Winning to the Extreme – Hard to do in Pro Golf
Another Phoenix Open has gone by, but not a soul who watched Phil Mickelson dismantle the scoreboard yawned. This was no ho-hum golf tournament, and the mammoth crowds expressed themselves in a way befitting their size. On sports radio, I heard Tom Flores, Superbowl winning coach and quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, celebrating that, and I agreed wholeheartedly. So long as I’m not in mid-swing, let ‘er rip – acceptable language though, please. I have often felt that the players should be held to a stricter standard, but for today’s tour, that seems to have been done away with, beginning in tennis with McEnroe and Nastase.
All that aside, however, my big question for Phil Mickelson is, “What does a guy gotta do to blow away the field in this game?” The man opened with a 60, for crying out loud. In my world, I could have played his next three rounds and still won, but he was still being chased, despite four sterling rounds. The answer is obvious. My world is no great shakes. The magic lightning bolt hits once in a while, but on the tours, men’s and women’s, there are hundreds of golf angels up there playing with the strings, and on a moment’s notice, anyone of them down below could catch fire while the leader gets four-putted out of there. Playing the best golf of which you are capable is no guarantee that one of your colleagues won’t have a day like that at the same time – in fact, the probability is likely. So, congratulations for Mickelson for not only playing four sensational rounds, but for the nerve it took to hold people like Snedeker off. Twenty-eight under? Give me a break. The runner-up at twenty-four under? Give me another break. Those are NASA numbers to one such as me.
I have made the mistake, from time to time, of feeling badly for Phil. Oh dear, he’s forty-five years old, flailing away in a young man’s tour. Maybe he can summon one more week of his former glory if we all close our eyes and wish real hard. Forget it – Phil Mickelson has so much natural ammunition left that I don’t think he’s even close to done. And, when he does enter the Champions, it could be lights out for a while.
Incidentally, Phil won $1,116,000 for his efforts this week. Let’s see – in federal and California taxes, that’s…well, never mind. Suffice it so say that winning a lot offsets much of the tax man’s intrusions.
Another extreme went down this week for the women, on the other side of the world. Karrie Webb, Australian golfer, one of the finest anywhere, won the Australian Ladies Open…again. She won it for the 8th time. If that’s not extreme winning, I don’t know what is. Where Phil followed the “Secretariat” style – open a lead and never give it up, Webb proved why she is this generation’s “shark” from Australia, birdieing 14 to take the lead in the fourth round, and forging ahead as the strongest finishing player. T
The tournament was played on the Gold Coast Resort course, where Webb has had four second-place finishes. This year’s tournament was problematic, prepared by twenty-four inches of rain. The winner, born in ’74 and turning pro in ’94, has 38 wins on the LPGA, and a bunch in other places. She’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame, was the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year, and tends to be special in majors.
The extreme part? By winning the Aussie event, Madame Shark tied Sam Snead for the most wins of a single tournament. Sammy won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.
With people who can play on this level, there’s no taking the fourth round off and assuming anything. The magic can hit anyone on these tours, and that makes for an extremely satisfying four-day event.