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?

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Augusta National is open for business.

The 2010 Masters commences on Thursday—and with TW back in the picture, the event promises to quite a spectacle.

Woods got his first press conference out of the way on Monday. He seemed relaxed—much more so than during his five-minute interviews a few weeks ago.

You’ve no doubt read all the details of the press conference, so I won’t rehash that here. But what should we expect from Tiger in this year’s Masters? Can he really win it after 5 months away from the game?

Could Couples recapture the magic? (Image:scubaeddie32/Flickr)

Yes. To say that Tiger can’t win this tournament just because he’s been off the Tour since November is a bit naïve. This might be one of the few times in my life I would take my chances on the field versus Tiger, but that doesn’t mean he can’t walk out there and capture his fifth Masters crown.

A lot of big names have been playing well recently. Els, Kim, Villegas, Furyk…and what about Freddy Couples? Could the old-timer (he’ll be eligible for the Senior Tour next year. How hard is that to believe?) replicate his 1992 Masters win?

Doubtful. But he’s been playing well, and he’s a name to watch. If Couples somehow manages to be in contention on Sunday, watch out.

My pick it to win it all? Not Woods. But I do think he’ll post a respectable top 20. I’ll take Camilo Villegas. He’s due. That’s my amateur golf prognosticator reasoning. If you want something more in-depth, you’re on the wrong site.

Watch out for Camilo.

Dickie V. takes on The Masters. (Image: nathan_malone/Flickr)

As I was driving into work yesterday morning, I heard a brief clip of an interview with Dick Vitale by Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio. Vitale was on the show to discuss The Final Four, but—as he always does—he wandered off on another topic.

I couldn’t find his quotes online, but essentially Vitale said that The Masters and Tiger Woods should be ashamed for scheduling the Woods press conference on the day of the NCAA Championship Game.

The basketball title game would be overshadowed in newspapers the next morning because of Tiger Woods. I’m paraphrasing, but he continued on to say something like, “These kids (the basketball players) deserve better.”

Come on, Dickie V? Really? This is why I’ve never been a fan of Vitale. He says stupid crap on a regular basis. But, more than that, the continuing of theme of people whining about when Tiger Woods schedules his press conferences is really getting stale.

Do we really expect The Masters of all places to say, “Oh, you know what, the NCAA Championship Game is tonight, maybe we should move the Tiger presser to Tuesday so we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.” Ridiculous.

This is The Masters we are talking about. They hardly even allow advertising during their tournament. They have the cheapest concession prices in professional sports. They do what they want.

This is the most legendary tournament in golf. And, last I checked, the NCAA doesn’t have any problem with scheduling the game on opening day of baseball. So I don’t think a 30 minute press conference with Tiger Woods—probably saying absolutely nothing of substance—is going to be an issue.

If it were up to guys like Ernie Els and Dick Vitale, Tiger’s press conferences would be at 3 a.m. in his basement. Get over it, guys.

Things are quiet on the PGA Tour these days. For three weeks straight, the Tour will compete against the Super Bowl, and now The Winter Olympics, for viewers. A tough stretch, no doubt. But you can always think back to better days.

Things are quiet at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. (Image: ashi/Flickr)

Ten years ago, Tiger Woods made an incredible comeback at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Seven shots down with seven holes to go, holing out a wedge shot from the 15th fairway along the way. The Pebble Beach victory was Woods’ sixth straight win on Tour.

Four months later, Woods returned to Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open–also the site of this year’s Open–and casually won by 15 shots. Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied with Ernie Els at +3, famously said, “I’m trying to win my own tournament.  He’s playing a different tournament. There’s no way you’re going to take that tournament.”

Woods went on to win NINE times in 2000. He was pretty much an automatic victory.

Ten years later, Woods is absent from this year’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am–for reasons we don’t need to rehash. Will he play in the U.S. Open? We’ll have to find out.

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