by Jeff Skinner
Golf is a game built on hundreds of years of tradition. The rules and etiquette of the game have been passed on for generations changing only slightly over those years. Change in the rules and etiquette of the game comes at a glacial pace. Embedded in the fiber of golf is a code of sportsmanship and honesty that sets golf apart from other sports. Golfers police themselves and are expected to call penalties on themselves. At the same time golfers are expected to be respectful of and courteous to their playing partners and their opponents. As fans we revel in the competition of the greatest golfers in the world and cheer for our favorite. There seems to be an unwritten rule that has developed among golf fans. Many feel that you have to be a Tiger fan or a Phil fan and you can’t be both.
Because Phil and Tiger are the best golfers in the world a rivalry is a natural occurrence. Like all competitors, each of them wants to win and that usually means that they are standing in each other’s way. However, we should realize that their goal is to shoot the lowest score to win the tournament, not to beat any specific golfer. Their goal is to beat all golfers. Rooting for Phil and Tiger is not a mutually exclusive proposition. We can cheer for Tiger to drop that thirty footer and at the same time root for Phil to drop that flop shot in the cup.
Too many fans feel that cheering for one prohibits them from rooting for the other. Tiger fans love the fact that he wins so often and crushes his competition. Tiger haters feel the same way. In that respect he is like the New York Yankees, many fans choose to root against the best. Phil’s fans love the fact that he’ll gamble on every shot and that he interacts with the fans. Phil’s detractors argue that his gambling on the course costs him wins and that his low key, laid back persona keeps him from being number one. What too few fans realize is that these qualities are what make each of them special and draws us to them.
Golf isn’t like other sports. The Yankees have to beat the Red Sox to be successful. The Steelers have to beat the Patriots to be successful. In other sports your opponent lines up across from you and you are competing directly against them. In golf your competition walks alongside you, trying to do exactly the same thing you are trying to do: get the ball in the hole. As Bobby Jones said you are playing against “old man par.” Par is the opponent on the course, not your playing partner. All you are required to do is shoot the lowest score. It doesn’t matter what the others do as long as you score the lowest.
I used to cheer for only one of the top two golfers in the world. But I have seen the light. I now cheer for both of them. Honestly, I cheer for all golfers. I want each and every golfer to make their best stroke on all their shots. Whether it’s Phil or Tiger or Goose or Watson or Michelle, I cheer for them all. It’s a joy to watch a tournament when you have so many golfers to root for. More fans should try it. You can be a Tiger fan and a Phil fan at the same time. Tiger and Phil do not want for fans; they are the biggest draws in golf. However, those fans that cheer for one and not the other are missing the point. You can, and should be rooting for both Woods and Mickelson. They are two different personalities and the best golfers in the world. Try pulling for them both and you’ll see that they play golf against the course and not against each other.