by G. Rennie
***** Golf fans were able to get their fill of televised desert golf this weekend as Golf Channel offered up extensive coverage of both major tours. The Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale is the site of the most bizarre golf hole in tournament play anywhere in the world. But people have gotten used to the crazed confines of #16 and now it’s expected and even “normal” at least for Phoenix. I guess I’m now a fan of the clamor and sometimes crude behavior of this human gauntlet when in years past I thought it was out of place. People change. And so it’s a little strange to admit that perhaps the most out of place behavior I noticed while doing my couch potato routine this weekend was the sight of men and women, in traditional Arab dress, dancing on the 18th green after the conclusion of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Maybe that’s typical behavior in Dubai but it struck me as odd. It is rare to see any robed spectators at all in the crowds at any of the three tournaments of the early season European Tour swing through the Mideast. They only seem to show up at the closing ceremonies when the local sheik presents the winners prize. Maybe we’ll get some robed dancers at #16 next year.
***** Philly Mick jumped back into the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking with his win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He was at #22 prior to that which seems crazy since he is still, in my opinion, one of the two or three best golfers on the planet. We’ve got Tiger, Phil and now Rory as the three players of colossal talent who also have unparalleled appeal with both the avid and casual golf fan. Apologies to Luke, and Lee and Martin, all outstanding players who have recently claimed the number one spot in the OWGR. Apologies also to the other fine players who occupy the other slots above Phil. Stats are nice, they’re necessary, they bring order to our world but they don’t tell the whole story.
***** The new Nike commercial featuring Tiger and Rory dueling on the driving range is pretty slick and it brings to mind some of the early ads that Tiger did back in the good old days when unbelievable skill and unrivaled competitive nature were his calling cards. But the premise behind this campaign is false. Nike plays this pairing up as the new rivalry but it isn’t a rivalry really, not yet, and it might never be. I see this as Tiger, with Nike’s help, trying to co-opt the would be new top dog. It’s like that advice Don Vito Corleone gives his son “to keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” With the Nike swoosh emblazoned on his hat, apparel, golf bag , Rory can come off as a Tiger impersonator and not a tiger slayer. We’ll wait and see.
A true rivalry evolves, it can’t be contrived. Phil and Tiger has been the most compelling rivalry in our sport for the past 16 years with a secondary major front mounted by Vijay. The only player to unseat Tiger from the #1 spot prior to Tiger’s self destructive spree, Vijay’s path is now uncertain and he poses no threat to Tiger on the course. Not so with the resurgent Philly Mick, new, straight driver in hand, words of putting wisdom from Dave Stockton in his ear, who seems ready to renew that great rivalry once again. With Pebble Beach on this week’s menu we can hope for a re-match of Phil and Tiger in a Sunday pairing. I’m sure neither has forgotten the scalding 64 Phil burned Tiger with last year on his way to his 40th Tour win. That’s a rivalry. We’re lucky.