Monday, August 12, 2013


Another major championships has come and gone in the world of professional golf, and late Sunday night, when the PGA trophy was handed to Jason Dufner, I let out a large sigh of relief.

Tiger Woods had been blanked for another year.

It's an oddly emotional reaction to me, a person who is almost clinical in looking over the sports scene and who tries to be more fair and balanced than a room full of Fox News commentators (granted, the bar isn't too high in that particular analogy).

I have all the respect in the world for Woods' individual brilliance. At his peak, he probably was the greatest golfer in the history of the sport. Four straight majors, in this day and age? I would have thought that was impossible. I would have been willing to argue that the talent pool was so strong that no one was capable of winning so many big tournaments in such a short time. In fact, there's no one in history I'd rather see putting for the United States if the Ryder Cup came down to just one 20-footer.

That doesn't mean I am predisposed to root for him. Growing up, my dad was the Jack Nicklaus fan, preferring to root for consistent brilliance and gentlemanly play. Me, I rooted for Arnold Palmer, who never seemed to take the safe way out and was something of a thrill ride. Who would have been more fun to meet?

It's been the same story lately. That's Woods in the role of Nicklaus, and Phil Mickelson playing Palmer. Lefty recently had one of the great finishes in golf history, coming from way back to win the British Open - just like Palmer did in the 1960 U.S. Open.

For years, it looked as if Mickelson would be stuck playing Avis to Woods' Hertz, but then a funny thing happened - Woods' wife took a well-placed iron to the back of Tiger's car on Thanksgiving after learning of some of his, um, exploits. Woods hasn't played as well as he used to play in majors - zero wins - and Mickelson has driven through the vacuum to ensure his legacy as one of the most beloved athletes of his generation.

In the meantime, Woods certainly has the right to make a living at his chosen profession, and he's doing that. He's the number one player in the world, and can draw people into galleries which translates into sponsorship and appearance fees. Fine. But Tiger had always set his sights on the Nicklaus record of 18 major championships - he's at 14 at holding. And Woods' personal actions, and corresponding arrogance that went with them, were so over the top that it's difficult to root for him.

The Germans have a word for it - schaudefreude, pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. I have to admit I feel some of that when someone else holds up one of those big trophies at the end of a major golf tournament. I'm not proud of that feeling, but it's there. And it's not going away.

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