Since last November, the game of golf has been associated with sex scandals, trips to rehab, accusations of cheating, lost sponsorships, and television ratings that have taken a nose dive into the abyss.
All thanks to one man—Tiger Woods.
Two weeks ago, Woods returned to the game of golf after a five-month self-imposed exile.
Most people figured that Woods’ return at the Masters would provide a quick fix to all of golf’s problems; that if Woods were back on the course demolishing his competition, balance would once again be restored to the golfing universe.
Well, all is once again good in the game of golf, but it has had very little to do with Woods.
While Woods’ wife spent most of her Masters weekend with a divorce attorney in Orlando, Mickelson was enjoying the company of his family at a rented house in Augusta, Ga.
Moments after Woods walked off the 18th green last Sunday and nearly bit off Peter Kostis’ head for asking him about his temper tantrums over the weekend, Mickelson closed out the tournament with a birdie putt and shared an emotional embrace with his entire family directly behind the 18th green.
A week that began with questions about car crashes, infidelities, HGH usage, and trips to rehab ended with a family man winning one for his cancer-stricken wife.
Disney’s top writers couldn’t have done any better.
Yesterday at the Verizon Heritage Classic, Brian Davis reminded us again why the game of golf will be just fine despite the porn stars, prenups, raunchy text messages, and childish temper tantrums.
Brian Davis, who originally hails from Great Britain, is a prototypical journeyman.
Despite four second-place finishes over the past four years, he’s still searching for his first PGA Tour win.
He’s ranked 166th in the World Golf Rankings.
He’s played in only 13 major championships during the course of his 12-year career and he has never earned an invitation to the Masters.
Davis is the type of guy who starts every season with one thought on his mind—keep his tour card for another year.
After missing short par putts on the 15th and 16th holes on Sunday to fall one stroke behind Jim Furyk, Davis sunk a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a sudden death playoff with Furyk.
As both players made their way back to the 18th tee for the first playoff hole, you couldn’t help but think how much more this win would mean to Davis than Furyk.
Furyk won just a few weeks ago at the Transitions Championship in Tampa; he’s earned more than $45 million in his career, he’s exempt into every major championship, and he’s currently fifth in the World Golf Rankings.
Another win by Furyk would simply mean another cool million for his high-priced investment banker to take care of.
A win for Davis would not only change his life financially, but it would also mean a two-year PGA Tour exemption and a spot in the 2011 Masters.
Both players found the fairway with their tee shots, but Davis’ approach bounced left into Calibogue Sound while Furyk’s second shot came to rest towards the back of the green.
Luckily at the time, but unlucky in the grand scheme of things, the tide was out and Davis was able to play his ball out of the hazard.
He blasted his ball onto the green and immediately turned to PGA Tour rules official Slugger White and told him that he had moved a lose impediment during his backswing.
The cameras confirmed Davis’ worst fears—he had indeed moved a loose piece of sea grass during his backspin and was penalized two strokes, which ultimately cost him the golf tournament.
Davis’ honesty may have cost him the tournament, but it also reinforced the fact that golf is, and always has been, a gentleman’s game.
While Woods is continuing to unleashed tabloid hell upon the golf world, golf has spent the last two weeks fighting back.
While TMZ.com was reporting the details of Woods’ latest alleged affair with his neighbor’s daughter, Mickelson was winning the Masters as his entire family cheered him on from just beyond the 18th green.
While radaronline.com and US Weekly are continuing to report on Woods’ infidelities, Brian Davis called a penalty on himself that cost him a boatload of money, a two-year exemption, and an invitation to Augusta.
Sure, Woods brings with him the television ratings and captures the attention of those who are typically not interested in grown men spending four hours hitting a little white ball around seven miles of pristinely cut grass.
But for everyone who thinks that the game of golf is damaged due to the actions of one man, the past two weeks have shown otherwise.
The game of golf is fighting back against the ugliest scandal the sport has ever seen, and golf is winning.
Golf is and always has been bigger than one man. For every Tiger Woods, there are a hundred Phil Mickelsons and Brian Davises out there on the PGA Tour.
The behavior and actions of Mickelson and Davis is what golf is, and always has been, all about.
Although Woods may have a dramatic affect on the game in the short term, we’d be quite naive to think that the behavior of one man in the year 2010 will extend far enough as to permanently damage a game that has been considered a gentleman’s game since before Christopher Columbus lost his way and happened to stumble upon America.
And who knows, Woods may turn things around himself over the coming weeks, months, and years and provide the game of golf with yet another remarkable story.
For more PGA Tour News, Insight, and Analysis, check out The Tour Report.