Masters Offered So Many Lessons on Both Phil and Tiger

Whether you took away the good vs. evil angle, or if the Krispy Kreme pictures cemented the Mickelsons as “real,” this was a very educational major

Thrash TalkThere’s no doubt I could have written a half-dozen columns about the epic week at Augusta National. From the Hall of Fame leaderboard, to blowing me away, to the fact I’ll trade the televised par-three tournament for just about anything else golf-related, there’s so much to say about the highlight of the golfing calendar.

They say the Masters doesn’t begin until the last nine holes on Sunday. So in honor of that great Augusta truism, I present the nine things I learned from the 2010 Masters.

One: As a Mickelson Fan, I Prepare For Heartbreak
I woke up Sunday morning excited yet apprehensive. There are only so many times you can watch as your guy hands it away. It’s to the point that sometime in the past two years I began to hold a grudge and my empathy has turned to scorn on occasion. It’s like rooting for a football team with as much talent as anyone in the league, only to see one failure after another, for one reason or another. Throughout Sunday afternoon, I was waiting for the missed two-footer, or one of those stray tee balls to nestle against a tree, leading to a triple bogey. Ever since Winged Foot, it’s become less about anticipating the excitement, and more about fearing the failure. Hopefully this finish will help replace the feeling of dread with a fresh batch of unbridled optimism.

Two: The Thrill Lies in the Gamble
I’ve written in this space how bored I am of certain golfers. Laying up into all the par fives, playing to the fat of the greens to preserve a one-shot lead, or simply lacking the swagger and pizzazz to stir the crowds. As Mickelson set up to hit his shot on 13, I screamed at the TV, “Don’t do this, Phil! … Why do you always have to do this … Are you an id …” and before I could spit out the “iot?!?,” the ball was in flight and it was being heralded as the “shot of his lifetime.” He made me eat the words I hadn’t even gotten out, and if that’s not exciting, I’m not sure what is.

Three: Augusta is Built For the Roars
When Tiger Woods stormed onto the Masters stage, he rumpled lots of green jackets with the way he rendered their course obsolete with his birdie barrages. True to human nature, they overreacted, stretched the course, decided even par was better than 15-under, and sucked the juice out of Sundays. Bad weather and some other factors didn’t help, but it’s clear after this week – guys can go low, but guys can also blow up. The Masters doesn’t need to mimic the U.S. Open. It should be, and has returned to being, the ultimate risk-reward major of them all.

Four: In 40 Years, Don’t Expect Tiger-Phil Thursday Morning
A big deal was made of Arnie and Jack starting the tournament, and ESPN and CBS used the footage every day. I’m a sucker for golf history, and think it’s great to see those guys get along so well. By all accounts, in their prime there was no love loss between the two. But trying to flash forward a few decades, I just can’t see Tiger and Phil moseying up to the first tee to swat a drive and start the week. It’s less about failing to imagine them in ceremonial roles, and more about wondering how two such obviously different people could get along. But 40 years is a long time from now, so who knows.

Five: I Can Do Without the Par-Three Tourney
I’m a sucker for golf history and tradition, and found myself watching the broadcast of the par 3 tournament, but I hate to say it’s already passé after just three years. The Palmer-Nicklaus-Player pairing was fun in the past but this time felt like we’ve been there, done that. Watching those guys hit mulligans throughout their nine felt cheap. And while Arnie’s putt on the final hole was really fun, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist after three years to realize they’ve got that green set up like a funnel. And as much as I’m sure it’s a thrill for the kids, the novelty of watching 8-year-olds putt has worn off for me as a viewer. I’m certain it’s a fantastic event to watch in person, but from a TV viewer’s perspective, it’s just not doing it for me.

Six: The Online Experience Blew Me Away
For so long, the knock on the Masters was how restrictive Augusta National was with TV coverage. They allowed barely any cameras on the front nine, and only a couple hours of broadcast time. As opposed to the other majors where you can watch up to nine hours of coverage a day, ESPN and CBS still don’t have that option. But where people might accuse Augusta of being stuck in the past in many areas (for better or worse), they’re blazing new trails on the Web. Not only did offer a live HD feed that rivals my cable provider in terms of quality, it started early, and offered the chance to watch televised golf in a whole new way. Between the Featured Group, Amen Corner and 15&16 channels, it let you be your own director, and avoid a lot of the choppiness that can come with trying to track too many players at once. One blemish, however, was the fact they chose Thursday’s “featured group” of Mike Weir, Lee Westwood and Matteo Manassero and failed to use that channel to follow either Woods or Mickelson.

