by Jeff Skinner
The 73rd Masters was about as entertaining as a golf tournament can be. There was great, compelling golf on many fronts. Kenny Perry played bogey free golf until the seventeenth, and then allowed Chad Campbell and Angel Cabrera to tie him for a playoff. Even though it was less than perfect golf at the end, it still was interesting. Cabrera was able to steal a green jacket from Kenny Perry as Kenny faltered in the playoff. The winner was almost upstaged by the match play like conditions that Tiger and Phil were involved in. Phil was on fire on the front, for a record tying 30 and Tiger came to life on the back to pull within a stroke of the lead. For the longest time it looked like Phil and Tiger were going to take the green jacket themselves. After a few wayward drives and missed putts we knew they were out of it but they had given us a day to remember. Fans have been waiting for a match like this for years. The fact that they started seven strokes back was unimportant. It was Tiger and Phil and it was a major, and a great one it was.
Afterward, you had to be impressed with Kenny Perry. In his interviews he gave credit to Angel Cabrera and admitted that he has an issue with his hands when he gets nervous. He said he was disappointed and that he had indeed lost the tournament. He was open and honest and very genuine. He was just what he had appeared to be all week.
Phil Mickelson in his interview said that it was fun playing with Tiger. He said he thought he should have gone lower and that the ball in the water at twelve really stopped his momentum. He also stated that he was confused with the line of his putt on fifteen after watching Tiger’s putt. He was open and honest and very genuine and he had the “smile” that he always wears.
There were reports that Tiger only spoke briefly to CBS Sports and did not interview with any other news media. I was unable to find any video of Tiger other then the short CBS spot with Bill McAtee. If that is the case then something is wrong here. I can understand Woods being upset with his play at the end. He was bouncing it off the trees like a twenty handicapper, but was there anyone with more reason to be upset then Kenny Perry. Tiger needs to look at the big picture here and take a minute after a tough round to answer some questions like every other golfer out there does.
I am a big Tiger Woods fan, but I am a bigger golf fan. I used to think that Phil’s constant smile was an act. Well, if it is, then it’s a good one. He has won me over. I have been wishing for a real Tiger & Phil rivalry for years. Phil never seemed to hold up his end. Today he did more than that. He more then held his own and showed what a class guy he is afterward. Tiger should take a lesson. These two have been compared to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Phil is definitely cast in the same mold as Arnold. He gambles with his shots on the golf course, he interacts with fans all the time, he is open and forthcoming with the press and he signs more autographs than any other golfer. Arnold Palmer appears to be Phil’s role model.
Tiger has been compared to Jack Nicklaus, and rightly so. He is the most dominant golfer of his day and is on his way to breaking Jack’s all time major record. On the course he is as focused and determined as Nicklaus. However, after the round is over the similarity ends. Nicklaus was always considerate of the press afterward. He was a gracious loser to his opponents and always recognized their fine play. Tiger is never disrespectful to another player but has been known to avoid the press on more than one occasion. Tiger usually answers a few questions only when he wants and he always edits his responses. After listening to Perry and Mickelson admit their faults, I wondered if Woods would ever be as open and honest as those two. Every response to a question from the press is edited by Tiger. He has been trained by his agents or handlers to control his responses and rarely gives a candid response. He needs to lighten up a little bit. Maybe it will come in time as he grows older and mellows. Kenny and Phil both realize that when they are playing they can be as focused and determined as the situation warrants. After their work is done, they have the ability let it go. It is not life or death. They can be human after the round. They can enjoy life.
Tiger should try that. I know it may be difficult at first but I’m sure he could do it. Play your hardest and afterward let it go. Realize that you are in a good place and that life is more important and that your performance that day is not a life or death issue. Try being as open and candid as the rest of the tour players. No sportsman is more respected then Jack Nicklaus. It worked for Jack. If Tiger wants to truly copy Jack, he needs to open up and let all of us hear what he really has to say.