Nathan Green likes soccer...a lot. (Image: Buried Elephant/Flickr)

Nathan Green is a professional golfer. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He did win the Canadian Open last year.

Anyway, as a pro golfer, you would expect Mr. Green to opt for an opportunity to qualify for the U.S. Open over, say, watching the World Cup on the television. No-brainer, right?

Think again. After finishing 41st in last week’s Memorial, Green told Golfweek he was scrapping his plans to qualify for the Open on Monday: “I’m really not that interested in playing it,” Green said. “I’d rather sit home on the couch and watch soccer than beat my head against a brick wall for four days.”

To that quote, one veteran Tour caddie responded: “Let’s face it, [not showing up] proves some of these guys make too much money.”

Isn’t that the truth. Look, I’m all for supporting your country in The World Cup. I come out of soccer-watching hibernation every four years to support the U.S. team.

But, even though Green is an Aussie (and that’s who he’ll be cheering for), I still can’t comprehend passing up the opportunity to qualify for–and possibly play in–The United States Open. Wow.

Hey Nathan, have you ever heard of DVR? Geesh.

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Who has three green jackets, a winning smile, and one big thumb? This guy. (Image: debby19/Flickr)

Let’s hop right to it. The 2010 Masters was unforgettable. Here are few thoughts about some of the bigger names:

Phil Mickelson: I like Phil. I’m not as big a Mickelson fan as most golfers, but I generally like him. With the struggles with breast cancer his wife, Amy, has faced in the last year, it was hard not to cheer for Mickelson down the stretch. It seems like just a few years ago when we were wondering if Phil could ever win the big one. On Sunday, he won his third green jacket and fourth major title. If he never does anything else (unlikely), the guy will go down as one of the greatest.

Tiger Woods: I say this in the loosest of terms: Tiger’s game reminded me a bit of anyone who has taken a bit of time off from playing. After a few months off, I’m just as likely to make a birdie as I am a double bogey. Did you see the pop up shots? Wow. After all that, though, he finishes in 4th place. Pretty amazing. I love his post-round answer to the question, “Did you expect to win?”–to which he replied, “Well, I entered the tournament.” It will be interesting to see when Woods plays next and if his extended time off will continue to affect his play. I think he’ll be back for The Players next month.

Fred Couples: What did I tell you? Okay. So I got my facts wrong—Couples is already on the Senior Tour (Thanks Mike). Does anyone really watch the Champions Tour? But watching Freddy play so well out there this week was like a blast from the past. It felt like 1995. If only he could’ve made a few of those short putts, Couples could have been right there at the end.

Lee Westwood: I’ve gone on and on about Lee Westwood on this blog. I love his game. I love his swing. Westwood is in his prime and has to win a major in the next two years or it’s a freaking shame.

Anthony Kim: I think Kim is ready to win a major now. Incredible 65 on Sunday. He definitely has the game, and I think he’s putting everything else together. He’s the kind of player that’s fun to watch.

Next major: U.S. Open on June 17-20 at Pebble Beach. Can Phil go back to back?

Corporate sponsorships and sports have a long history.

But in the last 20 years, at least over the time period that I have been a die-hard sports fan, it seems like corporate sponsorships have gone to a new level. For instance, how many bowl games in college football have ridiculous names because of corporate sponsorships?

The Waste Management Phoenix Open...brought to you buy trash. (Image: helloerica/Flickr)

How about the PapaJohns.com Bowl or the competing Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl? The sponsors take over the bowl and drop the traditional name. I still call Atlanta’s bowl game the Peach Bowl and not the Chick-Fil-A bowl.

Anyway, I say all this because this week’s tournament on the PGA Tour reminded me of this trend. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is underway. Fabulous.

It’s not like the PGA hasn’t had corporate sponsors for years: Buick, AT&T, BMW, Coke. But something about the ridiculousness of this week’s tournament name reminded me of the ridiculousness of college football bowl games. Perhaps the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s slogan is: “Welcome to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Don’t poop on the players.”

In this down economy, the Tour needs sponsors, so even a company that is full of crappy, stinky poo is fair game. All we need now is a port-a-potty endorsement from John Daly and we are good to go. The advertisement could go something like this:

“Hi. I’m John Daly. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. That’s why Big John’s Port-a-Johns are here for you. Next time you just can’t wait, take a quick sprint across the 7th fairway, hop in to one of Big John’s Port-a-Johns, and do your business in peace. You’ll be able play the rest of your round with a relaxed stomach and a relaxed swing. With Big John’s Port-a-Johns, you can drop your business while you drop your scores. That’s what we’re all about. Thanks.”

So what do you think? The beauty of corporate sponsorships is that you never really know. As crazy as it sounds, do you really think John Daly wouldn’t endorse a port-a-potty company for a couple of million?

Coming in 2011: The Michael Jordan Hanes Underwear Los Angeles Open.

Random photo of drug capsules in the shape of the American Flag to visually enhance this post. (Image: pappajohn1969/Flickr)

Back in the fall, I totally missed the story of a little known former Tour player, Doug Barron,  who was given a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour. Barron was the first person to violate the Tour’s anti-doping policy. Barron hasn’t played on the PGA Tour in three years. The ban kept him from participating in Q School last fall.

In response, Barron signed up for the eGolf Professional Tour last week. eGolf is a mini-tour based out of North Carolina. The leading money winner made $140,000 last year.

Barron tested positive for testosterone and propranolol, saying a doctor gave him approval to use the drugs for health reasons. He’s currently appealing the suspension.

