Morality of golf (and you thought baseball had it bad)

A couple of links for your perusal:

Okay, first off, I agree totally that the kind of flack Phil Mickelson’s been getting is flat-out insane, and I find the inordinate weight given to the four “majors” (something the PGA itself doesn’t do) just mind-blowing. Let me also say for the record that it’s silly to make any sweeping pronouncements about a golfer who’s 31 years old. People, 31 in golf is like 16 in basketball; he’s just getting warmed up. Arnold Palmer is 72 years old, he got embarrassed out of the Masters for the 19th straight year, and only now is he even considering retirement.

What I will not buy, however, is the idea that playing conservatively, or settling for a top-3 or even top-10 finish, or hitting a layup shot anytime, anywhere (didn’t someone beat Mickelson with a layup on the 18th one time?) is evil. Good lord, you can get heckled for hitting a layup shot these days. Never mind that there’s a lake in front of the green and foot-deep rough behind it…no, apparently fundamentals like hitting fairways and hitting greens are too “boring” for the modern game.

Sweet Jesus…I always saw golf as one of the sports where you didn’t have to be a huge, grunting, macho-meathead Neanderthal. Where you had to think your way through each hole, and where having the strength of Hercules didn’t matter a lick if you couldn’t land the ball on the right surface. Of course Retief Goosen was boring…the whole game is boring. That’s something you have to live with. And it’d be a travesty if everyone turned into a free-swinging, grip-it-and-rip-it lunatic who didn’t give a damn where the ball landed. (Aside: Have any of you John Daly apologists actually seen his recent record? He’s starting to make Jean Van De Velde look good.)

And I don’t want to hear any nonsense about “picking up paychecks” being a crime against humanity. First off, they need the money, because that’s what determines who gets to keep their PGA Tour cards (the top 125 on the money list make it). And second, there’s a lot of money at stake, and every miss hurts. Mickelson himself recently missed a par putt which ended up costing him about $78,000. Even for a gambler like him, it can be tough to live with those kinds of losses.

Ummmm, perhaps you better check again, he’s ranked 19[sup]th[/sup] on the money list this year. Jean Van De Velde isn’t listed in the top 25 of the Order of Merit. Daly also finished last year ranked 51[sup]st[/sup] in the Sony World rankings and is currently ranked 40[sup]th[/sup]. Not too shabby for someone who, as one of the announcers on USA Network’s Masters telecast today mentioned was ranked 500-something at one point last year. Jean Van De Velde, for the record, is currently ranked 172.

If that makes me an an appologist for Daly, then so be it. I’d actually like to see him turn it around this year. God knows he’s been given opportunity after opportunity to do so, both by the Tour, the players and sponsors. If he manages to get through the Master without exploding at some point, as he has been wont to do in the past, I might grant that he has actually turned a corner of sorts.

That said, I think you’ve got a point about the idea that Mickelson, and anyother golfer who, in the middle of his or her career can be written of simply because they haven’t won a major yet is ridiculous. However, there is a great weight placed on the various majors because they are the toughest, highest pressure golf (with, perhaps, the exception of Q-School) there is. John Feinstein’s book A Good Walk Spoiled talked about the pressure to win a major:


I think the players on Tour definitely feel that to be considered a great player, you have to win a major, perferably more than one. The horror of being saddled with the label “The Best Player Never To Have Won A Major” has got to be the most frustrating in all of golf. No matter what you do, once you’ve got that on your back, the only way to truly get rid of it is to win it. Everything else, no matter how successful you are on Tour just reinforces it. I don’t know how they manage.

OK, I think I understand the situation but fail to see the problem here.

Realize that sports writers need to have something controversial to write about - and if nothing particularly controversial exists, they’re happy to invent something. In this case, Mickleson is generally understood to be the “best golfer in the world never to have one a major” (he’s currently ranked second in the world and Tiger’s won a couple of majors, so I guess this title is kind of hard to argue with), so there must be a reason why. The sportwriters have picked out what makes him different (and, one could argue, fun to watch, and the trait that probably actually gets him into second place) and decided that’s what his problem is.

I don’t think the fans are giving him any flack - it’s just a case of the sportswriters needing to talk about something other than how many tournaments Tiger is going to win this year.