Seven: For All the Talk, Tiger’s Still Tiger
I think it was when he responded to a question Thursday with the answer, “I’m here to play a golf tournament” that I decided all the press conferences, apologies and interviews were a load of crap. Forget redemption or rehabilitation, it was right back to “just win, baby.” Early in the week I gave Tiger the benefit of the doubt, enjoyed hearing how he was far more fan friendly, liked when he said he could appreciate the warm response. I even said that maybe hitting bottom would help Tiger come back more humble, respectful and warm. He dashed those hopes early and often. Not only with his antics on the course (personally I don’t care if he tell himself he sucks, but a lot of people do, and he vowed to clean up his act), but also in his response to post-round questions. Monday’s press conference held so much promise, with Tiger saying all the right things, seeming fallible and ready to make amends. By Sunday, his dismissive tone in interviews and disgust at having to answer for his behavior tell me his sense of entitlement and aloof attitude were only in hiding.

Eight: If it’s an Act, it’s a Good One
The biggest knock on Phil is that he’s a phony and tries too hard to be adored. So when the pictures surfaced of him wearing his green jacket, in the car with the kids, at the drive through of a Krispy Kreme, I thought, “why on earth is he wearing the jacket.” Until I thought about what it must have felt like to be one of his kids, and how fun it must have been to trot your dad – the Masters champ – around to all the normal, real life places a dad would take his kids on a lazy Monday morning. As one vocal anti-Phil guy put it:  Still think he’s a bit phony, but hey, if being a super-nice fan favorite is an act, there are worse things you could be (thanks Iacas).

Nine: If You Wanted Good Defeats Evil, You Got It
Since Thanksgiving, it’s been hard to escape the talk of Tiger’s transgressions. I thought was telling that Elin wanted no part of him or Augusta as her husband made a grand return to public life. But the real dagger in the heart must have been not only seeing his nemesis win the golf tournament, but having to watch as Phil embraced his ailing wife behind the 18th green. Mickelson’s win meant so much on so many levels. He overcame the ghosts of Winged Foot. He not only didn’t falter on the back 9 Sunday, he put the pedal to the medal. And he talked all week about how special it was to have his family with him. You’d have to think it would have a profound effect on Tiger Woods. At least I hope it did.

16 thoughts on “Masters Offered So Many Lessons on Both Phil and Tiger”

  1. I totally agree. Tiger got my hopes up at the beginning of the week but his interview with Peter Kostis after finishing Sunday’s round confirmed that “It’s all about Me”. A perfect chance for him to say “I appreciate all the support and although I didn’t play as well as I liked, it is great to be back. I see that Phil is in the lead and wish him all the best” ….Nope! Didn’t happen.

  2. It was the best Masters I’ve watched. After 2009’s dissapointment when Kenny Perry lost to (IMO) the last person in the world I wanted to win, I needed a good “my guy won this time” experiance. It was good for golf and it was a leaderboard full of big names. Ron, great last paragraph to this article by the way… I very much agree that Tiger got to see what he may possibly never have.

    As for Phil, he is the perfect little candidate for the media to get their “feel good” rocks off. Jim Nance can’t wait to mention how many people in Phil’s family have had cancer, and Johnny Miller cant wait to explain how much Phil’s overcome to get to this point. I actually like Phil less because of the media. The reality is that Phil Mickelson is a bit of a goober. He’s not kool and suave like Fred, he’s not controversial and loud like Tiger, and he’s never going to be any of those things. The thing is, I’m OK with that because Phil is OK with himself. I really liked him winning the Masters, but I really hope that the media shuts up already about what a sweetheart he is. I just like to watch him play golf… and thats pretty much all I care to know about the guy.

  3. I have to disagree on the TW idea’s. You do not come to a golf tournament to just play golf, you come to win. We all know that TW is the competitor of all competitors, the reason he has won so many is because of his mentality. The man has hopefully changed, but you can’t take the instinct of winning out of him, you do that and you will no longer have the champion that is TW. I am not a TW fan, as a fellow lefty i loved watching phil win, hell even i got a bit emotional as i myself have gone through chemo and know of its debilitating acts. To say that it had some profound effect on tiger watching phil embrace his wife the way he did is ridiculous, how do we know that TW didn’t think that the right man won, the man who “needed” to win for his families sake, as sad and angry at himself as TW was, who knows what is really going on in his head, I think its wrong to assume that TW is as shallow as he once was, especially after what he has gone through.

  4. #8: If I won the Masters, I’d wear that damn green jacket for a week…Regarding the phoniness, it’s really just business.

  5. I totally agree about the website and iPhone/mobile apps. I know some people didn’t like the website or had their problems with the mobile apps, but every year, they seem to get a little better. There’s more video coverage and more little things that make the tournament more accessible.

