Trying to Master Golf and Imagery
The PGA Tour will have its own cash cow back when the tournament in Augusta, Ga., begins Thursday. Tiger Woods decided the tightly sealed mini-world of the sport's most exclusive venue is just the place to return to work while avoiding too many questions about his personal behavior.
The Observers are by no means golfers, but they know a good show when it comes along. They'll leave the hushed tones to CBS, though.
Frank: I guess this Masters is nothing short of the most important thing in golf history.
Artie: I'll be watching, you betcha. I'm glad Tiger is back.
Frank: Remember, you'll miss part of the final round because we'll be at Miller Park watching the Brewers against the hated Cardinals.
Artie: No problem. The Crew will flip the Birds in plenty of time to see the home stretch, and I'll have the rest on tape.
Frank: And you say this as someone who, like me, plays almost no golf.
Artie: I used to enjoy it, but these days the No. 30 bus doesn't go past a heck of a lot of courses.
Frank: There's the par-3 layout at Lake Park, where I actually played a round two years ago. Scored pretty well, too, thanks to some generous rules on conceding putts.
Artie: Mark Twain described golf as "a good walk spoiled," and at this point I'm not real fond of walking, either. But I love to watch the four major tournaments.
Frank: Me too. They're the only ones anyone remembers. Quick, someone name me the winner of the Northern Trust Open in February or the Honda Classic last month.
Artie: This year Wisconsin has one of the majors, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in August. But Milwaukee's own tournament is gone because U.S. Bank dropped the sponsorship.
Frank: Tiger made his pro debut in ’96 right here, remember? But he never came back. By the time he retires, Milwaukee might be the only venue where he never won.
Artie: I suspect he'll get over that, assuming he wins five more majors to pass Jack Nicklaus with 19. And you've got to figure he thinks he can get No. 15 this week, or he would have stayed in his cocoon of penance, ain’a?
Frank: The whole Tiger Tempest says a lot about how America works these days—or at least the American media. A little over four months ago, there was all this hand-wringing about Tiger's downfall. Would he ever overcome the stigma of serial adultery, would the country overcome its disillusionment? Now that he's done the public "mea culpa," who cares anymore? There's always another idiot coming along to act stupidly and give the cable-TV gasbags a new topic.
Artie: Everyone's gotta blather something, "post" something, tweet something. Mountains are made of many molehills.
Frank: A culture that pays even minimal attention to the Kardashians or Jon and Kate Gosselin deserves to be questioned.
Artie: Give Tiger a break. He was a rotten husband, but he didn't kill anybody. The big question for me is whether that 9-iron his wife supposedly used to get him out of the wrecked car is still usable.
Frank: So you're rooting for him this weekend?
Artie: Absolutely. It's great theater.
Frank: I don't much care whether he wins, but I've never found him to be a very pleasant personality.
Artie: That was no secret on the Tour. But nobody ever said you have to be a good guy to be a great athlete.
Frank: True, but I'd rather see a guy like Phil Mickelson win.
Artie: Oh brother, you gotta be kidding! I can't stand that guy.
Frank: Really? A good family guy, smiles a lot, friendly to the media, didn't seem to let a long stretch of failure in the majors get him down...
Artie: I just find him unctuous and un-genuine. He's so sunny he seems false to me, with that aw-shucks stuff. Remember what Robbie, our copy editor, said about him? "He looks like a rich kid who never had to worry about anything."
Frank: I'll admit that sometimes the celebration scenes when he wins—bringing out the wife and the adorable kiddies—can look staged.
Artie: That family stuff doesn't bother me. I just think he lays it on too thick. He's as concerned about his image as Tiger is.
Frank: It seems pretty clear that the two of them don't care for each other.
Artie: There's real animosity there, aside from the athletic rivalry. I've always thought a large segment of golf announcers and writers fawn over Mickelson.
Frank: Media folks are human, too. It's easier to be friendly toward someone who's friendly back.
Artie: But I've wondered whether some of it is backlash—the notion of Mickelson as the anti-Tiger, or even a Great White Hope.
Frank: Mickelson once was called "greatest player never to win a major." Was he really as sanguine about his failures as he seemed to be? I guess I do believe it, which makes him interesting to me.
Artie: I think he's just as big a competitor as Tiger but tries not to show it. I'd rather see Tiger win; his obsession is genuine. And if he doesn't, let the green jacket go to Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.
Frank: I'm with you there.
A Dream Is Dislocated
Artie: This should be a great week, with baseball's return and the Masters. But there's a big cloud over it: The Bucks getting fouled out of possible success in the playoffs.
Frank: It's hard to think of a worse disaster than Andrew Bogut's terrible fall Saturday night against Phoenix.
Artie: A dislocated right elbow and broken hand. More proof that the Bucks have a Ray Allen Curse, just like the Detroit Lions have a Bobby Layne curse.
Frank: Better explain that.
Artie: Layne was the No. 1 quarterback when the Lions won the 1957 NFL title, although he was injured before the championship game. The Lions traded him to Pittsburgh in ’58 and since then they've had no titles and only one playoff win. Allen was a star when the Bucks almost reached the 2001 NBA Finals, and since he was traded in February 2003 the Bucks are 0-3 in playoff series.
Frank: Now the Bucks have their own "Joe Theismann moment." I've never watched a replay of Theismann's horrific broken leg in ’85 and I'll never watch Bogut's fall again.
Artie: Holy cow, it was gruesome.
Frank: Amar’e Stoudemire drew a flagrant foul, but I don't think it was a dirty play. His contact helped make Bogut go off-balance, but it looked like he was trying to hold up.
Artie: But it was a stupid thing to do. Stoudemire knows how vulnerable a big guy is when he's going full-tilt for a dunk. The landing is tricky anyway, without the contact adding to the pendulum motion.
Frank: What makes it especially tough is that the Bucks probably will be no worse than the No. 6 seed in the East, with a genuine chance to win a first-round series.
Artie: Especially against Atlanta. If they wind up playing Boston, David Stern’s NBA will take care of things by repeating that debacle in Cleveland last week. Forty-five free throws to nine by the Bucks!
Frank: Come on now. Who would ever think the league and TV big shots would rather see the Celtics advance? Anyway, without Bogut it looks like "one and done" for the Bucks.
Artie: Now we'll get the Dan Gadzuric experience—about 10 minutes a game, because by then he'll have his six fouls. Maybe the Bucks could sign the aging Paul Mokeski to a 10-day contract. He could be a "foul eater," just like Jeff Suppan is an "inning eater." And just as effective.