Yes. he lost a tournament last year by one stroke on a par-five eighteenth hole when he went for the green in two (went just over the green, chipped on, juat missed his forst put, and tapped the second putt in for for his par) and his opponent laid up, then used a wedge and a one-putt for a birdie nd the win. What needs to be mentioned, though, is that his opponent had to lay up on that hole - he was farther back after his first shot, wasn’t nearly as long a hitter, and would have had to use a three wood to a green that had a lake just in front of it. Phil had hit a longer drive and could go for the green with a long iron.

(Now, the really fun guy to watch that tournament was Shigeki Maruyama - he kept going for the greens rather than laying up, and on more than one occasion actually bounced his ball off the wooden beams at the edge of the hazard and onto the green. Unfortunately, his attempt on the eighteenth green didn’t quite make it, costing him his chance to win that tournament. Ah, well…)

Personally, I like to watch Phil Michelson (and Mike Wier) because they play left-handed like I do. I suppose I should also like Jim Furyk because his swing looks a lot like mine and Sam Snead because his accuracy is finally getting down to my level, but that would be going too far…

I love Phil, I really do. But face it, Phil has a problem with pressure. The man has so much talent that it frustrates the hell out of me to see him always play his ass off and then get to the last round and blow it, usually on the green. I’m convinced that if you hauled him out with Tiger on a Saturday just out for a beer hacking twosome, that he would probably win. It always struck me that Tiger NEEDS the pressure while Phil has trouble tucking it away, and I think it’s only getting worse each year because of the classic “best golfer to never win” label. I think it’s getting worse because he knows that he is one of the top 5 golfers out there but has to try to prove something not only to himself, but to everyone else every time he plays. He doesn’t look like he’s having fun anymore, even on a top round. The game is too damn fickle for any mental lapses (sometimes it doesn’t even matter if you are on… the fooking clubs just don’t wanna work right).

Win or lose, I’ll keep rooting for him, but he’s gotta get back to just enjoying the game and let his talent take him where he belongs.

Phil has been my favorite golfer ever since I started following golf, and as much as I think this whole thing is overblown with him (as it had been for Duval, O’Meara, etc.) golf is an individual sport where you have to make yourself great. It’s easier to swallow, say, Dan Marino never winning a Super Bowl, because players don’t win those championships, teams do. I think in golf and tennis you do have to pull this off to be considered great. Have nobodies won majors? You bet. Have good players missed out? Yep. But I think in the long run it evens out. Some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, Phil will win and get his due.

Agreed, agreed, and agreed again. It’s the “SportsCenter” mentality. Just as the layup got “too boring for basketball” because everyone wanted to see the highlight-show dunk, now in golf everyone wants to see either the amazing shot from 300 yards that either lands on the green or sinks into the lake. Either way, it’s going to be on “SportsCenter.”

Even Tiger takes 260-odd shots during his best tournaments. Over 240 of them will never be seen on a highlight reel, yet, for the most part those “boring” shots are the ones that win the money: the drive that didn’t find the rough, the lag putt that didn’t roll ten feet past the hole. Even I have produced some “highlight-worthy” shots in my time, and sometimes I even string four or five of them into one round. The difference between me and Tiger (apart from his millions and millions of dollars) is that even his “boring” shots are good, and that he doesn’t make mistakes. The problem is that kids who try to emulate Tiger will be trying to emulate his highlight-reel shots instead of trying to mirror his “boring” shots. They are in for a long road if they don’t learn the fundamentals first.

I don’t really think it’s morality that misses - hey, these guys call penalties on themselves. Just some are conservative, too much so. I like seeing the gambler shots, Ballesteros from the parking lot, etc. Tiger used to do it too, why he was so much more dangerous in match play than stroke play.

Daly just is too agressive at times, Van Der velde was an idiot. That called for like 8 iron, 8 iron, 8 iron. Almost no hole is very tough when you are just aiming for double bogey. Aggressive and stupid are different things.

It’s official; Tiger Woods has won the Masters with a 1-under 71 on the final round. What makes this victory remarkable was that he only had one really good round, yet was consistent enough on the other three that no one could catch him. (As an aside, I feel really, really bad for Retief Goosen. This should’ve been his day, dammit.)

Well, as much as I’d like to take comfort in the fact that the win went to the player who was consistent and stayed out of trouble the most (as opposed to the player who took the wildest gambles), it looks like all this is going to do is open up yet another firestorm of publicity for someone who doesn’t exactly need it. That’s not so bad in itself…Woods really is that tough, no problem acknowledging that…except that the reason for this newest firestorm is that the Masters is a major.