The story isn’t that interesting, really. I know…so why post it on my blog? I think it raises a greater question. How prominent are steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in golf?

Look, golfers don’t deal with ongoing injury problems like baseball and football players. But if a quick pill can keep an ailing knee or a painful back from being so bothersome, or speed up the recovery process, then will pro golfers take the bait? And, if so, is the doping policy going to be effective enough to stop them?

I honestly don’t think a lot of golfers are doping. But we’ve got a whole new generation of kids coming up who watched one pro athlete after another get suspended or make the news for using steroids. Let’s hope they haven’t bought in.

Image: MatthwJ/Flickr

During a press conference call yesterday, Jack Nicklaus spoke briefly about Tiger’s indefinite leave–and how Tiger’s absence will affect his quest to break the Bear’s record for wins in a major.

“If Tiger is going to pass my record, I think this is a big year for him in that regard. If he doesn’t play this year, obviously the chore is going to be a little tougher,” said Nicklaus.

With majors at Augusta, Pebble Beach, and St. Andrews–not to mention Whistling Straits–it’s hard to imagine Tiger will miss any of the majors this year. But there hasn’t been a peep out of the Woods’ camp since his late November accident that started this entire unfortunate situation.

Nicklaus says the game will survive Woods absence–and it will. But at this point in the history of professional golf, does it need to worry about “surviving.” Shouldn’t it be prospering to some degree–even without its greatest star?

Did anyone hear anything about the SBS Championship this past weekend? Geoff Ogilvy won again, by the way.

Golf is totally off the radar. Yes, when major season rolls around, the discussion will certainly pick up. But if Tiger isn’t back yet, the PGA Tour has problems.

This is the last post I’ll make about the Tiger Woods situation.

Image: victor.lund/Flickr

I stumbled upon this post today while visiting Pete Wilson’s (my pastor) blog, who linked to it.

A guy named Mike Foster from People of the Second Chance posted about Tiger’s scandal, and the media’s never-ending insatiable desire to tear down those it builds up.

I’ve written about my disgust with the nature of this coverage both here and here.

Anyway, I thought I’d re-post Mike’s thoughts here. Christmas is just a few days away, and this season always reminds me of the importance of grace. I like his fifth point the best.

Mike Foster writes:

1. You have so many words that you can share in a day. Decide whether they will be about blessing or cursing someone.

2. When someone is caught in a scandal, I visualize two buckets that I can fill. I can add to the “Shame Bucket” or the “Second Chance Bucket.” Sometimes my first/easy/fun/human nature response is to fill the “Shame Bucket” so I have to work harder not to do that.

3. For all you online peeps…write your articles, blogs, tweets, and comments as if the person in crisis (and their family) were reading it. Why? Because they do! And the jokes, snarky comments, sloppy facts and flippant remarks hurt people. Instead, devote your computer keyboard to the restoration of people.

4. Refuse to participate in the gossip session around the water cooler. Or better yet, jump in and turn the conversation towards grace and second chances. Btw, just plan on being called a “buzz kill” and not invited back to any more social functions.

5. Realize we are either part of the judgment problem or the grace solution. But we can’t be both. So choose wisely.

To read Mike’s entire post, visit his blog.

Image: Keith Allison/Flickr

So Tiger’s gone.

He’s taking an indefinite leave from the game to hopefully repair his family and a smidgen of his public image.  As much as I’ve been disgusted with the media coverage of Tiger’s downfall, the story itself is pretty disgusting as well.

I really don’t know many of the details. And I’m not lying about that. I honestly don’t care. All I know is that Tiger apparently had a lot of women on the side. Whether it’s one woman or a dozen women, Tiger has some serious infidelity issues.

One sponsor (Accenture) has already bailed. Woods is nowhere to be found. And the sport of golf is finding itself in a nightmare situation. Just a few months ago, I wrote a post for Armchair Golf about how the PGA Tour needed to develop a plan for the post-Tiger era. They’ve found themselves in this situation much earlier than I imagined.

While I hardly believe Woods will be gone for long (in fact, I still think he’ll play at Augusta), Tim Finchem and the Tour is going to get another small sample of what life without Tiger will be like. I think it’s going to be ugly. Ratings will suck. He’s a nice guy, but Phil Mickelson can’t carry the PGA Tour.

Regardless, the game goes on. And it is a great game. Golf existed before Tiger, and it will carry on when he’s gone. Granted, on a smaller scale. Tiger Woods is one of the world’s most recognizable figures. And, his personal life aside, what he has brought to the game of golf is immeasurable. He’s changed the game forever.

And, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take a brief spiritual turn here. As the media, the public, and pretty much the entire world throws stones at Tiger, I will just say that the whole situation makes me quite sad for his wife, his kids, his mother–and, yes, even Tiger.

At the foundation of my faith, Christianity, is grace and forgiveness. And while I can’t put myself in the shoes of anyone close to him–none of us can–I will say that I’m not going to sit back and lob bombs at the man while he is down. I’m sure his wife has unleashed hell on him–and deservedly so. More sponsors may drop him–and deservedly so–because image equals money in their world. And the media hasn’t had a field day like this since O.J. Simpson.

A cute little blog post making fun of Tiger would only add to the white noise. I’ll leave that to the tabloids. I think he deserves a second chance at some point, assuming that he actually recognizes the extent of the mistakes he’s made. And I think he does.

Let’s hope Tiger gets his tattered personal life back together and returns to the game soon…for his own sake. In the meantime, let’s hope he receives a little grace and forgiveness along the way.

Related: Tiger Woods: The Blurred Line Between News And Gossip