Tomorrow morning in Augusta, Georgia, Briny Baird, Chez Reavie and Ian Woosnam have an early tee time – well, early for those who prefer to tee off later in the day. Like, say, Tiger Woods whose tee time is 1:52 p.m. Only three men tee off later: Ryo Ishikawa, Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy at 2:05.
Golf’s version of the World Series starts tomorrow morning at 0800 EDT at the Augusta National Golf Club and all eyes are on everyone but Tiger Woods.
Unless you happen to be one of the 95% of golf enthusiasts who actually don’t mind Tiger’s cold, forward stare, his icy gaze as he lines up another 15+ foot putt, his all-too-serious take on the game that has certainly made him a millionaire. Since turning pro 13 years ago, Tiger has earned just south of $100 million from the game. Who knows how much has to be added to account for the endorsements he’s received over the years.
He won his first Masters at 21 and I remember my father was so excited about “this kid Tiger Woods.” He got to watch that first of Tiger’s Masters and to see Tiger earn his first Green Jacket. A month later my dad succumbed to chronic myelogenous leukemia – a disease that normally takes between five and ten years to claim its victim. In my dad’s case it took about 3 weeks diagnosis to funeral.
I don’t dwell on my dad’s disease. It’s one of the “nicer” leukemias out there. If you were told you had to die of leukemia, that’s the one you’d want – ordinarily. Leukemia is generally a genetically transmitted disease, however, the doctors assured my dad and I that his case of CML as it is called, is not transferable to me. That was a bit of good news among the other.
But I will never forget when my dad was lying in the hospital that last weekend of his life. He was surrounded by his sisters, wife, me, step-daughter and a friend or two and he lamented that his only regret about dying (he knew it was coming) was that he would never get to see how many green jackets Tiger Woods would earn or find out who Deep Throat was (Deep Throat, who was the unnamed informant who helped Bob Woodward uncover the money trail and other facts about the June 1972 Watergate scandal and resulted in the resignation of Richard M. Nixon turned out to be W. Mark Felt, deputy director of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover at the time. Later, it was revealed that Felt was unhappy about being passed over for promotion to the job of director of the FBI once Hoover died).
I visited my dad’s grave last summer when I went to visit my mom and while I was there, I told him that we all now know who Deep Throat was and that Tiger was up to four green jackets. But now it looks like Tiger’s eyeballing a fifth.
Yes, the Masters is an excellent experience to watch if you happen to like watching golf. I play occasionally, but haven’t since my 40th birthday. But every year around April, I get a little sad because I wish my dad were here to watch Tiger shoot for number five. Tiger himself has claimed he wishes to out perform Jack Nicklaus (who has won 6 green jackets). Nicklaus once said that Tiger was on par (sorry for the pun) to beat him and Arnold Palmer’s Masters wins together – ten wins.
I hope he can. And the only reason I cheer for Tiger is because my dad isn’t here to do it himself. Don’t get me wrong, I like Tiger. I think he’s the greatest golfer the sport has ever seen in spite of many of his own shortcomings. But he’s young – 33 to be exact – and he’ll learn as he gets older that some of his antics (swearing at a missed shot, acting so cold with fans, refusing to sign autographs) will need to be relinquished to the back of the gallery. His determination to be the best is why he deserves to win more green jackets than Nicklaus and Palmer together. His willingness to work hard, focus on a goal and work toward that goal no matter what others may say entitles him to earn $1+ million per year playing “a gentleman’s game”. His confidence in his abilities entitles him to be the best golfer ever.
He is the embodiment of the American dream. He’s accomplished what many only dream of. So often people risk their lives to come to America just for the chance at a piece of the American dream. Tiger was born here and he’s been proving that hard work pays handsomely.
And he deserves every penny of it.