When I was a kid, I couldn't stand golf. My pop used to love it, and it seemed to go longer than church on those Saturday afternoons. I didn't like any of it: the announcers whispering as the players lined up putts, the eight hours of coverage that seemed to grind on for days and years, the fly-away shots of the course and the obligatory lavishing of praise for the aerial blimp shots.
The whole thing was exhausting.
Well, my attitude has changed, friends. I love golf. I love to play it, and I love to watch it. During golf season, I tend to camp in front of the television for hours at a time from Thursday through Sunday evening. There has never, to hear the pundits evaluate it, been this much depth on the tour.
And there has never been a player like Tiger Woods. Not in the history of the game. Sure, Jack is the man and he still holds the record for majors. But no golfer (maybe no athlete, save M.J.) has so thoroughly revolutionized the game as has Tiger.
That win last year in the U.S. Open was the best sports story of the year in 2008 (sorry Phelps fans--that's just the way it is, to quote Bruce Hornsby). Better than the N.Y. Giants Super Bowl win. Better than that awesome Nadal-Federer Wimbledon final. Better than that Baltimore Orioles win over the Yankees back in May.
And, from all accounts (Garry Smits is the golf writer for the Florida Times-Union, and he is excellent), Tiger is rebounding well from knee surgery and is looking to take the tour by storm again in 2009. I doubt he'll play more. We can probably count on his usual sixteen to eighteen tournaments. But I can't wait to see his approach. Tiger's mental game is the strongest part of his make-up, and I think it'll be fascinating to see how his strongest opposition (Kim, Villegas, Mickelson, Harrington, Choi, Sergio) sizes him up this year.
Golf is really a great example of blending the physical (muscle memory, power, precision) with the creative (shot making ability) and the mental (come Sunday, short putts often decide monetary values in the hundreds of thousands). And no one does it better than Tiger.
As an aside, I've been reading Arthur Machen in the first days of this new year. He's a good writer, and the volume on the right of your screen is more than a little creepy. Hit your local bookstore (Chamblin Bookmine Downtown, if you're in Jacksonville) and grab some of his stuff if you get the chance.