The ridiculous overemphasis on the “majors” has always been, to me, one of the truly repugnant things about this sport (and I again stress that the league itself makes no official distinction). Even on the PGA’s site, the big question is how many majors Woods will win this year or all time, not how many total tournaments, or how many opens, or how much money…it’s always majors, majors, majors. Anyone want to bet that no one’s going to remember Retief Goosen’s 4-shot romp at the BellSouth classic two weeks from now?

It’s baffling. I mean, tennis puts a lot of emphasis on the Grand Slam events, but that’s because they are the big events. They’re played on the most hallowed courts on the ATP and WTA circuits. (Golf’s majors aren’t even played on the same courses from year to year.) They have the biggest fields in the sport. They have the strongest fields in the sport. Their prize money dwarfs that of the other events. They are some of the hardest events in the entire world of sport to win. All of these legitimiately make the Austrailain Open, the US Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon the premier competitions in tennis. Even then, they’re not all-important; everyone on the tours understands the importance of winning lesser events and “defending” points. I’ve never heard the expression “best player never to win a Grand Slam event” anywhere.

What exactly distinguishes golf’s “majors”, let alone to the point where the dozens of other events are complete marginalized? The fields aren’t a whole lot stronger. The prize money isn’t that much greater (Woods’ payday was about 60 or 70 grand more than Steve Perks got for some “Players’ Championship” two weeks ago.). And if the courses are harder, all that does is benefit the consistent player who avoids mistakes.

Huh…maybe I should admit that I just don’t understand this sport anymore. Man, imagine if Jack Nicklaus had to deal with all this…

There have ALWAYS been majors in golf, just go back to Bobby Jones in 1930, he won the Grand Slam which was, at the time, the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open, British Amateur. It was an amazing feat, and just as much attention was paid to it back then as it would be today.

I believe that majors are important. For sports like golf and tennis, where there is no single year end tournament, there must be events that are special and distinguished from the average weekly event. It allows the general public to focus their attention on the sport for a while.

I must disagree with you about Mickelson’s age issue. 31 is not a spring chicken in golf, once you hit about 40, your skills start to diminish. When Jack Nicklaus won the Masters in '86 he was 46 years old, and his feat was considered truly remarkable. Yes, you can play into your 70’s but your 20’s and 30’s are where you are at the top of your game.

I like Phil.

I wish he’d win a major.

It would take the pressure off him.

Besides, then they show pictures of his wife - and she is a lot better looking than Tiger’s Dad.

(Can you have the most top five finishes in a major without winning?).

Lots of OK players have won majors, though. I’d rather be Phil Mickelson than some guy who won a major and then disappears into the fog.


Actually, the Players Championship has been billed as the fifth major, and is one of the richest tournaments out there.

The Masters IS always played on the same course. The British Open rotates between a small few, as does the PGA, I believe. The US open does move - it will be about 15 miles from here this year.

You have to qualify for the Masters, at least, it is by invitation, by position on money list or tourney wins. No Monday qualifying here.

I think they had the top 50 players in the world ALL entered at Augusta, though I think someone wothdrew with a muscle pull.

DKW** wrote:

I think that’s what you missed, DKW. The majors are for the best of the best. The prize money has increased exponentially in the majors and it has raised the stakes in the regular tournaments as well. Remember, Nicklaus won over 80 times, but right now he’s about 54th in total career earnings (over, what, a 30 year career?) and Tiger’s number one with 31 wins, including 7 majors, with 28 mil in 6 years. The best yardstick they’ve come up with now is how you do in the majors. The four majors all have at least the top 50 money winners internationally which also separates them from regular tour stops.

The majors are not just a test of who can make the best golf shots, it’s about the intestinal fortitude required to be able to hit the right shot at the right time. Time and again Tiger has proven that, and Lefty won’t win his first major until he gets it through his bloody thick head that going for the gusto every frickin’ time is just a recipe for disaster. Lefty’s a really good player and I enjoy seeing him win, but sometimes it’s like watching NASCAR, all you’re waiting for is the inevitable crash and burn!! (No slight to NASCAR folks…)

What a few at the top of the leader board had to say: (from

“It’s tough to play with Tiger,” said José Maria Olazábal, who closed with a 71 to climb into fourth place. “The guy is the best player in the world and he’s not going to give you any room to maneuver, so all you have to do is play your best.”

