Masters 2011: Woods, Mickelson and McIlroy Remind Us of the Human Side of Golf

Cliff PotterCorrespondent IApril 10, 2011

Mickelson and his wife in one of the best portraits of the human side of golf.
Mickelson and his wife in one of the best portraits of the human side of golf.David Cannon/Getty Images

If you have not caught the Phil Mickelson piece on TV yet, it is a must-see. So much there you may have forgotten.

And the best part of the piece is his relationship with his wife. Smiling, faithful, embracing, warm, human and oh, so fragile.

His wife almost staggering onto the golf course to embrace Phil at his Masters win last year after suffering from breast cancer at such a young age.

Phil with tears streaming down his face. His wife bravely standing there in his embrace. His children all around them.

The human part of golf is perhaps its greatest strength. An individual sport like tennis, golf has somehow maintained its strength through its visions of the humanity of its players and its fans.

Only in golf is the crowd mixed with the players almost right on the playing surface. Only in golf does family regularly come into the mix on the course itself.

With the human side of golf come some of its other greatest moments, many at the Masters.

The wonder of Jack Nicklaus' Masters title in 1986 at 46 alongside his son. Marching up the 18th fairway together. Their embrace.

The crushing scorecard fiasco of Roberto De Vicenzo that cost the Argentine the 1968 Masters title. "What a stupid I am!" he exclaimed.

Arnold Palmer and his Army, walking down fairways with hundreds following him. His smile and cigarette prominent in the old days.

Lee Trevino, laughing, joking and loving every wild minute of his swing and play.

And Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler chumming together as a threesome while they played a rousing round during the second day of this year's Masters.

Never have you seen as young and powerful a group on any golf course. A made-for-TV event caused by great talent and planning, with all the innocent charm that these three bring to the game.

It is this part of golf that makes it a great spectator sport.

And it is this part of golf that is missing when we see Tiger Woods.

Golf has many fans and correspondents who want Tiger to win again. "It would be good for the game."

What game that is depends on what you want to see and why you want to see it.

If you like drama, kneeling down after missing a putt, a man who acts like the Masters is his to lose even after a horrible round on Saturday, still fawn over the preening athlete for whom there remains no comparison because of his life before his fall, take Tiger and run with him.

For those of us who cherish the human moments, the slice of humanity represented by Tiger Woods, this guy now dating the 22-year-old daughter of his neighbor in Florida, is not one we want to see or follow.

While many fans remain, it seems as if the media are forcing us on Tiger Woods. And the images are the worst of this year's golf.

There will be no one to greet Woods as he comes off the course, win or lose on this Sunday unless it is staged as a PR event. His children will not be there. Nor will his ex-wife.

Imagine what you would say to or ask this guy if he were to pull out a win.

Then ask yourself if you would prefer Rory McIlroy or Jason Day or for that matter, anyone else playing in the Masters.

For me, the answer is quite obvious.

Any of the others would be much better.

They would remind us of the greatest part of golf. The human side. The one that has been bright, and whose defeats were no worse than Fred Couples rambling many years ago, or the tragedies of a loss by a great foe, or by someone who in the excitement of a win signed a scorecard that gave him one stroke less than what he really got.

Not the one who reminds us of car accidents in driveways, rampages, and binge sex.


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