by Jeff Skinner
This is the week we wait for all year, Masters Week. Augusta, Amen Corner, Champions Dinner, Magnolia Lane, Par Three Contest and all the other traditions are great but excuse me if I still have a hangover from this past weekend.
It was a great weekend for golf. We got to watch two players achieve their goals. Stacy Lewis finally broke through in a big way to win The Kraft Nabisco Championship and Phil Mickelson attained his stated goal also. It was to get his game ready for Augusta and I guess a three stroke win at the Shell Houston Open qualifies as doing just that. But this weekend was about more than two champions. It is about the quality of these champions.
Everyone on the professional tours has their own story but these two are special. Lewis is an amazing story of will and determination. Just Goggle her, or search this site, and you’ll soon agree. Phil Mickelson has gone from “the best player never to win a major” to the world’s favorite golfer.
I was on the Stacy Lewis bandwagon from the start but I was a late comer to Phil’s Fanatics. Long before titanium drivers and 7,000 yard courses I was a Nicklaus fan. I then was drawn to the flash and swagger of Greg Norman and fell victim, like millions of others, to the Tiger Woods façade. But Phil is the kind of person I have to root for.
I watched him bumble and stumble his way to his crushing defeat at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and it was then that I got an appreciation of the type of man he was. He handled that day with class and was open and honest with his assessment of himself. He called himself an idiot and I think there are few professionals that would have been so open.
From that point on I’ve been in Phil’s corner and have come to understand the kind of guy he is and why he chooses to live his life the way he does. He has been compared to Arnold Palmer on the course. He always gambles and goes for it and treats the fans like they are his family. He sign autographs to the very last one just like the King used to. He’s always the fan favorite, just like Arnie.
But away from the course I see more of a resemblance to Jack Nicklaus than Arnie. Jack took great pains his entire career to make sure he put as little strain on his family as possible. He always made time for the kids and their activities. He tried never to be away for long periods of time and travelled with the kids much of the time. Phil is the same way. His family comes first and he plans his schedule that way. That is not to say that other tour players are any less dedicated to their families but since Phil is in the spotlight so much we get to know so much more about him.
Sure, life on the tour is easier now with private planes and millions of dollars to solve any problem. But being away from your wife and kids is never easy, on the player or the family. Phil know that and does all he can to remedy that.
That is why I enjoyed this weekend so much. To see Lewis and Mickelson both win was wonderful. They are two people with high moral values and strong character. This was a win for the good guys. For me that is what this game is all about.