The Puny Pundit

Musings of a big guy with small thoughts.

More Than A Game

This past Sunday was the conclusion to the most interesting Masters Championship I have seen.  It was not the most dramatic however for me it kept me glued to the internet and television all weekend.  In fact I was a little late to a wedding I was officiating because of it (so sorry Matt and Jenn).  Looking at the leader board and knowing a little bit about the background of the players with the top scores, I could not help but think about the compelling story lines.  Tiger Woods is last because he is my least favorite golfer.

Phil Mickelson

As most of you may know, one year ago Phil’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Six weeks later so was his mom.  I have always been a huge fan of Phil.  In my opinion, though he is not #1 player in the world, he is the best when you take into consideration the total package: on-course conduct, signing autographs, courteous interviews, and victories.  He never swears on the course.  He never throws his clubs.  From a fans perspective (but also confirmed by other sources) he has a great marriage and relationship with his kids.  His wife is beloved by the wives of the other PGA players.  When he wins he smiles.  After a loss he smiles.  He is always cordial with the media.  He always (win or lose) signs autographs.  When he loses he accepts it.  When he wins, he is grateful.  My friends will say that this is why he is #2 and not #1.  Well I just have a different grading system.  In my system Tiger is a sad person to look at.  For Phil, golf is golf.  There are bigger and more important things in life.  Tiger doesn’t get it and we as a society praise him for that.

This is why I was so happy when Phil won the Masters.  Watching him hug his wife after the tournament made me tear up.  He didn’t even know if she would be there because of the chemo and medication treatments that have left her very tired.  After a long year of watching his mom and wife battle breast cancer Phil won.  Every morning during the tournament (watch and learn Tiger) he took his oldest daughter out for breakfast and played checkers with her for an hour.  After each round he watched movies with his family.  I love this guy.  Being with his family helped him win.  To those who love Tiger…can you say that about him?

Anthony Kim

I will admit that being a Korean American makes me root for this guy.  He grew up in the streets of Koreatown in Los Angeles as a son to immigrant parents.  I just gravitate towards him.  A week before competing in the Masters he won the Houston Open.  During a post-tournament interview, he was asked about the easy putt he missed which almost lost him the trophy.  He graciously answered and talked about his growth as a man and attributed it to something he learned from his dad.

Here is the thing.  For two years, Anthony was not on speaking terms with his father.  His dad was overbearing and constantly pushed him to be better and stronger.  Here is a portion of an article I read awhile back…

The two didn’t reconnect until December 2006, when Anthony was playing at the Tour’s qualifying school at La Quinta’s PGA West and Nicklaus courses, tracks that he knew forward and backward. With his father in the gallery Anthony earned a spot on the PGA Tour, and the ice began to thaw.

When they returned home, Anthony hugged his parents for several minutes, and Paul acknowledged that he had been burdensome to his only child, while Anthony realized that his dad had reared him the way he thought was right.

“I know at the end of the day he was doing it so I could be the best I could possibly be,” Anthony says. “He had his own tough life. He didn’t grow up with much. When I think about that and the opportunity I have, it’s unbelievable.”

And so the lines of communication are open, and Kim is thriving on the Tour. On the night of his victory at the Wachovia he picked up the telephone. On the other end were his parents, who were back in California, where they had watched their son romp at Quail Hollow Club.

For several seconds the phone line was quiet, each of them searching for something to say. Finally, it was Anthony who spoke, thanking his parents, over and over again. At last, he had learned about sacrifice.

It is not hard for me to imagine the father/son dynamic that led to him severing ties with his dad.  Anthony has lost weight working out.  He no longer parties in between rounds.  He now speaks with his dad and about his dad in a positive light.  I am sure it was not easy being the son of a guy who was riding him to constantly do better.  I appreciate the maturity he has experienced in life and seeing that translate into success on the course.

It was great seeing Anthony play so well at the Masters.  He will definitely be wearing a green jacket one day.  Can’t wait.

Fred Couples

I love this guy.  My brother and I have been playing and watching golf since we were kids.  Freddie Couples was one of my favorites.  Many years ago he went through a bad divorce and his golf game suffered.  He went from being one of the best to being irrelevant.  After the divorce he remarried and his family life seems to have settled down.  It is really cool to see the success of his professional life parallel the happiness he has in his family life.

