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Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

Tiger the Golfer- Mere Mortal

(Photo: Associated Press)

He looks lost.  His driver is leaving the ball in the woods.  His irons are leaving the ball in sand traps and rough.  The man who used to make 45-foot putts can’t hit from 8 feet.  Seven times he won at Firestone.  He is in 70th place.

What everyone assumed would be the inevitable Tiger Woods assault on Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles now seems like an impossible mountain to climb.  I don’t know exactly what Elin did on that fateful Thanksgiving night in Florida, but I don’t think it had as much to do with an 8-iron as it did with kryptonite or some kind of very effective voodoo.  

The human psyche is a complicated thing.  Is he subliminally punishing himself?  Does he need three different women a week or he loses his powers? 

I think it’s control.  He has lost control of his life, first personally- then professionally.  His wife left him.  His swing coach left him.  If there was one overriding aura around the old Tiger, it was a man very much in control of everything; from his golf stroke to, apparently, his secret life. Now it is gone. All gone. It is as if the Gods waved their wands from Olympus and transformed him from one of their own to a mere mortal.

In the days after he withdrew from the The Player’s Championship back in May and Tiger’s coach quit on him, Jay Marioti at Fanhouse.com wrote a an insightful piece  on the decline of Tiger Woods that had the ring of truth.

He pointed out that at 35 years old, Tiger’s not only getting physically creaky- the famous Tiger Zen has vanished: 

Assuming he can piece himself back together and enter events, Woods has provided no evidence that he can regenerate the magic of yore. His physical problems now include the knees, Achilles, back and neck — body parts urgent to a golfer’s well-being as he swings, walks and thinks on his feet. Mentally, his marital life is headed to divorce, with speculation mounting daily about what type of child custody he’ll retain, if any. All of which is pounding at his very soul. Time was when we thought nothing could invade the steel-trap psyche of Eldrick Woods, son of Earl, heir to Gandhi and Mandela. These days, he’s half the golfer he used to be, and maybe one-tenth the man.    

I remember what Tiger used to be as a golfer.  When he was the best the sport had ever seen.  We were witness to something truly special.  We took the magic and the greatness for granted week in and week out.   We had ten years of it but it still feels rather fleeting.  

Tiger Woods is still alive, but it feels like little by little, we are all writing the very sad obituary of one of the greatest athletes of our times.

Family Guy Wins Masters

 

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.