Maginnes On Tap: Tiger brings Sundays back
When generation gaps are bridged and icons are linked, sports are better for it. Golf proved once again last weekend that it has built better bridges and narrowed those gaps more efficiently than most sports. Reverence is woven into the fabric of the game and is nurtured by those who foster the game. Romanticizing the game is easy on a Sunday such as the one we just witnessed, and maybe that's the way it should be.
There are the obvious reasons why the powers that be should be thrilled by Tiger Woods’ victory at Memorial. Mostly it is because that is all that anyone will remember after Woods walked off that final green. Ratings were through the roof (up 138 percent from last year's final round), and the world seems to be spinning on its axis again. Had Rory Sabbatini or Spencer Levin won the golf tournament, people would be writing and talking about cellphone pictures, Phil Mickelson’s second-honeymoon fatigue and Woods’ continued downfall. But all of that is ancient history now thanks to Tiger – and once again the game is much better for it.
The Memorial was a strange week all around in terms of news cycles. Fred Couples and Nick Price were announced as Presidents Cup captains. Of course, this was one of the worst-kept secrets in the game (Golfweek broke this story in its June 1 issue.) How is it possible that the PGA Tour, the same organization that can keep every disciplinary action private and every potential sponsor secluded, can’t keep the identities of two players out of the media?
Also early in the week the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council met to start or continue the process of ironing out details of the revamped qualifying system that will go into place in autumn of 2013. It seems as if the players and the media both are tiring of this process. I wouldn’t expect to hear much more about it until it is finalized, whenever that might be. The broad strokes have been painted, and the deal is closer to done. Now we will wait for the details.
Then the tournament started – and finished – in a single day for Mickelson. He cited “fatigue” from his vacation to France and Italy with his wife as the reason. Some members of the media suggested that Mickelson somehow was protesting the preponderance of cellphone cameras on the Muirfield Village Golf Club course Thursday. Mickelson reportedly even took out his own phone to send a spirited text to commissioner Tim Finchem during the round. (There was a crackdown the rest of the week and the phones were pocketed or confiscated.) In a twist of phenomenal irony, host Jack Nicklaus himself tweeted a picture at about 9 a.m. Monday after the tournament that clearly was taken from a cellphone beside the 18th green. Either that, or the picture was taken by the worst sports photographer of all-time. Ironic for several reasons, including the fact that Nicklaus said earlier in the week that he had never taken a picture with his phone. If this was his first attempt, he managed to capture history on his first try.
Rory McIlroy missed his third consecutive cut before moving on to Memphis for this week's FedEx St. Jude Classic, and Woods seems to be rounding into form. The next great rivalry apparently will have to be put on hold at least until next week at The Olympic Club. Rickie Fowler shot 84 playing with Woods on Sunday. I don’t think that anyone really knows what that means. Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, continued his winless streak in tournaments in which Woods competes. Donald did win the WGC-Accenture Match Play last year, but he didn’t face Woods, so that doesn’t really count.
What will we remember most about the Memorial? That Woods put on a vintage performance and tied Jack Nicklaus for the second-most career victories in PGA Tour history, with 73, trailing only Sam Snead's 82. We will remember that the game’s two greatest champions embraced after Woods holed the final putt on 18 to win Jack’s tournament for the fifth time.
For nearly two decades, these two men have been linked. The greatest of all-time has graciously watched as the next-in-line has answered all the questions. Few questions remain, but the biggest one still remains unanswered: Will Woods tie or break Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships?
On days such as Sunday, does it really matter?