2002: Perspective - What if Earl hadn’t gone to ’Nam?

Spraying it off the tee:

-If there were no Vietnam War, meaning U.S. Army officer Earl Woods would not have met Tida of Thailand, then golf’s new Big Three right now would be Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els. But if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its rear. Hence we are left with a Big One. That, of course, is Tiger Woods, probably the best thing to come out of the jungle warfare of ’Nam.

-It says right here that unless Woods receives an unfavorable weather draw at the British Open, he will win the 2002 Grand Slam. We have seen this movie before. We know how it ends. Whenever somebody says he can’t do something, whenever the stakes are highest, Woods delivers.

-America loves an underdog. Latest proof was found in Phil Mickelson’s affectionate galleries at the U.S. Open and Hartford.

-Bethpage Black aside, the dumbest question in golf is: Who’s the best long-iron player on the PGA Tour? There are none; nobody hits more than a 5-iron into par 4s anymore.

-The Spanish milkman, Garcia, taunted by Open galleries for his regrip waggling ad nauseum, said the week after: “New York is different. They like to say a little more than we are used to.” That was not necessarily a bad thing. For the sake of the kid and golf, something, someone, needs to snap him out of the 30-waggle routine, and impatient New Yorkers tried.

-The Spanish term for the cure of his affliction over the ball is Nomor Garciaparra-lysis.

-Neuroses aside, know this about Garcia: He is a nice young man who is maturing, and, at 22, he has the guts and game to eventually become Woods’ prime challenger for years. Like Mickelson, his shortcomings in majors so far are attributed to the odd mistake, not fear.

-Favorite snapshot of El Nino came after dinner at last year’s British Open. Introduced to a friend’s female companion, he was most gracious and kissed her on both cheeks. Then, in the dark, he skipped down a Lytham street alone, practicing his swing as he went. A boy at play.

-USGA setups have made unnecessary headlines at three of the past five Opens. There was the ridiculous pin on the slick, sloping 18th green at Olympic in 1998; the conditioning that sent balls rolling back off the 18th green and down into the fairway early in the week last year at Southern Hills; and the 265-yard carry to the fairway on the 499-yard 12th at Bethpage. Solution is that Open preparers, when in doubt, should not err on the side of ridiculous.

-National Golf Foundation numbers say almost 80 percent of American golfers do not belong to private clubs. More than 70 percent of our courses are open to the public. And 90 percent of courses being planned or built are daily fee. And yet there are no public course golfers on the USGA’s 16-person executive committee? That not only is wrong, that is appallingly wrong, almost Shoal Creek wrong. Little wonder it took more than a century to conduct the Open on a truly public facility.

-David Duval now has missed three cuts in a row for the first time in his career. We’re talking eight years and 193 starts.

-This curious quote came three days after Woods won the Open for his seventh victory in the last 11 majors. “I think he has more physical talent than anybody in the game. It’s unbelievable how many birdies he can make. The talent he has is ridiculous really.” That was Tour rookie Bryce Molder speaking of the majorless Mickelson, not Woods.

-Line between sports reporting and entertainment sometimes blurs. So it was after the Open when the “Best Damn Sports Show” on Fox SportsNet showed slow-motion shots of Phil Mickelson, John Daly and Colin Montgomerie walking as their chests bounced. The bit referred to the PGA Tour as the Plump Guys Tour. Ouch.

-D.A. Weibring has won the upcoming Quad Cities tournament three times and designed its TPC at Deere Run. So if Weibring is King of Quad, wife Kristy is Queen of Moline.

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