It was a tough start to the New Year for the Golf Nerd, as I’ve been mostly waylaid by bronchitis and the flu. The Golf Nerd Goddess and I did get away for 6 glorious days to Cabo San Lucas (more on that another time), but for the most part we have not been able to take advantage of some reasonably mild Texas winter weather.
It was also a tough start for one Tiger Woods, who at the Phoenix Open (sorry, The Waste Management Open just does not have that pastoral ring to it) displayed his mastery of the chunked two-yard chip and the missed 4 footer (two critical elements to my own short game, by the way). He missed the cut comfortably, but to his undying credit, faced the golfing press with humor (“I’m just here so I won’t get fined”), and perhaps most critically, was brutally frank about the state of his game.
We’ve written much about the humbling nature of golf, but when it strikes at one of the greatest players of all time, it somehow becomes much more poignant. Watching Sam Snead and Ben Hogan putt late in their respective careers was an excruciating exercise – Hogan, in particular, was a mess, sometime standing over the ball for over a minute before pulling the trigger. Jack Nicklaus was distracted by business issues; his famous focus betraying him. After winning the Open Championship, Ian Baker-Finch suffered through two years of missed cuts, and finally found his way to the broadcast booth. At some point, Seve Ballesteros decided to stop being Seve Ballesteros and tried to become Ben Hogan.
It’s painful to watch, especially for those of us who try to play this game – we have been there, and we feel it. Stub a few chips, or worse yet, hit one off the hosel, and the next time we stand over the ball, our hands shake and our mind races, and we wonder if we are actually going to make contact with the ball, rather than attending to the task at hand (i.e., getting the ball in the hole).
So for all the snark that I’ve directed at Mr. Woods in the past, I have a great deal of empathy with what he’s going through, and am encouraged by his honesty. He’s teeing it up again this weekend at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite venues, and I hope that he can work through his current issues and get himself back to relevancy. Tiger is like the Yankees – you can love him or hate him, but it’s a lot more fun when he’s in the mix.
[Wait, did I just write that?]