Impetuous, childlike, immature, sullen, testy. These words describe my two now adult boys between the ages of thirteen and sixteen or so. They also describe Tiger Woods at the recent Open Championship. The display of club pounding into the ground and lip read expletives was more than I, an admitted Woods fan, could bear. His early exit was a fitting end to an ugly display of non-sportsmanship. He obviously didn't bring his A, B, or maybe even C game to Turnberry. It was painfully evident to all of us watching. The retching, pained- face looks of incredulity from Tiger had me shouting at the TV, "Yes, we already know you just skyed it 200 yards dead right, you moron."
No one would ever question Tiger Woods dedication to excellence or mastery of his craft. His competitive drive and legendary focus is well journalled and one of the pillars of his game. Still, is he any more competitive than Tom Watson? Watson plays in a local tourney in his home state of Missouri with small time legends and crack shooters. It's a testament to his character that he bothers to thrill the locals by attending. He's been quoted as saying he's as dedicated to burying them as he is his foes on the pro tours. Still, he can vanquish his opponents, as he has many times while collecting eight majors, without embarrassing you or himself. Dignity and grace are his fabric, win or lose. No tantrums or displays to the degree that if you just tuned in at the end of a Tom Watson event it would be tough to tell if he was winning or losing. The grace he showed after losing the Open on Sunday should be playing on Woods' flat screen in a continuous loop. For any naysayers, tell me at 59 years old, with five Claret Jugs to his name, Watson wasn't competitive, or didn't dearly wish to add a sixth. Who would have blamed the man, after a lifetime of class, if he tossed a club from his gorse infested lie in the playoff? From a man that dented Jack Nicklaus' armor more than anyone, competitive? Kidding me? Or the reverse......Nicklaus, 19 second place major finishes, throw a club? Smash the tee box? Never, too much respect for the game, his playing partners, and himself, in that order. Or Arnie, Trevino, Cink on Sunday, ad nauseum.
A couple of years after I'd joined my club my game was finally showing signs of real progress. I could birdie any hole on the course, I just couldn't string them together in one round. My scores were dropping at a noticeable rate and all was right with the universe. One day I was paired with one of the older members, a very good stick who threatened to shoot his age any time out. I was anxious to prove my mettle and was thrilled that I was beginning to be asked into better player's groups. I came out hot and was one over after five holes facing a long narrow par five. The group was impressed with my progress and it felt great to hear their compliments. Naturally I then blocked my tee shot off of the property. I teed again, declared a provisional, I couldn't have found the first with GPS, but it seemed like the correct pronouncement. My second, shot three, was the largest, highest, slowest moving banana in the history of fruit. "Captain Kirked, gone where no ball's gone before." I helicoptered my driver about 30 feet down the fairway, never in danger of hitting anyone or thing, then raised my best look of surprised disgust. You know, like you'd never, ever, hit two bad shots in a row. My experienced new partner said, "First of all you're hitting five off the tee, secondly son, if you haven't guessed already, you'll never be good enough to throw a club, so if you wish to finish with us, that will be the last ." It was.
I'm not discounting Mr. Woods accomplishments or his contributions to the game and society at large. His learning centers are remarkably impressive and for all I know may just scratch the surface of his generosity. He comports himself gracefully at all times, except when plying his trade on the golf course, the place he gets the most face time. Just two overdue words of advice for Tiger. Grow up.