Tiger Woods

I have never been a fan of Tiger.  I respect his talent and work ethic.  That’s about it.  His temper tantrums are silly.  Cursing, throwing clubs…he is a child. Tiger fans say, “Well, you have to be an a—— if you want to be the best.”  Well if being the best means you are a lame husband and father and that you have to act like a spoiled brat on the golf course…then give me second place every time.

That is a weak argument to me.  Being a jerk to a reporter has nothing to do with your performance on the course.  Cussing and throwing your clubs like a little child has nothing to do with your performance.  Cheating on your wife and faking your remorse has nothing to do with your performance. These are not related to your performance.  They are extensions of your character.  Some of you Tiger fans will say, “You don’t know him.  You don’t know what’s in his heart.  How can you say that?”  Well, you are right.  I don’t know what’s in his heart but I think my guess is an informed one based on the awkward weird speech, controlled interview, orchestrated readiness to play at the Masters (who controls media access better than any other event), convincing press conference (yes he convinced me with that one), lame commercial with his late dad’s voice over, true colors on the course, and defensive post-tournament interview.

I can hear his fans say, “To be the best you have to care as much as Tiger does.”  Please.  I have seen many great athletes who were considered the best in their sport during their eras and who didn’t act like a little children and for whom their sport was not their whole identity and meaning in life.  Tiger would never ever hang out with his family during a major championship.  He is not the type of person for whom that would make him perform better like it did Phil.

Jack Nicklaus, whose record will be unfortunately surpassed by Tiger, is proof you don’t have to be an idiot to be the best.  Jack had his son caddy for him for many years.  Jack use to take his only daughter to the England every year for the Open Championship because that was their daddy and daughter time.  EVERY YEAR he would hang out with his daughter during one of four major championships!   In fact, before winning his 18th major Jack wanted to retire.  His family convinced him to keep playing.  Jack was always good to reporters understanding that they had a job to perform too.  Jack is not only the greatest player to ever live (Tiger still has to break the record), he did it with class and a healthy family life.

Everyone knows that Tiger made golf cool.  He is the Michael Jordan of golf in every way including all the bad that comes with that title.  Yes he is changed the game.  Yes media is 24/7.  Blah, blah, blah. Media also made him rich.  His lame commercial with Nike playing the voice of his deceased father is proof that he uses media as much as they use him.  If you haven’t already watched Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech, google it and you will see where Tiger will be when he retires.  Just watch it and you will see how being the MJ of golf is not a good thing.

For some reason people think having your ENTIRE identity wrapped around a ball is admirable.  It is a BALL people.  Just a ball.  Phil said after his victory that he doesn’t cry when he wins tournaments because they are tournaments.  He cried yesterday because yesterday was bigger than golf.  He said the victory meant so much because it gives his family something to think about other than the hardship of fighting cancer.

Congratulations Phil.  You deserved it.

Tiger…grow up and get a life.

Filed under: Uncategorized

8 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    “For some reason people think having your ENTIRE identity wrapped around a ball is admirable. It is a BALL people. Just a ball.”

    GREAT insight. I remember a few years ago when Barry Bonds hit whatever record breaking homerun he hit and during the press conference, he mentioned the fact that he felt like he accomplished something big in his life. I sat there laughing because of the fact that he was proud that he hit a BALL over a WALL hundreds of times.

    It’s really funny how the media and society fawns over the silly stuff sometimes.

    It is just a ball after all.

  2. Jae says:

    love tiger. that’s why i watch golf.

    so thus, i always hated phil
    since they dislike each other.

    i will definitely see phil in a new light now.

  3. Esther Chang says:

    i LOVED your entry about Andrew and Phil~ I totally cried (at work) reading it!

  4. Esther Chang says:

    uhh Anthony. LOL i guess athlete names just don’t stick…

  5. Jenn says:

    so THAT’s why you were late to our wedding. hahaha. jk!

    • thepunypundit says:

      oh snap. you read the blog! was afraid that might happen. hope you guys are doing well and will forgive me for the idolatry that is golf.

  6. Jenn says:

    Yeah, I started reading the blog. Now that my life is not consumed with wedding websites, I look for enjoyable reads at work. 🙂

    Matt loved this entry because of the obvious.

    btw, we had sooo many compliments about your officiating, it was insane. I think more people talked about you than me. People were quoting favorite parts of your message to me even a few weeks after. hahahaha.

  7. […] More Than A Game is a series about life lessons I learn from observing or participating in sports.  The first in this series was about Phil Mickelson (click here to read). […]

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