Well, if there is a God, we clearly know where he stands on family values. Phil Mickelson was all things Tiger Woods was not. He was centered, focused, and because of the difficult circumstances of their lives- totally immersed in the concerns of his family; namely a wife and a mother both battling breast cancer.
If it were a morality play- and it was- the good guy won on Sunday in Augusta. At the conclusion of his stirring victory, Phil and his wife began the longest hug since Al Gore made out with Tipper at the Democratic convention in 2000. But it was a sweet, emotional moment that underscored the stark differences with the other guy who fought the lonely battle on the course; the guy without the wife and kids there to cheer him on.
After his five-month self-imposed scandal hiatus, Tiger performed admirably. To finish in the top 5 after gathering that much rust is truly impressive. But there were great lapses in his game and they appeared to be mental not physical. The most notable was the routine, no set-up, gimme putt he blew on Sunday. I had never seen him non-chalant his way to a bogie.
Saturday, after a couple of days of glad-handing the crowds and pinching the cheeks of cute little 3 year-olds on Daddy’s shoulders, Tiger returned to his ornery on-course comportment. Microphones picked him up yelling “God Damn it” loudly after a blown approach shot. Sunday he tried to dial it back but a loud “Jesus Christ” escaped from his lips after another errant shot.
Note to Tiger: The whole Buddhism thing is great- but to get back in the good graces of the waspy, American golfing public, I would stay away from insulting their Christian God or using his only son’s name in vain. Enough commandments have already been broken.
Asked what his future plans are, Tiger told CBS Sunday that he’s taking a break to reassess things. Good- because he’s not there yet. Tiger is an incredible shot-maker and competitor but his magic has always been more the mental discipline and emotional zen that has been an equally important part of his game.
He clearly compartmentalizes. No one could perform as well as he did at The Masters without that psychological skill. What’s ironic is that he may find the golf and family thing actually go together and need not be compartmentalized. When he finally figures out who he really is, when he gets his family back, when he’s truly centered as a human being- that’s when the real Tiger will have returned.
Until then, he will be a really talented golfer who continues to be an obviously damaged man.