife at the end, which was the culmination of a possible tragedy turned into a shining moment of victory.

And then there was the Woods circus. Every move Tiger made was scrutinized. Even though the response from the patrons was mostly supportive and positive throughout the weekend, there were some hecklers present. A plane even buzzed Tiger on one of the tees to try and interrupt his swing. Tiger himself was one of his own worst hecklers at one point as the "New and Improved" Tiger gave way to the old Tiger as he cursed himself loudly after a bad shot. The Zen that he is trying to reach through his new found love for Buddhism was seemingly lost at times.

All in all Tiger gave a strong and silent performance. He didn't fold as many had predicted and he didn't dominate as others expected him too. It was a good showing from somebody that had just been through his own self-inflicted hell and back. I know Tiger is not happy with how things ended up, being the perfectionist that he claims to be, but anybody else would have been satisfied with the finish considering the overwhelming circumstances.

At the end of the day we will see the old Tiger Woods more and more. Expect him to improve his game as the rust keeps shaking off with every practice swing and every tournament played. He will emerge victorious in the end as he always does. Whatever he may be in his personal life does not effect what he is as an athlete: one of the greats.

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