Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tiger, Upon Reflection

I figured it would be best to let that amazing final round of the Masters marinate for a couple of days before trying to get my brain around it.

And here's where I've arrived: I hope Tiger Woods spends a lot longer getting his soul together before he comes back to work. He's keeping his options open, filing the documents to play in the U.S. Open in June. But based on what we saw of him in Augusta, he would appear to have some work ahead of him.

Golf's a brutally challenging mental game. Woods has dominated for years because he convinced himself (and virtually everyone else on Tour) that he would always find a way to withstand the pressure, to escape danger, to win. Those who looked the other way while he cursed, stonewalled his playing partners, and generally rode roughshod over the clubby traditions of the sport aren't looking the other way anymore. In short: despite the applause from the galleries at Augusta, you can feel the shift in the current.

I've always been baffled by the need of many of Woods' fans to mock and trivialize Phil Mickelson. "Choker," they'd call him. "Soft." I always saw Mickelson as a talented but occasionally flawed golfer who seemed to regard golf as the way he made his living, not as life itself. Not to offer Lefty a halo, but isn't that a healthier way to live than to be Tiger Woods, who looked so miserable after the final round at the Masters that you almost forgot his real problems are at home?

Woods mocked CBS interviewer Peter Kostis when Kostis questioned whether Woods had really changed his on-course demeanor. "I think people are making way too much of a big deal of this thing," Woods complained. He then went into a defense of his petulance after hitting poor shots that would have sounded appropriate from a 12-year-old being scolded for slamming the door after losing to his brother at a game of checkers.

I'll go ahead and say it: Tiger Woods, it's time to grow up. Then come back to work and amaze people again.

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