The thing about Tiger is he’s the only leader that you don’t have any hope that he’ll falter," Mickelson, third for the second year in a row, said. “The other guys, there’s a good chance they’ll come back two or three shots. That’s why you saw a lot of guys making aggressive plays, taking a lot of bogeys and doubles because of it.”

“You just know Tiger’s not going to make many mistakes,” Goosen, 33, of South Africa, said. “You have to lift your game and start making birdies.”

Mmm, good points all.

I suppose my general annoyance at this sport right now stems from the fact that 1) the majors have been overinflated to the point where they render everything else completely irrelevant, and 2) statistically, Tiger Woods isn’t overwhelmingly better than “the field”, and the golf media’s pumping him up as Jack Nicklaus times Arnold Palmer. (I mean, look at tennis…has there ever been anything unabashedly positive about Pete Sampras? Or Steffi Graf?)

The hell of it is, golf is very competitive right now; anyone who follows the tour regularly can see this. And when breakthrough stars like Retief Goosen (and I will hear no crap about how he didn’t “deserve” his U.S. Open victory for whatever silly reason) and Craig Perks don’t get the same kind of press Woods does…well, that just stinks, don’t it?

Ah, but there’s the rub DKW. They’re not phenoms (pronounced fee-nahms, just in case). Woods basically has been born and raised to become “the best golfer that ever lived”. The media has been following him since he won three Junior Amateurs (unprecedented), three US Amateurs (IIRC, also unprecedented), then he goes pro, and within seven tournaments, wins, and secures his card (also unprecedented).

All sports seem to be looking for the next great superstar. After Magic and Larry, the NBA got Air. Every time you read about the NBA today, you hear who’s gonna be the next Air apparent. Kobe? Alan Iverson?
Same with baseball, after the Babe, it was Hank. Then McGuire(sp?), now it’s Barry. So in golf, who’s gonna be the next Nicklaus?
Although John Daly wowed the tour with his tee shots, along comes Tiger that not only hits it as long or longer, but actually puts it in the fairway! He bombs pitching wedges three feet from the stick from 180 yards out! He’s incredible, he’s… he’s the next greatest thing since sliced bread!!

The PGA tour is very competitive, and is more so with the stellar play of the international players, but Tiger is 23 and 2 when he is tied or has the lead on Sunday. He has won 7 of the 21 majors he has played in as a pro. He has increased the average viewing audience of tournament play golf by something like 43% after winning his first Masters in 1997. He is “THE MAN” until somebody else comes along and knocks him off his throne. Could it be Perks, or Sergio, or C. Howell III? The tour’s conventional wisdom is that the physical and mental skills to win big and often do not peak until the golfer is in his early to mid-thirties. Tiger’s 26 years old.

(I thought Retief played well and definitely deserved to win, but I know I leapt out of my chair and screamed “you bloody jackass” when he 3-jacked the 18th hole, mainly because I had to work Monday during the playoff, and it became anti-climactic)

one thing, BF - Tiger is noticeably SHORTER than Daly. Daly is not as good with his irons, though he is good around the green. Tiger’s other big advantage is Tiger never beats Tiger. Goosen had, what 3 bogeys in 5 holes at the end of the 3rd/start of the 4th round when he blew his lead?

The weirdest part of that finish was that it wasn’t a case of the course eating up everyone but Tiger like the US Open a couple of years back. Everyone who had a chance to beat him misplayed badly in the back nine. It was like the old routine in which the unwitting dupe got volunteered because everyone else took a step back.

Heh heh. He said stroke play, heh heh.

That’s true lurkernomore, however, this is because Tiger throttled down from when he first came on tour. He’s said that he’s lost about ten yards, but he gave that up for accuracy. Not too many guys can hit a 3-wood 270 (considering that the tour average from last year with a driver was about 285 yards). And you’re absolutely correct, Tiger does not beat Tiger (at least not yet). It’s kind of like watching the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals. Rick Reilly put it pretty well in SI last week. “Everyone of the top seven in the world are playing well but they have been cursed by being born in the era of T. Woods, and they’re all bit players in the Tiger Woods Story!”