    Loved the picture and picture and the videos available by player and hole (although those never showed bogey or worse – I’d like to see bad holes too). Plus the video seemed sharper this year. I would guess props would go not only to the Augusta folks, but IBM. I’m sure they’re drawing from their US Open (tennis) experience as well. Hopefully they’ll have more featured groups next year. One day, I hope we have to option of following anyone we want, not soon, but eventually.

  6. Excellent article. You captured so many aspects about the week. Especially the disappointment we have in seeing that tiger is still struggling to change his “stripes” as a person. I was hoping a dedication to his family would/could change his behavior, but now I am not so sure. Too early to tell.

    “The Masters doesn’t need to mimic the U.S. Open. It should be, and has returned to being, the ultimate risk-reward major of them all.” — I could not agree more. The course was awesome and yes conditions of the greens and holes were setup for birdies and eagles, but that is part of augusta’s control.

    I will continue to raz Eric about the course changes, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. He used to think the lengthening of 7 was the worst, now he is on the “rough” and trees on 11. The scoring averages over the years for the holes has stayed pretty steady.

    Augusta is run by a group of very wealthy individuals that will spare no cost to put the greatest golf show on earth every year.

    Great article.

  7. A tournament with all Lucas Glover’s in the hunt would be boring beyond words. The right people were at the top for people to be interested, AK, TW, FC, Phil were all perfect for TV golf.

    As for Tiger’s comment, I fail to see the issue here. What is he the devil? I don’t recall any player saying he’s a jerk, or any person, but the press says he is all the time because he won’t do what they want him to do. He plays golf for a living, winning is everything, losing means Jason Gore, nice guy, might not pay the rent. The mentality stays the same, regardless of how much money you have won, because the minute it becomes for fun, and “just great to be here,” is the end of your winning.

    A friend of mine once asked a very well know PGA player who was the most unpleasant player on tour – none other than press favorite Payne Stewart.

    In the end it is all about selling shafts and putters and these guys did a great job of doing just that, while hitting some great golf shots.

  8. Good article, Ron. I think John Tidyman either needs a new hobby or needs to start writing articles of his own.

  9. In this world of cynicism, the “Phil is a phony” rhetoric just rubs me the wrong way. Can’t a guy be genuine without being nasty or crude?

  10. Great article, you really summarized the greatness of this year’s Masters well. #1 is so true, I was just waiting for the Phil screw up, and when he went for it on 13, I would of bet the house on that shot ending up in the creek. And I think iacas put it well too, if it is an act (I personally don’t think it is) what’s the big deal? He’s a great story, and is nothing but good for golf. I think Tiger being himself isn’t a big deal, and nobody will care by the end of the year. He needs to be animated, to be himself in order to be the dominant player he is, and ultimately Tiger being Tiger on the course brings attention to golf which is a good thing.

  11. A friend of mine once asked a very well know PGA player who was the most unpleasant player on tour – none other than press favorite Payne Stewart.

    He got that right. Stewart was an A Grade jerk. The media now, of course focus on the “You’re gonna be a father” BS to Mickelson, but he really was a revolting bloke.

    Very sad when he died, of course, but he was “reinvented” by the media after he died.

  12. used to hate phil…then one day i saw him signing autographs after a lousy round to person after person..and i thought?
    when was the last time i saw a picture or video of tiger signing anything?
    answer: never.
    I honestly dont know if he even does it? i never see it?
    I began to realize…could phil play it up a bit a fake way..with the excessive tipping of the hat…and big sloppy grin? yes.
    but as said…by others….i will take that over tiger..who by the a golfer i still root for sometimes too..i like to feel if you cannot beat the best..then he deserves it….like vs rocco..who i wanted to win..but couldnt do it against a injured tiger.
    if phil likes to talk about his game….wow..thats a slag? we all do….how many of us have to listen to our friends enrapture us with tales of heroic shots….in agonizingly length…and agonizing detail…..?..we all listen…
    ..because then we take our turn and do the same 🙂
    phil likes to talk his game..his shots…goofy grin on putts….having fun rather than looking angry….i dont care about fake or not….he makes me root for him…and not long ago..i didnt like him…didnt respect his..having to go for every the detriment of losing majors and tourneys..but i am a fan in his camp now.

  13. Bang on of your comments regarding Tiger Woods. Did anyone honestly for one second believe that this guy was ever sorry for anything that he’s ever done in his life? Did anyone honestly ever believe him to be sincere about changing the way he is? Come on, the only thing Tiger will ever be sorry for is that he got caught and called out and humiliated in public. To that end, no big deal…Leopards never change their spots and seemingly Tigers never change their stripes either! Bottom line, he still can flat out hit a golf ball and…he still can flat out be a jerk. Nothing’s changed is right…Whatever!

  14. thank you, shawn, for suggesting i write my own stuff. google my name and you’ll see lots of my writing.

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