This past weekend at Augusta, the PGA got everything it could have possibly wanted and more. The sporting public got everything it could want from the 2010 Masters Tournament…and more.
Phil Mickelson, a man whose personal life has been wrought with mountainous obstacles in the form of nearly simultaneous diagnoses of breast cancer in both his wife and mother, gave us a magical ending that Walt Disney would have been jealous of. In Mickelson, we have a guy who took a hiatus from the sport to be with family for the right reasons. And not to misplace the meaning of the situation, but stories like his are why we root for the individual in any sport.
Meanwhile, there is Tiger Woods.
Tiger’s story is an interesting one to follow. Last we saw of the world’s best golfer and highest-profile athlete, his carefully crafted image—an image larger than the Great Wall of China and one that took more than a decade to build—imploded…spectacularly. He caused the biggest North American sports story since the trade of Wayne Gretzky to gri, not only the sports world, but mainstream pop culture in general.
It was Tiger that was the story heading into Augusta, and he had been the story for weeks. Every angle magnified. Every scenario speculated to no end.
Will Tiger be accepted?
Will Tiger fold under the pressure?
Will Tiger be heckled?
Will Tiger be stonewalled by his fellow pro golfers?
Will Tiger be affected by the layoff?
Much like the PGA was before Tiger Woods’ issues surfaced, all of the major storylines at the sports biggest event revolved around Tiger Woods.
Then there was the rest of the field, featuring Lee Westwood. Westwood is a 36-year-old Brit who was, and now still is, searching for his first major win. Westwood got the typical ESPN treatment after his round on Saturday left him in the lead with 18 holes to play. In a highlight package featuring the play of Mickelson and Woods, Westwood was continuously listed as “leader” instead of by name. Why would you want to know about Westwood anyway, with everything else that was going on? He had only finished third at the 2008 U.S. Open, third at the 2009 British Open, and third at the 2009 PGA Championship.
Westwood was playing like a man whose time had come.
Rounding out the supporting cast was Anthony Kim, a 24-year-old from L.A., a rookie in 2007; K.J. Choi, a 12-year pro from South Korea; and 50-year-old Fred Couples. Freddie was one of golf’s elite long before there were video games donning the faces of the sport’s biggest names.
When Tiger’s name was announced at the first tee on Thursday, he was cheered. Woods’ symbolic acceptance back into the golfing community, at that moment, changed the complexion of the tournament. At that moment, Tiger could stop worrying about everything around him and just play golf. It made for a better weekend.
While Woods does still have work to do to make himself look less robotic and crass, the weekend was good for him. He played golf, and did so pretty well, and people enjoyed watching him.
For Mickelson, the weekend was a masterpiece moment for his Hall of Fame career. A bogey-free Sunday helped him pull away for a three-shot win. After the win, Phil embraced his wife, Amy, beside the 18th green. It was the first tournament she had attended since her diagnosis.
Walt Disney would have been jealous.