TIMEOUT by Joe Flanagan

I watched quite a bit of the Masters golf coverage this past weekend. And, I have to admit, the main reason I tuned in was Tiger Woods.
Like so many, I was simply curious … intrigued. Curious to see if Tiger was still the greatest golfer on the planet. Curious to see how the turmoil and long absence from competitive tournament play would affect him. Wondering what kind of reception he would receive from fans and fellow players. Intrigued by the mystery and drama.
Yes, that’s why I originally took the time to watch the Masters. But, like millions, what I was left with late Sunday afternoon was an indelible memory of true greatness in a much different form.
We’ve been inundated for months with tawdry tales of a world-famous golfer and his beautiful blonde wife. It’s been quite a story. Shocking. Intriguing. At times humorous. To a large extent, appalling.
Sunday provided a much more refreshing picture and story, also involving a world-famous golfer and his beautiful blonde wife. But there was nothing tacky or disgusting about this scene … new Masters champion Phil Mickelson hugging his wife Amy, a tear trickling down his cheek.
Now, let me say here, I’ve never been a fan of Mickelson. There was always something about Phil that … well, … just rubbed me wrong.
Something about the goofy grin and “aw shucks” attitude. The awkward “galoomphing” gait. The exaggerated head nods. The crazy shot attempts that cost him so many victory opportunities.
It was all so … maddening. How could a guy waste such talent with those ridiculous errors? Why didn’t he work harder, stay in better condition (even his coach said, until recently, he considered Mickelson “lazy”)? To me, that wide-eyed grin often seemed to say, “ha, life’s a lark and the joke’s on the rest of you”.
I was much more enamored with the taciturn triumphs of Tiger. Now there was a champion! Look how hard he worked! How he embraced the challenge of being the “best ever”. He put everything into the art of golf. It seemed thrilling to watch greatness and history unfold.
Well, seems the joke was on me.
One world-famous golfer had it all … all except the correct priorities. Now, he’s fighting to not lose everything.
The other had it all and knew it. Now, so does everyone else.
Throwing away a tournament with some wild, wacky swing? Doesn’t matter so much when you most cherish what’s waiting at home – a loving family who will embrace you win or lose.
Yes, many of us were intrigued by Tiger’s return, his attempt at redemption where he’s most comfortable – the golf course. Of course, we need remember, this recent disaster was entirely of his own making.
In reality, though, what could actually have been more intriguing than Lefty’s own Masters story? Think about it. How many of us, in Phil Mickelson’s shoes and with all the money and accolades he has already accumulated, would have even been on the golf course – much less contending for a major championship – during a year in which his wife, the mother of his children, has bravely fought breast cancer. Not to mention his own mother also battling the disease. Difficult, traumatic times. And certainly no fault of Lefty’s.
Talk about focus. Courage. Greatness.
Many golf fans will forever remember another “Phil moment”, the improbable, fantastic, nearly inexplicable slash off pine needles, through trees, to within four feet of the cup on the 13th hole Sunday. A brazen stroke, once again flaunting the “golf gods”, taken over the protestations of his long-time, trusted caddy. It will, indeed, go down as one of the greatest shots in major tournament history.
But Phil Mickelson? I believe his fondest memory will be seeing his wife waiting behind the 18th green. Sharing a long embrace. Shedding an emotional tear.
Has there ever been a sports story unfold before our eyes with such polar-opposite figures?
One golfer long consumed with his own greatness, fashioning his own legend, selfishly satisfying his own ego, irregardless of how his actions affected those who loved him. Only to see it all come crashing down.
Another. Comfortable with his life. Happy to have supreme golf talent, but more fulfilled and content to possess a wonderful family relationship, based on love and respect. Again a champion – in more ways than one.
Yes, Lefty gained at least one new fan this past weekend.