Feb 20

Tiger and the President

Tiger, the President and Match Play: He’s a Lefty, All Right!

All right, national leaders get to do this sort of thing if they really want to, and it’s easy to understand why they would. Last week, President Obama and Tiger Woods got together for a round of golf at the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club. My impression is that with the size of the security squad, it all looked very much like a typical PGA gallery, except for the dark glasses and suits, perhaps.

Even if you don’t like Tiger, it is ultimately cool to play a round of golf with him. And, even if you don’t like the President of the United States, it is equally cool to wander the links with the most connected man just about anywhere.
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obama 1For Tiger, it’s a fun way to come off a four-week lull after winning his 75th victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. The President has experienced no such drop-off, having played over one hundred rounds of golf since taking office. Remembering talk of Mr. Bush’s “Texas White House,” one might not be surprised to hear talk of the new “Augusta wing.”

With Condoleeza Rice screaming “Fore left” last week, I might have expected the President to be a “righty,” but he’s a southpaw with an excellent weekend golfer’s legacy going all the way back to Bob Charles.

I learned to play left-handed, and outside of playing the piano as a kid, I had no left hand, as far as I knew – what a useless appendage. But I did it. To see someone play naturally from the left is still astonishing to me. Obama certainly has Tiger’s recommendation, who describes him as a very good athlete and an excellent amateur.

obama 2Now that Tiger has tested himself once more under the pressure of the Secret Service, he should have nerves of steel for what awaits him in the coming WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. He’s won the event three times, so he didn’t need a lot of practice. Match play is heaven for the guy who is psychologically superior to his opponent, and Tiger has some experience with that as well.

First up is fellow American Charles Howell III, who has beaten Tiger before, so the champ won’t be taking anything lightly. He is also well aware of the fact that several high-ranked golfers have bowed out in the first match in the past few years.

Rory McIlroy, of course, lurks within that group, and presumably must be encountered somewhere along the way, probably near the end. However, after all the fuss made over him in Abu Dhabi, he proceeded to miss the cut – oops. So, what does one do to avoid that? Tweak the swing, tweak the equipment, tweak the mind. Nick Faldo admonishes McIlroy for doing this, but has done it himself. Everyone does, as Lee Westwood reminds us. Rory opens against Shane Lowery, so we’ll see how that goes.

I, for one, would rather prepare for match play and the eventual run up to Augusta by playing with the President. For Tiger, it would have been too sensational to allow the President to defeat him, so winning the match was not impolitic, but for the rest of us, the top man might not be such an easy win. My point, however, is that once I’d played eighteen with everyone in the gallery sporting a hidden revolver, handcuffs and a one-way ticket to Barrow, Alaska, my nerves would probably be just fine for match play and the Masters.

Yes, I double-checked it. The President of the United States is a lefty. He has a nice swing, knows how to act cool, and has tremendous charisma on the tee box. This is not your grandfather’s presidential golfer. Personally, I would love to see him at Pebble Beach next year. Anyone listening?

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