Teeing `em Up at Muirfield

“It was named by drunken Scots after listening to barking dogs.  Golf is played by twenty
million mature American men whose wives think they are out there having fun”
– Jim Bishop, syndicated column, 1970

Having managed to make it through another week, I settled into the recliner on Friday afternoon to watch the ESPN replay of the second round of the British Open golf tournament which is being played at Muirfield overlooking the Firth of Forth.
gothicgolf
I’ve always enjoyed watching the British Open when it’s played north of Hadrian’s Wall in the land otherwise known as Scotland.  In addition to being the place where the game was first played, I’m able to trace my own lineage back to Sutherland and Caithness in the far northern highlands of Scotland and I find it refreshing to take in scenes of the homeland from time to time.  I also occasionally have an urge to don a kilt and run through the neighborhood swinging a sword longer than I am tall, but generally I’m able to control that one.

But back on the subject of golf, there are those who would criticize me for referring to the tournament as “the British Open.”  Golf purists tend to speak of the event in reverential tones as simply “The Open.”  This appears to be based on the somewhat pretentious assumption that there are no other golf tournaments which equal the majesty, legacy, and heritage of the British Open; which of course, in my humble opinion, is simply not the case.

For anyone who follows golf or cults of sport celebrity in general, it’ll come as no surprise that many, if not most, sports media golf pundits are predicting that Tiger Woods will be the victor come Sunday evening.  Notching another win in a major tournament would move Tiger one step closer to equalling Jack Nicklaus’ astounding record of 18 major tournament championships.  For the uninitiated, the current “majors” are limited to the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship.  But of course the golf world’s talking heads have been making similar and equally inaccurate prognostications pertaining to Woods’ next win in a major for the past five years or so.  Sort of reminds me of that old story about the boy who cried wolf, or was it that he cried tiger?
claret-jug-(1)
Frankly, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if Tiger were to never win another major championship.  In this year’s British Open, I’d much prefer to see a veteran player of the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, or just an unheralded journeyman from the field pick up the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon.  We’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out.

In the meantime, I’ll have to reach deep in order to find the patience to endure the apparent compulsion which every ESPN commentator has to make lame jokes about the Firth of Forth, not to mention to periodically demonstrate their astounding lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the game of golf.

“Excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect.  And is this to be wondered at when we
consider that 
the more fatuously vacant the mind is, the better the play.”
– Sir Walter Simpson, The Art of Golf, 1887 

Fore!

OM

Photo credit: usgtf.com
Photo credit: ayrshiregolf.blogspot.com

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It Ain’t Easy Being El Niño

Sergio
Sergio Garcia, the professional golfer, is all over the news lately.  It seems that Sergio has a long standing dislike for Tiger Woods which came to a head during the recent Tournament Players Championship played at the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Sergio was paired with Tiger during the third round of the tournament.  As Sergio was hitting an approach shot, Tiger’s fans started applauding for something that Woods had done while waiting to hit his shot.

Now you have to understand that 90% of the folks following Tiger know next to nothing about golf.  Our culture’s cult of celebrity has driven them out there so that they can tell friends, family, and associates that they once actually stood near Tiger.  This cabal will clap their hands and scream “Get in the hole! ” at the slightest provocation – for anything from Tiger stooping to pick up a pine cone to him simply scratching an itch.

In any event, the noise from Tiger’s gallery of fans apparently distracted Sergio, causing him to feel that Tiger had not done all in his power to keep his fans quiet.  Old grievances were suddenly made raw again.

The following day it became clear that, even though they were tied for the lead, Sergio and Tiger would not be playing together during the final round.  When asked what he thought of not playing with Tiger on Sunday, Sergio commented that it didn’t take a “rocket engineer ” to realize that he and Tiger were not the best of buds.  One is left to ponder if a rocket scientist would have arrived at the same conclusion.
Tiger
Fueled by a collapse of monumental proportions on the final two holes of the tournament, Sergio went from being tied with Tiger for the lead to the status of just another “also ran”.   As a result, the state of Sergio’s antipathy for Tiger apparently rose from simmer to full boil.

Earlier this week at a European Tour award’s dinner, Sergio inserted both of his feet (possibly up to his knees) into his mouth when he suggested that during the upcoming U.S. Open he might invite Tiger to dinner, closing his comments with “We will serve fried chicken.

Sergio is undoubtedly a very talented golfer, but I wonder just how much notoriety he would have gained during his career but for a single shot he hit as a 19 year-old during the 1999 PGA Championship at the Medinah Country Club.
Sergio Leaps
That year during the final round, his tee shot on the 16th hole came to rest against the trunk of a large tree.  Undaunted by his bad lie, the relatively unknown Sergio hit the shot of the tournament by putting his ball on the green, but more memorably by performing a gazelle-like leap into the air as he sprinted up the fairway so that he could follow the flight of his ball.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “one shot does not a tournament make.”  Sergio finished second, by a single stroke, behind one Tiger Woods.

But that was all it took for the media to ordain Sergio as charismatic and the foremost challenger to Tiger at the top of professional golf’s pantheon.

Since that fateful day, reality has trumped all of the media hype and mythology.  At this point in their respective careers, Tiger has posted 78 PGA tournament victories including 14 majors; while Sergio has only managed 8 total wins, none of which are majors.  I don’t think that Tiger senses Sergio breathing down his neck.

It must be difficult for Sergio.  He’s gone from being a darling of the media to now being their whipping boy for becoming the latest celebrity to run afoul of the universal doctrine of political correctness which holds that everyone has the right to never be offended.

Contriteness may well be the order of the day for Sergio.  On second thought, make that the order of the foreseeable future.

The great St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”  Sergio would do well to remember Dizzy’s words.  For despite the media’s misplaced prognostications, he ain’t done it.

Drive for show, putt for dough.

OM

Photo credit: mUAr_cHEe Foter.com CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Jim Epler / Foter.com / CC BY
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hoto from: Golf.com