Tiger Woods and the Curse of Rocco Mediate
My father is the biggest golf fan I know. Unlike most fans who only tune in for the majors or particularly competitive final rounds of lesser tournaments, he watches golf anytime he can. To this day, I still make fun of him every time he talks about watching some obscure tournament.
He is probably the only person under 70 who would watch the opening round of an event that half the stars of the PGA tour skip.
I consider myself to be a casual or "normal" golf fan. I'll tune in for the major tournaments, provided a more compelling sport isn't on. The only time I'm really excited about golf is if Tiger Woods is in the hunt on Sunday. Considering the television rating boom Tiger created when he was reeling off title after title, I know I'm not alone.
Tiger's greatest victory was his last major win: the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Battling through a knee injury, Tiger fought to force a one round playoff against Rocco Mediate. In visible pain, Tiger played the eighteen-hole playoff on Monday.
He grimaced after every drive. He used his club as a cane. The display of heart and determination rivaled Jordan's famous flu-game or Jack Youngblood playing the Super Bowl with a broken leg. With Tiger and Rocco even after eighteen, a sudden death playoff began.
Tiger only needed one hole to win the tournament. It would take more than a knee injury to extinguish Tiger's competitive fire.
After the U.S. Open concluded, I went to talk to golf's number one fan. My dad didn't share my enthusiasm for Tiger's heroic performance. I wasn't completely surprised. My father was never a Tiger fan.
Remember, my dad is a guy who watches even the most irrelevant tournament. He loves competitive golf. He still harbors animosity towards Woods for "ruining" the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble beach and the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews. Tiger's combined margin of victory for the two Opens: an otherworldly 23 strokes. There was no suspense on Sunday.
Of course, I loved both performances. I had never seen someone so thoroughly dominate a sporting event. I may never see someone win a major golf tournament by fifteen strokes ever again. It was seeing history being made.
With such anti-Tiger bias, it wasn't a complete shock that my dad didn't jump and down after seeing Woods fight through injury to win the 2008 U.S. Open. What shocked me, however, was the word he used to describe the win: stupid.
How could such an inspiring victory be stupid? I will never forget watching the 2008 U.S. Open and my father dismissed it as stupid. His reasoning was simple: by playing through injury (and undoubtedly further damaging his knee), Tiger Woods cost himself future victories.
My father quickly dubbed it "The Curse of Rocco Mediate" or the "Rocco Curse" for short. He proclaimed that as a result of the "Rocco Curse" Tiger Woods would never win a major championship again.
To this date, the curse, that to my knowledge no one else in the world knows about, has held up. Tiger missed the 2008 British Open and PGA Championship. He has been plagued by injuries ever since. This weekend, he will miss the 2011 U.S. Open.
Tiger's recent struggles cannot be blamed entirely on the knee injury exacerbated at Torrey Pines. His marital problems have undoubtedly played a role in him losing his number one ranking.
(My father quickly came up with the "Elin Curse" after the story of his Thanksgiving night fight broke. The "Elin Curse" would prevent him from winning any tournament as the "Rocco Curse" only extends to majors. I think my dad might be reaching on this one.)
I don't believe in the "Rocco Curse." I still cheer for Tiger. I want to see him back on top. Every time I talk to my dad about the 2008 U.S. Open I defend Tiger's decision to press on. He's a competitor. He doesn't think about the next tournament or the next five years. Winning is the only thing that matters.
That's why I love Tiger Woods. He has made more money than I will ever see. He obviously is able to pursue any pleasure he desires. Under such circumstances, many men would stop caring.
The reason Tiger Woods is the best golfer of his generation is the same reason why he couldn't objectively judge the risk of playing on a bad knee. Sports are peculiar things. There is no intrinsic value of putting a white ball in a cup, an orange ball through a hoop, or a brown ball over a white line. Sports are merely a proxy for men to compete.
The all time greats of any sport are the ones who lose perspective. They are driven by a desire that can only be fulfilled by winning. Not only are they talented, but they want it more than their peers.
(When I say "want it more" I don't mean it in the sense that announcers say "the team that will win is the team that wants it more." That's stupid. Thrown in the middle of a competition, everyone wants to win. The ones who want it most are the ones who devote their lives to practicing and improving. Michael Jordan's legendary competitiveness was not manifested during games, but in the practice facility and gym. Same with Tiger Woods.)
I don't know if Tiger will ever play at the level he used to. Curse or no, his game has clearly weakened since the 2008 U.S. Open. When the news broke that Tiger Woods would not participate in the 2011 U.S. Open, my father had one thing to say, "The 'Rocco Curse' strikes again."
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