Coach's Corner

Tiger Woods is a column-killer; what more is there to say about The Glory of Tiger?

I've never met Tiger Woods, and I'd have to consider it a fairly distant possibility I ever will. It's unlikely he'll call tomorrow to see if I can make an 8am tee time at Lions Municipal. And if he does, I'd have to take a pass because I have a deadline on Monday, a deadline for a column that I know will be -- because of you, Tiger -- a struggle. Fact is, I don't like Tiger Woods very much anyway.

Tiger's a column-killer. Now, if I worked at a daily newspaper reporting from Augusta, this wouldn't be a problem. That the Red Shirt bled all the life from another Masters would be a minor inconvenience. I'd write about the Glory of Tiger, sandwiched around some nice pictures of sand flying from a bunker. Then I'd go out and have a mint julep or whatever it is they drink down in Georgia. Hundreds of writers will do just this and call it a day. Only their editors will read the columns anyway. It's like writing about Bambi. Bambi was a nice story -- Mom dies in a forest fire; Dad runs off somewhere; Bambi befriends a bunny; Bambi grows up to be a good deer -- but after awhile, who cares? Far more interesting if Bambi and Thumper try to mate, but that's not likely. Nor is it likely that we'll see Tiger melodramatically gagging away a lead, à la Greg Norman.

I guess I'd go with the intimidation angle, something I never really believed in before -- in any sport let alone a passive pursuit like golf. But what else explains the ugly rounds played by a gaggle of pros, hailed on Saturday night as "the greatest leader board ever assembled for Masters Sunday?" The "steely" Goosen, tied for the lead with Tiger at breakfast Sunday morning, utterly collapsed before his toothbrush was dry. The rest of the guys -- Phil, Vijay, Sergio, and Ernie -- seemed more intent on making spectators feel better about their own sorry-ass games, what with lovely magnolia trees clunked, a myriad of $8 golf balls littering ponds and creeks, and bizarre course management resulting in untidy 8s and 9s littering the scorecards of the world's best golfers.

Consider Ernie Els. He's all crunched over -- after imploding on the 13th hole -- Taylor Made hat off, face contorted in pain, sweat dripping from his brow that he's rubbing as if to relieve a brutal migraine. He looks like me last Thursday afternoon when I walked off the 15th green at Jimmy Clay. I bid my partners adios, apologized for my poor company, and hiked the long hike back to my car, so damned relieved I didn't have to stand over another ball that I knew with an absolute certainty was going to go snapping into a pond, parking lot, forest or whatever else God had placed hundreds of yards to my left. Ernie, unlike me, had to stay.

Kelly was up in Waco visiting her mom. I'd planned my day (and my column) around five hours of lolling about on my couch; a guilt-free afternoon of mostly commercial-free, tingling golf as "the greatest leader board ever assembled for a Masters Sunday" fought a pitched battle. Instead, before Tiger made the turn, I was out in the back yard, practicing hooking my 20-yard pitch shot, using one slumbering dog to line the shot up (I had to hit over Jasper) to a hefty target of dog-doo.

This anticlimatic afternoon left me with just two remaining comments on the Masters:

I've never hit anyone with a golf ball, but that's only because anyone playing with me is acutely aware of where they are in relation to me (no matter how unlikely the angle) each time I place a club in my hands: Human beings have, if nothing else, a sound survival instinct. It's amazing how rare golf ball injuries are. I've stood 175 yards down a fairway watching a pro tee it up. I can't see the ball until it lands. That no fan has been killed from a nasty snapping hook suggests that God is, indeed, a golfer. So I was amused at the media's reaction when, during the first ceremonial moments of the Masters, 89-year-old Sam Snead bonked one off the head of an elderly fan. Sam doesn't exactly slam 'em any more, so the lazy pop-up just broke the guy's glasses and spoiled his morning. The club gave the old duffer a green Masters sport coat, which he can wear ... I don't know ... I guess never; it's bright green! Anyway, the media mocking of old Sam was in bad form. I'm a basket case on the first tee with nobody around but a couple of guys I've known for 20 years and the odd squirrel. Give Sam a break.

Also, wouldn't it be swell if the people who manage sporting events had as much contempt for satchels of money as the old racists who run the Masters? Football games would be over before midnight. Basketball games would flow like the "Clear Rocky Mountain streams" we wouldn't have to hear about any more. Golf tournaments wouldn't be an excuse to sell trucks and credit cards. Ah well. Say what you will about guys named Hootie, they control their game, and they won't be bought by Budweiser, Lexus, or American Express. Commercials are so few and so short it's like watching sports on what I once dreamed "Pay TV" would be like.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

golf, Sam Snead, Masters, Tiger Woods, Bambi

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